And now, the blog post you've all been waiting for, Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage, Part 4: Bondage! (past installments: Billionaires, Bad Boys: Inner Torment, Bad Boys: Jackassery). (Caution: soapboxing may occur. If I cause offense, I make no apologies; I stand by my words.)
I'm going to start out with two basic ideas. The first is that there's nothing wrong with a certain amount of roleplay and fun and games between consenting partners, the key word here being consenting. I'm not conversant with the BDSM lifestyle or practices, but from online discussions I've read on the subject of Billionaire Bondage novels (both in forums and in book reviews), I'm given to understand that among those in that community, consent is key. In other words, you don't do what Bux Cashton does: he informs Sweet Young Thing that he is the dominant and she is going to be the submissive, and if she wants to be with him that's how it's going to be; they're going to play by his rules. By this time, she's far too taken with him (goodness knows why; see the Jackassery installment) for it to be easy for her to say, "Get lost," and even if she does, he isn't one to take "Get lost" for an answer. So, basically, she is being coerced, emotionally bullied, and manipulated into entering into this sexual practice.
Idea number two: While there's nothing wrong with a certain amount of roleplay and fun and games between consenting partners, the desire to cause feelings of pain, humiliation, and helplessness in one's partner has no place whatsoever in a loving, healthy relationship.
That should be self-explanatory; I can't imagine that it isn't. So I'm not going to bother trying to explain further. I'm just going to say that if you are in a relationship with someone who takes pleasure in hurting you or making you feel bad, you need to get out. In Billionaire Bondage books, Bux Cashton does enjoy those things. He gets off on it; it makes him feel powerful, and it's an outlet for his feelings of Inner Torment. I don't understand why Sweet Young Thing sticks around long enough for Bux to eventually reform (to the extent that he does), except Hot Tormented Billionaire.
In my books, sex between the main characters is an act of love, or at least mutual liking and attraction (later developing into love), between equal partners (equal regardless of whatever differences in age, social status, or previous experience might exist between them) who are each as deeply concerned with the other person's comfort, enjoyment, and well-being as with their own. Consent is asked for and received, at least the first time (with one exception, but in this instance they're too busy tearing each other's clothes off to stop and talk about it, so I guess the consent is implied), and after that first time there continues to be a sensitivity to the other person's mood and willingness.
Being tied up does become a running joke during one story (and no I'm not going to say which one; you'll have to read and find out, bwahaha), because of something that happens accidentally - something that the woman does, incidentally, so the roles here are switched around.
It's the villains who engage in sexual sadism (btw, I did mention at some point that my books are not for young readers but for adults and older teens, right?). Not in every book, but there are a few who use that as part of their power play. And occasionally one of the main characters is involved in a wrong relationship (before taking up with the right person, the other main character) and the ideals I talked about above don't necessarily apply to those relationships. But when the main characters do get together, that's how it is, because that's what I believe a loving, healthy intimate relationship should be.
So, the Bondage Scale:
Eruz (Urdaisunia): He does have concubines (common in his culture for a man of his ranking), but he usually feels like it's really more trouble than it's worth, and would never force any of them to do anything they don't want to. And where he lives, pain and suffering are so common that he would rather use sex to escape from it, not to indulge in more of it.
Bondage Rating: 0
Sevry (Chosen of Azara): No time for sex, never mind kinky sex. Plus, he's seen too much suffering in his life to find anything fun or sexy about it.
Bondage Rating: 0
Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Nope, no way. Uh-uh. Forget it. He's experienced too much personal suffering to want to inflict it on another person.
Bondage Rating: 0
Adan (Sarya's Song): He already blew it once with Sarya; if he ever gets another chance, he isn't taking any risk that he might blow it again. As for other relationships, he's just too easy-going and too much of an all-around nice guy to want to hurt anyone.
Bondage Rating: 0
Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): He's seen people hurt other people just because they can, and he has no desire to be that kind of person.
Bondage Rating: 0
Edit: I've had some complaints from the gentlemen that this rating makes them all sound like they're boring in bed. So I'll note that the Bondage Rating is based strictly on disregard for consent and the degree of enjoyment obtained from causing feelings of pain, humiliation, and helplessness (with fun and games, adventurousness, etc. not being considered.)
