Saturday, April 4, 2015

Please Leave Fifty Shades of Gray Alone

I understand the frustration. I regret that I made statements against the book without even reading it. Its popularity led to it getting unfair weight, so I understand the urge to correct that impression people are left with, many of whom don't or won't know much else about power exchange dynamics in a loving relationship, but I keep reading these posts about abuse and I'm reading that BDSM educators are leaving pamphlets for movie goers. It smacks of desperation. We're talking about a work of fiction. Fiction is different from real life, it's a representation, it can take any number of forms.

Here's a story Joseph Campbell told me. In an ancient human society, they used to bring out four or five virgin boys and one virgin girl. Under a rigged contraption of tree trunks, the boys would one by one have their first sexual relations with the girl. When the last coupling was in the act, the contraption would be sprung. The couple would be crushed, cooked, and eaten by the community. That's not fiction, that's true. So we have two choices when we hear that story. We can condemn that practice as barbaric, or we can consider it from a different perspective and recognize it as a need for those societies to make sense of what they think of the world through myths and through metaphorical enactments.

Fiction is a means of making sense of different things in a similar, much more innocuous way. If you see a relationship portrayed in a work of fiction and determine it to be abusive, you're not wrong but when you're telling everyone else they should find it abusive you absolutely are wrong, because you're putting your interpretation on other people. How do we expect anyone, maybe taking a risk by openly enjoying this book or this movie, to make sense of what they're experiencing through these fantasies enough to incorporate it into a real life enjoyment when they're being told they're doing it wrong before they even get started?

I doubt any practitioner of BDSM, however healthy and loving they feel their real life relationships are now or have been through the course of their adult lives, can say every fantasy construction of BDSM they've ever experienced in their minds would play out in real life in that same healthy and loving form. And even now I'm still playing that game of what's healthy and what's not. Who is to judge these things? It's never ceased to amaze me, since getting on fetlife--a site many people would judge shouldn't exist at all from their narrow perspective--the number of people who feel comfortable stating that this is acceptable but this isn't. This is a healthy relationship but this is abuse. We can't know what the experiences of other people are unless we are those people. Which isn't possible, so what's the point? And when people start in on fictional representations, they sound like people who don't have a grasp of the difference between fantasy and reality. And I don't mean to rant against them, because I understand why. They're protecting something that others have harshly judged. So, that's fine, but use this connection with people, this influx of interest, as an opening to communication instead of dishing out the same judgment.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Story of My Two-Star Review

Let me start by clearly stating that readers have every right to post what they choose to post in reviews and how they choose to rate books they've bought and taken the time to read. I would never and will never publicly comment on a reader review.

Professional reviews (and when I say professional I mean books received for free which leads to compensation in the form of exposure for a review site and/or the reviewer who in many cases is also an author with books for sale) ought to aim for a high level of objectivity. This is a difficult skill to acquire. Anyone who's had their work critiqued by fellow writers will probably tell you there are some talented writers whose critiques are primarily focused on pointing out how your work fails in being the story they wanted to read instead of how it could be improved in being the story you wanted to write. Truthfully I'm not sure how well reviewers accomplish this, I simply am aware the skill is difficult to acquire and how rare it is among critiquers, which leads me to guess there are reviewers who fail to meet a high standard of objectivity in reviews. As an author of femdom novels, which are generally less comfortably received, I am highly selective about sending my books out for review. I prefer to rely on generous readers who bought copies wanting the kind of book they knew they were getting and their reviews, which have been not numerous but favorable. I'd rather do that than send books out for review that would land in the laps of reviewers who would never by choice read a femdom novel, and then be left to hope in their ability to review objectively a book not to their specific taste.

I stumbled onto another option when I found a reviewer who stated in his review policy that he only reviewed books he felt comfortable rating three stars or higher. His stated reason was that it was a conflict of interest to rate fellow authors' books poorly when he had books of his own for sale. An admirable position, but for me it was appealing because it would prevent a reviewer reacting negatively to the nature of the relationship between my dominant heroine and her submissive lover, the portrayal of which is uncomfortable for some.

