Sizzling Hot Or Cheap And Nasty?

I’m taking a break from posting interviews to discuss feedback I’ve received from my novel Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series. Oh, I have plenty of authors, musicians, and filmmakers coming up…but if you’re following my blog, chances are you want to know more about ME and MY work. If not, humor me.

Yes, I knew writing about fetishes, using the *s* and *f* bombs unsparingly, and including supernatural creatures with a proclivity towards evil (ie. demons, ghosts, vampires) would attract some criticism. But I’m okay with some NOT loving the subject matter or my in-your-face writing style. I’m okay with folks, in many cases, choosing to opt-out of reading it altogether based on the synopsis or first chapter excerpt. In fact, that’s the reason chapter one is available AND why I have warnings about my book posted everywhere AND why I caution people repeatedly against reading it if they are easily offended or of the squeamish variety.

Side note: my husband often asks me why I try to talk people out of reading my book. I don’t. I just try to get it in the hands of my targeted readers and away from those who have hangups (or preferences against the aforementioned) that would prevent them from enjoying it.

Point is–1) I’m not changing the content. I write about things I like to read. 2) I’m not changing my writing style. I write the way I prefer to read–in the most basic way of saying the most convoluted things. Bare bones. Choppy. Straight to the point. And judging by all twenty of the 5 and 4-star reviews on Amazon, I don’t have to change a thing.

Oh, sure. I know the current reviews are not indicative of ALL reader opinions. I know doggone well everyone doesn’t and wouldn’t love my novel. Which is a good thing since I didn’t write it to please everybody…and would never be able to achieve that anyway. Some of my absolutely favorite books have lots of scathing reviews by people who hated them. I’m not above this sort of scrutiny.

In the words of Douglas Meeks, a well-respected editor, reviewer and avid reader: “The day you write something nobody can complain about is the day you probably wrote something not worth reading.”

Agreed. And thanks for the encouragement, Doug.

Currently, the reviews of my book reflect the opinions of those who enjoyed it and took the time to write a review. [THANK YOU! BTW :)] It shows that I did a fairly decent job of getting my novel to those most likely to enjoy it than those who aren’t. There are some hit and misses along the way though. Some who read the first few chapters and decided they couldn’t handle it, didn’t bother posting a one-star review with one of those “I just couldn’t get through it” remarks. They moved on to another book more suitable to their tastes. But I know about some of them because of random Facebook posts, emails, calls and texts. As far as I know, they lost nothing more than a few minutes of their time since I had given the copies for free.

Negative opinions and criticism can be hard to deal with about something we writers work so hard to create. But it comes with the territory. We lay our souls and hearts and feelings on the line for anyone with a platform to shout out how much they love or hate our work. It can be brutal. It can also be rewarding. I happen to value constructive criticism about how my story can improve because it makes me a better writer. Opinions based on taste don’t. Those will go in one ear, out the other.

For instance, readers of my targeted group have called my novel “hot” and “sizzling”. Pretty neat, huh? Well, the harshest comment I’ve received so far went something like: I couldn’t get past the first 15% of the book. I just couldn’t get into the writing style. There seems to be words missing that makes it weird. It’s cheap and nasty. I don’t mind sex scenes, but I couldn’t believe how gross it was right from page one. I found it offensive.

Ouch! But oddly…true.

I’ll write more about my bare bones writing style in a continuation of this post. Today, as the title indicates, I want to focus on the “cheap and nasty” part.

My initial reaction to it was “how dare she…”, but that only lasted a hot minute because I realized it wasn’t her fault. She happened to have gotten her hands on my book without proper warning. With my BEWARE notice, she could have decided if it was right for her long before digging in and being offended. I’d looked at her reviewer profile and taken it for granted that she would be comfortable with the content. Her interest, based on the synopsis, wasn’t enough of a sign that she would be my ideal reader or that my book would be ideal for her. She should have been warned.

My bad.

