Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"Given to the Pack"....Kind of. Eventually.

This is a hard review to start considering that this is a very easy story to follow.  I find that I want to give the book 1 star because the cover, the trigger warning, and the blurb combine to be misleading at best, total bullshit at worst.  I want to give it 5 stars because it was well written, and that's not always easy to come by, especially in indie published books.  And I find that I want to launch into a post on trigger warnings rather than writing a review at all, or an entry about what makes a good rape fantasy...

This is the remarkable first book in the Stunning new Wolfpack Trilogy.

It contains traumatic emotional situations that may cause triggers for some readers.

This book tells the story of Aisha, a curvy girl who is traumatically abused and humiliated by her boyfriend, Heath.  He makes her believe that she is fat and ugly.

When she movies to Alaska, she learns that there are men in the forest who can shift into wolves.  Little by little, she gets to know them better, there are four brothers, and they are more than willing to show her just how beautiful and desirable her body really is.

By the end of the trilogy, Aisha will know that the bad things that have happened to her do not define her.  What defines her is her own life with the shifters and the choices she makes every day.


 Thus reads the blurb of doom.  Technically, it's all true--of the trilogy as a whole.  Only I wasn't buying the trilogy, I was buying book one.  This makes it sound like it's going to start off with a woman who's in a crappy relationship in the introduction, escapes it, only to find herself in some sexy "dubious consent" situations with four hot shifters.  I was down for that.  What I got was a lot of emotional abuse, followed by more emotional abuse, spiced up with a guilt inducing rape.  Add to that a scene that might be dubious consent on paper, but would be prosecuted as rape in real world law, ending finally, with the promise of sexy wolfyness in book 2. 

So like I said, 1 star because that was not was not what I was buying into, and 5 stars because it was good writing.  While it would be lovely if Aisha stood up for herself by the end of Act 1 and would no longer take the emotional abuse Heath heaped upon her, the cycle of abuse doesn't really work like that.  I get how a person who was abandoned and, we're led to believe (it's never spelled out) emotionally abused as a child, would end up with an emotionally abusive partner.  I get how victims convince themselves that it's going to get better.  And I appreciate how Abby Weeks wrote all this out, taking us through Aisha's trap of a life.  Had I wanted to read that sort of story, this would have been the one.

 Lastly, I wish there was more fantasy to the rape.  Like it or not (and there are 60 1star reviews on Amazon showing that a lot of people don't like it), there's a market for everything.  If this book were what it promised to be--wounded, curvy woman meets hunky shapeshifters who won't take no for an answer while showing her how desirable she is--I would be that market!  Instead, when downtrodden Aisha is taken (um, and shared) against her will by her asshole boyfriend, I felt sorry for her and guilty that it almost pushed my buttons. 

Of course, there are 242 5star reviews.  From the small sampling I read, they largely come from people who were already fans of Weeks and weren't surprised by the content.  So there you have it; if you know what you're getting, it's a good book.  I'm willing to give book 2 a try.

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades of Kink

Back when the books were relatively new, a friend of mine physically brought me her copy of Twilight.  No, "It's a good book, you should read it" and waiting for me to get a copy.  No, "Oh, there's this book I'll bring you the next time we hang out."  She went out of her way to bring me this book.  I read the first few pages, didn't like Bella, and stopped reading.

She actually called and bugged me to read this book.  Our teen years were a long, long time ago, and though we both adored Harry Potter, neither of us was a big YA fan.  I didn't get it.

A completely unrelated friend--this one a very butch lesbian--heard that I wasn't reading Twilight and went on and on about how I should, how much I'd enjoy it.  So I read it.  I still didn't really like Bella, and I still didn't get it.  And yet, when the first friend dumped the rest of the books in the series on me, I read them, too.  All of them.  In quick succession.

I continued to not be crazy about Bella (a deal breaker in a series, if not in the first book).  I didn't particularly care for the "abstinence porn", as people came to call it.  I didn't find anything romantic in Edward's sneaking into Bella's room to watch her sleep for weeks before she knew, nor in his having to fight his desire to attack her and drain her blood.  Her curling up and going blank for months after he dumped her was literary genius in the author's execution, but disgustingly pathetic of the character.  So on the one hand, I didn't think young adults should be encouraged to read the books for fear that they might follow the behavior, but on the other hand, I couldn't seem to help wanting to know what happened next.