I contacted him with free review copies of both Courting Her and Serving Her, books recently released in tandem by my publisher, Pink Flamingo. He messaged back with a two-and-a-half star review, which included some legitimate criticisms but primarily was a judgment of the characters under the guise of a review. Kimberly was described as selfish, a psychopath, and I was told that the characters should switch, occasionally, or the relationship they engaged in was a form of abuse. He cited from Serving Her, the follow up book to Courting Her, a part where Kimberly observes the dynamic between a neighboring couple, perceives the man as too dominant in that relationship, and upon leaving a visit with them informs Alex she needs to spank him to feel better.

The reviewer defined feminism for me as equality between the sexes. If Kimberly is meant to be a feminist, it's news to her creator, the author. She's a fledgling female supremacist. She perceives misogyny in the world around her, is frustrated by it, and punishes her male submissive lover to alleviate that frustration. Is that fair? I would say no, it's not. I would say that's a flaw in her. Probably so would Alex. Rather than decry her for it, Alex enjoys supporting her by helping her work through it, by enduring punishments. Men enjoy women inventing less valid reasons for delivering punishment for enjoyment's sake. Alex is not complaining when Kimberly contrives reasons to punish him.

Kimberly has a chip on her shoulder. I know that. Alex knows that. I find her more interesting because of that; Alex finds her more courageous because she emerged with that weight from a misogynist influence to become the dominant woman he loves and adores, flaws and all. Now this reviewer caught that but rather than consider what that meant about their relationship, he went straight to assuming writer error. A reviewer completely airballing on the core interplay between two characters in a book and then reviewing it poorly is unfortunate for everyone and exactly what a review policy of only reviewing books if comfortable enough to review them three stars or higher would have avoided had the reviewer adhered to his own stated policy.

The books individually did well enough, were enjoyed by enough readers, that my publisher, Pink Flamingo, packaged them together and made them available at a better value, combined, as Ebooks and paperbacks. The two-star review remains attached to it despite my reminders to the reviewer about our agreed upon arrangement. That's unfortunate but is unlikely to affect sales. The people who are comfortable with themselves reading these books, the people who are comfortable with themselves writing them, are fully aware that there are people who are uncomfortable with them reading (or writing) these books and don't particularly care, would prefer those people not act sanctimonious. They're aware that books like this might have a poor review or two that aren't a reflection of the books' quality but a reflection of the reviewers' bias. So the books will still sell the same. They might lose one, here or there, which is sad. Sad for the reader who might have found a book to love and sad for the writer who might have lost an opportunity to connect with that reader. Reviews are meant to connect us. That doesn't mean they all have to be good reviews, that wouldn't work either, but they ought to be objective and in this case the review wasn't.

Worse there are people who aren't fully comfortable purchasing and reading books they enjoy on these subjects and are potentially upset by a judgment on their reading tastes disguised as a review. Slam my writing and I'll keep quiet. Attack my characters for their lifestyle and I'll defend them with everything in me. By defining feminism he clearly revealed his bias that books should portray his idea of feminism. It's hard to be objective but reviewers have to be held to a standard so that they strive to write and post reviews void of these judgments. When negative reviews lack objectivity and are essentially rants against a certain lifestyle choice characters have made they're far closer to a form of censorship.

(If you don't think this happens, some time read some of the one-star reviews of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, arguably among the great prose writers of the day. Most of them are complaints about the ideology presented in the book. Now a complaint that a novel is too loaded with ideology is perfectly valid. A complaint about a specific ideology is useless to include in a review; it's a reviewer getting up on his or her soap box and spouting an irrelevant opinion, a clear bias.)

Start the review with 'This is a type of relationship of which I don't approve but' and then when you're done take out the 'This is a type of relationship of which I don't approve but' and hit post, because no one cares about your approval.

I'm not making this personal. The reviewer will be easy enough to find as long as the review remains posted. If he wants his name out of it, he can remove the review. By his own review policy, it never should have gone up. I doubt he will. He ignored my last message and unfriended me. He seems to have successfully rationalized violating his stated review policy, for these books, how I couldn't tell you. The explanation he gave me defied logic, in my opinion. I certainly won't miss his friendship. I would like for him to have kept his word and acted like a professional.