I responded with something to the order of: I’m so sorry you thought it was cheap and nasty. There are several other reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads who thought differently, but I respect your opinion. I usually warn people about the content of my story so that nothing comes across as too much of a shock. It’s a good thing you didn’t have to waste your own money on it. My story is riggidy raw. It is intentionally SEXY, WILD, DARING, and RISKY and not meant for everyone, only those who love paranormal romance and are looking for something VERY different. Then I proceeded to offer a copy to her co-reviewer, who read it, loved it, and wrote a glowing review. WINNING.

I had to keep in mind that if everyone loved my book and no one found it controversial or risqué, I wouldn’t have done my job as the author. How many times must I say I INTENTIONALLY wrote it this way? I did. So somebody better get offended every now and then or I can’t claim “it’s not for the easily offended”, can I?

Being the reasonable person I am, I realize reviews are subjective and a matter of taste. What is “cheap and nasty” for one, may not be for another. Same with “hot and sizzling”. Her description of my book is now something I find amusing. Not just amusing, but a compliment, really. “Why, thank you,” would be my current response.

But Dicey. Isn’t warning people away from your book counterproductive?

Maybe. Definitely, if being productive means I have to sell lots of books. Would I sell more if I didn’t warn people like crazy? You betcha. Would I have more 1-star reviews? Absolutely. Because my book is not for everyone. Isn’t it more important to sell as many books as possible even if you get a lot of people who hate it? NOPE. Not for me.

I love reading, watching movies, and writing. I’m passionate about each, and I love discussing these arts with anyone who shares that passion. Therefore, I’m more interested in sharing my art, my novel, with people who can appreciate it. I want to discuss it with them. To feel the love and passion for my art from them. I’m an author, not a book seller. I want readers, not merely buyers. I say “merely” because having buyers would be nice if they were also fans. If they were part of my targeted group.

With this in mind, my market is smaller. Sales are lower. My options lessened. But I’m okay with that. Why? Because my novel’s unique enough to have a niche following. By this I mean, I’m more likely to have a few readers who love reading SEXY, WILD, DARING, and RISKY books than a mass of readers who do nothing but criticize it to death. You get the message yet? I’m not in it for the money. I’m in it to share my art (perversity, as some would call it) with those daring enough to enjoy it.

That’s my attitude right now. Who knows what the future will bring. If I get desperate enough one day, maybe I’ll write more mainstream, commercial-driven novels.

Don’t hold your breath. I’m having too much fun. 🙂

More criticism/feedback with author commentary to come…

The Wild World of Fetishism.

When you get around to reading my dark fantasy novel, Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book #1, in addition to discovering it’s pretty awesome, you’ll find that the setting is a fetish club. And since I don’t have any particular fetishes–that I’m going to discuss on this very public blog–I had to do a lot of research to adequately cover this part of the story. A lot of FUN research, I might add.

Yesterday, a fan of my novel asked this on my FB page: “i was wondering what research you did to find out about the intense fetishism”

Well, thanks for asking because I love talking about my book. I also have a twisted fascination with things that are outside-the-box. Controversial. Unusual. Oftentimes, offensive to mainstream folks. To those who believe in clearly-defined rights and wrongs, blacks and whites. I happen to see a very liberal middle-of-the-road and all shades of gray…and it’s so much more fun.

So let’s talk about fetishes. More specifically, where did I get all the fetish information to make my characters seem believable and real, even in a paranormal world?

This is my working fetish definition, taken from any object or nongenital part of the body that causes a habitual erotic response or fixation.

After clearly defining what I was looking for, I went on a Google hunt for various fetishes and read up on waaaay more than I bargained for. Having heard of a few through the years, I was surprised to see the laundry list of things people are into. And whatever wasn’t on one list was on another. There were lists after lists of things people find erotic. Of things they NEED to actually enjoy a sexual encounter. I discovered one could have a fetish about ANYTHING. Fat, plants, toothpaste… Nothing is too bizarre…not, if you’re the one attracted and fixated on it.