Fortunately, a lot of people saw the same stalkery, controlling behavior I saw in the books and were talking about it.  Everywhere.  There was a counter narrative about toxic relationships and having self respect.  And as long as you've got that straight, who cares what kind of fiction tickles your fancy?

When people started to talk about Fifty Shades of Grey...There were three conversations that I was aware of:
1. It was fanfic, and a rule of fanfic is that you don't go making money off it.
(I didn't care.  The same was said about Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments, and when you got right down to it, she rewrote her fanfic into an original story that I love, yes, even if it's YA.)

2. It's not BDSM, and the BDSM community has enough against it without abuse masquerading as a Dom/sub relationship.
(Yeah, that's pretty true.)

3. The writing sucks!

I'd read samples of the story, just enough to know that I agreed with the third, and wasn't interested in buying the book.  I watched the hype about the novel grow and grow, and I didn't get it.  The writing really was, in my opinion, lousy.  But more than that, I kept thinking, Why this book?  You could get plenty of that sort of story from Ellora's Cave (I know), and Samhain Publishing (I think), and probably from lots of other sources that I hadn't even heard of.  What makes this book so popular?

I'm pretty sure the answer is marketing.  Erotica fans (alone) didn't make this book such an insane bestseller. Its success is all about people who didn't even know they'd be into such a thing, but they saw the ads, they heard their girlfriends talking, and they decided to give it a try.

More power to them.  More power to the author.  Her prose didn't thrill me, the dialogue I read left me wrinkling my nose, and what I read of Ana...hell, at least I disliked Bella.  Ana couldn't even get that out of me.  (Never mind that I prefer vampires and werewolves with my dubious consent.)  The fact is, she wrote a book--several actually--and I give her kudos for going through the whole process and other people finding it good enough for her to have a fan base.

It was good enough to spawn a movie that I don't plan to live through, either.  I want to appreciate the counter (and not so) narratives that are coming out in response--the argument that a sexy movie made for women is a Good Thing; the many posts showing just how abusive the movie is and the problems with calling the abuse a 'love story', the movement to get people to donate the money they would have spent on the movie to women's shelters...Those are all worthy parts of the conversation.  What isn't worthy is the kink shaming.

"Fifty Shades contributes to rape culture" is an assertion worth discussing.  "And shame on your for liking it," isn't.

I tend to believe that rape culture exists and is perpetuated because it has always existed.  Now, not always in the literal sense--I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were times and places where this wasn't the case.  But always in the sense of what we know.  For how many generations have adults responded to news of a little boy being particularly mean and aggressive toward a little girl with, "Oh, he must like you!"  (And how fucked up is that?!)  This will be way too long if I try to reproduce every way in which I've seen society say boys will be boys while down playing female sexuality and warping female agency.

But even with all that, rape is the rapist's fault.  No amount of "she dressed like she wanted it", "he's a guy; he wouldn't have gotten hard if he didn't want it", or other bullshit response can minimize the evil in doing that to another person, or take the blame away from the rapist.  And blaming a movie is an awful lot like blaming music for a murder spree.  Is Ana abused in the form of Christian coercing her into sex that she doesn't like?  Sure.  Who the fuck made any random guy Christian and any of us Ana?  Any guy who doesn't get that was damaged long before E.L James thought, "What if Edward wasn't a vampire, just a rich guy with issues and Bella was old enough that the sex was socially acceptable?"

And dealing with that damage--hopefully healing it, but certainly keeping it off other people--is his job, not the job of the women who love the books and can't wait to see the movie.  Maybe most of them just aren't politically aware enough to know how problematic the sex in this story is, but maybe, they just like what they like.

Various surveys report over 50% of women having rape fantasies that turn them on, and well over 50% in surveys that use coercive words but not actually the word "rape".  Interestingly, one study I read showed that both men and women (presumably hetero, but not necessarily so) in roughly equal amounts enjoyed fantasies of being dominated by the opposite sex.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  It doesn't mean that they actually want to be raped in real life.

Fiction, be it in non-con fanfics, rape fantasy novels, tentacle sex hentai, or suddenly mainstream movies are a safe way to engage with that fantasy.  No one is hurt in the production of a novel or cartoon.  The actress in the movie wasn't force into the role, and the audience can close the book, turn off the video, or walk out of the theater if the story takes them to a place they don't want to go to after all.  They have control in a way victims of abuse don't.