In one of our exchanges he mentioned that he could maybe edit the review and go to three stars. So was it two stars or three? Apparently three with my consent and two without it. Clearly this shows a lack of integrity in the review. It occurred to me that giving the go ahead to the three-star review would probably lead to good exposure. A dominant woman being described as "too selfish" is a fairly typical comment from a world deeply influenced by misogyny, and would have been unlikely to deter femdom readers. It wasn't about the stars, for me. Stars mean little. It was the biased attack on the characters that led me to thank him for the time he put into reading the books but that I thought we should move forward. I didn't want my books to become an opportunity for a reviewer to get on a pulpit and preach against a lifestyle some people engage in and enjoy and many other people enjoy having portrayed in the fiction they read.  

I don't expect writers to be on my side on this. It's deeply ingrained in us to keep quiet about reviews, but in this specific case, a clearly stated review policy was violated, essentially it was a breach of contract. I won't be kept silent by an internet bully. My concern is if speaking out hurts sales and my publishers, who invest time and money making my books available to readers in hopes of turning a profit to keep their business running. I'd be tempted to keep quiet for them, but I answer to a personal code of ethics above all. And the posting of this review was an injustice.

The books in question can be found here, for sale on Amazon, in paperback and Ebook form:

Both remain for sale individually, as well, in only Ebook form. At the Pink Flamingo site, both are available individually in paperback and as Ebooks.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Positions, Excerpt from The Lodge

Dominant women making submissive men hold positions seems to be a common theme in my books. I suppose that's no accident. That's a hot fantasy to imagine, choosing to obey a command to hold to an uncomfortable position from a woman who, meanwhile, is exercising free range of movement. I must not be the only one. My friend, Mistress Lilyana, who authors an excellent blog, told me her post on positions is one of her most popular. You can find that here:

The Lodge is an exotic dance club where patrons have the option of paying double price for admission with a collar instead of a wristband. The entertainers carry leashes and target collar boys for double price dances, which these men get to view from their knees. To briefly set up this excerpt. Paul has become a valued regular to his favorite dancer, Destiny. He arrives one night and Destiny isn't there. He purchases a wristband, not wanting to be clipped by another dancer, but disappoints Destiny by showing too much zeal at a night off her collar, particularly making the mistake of hounding a cocktail waitress, Angela, into dancing for him.

 I’m going to teach you a couple of positions.” She sat down and Paul knelt in front of her. “The first we will simply call ‘The Position.’ If I say ‘assume the position’ or if I snap my fingers or if I simply give you a look that says I mean business all of that will mean I want you in this position.” She took her paddle off her hip and moved it between his knees. “First spread them.” Paul inched his knees apart until Destiny nodded. “Now clasp your hands behind your back.” She stood up and moved behind him. “Get your butt up off your legs.” Paul obeyed, though he shuddered at the vulnerability he felt as Destiny touched the paddle to his backside. She moved back around and touched the paddle to his shoulder. “Bend slightly over.” She sat down and crossed her legs. “Now head up and look at me.” Paul craned his neck up and met her gaze. She smiled. “There. That’s exactly how I want you. Take a moment to memorize it.”

            Paul considered his exact position. The feel of his body, the way his quads strained slightly keeping his butt off his legs, the slight tension in his neck from being bent forward with his head up. The acute vulnerability of having his cock and balls hanging fully exposed as Destiny’s heel swung in the air in front of them. “Now unless I say ‘at ease’ or make it clear that you have permission to relax or give another order, this is how you’ll spend the evening. I’ll be inviting the other entertainers in and displaying you to them. If I catch you covering up, I’ll be disappointed in you.” She gave this a moment to sink in, that she and Angela would not be the only women invited into the room. Paul felt a horror and resignation pass over his face that Destiny appeared to notice and enjoy.

            “Position two: Present.” She got up and moved behind him. “Touch your cheek to the floor and get your butt in the air.” Paul obeyed, but she caught him sneaking his knees together and admonished him. Paul moaned as he spread his knees with Destiny just behind him. “I know, it’s very humiliating, but is it much different from positions we’re in while we dance? Get used to it while it’s just me and you, because the entertainers who danced for you last week are all going to see you like this.”

            “Destiny, please, I’m so sorry. Will you please not do this?”

            “Paul, I’m simply making demands and you are capitulating to me. You may have your clothes back and exchange my collar for a wristband at any time. You just have to say. Otherwise, I expect obedience. Are we clear?”