After studying the definitions, classifications, and character traits for the nonexhaustive list of fetishes, I read online forum discussions, community websites, psychology reports, journal case studies, wikipedia pages, you name it.

Then I watched a bunch of fetish movies and porn. Yes, I said porn. Some seemed interesting enough to try (and wouldn’t you want to know what I tried, but I’m not telling 🙂 ). Some things looked out-of-this-world unbelievable. Some things made my eyes bleed, and I wish I could remove the images from my memories.

Some fetishes are mild, some extreme. Some hurt physically, even death can occur (ie. autoasphyxia). Some are not inherently harmful, but may cause psychological pain, especially if a person doesn’t feel normal, tries desperately to conform and can’t (ie. media fetish–rubber, latex, silk, vinyl, leather clothing). Some fetishes are comforting, rewarding (ie. a person who needs role-playing partnered with another who needs role-playing). Some interfere with a person’s relationships or lifestyle (in which case, professional help may be necessary). The one thing that seems consistent, is that most people like to keep their fetish a secret, unless they are around others with a similar fetish.

I do my best not to past judgment on others, so I read and watched with curiosity, and without the mindset of “these people are crazy” or “they must have been abused as children” or whatever morals people who don’t understand or even try to understand impose on people who are into something different. That’s not to say that some of these cliches are not true in some cases, but that’s not for me to decide. I only wanted to learn.

I feel like I’m rambling now…

What I mean to say, dearest fan, is that I studied and immersed myself in fetishes that seemed interesting (or odd) enough to write about. And I assure you there is more to come.

Fetish Fun Or Extreme?

My character, Sleepy Willow, works at a fetish club where all kinds of interesting things take place. Readers are forewarned about the grit and gruesomeness of featured fetishes because some may find it offensive. But do not be mistaken. It DOES take place. Take this November 17, 2011 KHOU headline, for instance: “Houston man who mutilated girlfriend sentenced to 30 years in prison.”

Well, he mutilated her, so he deserves to be sentenced, right? How about if the mutilated girlfriend testified FOR the defendant? What if she insisted it was just a sex game that went too far? And that she didn’t want him punished for what she CONSENTED to?

Ring any fetishism bells? A sex game where one enjoys being beat and the other enjoys doing the beating? Where humiliation, degradation, and power are turn-ons? Where the lines between pain and pleasure are blurred?

That’s sadomasochism (also commonly referred to as BDSM), ladies and gentleman. Or aggravated assault, according to the jury.

Why aggravated assault? Doesn’t it make a difference if she consented to the abuse? If she begged for him to beat her and burn her and mutilate her? If the pain brought pleasure to her as well?

Not legally in most of the western world, since no one can consent to grave bodily harm. She is still considered a victim and he is a felon.

Well, what constitutes grave bodily harm?

Though usually left to a reasonable person standard in many U.S. courts, I think it’s safe to say the following are universally considered grave bodily harm even to the most liberal of folks: breaking bones of another, inflicting wounds that require sutures, causing injuries that result in disfigurement, and causing prolonged or reoccurring unconsciousness.

According to KHOU: “Prosecutors said Longoria tied his girlfriend to a bed and beat, choked and burned her for more than 15 hours back in February of 2011.”

I’m pretty certain a 15-hour sex game that involves beating, choking, burning, and results in permanent disfigurement would not turn me on in the least. And I’m preeeetty sure most people are going to consider it grave bodily harm no matter how much the submissive enjoyed him or herself.

For those who enjoy being beat or beating those who “consent” to the beatings, how much is too much and therefore, punishable by law? Is it fair for the legal system to step in and decide?

While I am all for freedom in sexual self-expression, I am glad the court intervened and imposed this sentence. In THIS particular case. Why? Because after following some of the testimony, I wasn’t really convinced she actually consented.