Can you discuss why that turns them on?  Of course, though they have the right not to engage.  But shaming them for their fantasies is a whole other thing, though.  Let's not do that.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

More Carinna Parr and me bitching about book length

I won't bitch much about book length.  But I ended another good short story, read the words "Thank you for taking the time to read my book" and the part of me that is destined to rule the universe declared that there will be a law against calling a short story a book.

That's bullshit of course.  A book is a bound set of pages with no minimum, so I was venting at nothing.  Mostly.  It's my own failing to equate book with novel, and I was never promised a novel.  I need to accept that this dark erotic fantasy genre that I crave is mostly filled with short stories.  I don't know if I'll be able to accept the pricing conventions.  It was only $1.99--seems so awesome, until you hit the end, want more, and go check out (again) the prices for other e-books. 

Because of my other recent reading habits, mainstream fantasy (epic and otherwise) was already keyed up on Amazon.  It's hard to accept $1.99 for 15 pages when I see scores of books coming in between 120 and 200+ pages for $2.99.  It's harder to check out the original author's next title and find it's 20 pages for $2.99.  Really?  Another buck for five wee pages?

What does this mean to you?  Fairly little...unless you happen to be a fabulous author of dark erotic fantasy short stories and would like to take this as encouragement to go novella (at least) length.  ::cough:: Carinna Parr ::cough::

Speaking of Carinna Parr's "The Wild Hunt", it's good stuff.  When a young woman refuses the advances of a (ancient-Celt-reminiscent) village priest, he names her to be a virgin sacrifice.  He has plans of his own that have nothing to do with pleasing the gods. 

Apparently, I'd downloaded the sample (which is a waste of time, giving more of the opening disclaimer than the first page) after reading the much adored "Nephilim", but I'd forgotten all about it.  The lack of any real sampling within the sample annoyed, but there was just enough to make me wonder what the story was about.  Bought it, read and enjoyed it, and only during my price rant/search realized the two stories were by the same talented writer. 

Also, I see that she's got several titles that are not supernatural, so if you like the darker side of erotica by aren't into the angels, ancient gods, or werewolves, you should still check her out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Updates: writing and reading

So, have I used the time not posting to write delicious dark fantasy erotica or urban fantasy filled with the ravished, only to return to you (my currently non-existent readers) with my tales of conquests?  Sadly, no.  I've been caught up in the real world, though I've made some fictional headway.

One day, you might be able to read about the pooka secretary who gets roped into searching for something that will lead her down a path of non-consent.  Today, though, her world is a shoddy hybrid lifted haphazardly from two faerie loving urban fantasy writers--nothing's moving forward until that's fixed.

The one about the high school senior sold into sexual slavery possessing only the barest hint about her supernatural origins is more about that I could write about someone before their 18th birthday without the world ending than it is about the story, so that, too is unlikely to be finished.

But don't think the initial false starts have put me off.  Half my spare moments go to a far more promising project.

The other spare moments go to reading.  Most of that didn't need to appear here either because it wasn't in the genre this blog features, or because there wasn't much to say.  For instance, Breeding the Female (link lost to a strange glitch in formatting, but look it up if you like forced mating) was neither the personal game changer that Marata Eros's Reapers was, nor bad enough to complain about such as Humiliated Elven Bride.

That is, until I ran across Carinna Parr's blog and read the first chapter to Nephilim.  By the time I reached the end, I was quietly declaring that I was in love with the author.  Yeah, I've got this age old secret passion for children of angels and the daughters of Eve.  As a kid, they sparked my imagination as nothing in the Bible did, edging the duty of Bible study closer to the good stuff from reading Greek and Celtic mythology.  But the title could have just be bait.  That first chapter showed the darker side of the erotic that I'm interested in and hints of the fantastic that I live for.  I went right to Amazon, (half) joking that, if the book fulfilled it's promise, I'd divorce my husband and marry the author (keeping hubby on the side--I love him and I prefer penis to plastic). 

After the initial sex scene, my interest in that part of the story waned; one potentially hot scene was touched upon and left, while another happened during knife play--so far into the darker side of kink that I cringe at it from my nice and cozy twilight space.  Didn't matter a bit.  The story was so damned good that's all that matter.