            “Yes, Ma’am.”

When creating this fictional exotic dance club, I tried to include elements of realism, with some club rules and with a focus on the dancers' income. I also took some liberties. So would there really be a club where dancers could take men into the champagne room and strip them naked? Yes! It's called The Lodge, and it's the setting of a femdom novel by Gregory Allen. The Lodge is available in print and as an Ebook at the Pink Flamingo website. The Ebook is available at amazon and other Ebook retailers. Thank you for reading!  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

New Release: The Lodge, excerpt from chapter one, "Clipped by Destiny"

The Lodge is an exotic dance club where the dancers carry leashes and, for an extra fee, patrons can enter wearing a collar instead of a wristband. The novel opens with Paul finally working up the courage to visit his favorite dancer at the club wearing one. The excerpt picks up just before Paul receives his first dance.

               Clipped by Destiny, from chapter one of The Lodge by Gregory Allen

Destiny sat in the middle of the couch between the other two and leaned back. She gave the leash a sharp tug and pointed at the floor. Paul crawled to a stop and knelt up. Destiny crossed her legs. She kicked her heel in the air between them. The view up her tiny skirt revealed her bikini bottoms pressed between her tightly closed thighs, but the glorious sight remained in his periphery. He couldn’t remove his gaze from her face as she smiled down at him. “I wondered if you would come in with a collar on. You seemed like the type.” She uncrossed her legs and, placing both feet on the floor, leaned forward. She pinched his cheek. “Were you too shy?”


She leaned back, drawing the leash tight, pulling him slightly off balance and making him tense up. She raised her chin and glared down. “While you’re at the end of my leash, you will address me as ‘Mistress Destiny.’”

“Yes, Mistress Destiny.”

She smiled and let the leash go slack. She crossed her legs, again. She told him she was enjoying the change at the club. She was having fun with it. Several of her regulars were coming in with collars on. Paul never liked hearing about her other regulars. He didn’t have any delusions. Of course she was an entertainer and men came in to see her, and it never bothered him to see her admired by other men she danced for, but he did like to think she wasn’t anyone else’s primary reason for coming in. When a dancer spots a man and knows when she sees him he’s a certain yes for a dance a nice bond is created. He wished his sharing of that with her was unique, but he obediently nodded along, listening attentively as she continued speaking, her foot moving through the air just under his chin.

The usual chatter took place. She let him know how her week had been and he told her about his. He didn’t have a lot in common with a beautiful woman half his age, but with Destiny, their surface conversations always felt sincere, and her wit and intelligence, during these pre-dance chats, had always made it more amazing that she would be dancing naked just for him and not slightly less the way it could if a dancer seemed too vapid or uninterested during the conversation. Now, on his knees at her feet, their pleasant, mundane chit chat took on a heightened erotic charge.

A few other patrons had been clipped by dancers, but the only two he could see on the adjacent couches wore bands around their wrists and were sitting and talking with their entertainers. Their forearms grazed against the dancers’ naked thighs. The couples seemed focused on each other, but Paul still felt the embarrassment of having to kneel while Destiny relaxed on the middle of the couch, her arms sprawled across both cushions.

She chatted idly, as though not even aware of the humiliation involved in his predicament, yet with subtle looks and sly maneuvering of her feet, which stretched nearer and nearer to his face, Paul could tell she was intentionally heightening his embarrassment.

When the song began, the dancers beside Destiny both rose. The men slid to the middle of their respective couches and opened their legs, and the dancers centered themselves between the knees of the men and began to slither out of their bikinis. Destiny simply uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “This is going to be fun.” She cupped his cheek, grazing her palm against his skin, and pinched his cheek. “I’ll take it a little easy on you.”

The free amazon sample continues from here, I'll leave a link to it. The novel is also available in paperback at the Pink Flamingo website.

The sample is all of chapter one and a portion of chapter two:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Three Men and their Romance Writing

I have this strange memory that surfaces when I participate in interviews. It's from Beaches when Bette Midler's character is watching herself on a talk show and answers to some question, all dramatically, after begging herself from the couch to not go and say it, "I would say that C. C. feels things." Then the C. C. from the couch turns to the little girl and asks what she thinks. The girls says, "I thought you sounded kind of dumb."