Then it ended. 

Looking for the link to above, I came across a review that included: "The book was a quick read (too quick if you ask me!) and perhaps my favorite part was the ending. It gives room for the reader’s imagination with a heap of mixed emotions: fear, excitement, trepidation, thrills, chills and curiosity. Definitely not a “Blah, this was it?” -ending and just right for the story."   My response to that is, She must be a long time erotica fan or something.

Because I'm not.  It was mythology, sci-fi/fantasy, and mysteries as a kid.  That became mostly fantasy and then urban fantasy.  All novels.  While some UF books clock in at 85,000 words, fantasy tends to think that an additional 15,000 plus is a good place to pause until the next part of the duology/trilogy/saga.  I've grudgingly enjoyed some novellas and even a few short stories, but as a rule, if it's good enough to make me want to be there, I want to stay for a while.

And Nephilim isn't even a short story in my opinion.  Uncontained, it's more like the first act of a story, or the first three chapters a novelist sends in to hook an agent or publisher.  Well I'm hooked, damn it, and the rest of the book isn't coming.  It's like my husband initiated a delicious round of foreplay for morning sex, then realized he'd promised to go into work early and hopped up before I came, leaving me wanting.

So my search for the fiction that'll scratch that certain itch continues, as does my quest to produce my own little offering.

....But you should still check out Nephilim for yourself.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting over it, or maybe reasoning through

I've had fairly good reasons to not rush through the first draft of the story I started after creating this blog: I had deadlines that required all of my focus, then my attention had to turn to family and making up for all the Christmas prep I had no time for before.  Now I have a few weeks with no deadlines and I should be able to turn my whole mind (at least for a few hours each day) to writing that story.  Yet, I hesitate.

Am I still hung up on the fear of sharing my taboo fantasies with the world?  Yes, but that's not exactly it.  In the wee hours of the morning, before wakefulness could take hold, I had a moment of clarity on the subject and realized a few things:

1. I hate rape.  OK, I was never confused about that.  Rape is a sick, horrible violation that causes deep scares in its victims whether the act was accompanied by brutal violence, mental coercion, or unconsciousness/incapacitation. 

2. The fiction that I'm talking about isn't that, but damned if I can explain the difference. 

I don't want to say that the difference is that these are just stories--words, even when strung together in make-believe--can change lives.  But just being stories is part of it.  As a child, I was trapped in a situation I couldn't get out of, and for all that I fought for healing and personal power, I landed myself into a repeat of that dynamic with my first marriage.  But I can turn off a video that freaks me out instead of turns me on.  I can close a web page or delete an e-book.   Having that control instead of having control ripped away makes this different.

When American Online was young, and so was I, kiddie porn showed up randomly in my inbox.  I don't know if I was in a chatroom that led some psycho to think I'd be OK with that, or if they spammed many people with the images.  I don't care.  I contacted the authorities and I hope they caught the fuckers involved and helped that kid.  I don't have that reaction when some pink haired little Lolita gets tentacle raped in an anime.  As much as it may feel otherwise when we love them, characters aren't people. 

Some folks despise anime porn and declare the artists and the fans freaks.  Others call it protected speech.  I say that as long as it's drawings and imagination, that kink is no worse than mine, which is no worse than bdsm, which is no worse than vanilla sex. 

And maybe that gets to the root of it: I don't particularly want anyone to see me having vanilla sex, either.  So I'm not only choosing to share fictitious versions of something I deem very private, but I'm adding to that by heaping on taboo that is loudly rejected by many.

All right.  I've mentally worked out why I'm still hesitating.  Now we'll see if I can actually get past that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Humiliated Elven Bride

...My annoyance is partly my fault.  The book description comes complete with Warning! This story contains 4,908 words including m/f sex, spanking, bestiality, double penetration, public humiliation, public sex, forced sex, and pseudo incest, and is for adults only!  Clearly, I saw "public sex" and "forced sex" and became completely blind to "4,908 words".  There are some pretty decent novellas and even indie novels out there for the price of this short story, so without those words, I wouldn't have coughed up those few measly dollars. 

But it isn't the shortness of the tale that has me giving a less than stellar review for Humiliated Elven Bride by Jane Amber.  It's rather the way the story made me feel cheap and used, and NOT in a sexy dirty secret way.  The plot is pretty much all in the title and warning, which is fine.  The slip in tense, the repetition of information that the reader pretty much already got, and the textual glitches were less fine.  And the appearance of a dead character--no, not a ghost, just carelessness. 