That haunts me! Although I also think Stephen King was onto something when he said in On Writing, that if you're going to agree to give an interview you have to have something to say. In my case, I've been interviewed by generous people who gave me an opportunity on their blogs, so short of making something up, (The example Stephen King gave in the book was that he once lied and said he didn't write on Easter, Christmas, and his birthday) which I wouldn't be comfortable doing, I attempt to push through my comfort zone and offer something.

Which isn't usually difficult for me, I have strong opinions, but I'm also quite sensitive, especially on the topic of gender stereotypes and the effects of sexism in the erotica writing world. As usual, I probably over stepped, but I was fortunate for two reasons. The author of the article, PM White, did a great job weaving my statements into a balanced article and because Willsin Rowe added a fantastic point I missed. To my point that there are some sex-based biases in the world of romance reading and writing that we would all benefit from having cleaned up, a bit, he offers that it's a relatively, in the context of obvious worse issues in the past, soft issue.

Please check out the article here: 


Saturday, March 8, 2014

To Write Books or to Play Video Games?

Is "Keep Writing/Don't Give Up" advice you give?
Lately I find myself steering away from giving that kind of advice. When my writing friends post their frustrations (which seems to happen only occasionally, everyone seems to try and present a positive outlook), I like to offer encouragement but I'm more likely to say things like, "Try to focus on enjoying the work," if their complaint is about sales and reaching readers. I've reached a point where I feel like telling people to not give up and keep writing is a way of telling them that the book sales and the reaching readers they desire are just around the corner. And I worry that I might be presenting false hope. The reality is the readers most of us are hoping for probably aren't around the corner.

What I would really like to tell writers struggling with whether or not they want to keep going is to take a quick break and consider if the joy and satisfaction you get from sitting and writing, from doing the work, is enough to keep you going by itself. If all those hopes and dreams of gaining readers and all that might come with that were to go away, would you still write? The answer doesn't have to be yes. Writers give a lot to the blank page and it's okay to want more back, whether it's more communication with an actual person or financial compensation for our investment of time.

I've done this on numerous occasions and I always quickly come back to yes as my answer, but that has to do with a lot more than just me as a writer, that has to do with me as a person. I don't have a challenging day job, I'm not a religious person, and these are two important holes in my life writing fills. I also have the free time available to spend on writing. If I didn't write, I might play video games. That's the analogy I often fall back on when I wonder why I'm bothering when I'm feeling down about sales and gaining readers: I could purchase video games and play them till I conquer them or I could write books. Writing books, if nothing else, is cheaper. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Femdom Symbols

A friend asked me to read a story she'd written and comment. She apologized if "writers get that a lot," which made me laugh because that marked the first time I'd ever "gotten that." I was immensely flattered my opinion was valued. She also warned me to not expect it to be "as sensual" as my writing, which again flattered me. Then I read this story. It was well written, but I knew it would be because I was familiar with her blog and already knew she wrote well. The characters felt like they had a loving relationship as they played. I was wondering what exactly she might have meant when she said it wasn't like my writing. Then, near the end, the female character (it was a femdom story) peed on her submissive male partner.

I began writing femdom erotica for a few reasons, but one of them was that reading femdom meant running into activities that either didn't turn me on or that I didn't particular like that they turned me on. I "get" enjoying getting peed on as an expression of submission to a partner, it just goes a touch far, for me. In Serving Her, Kimberly tells Alex that peeing on him is on their "list." Their "list" is a mutual one of activities neither of them choose to participate in. It's mostly for Alex, since if Kimberly didn't want to do something, she simply wouldn't, as she tells him. But it's not a judgment against activities anyone else chooses to engage in. Kimberly spanks Alex with all kinds of implements and snaps his cock with rubber bands. Plenty of people would find that "a touch far" as an expression of love between two people. How giant of a hypocrite would I have to be to not recognize that getting peed on is simply another loving expression of dominance and submission between people different from me?

And she didn't mean, I don't think, that I would have an adverse reaction to that scene, but it struck me that she thought I would find less love between them. If two people whose tastes in femdom are close but don't quite sync up, can't come together and recognize that the love is there, how can I expect vanilla people to recognize that Kimberly and Alex share a love as strong as any two people who don't engage in female domination? Only the symbols are different, the love is the same.