I'll admit that bestiality isn't my kink, yet it can fit in well within a story about humiliation.  And when purposely reading offensive material, I take no offense.  But I spent more time thinking at the author (hey, it's not like she'd have heard me if I said it aloud) about the ways in which what she wrote was physically impossible than reading it. 

All that put together made me feel, not so much like I'd read a story that I didn't care for, but like I'd read a story that the author didn't care for...Like she'd found a niche where suckers would give her $2.99 a pop because there just isn't that much material to suit what they're looking for.

I don't recommend this title.  I sort of wish that I could take away the one star it was given by the brave soul who attached his screen name to the Amazon review.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm going to write that book.  I think.

OK, I'm definitely going to write it, but I'm not going to share it with my critique group.

Oh, but then if I publish it, I don't want it to be one of those indie books that's so riddled with errors that most can't enjoy reading it.  I'll at least need a beta reader, but who can I trust not to freak out?

...Maybe this would be different if I came to writing from reading erotica or even romance.  Erotica's naughty by definition and each of those related genre has a history of stories including...dubious consent.  Instead, I've always been a fan of science-fiction and fantasy, especially urban fantasy of late.  There, rape is part of a backstory that explains why the heroine has become so hardcore.  Or it's part of an ongoing story that pisses many fans off, but can also explore a situation that too many readers have experienced and, in the hands of a very skilled author, can bring some measure of understanding or even healing.  It is never, ever for titillation.

But titillation is exactly what I'm looking for.

I can get that in various places across the web.  I discovered that I wasn't the only one with dirty little taboo fantasies by stumbling upon fan fiction (oh, the things Krycek would do to Mulder when he had him trapped away from Scully).  Hentai is loaded with chicks abused by perverts and demons.  There are loads of live action rape fantasy sites...I can view this material on my computer screen where it's nobody's business but mine and my husband's.

Yet, as a speculative fiction reader, I want this titillation in (SOME of) my sci-fi/fantasy.  Until recently, the best I could do was erotica with spec-fic elements or BDSM erotica, neither quite hit the mark.  Of course, there's paranormal romance, but I think it's pretty obvious right now that romance isn't what I'm looking for.  As indy publishing (erotic or not) carries less stigma, more books that come closer are coming out all the time.

Then I found Reapers by Marata Eros. 

*REAPERS is a 21,000 word/80 page mixed genre paranormal novella (1-2 hours reading time) in the following categories: Erotica/horror with an undertone of romance. 
Posted 9/10/11:
**WARNING- possible objectionable material: This book is intended for an adult audience and contains marginal consent, RAPE, multiple partners, forced breeding, vampire sex, and oral play.**
She had me  at "warning".  With all the bad reviews from people who bought a rape story but didn't want one, she's (at the time of this writing at least) offering the novella for free.  How could I say no?  I dove right in's OK.  She's a good writer and I plan to read more of her work. But.  The rape is...well...rape.  Michelle, the slutty best friend of the main character, hooks up with a guy for a little casual sex.  Dancing with the guy's buddy, our heroine (Rachel) decides that she doesn't like how  Michelle vanished without giving a clear signal, so they go looking for the other pair.  They find Michelle getting pounded, not just by the guy who picked her up, but also by another man, forcing her face down on his cock.  Rather than feeling all tingly, I wanted to call 911.  But it did speak to promising things to come.

The horror element wasn't particularly scary.  Instead, the Vampires, Druids, and Rogue of the story made for interesting paranormal world building.  It left me wanting to read more.  It left me wanting to explore some of the taboo ideas that interrupt my "normal" writing.

I hit the web again for resources and found a lot of romance and urban fantasy fans condemning rape in fiction.  I've long since reached the point where I embrace my personal kink, but dare I share when that attitude prevails?  Then I found this.  Her experience is similar to mine and she embraces her enjoyment of rape fantasies, both in reading and writing.  I feel encouraged to do the same.

So here I am.  If the writing proves fruitful, this is the first blog post of my career in erotic speculative fiction with dark themes.  If it doesn't, then at least I've got a spot where I can explore those themes and promote the stories that I find.