And to soothe some ruffled pride here, I'll give them all a big 10 on the special Red-Hot Lovers scale. Or, ok, 11. That better, guys? (Aw, look, I made Sevry blush!) And no, Silas, the scale does not go to 12. *sheesh*
So, in conclusion, on a scale of 0 to 40 points on the Billionaires, Bad Boys, and Bondage rating, we have:
Eruz (Urdaisunia): 12 points
Sevry (Chosen of Azara): 10 points
Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): 17 points (scored high on Inner Torment)
Adan (Sarya's Song): 17 points (scored high on Billionaire)
Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): 9
I am therefore forced to conclude that I am not really in step with the BBB&B trend. That's okay, though. It's been a fun way to look at my heroes from some different angles, but, in all seriousness, it isn't something I would want to write. It's just too far removed from my ideal of what men, women, and the relationships between them can be, an ideal that I feel it's important to convey through my writing. I'm writing what I love and what I believe in, and I'm happy with it.
In this series, I've been looking at how my novels stack up against the hottest trend in fiction right now: billionaire bad boys who are into bondage. So far I've covered the Billionaire factor and one of the two components of the Bad Boy, Inner Torment. In this post: the other half of the Bad Boy factor, Jackassery.
The guys in these books, I don't know. It's a good thing they're rich and they're hot, because it's kind of hard to tell why any woman would want to have anything to do with them at all otherwise. They refuse to take No for an answer, they manipulate or coerce Sweet Young Thing into sexual practices that are outside of her normal preferences and comfort zone, they control where she goes and when and who she sees... If you've ever read any of those Top Ten Signs Your Partner Is An Abuser lists, this is probably starting to sound familiar.
Sweet Young Thing usually does stand up for herself against Bux Cashton eventually (reviews are divided on whether or not readers appreciate that development), and that does sometimes seem to be a turning point in the plot, with the guy maybe coming to realize that there are other ways of interacting with women besides being a complete jerkface to them.
Yeah, it's a common fantasy, the tormented jerk who comes to appreciate the woman who is so patient and understanding with him and is reformed into a nice, loving, romantic, wonderful guy. But there has to be something there in the first place to make Sweet Young Thing think it'll be worth all the jackassery she has to put up with in the meantime. Are hot, rich, and tormented enough? Apparently so.
Anyway, here's the Jackassery ratings on my own heroes (with bonus notes about how the ladies deal with it):
Prince Eruz (Urdaisunia): Considering everything he's dealing with in his personal and professional lives, Eruz is really a pretty nice guy. He commits two main acts of jackassery where Rashali is concerned, neither of which are intended to be controlling, bad, evilly underhanded, or otherwise offensive, although they certainly come across that way. One is more a matter of social ineptitude than anything else (Eruz isn't really a people person), the other is a matter of urgent political necessity. Rashali's reaction is to renew her resolve to make sure the Sazars are destroyed or driven out of Urdaisunia, though she later comes to realize that his actions weren't what they seemed to be and maybe there's another solution to the Sazar-Urdai conflict.
Jackassery Index: 3
Sevry (Chosen of Azara): Again, considering everything he has to deal with, he's a pretty nice guy. His main problems are the pressure he's under to complete his task and, as with Eruz, a lack of social skills. For all his many and varied experiences, he's never had to deal with someone like Lucie before. When he realizes that she's the person he's been looking for all this time to help him complete his mission, he uses a number of tactics to try to persuade her, including guilt-tripping. His worst act of jackassery certainly isn't intended to be that way; it kind of just happens. He still gets himself slapped by Lucie, plus she's never afraid to tell him that what he wants from her is out of the question.
Jackassery Index: 2
Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Roric scored highest on the Inner Torment scale. He's worked very hard to build a new life for himself, and everything in his life and his world is very carefully controlled. He dislikes having any kind of chaos or unpredictability in his life. When Perarre comes into that world, he is fairly overbearing in his attempts to make her obey all his little rules for how things should be done. They work for him; shouldn't they work for everyone? Perarre really really wants this job - or, more specifically, she wants the future opportunities that a good reference from the renowned Professor Roric Rossony will open up to her - so she goes along with it to some extent, though never without pushback, and he eventually comes to see that a little chaos in his life won't hurt anything. Which is good, considering what happens next.
Jackassery Index: 4
Adan (Sarya's Song): When Adan and Sarya first met, when they were teenagers, he did one thoughtless thing that caused her a lot of pain, but he didn't mean to. She still hasn't forgiven him. He also has a number of other faults - he feels no need at all to demonstrate false modesty, and he's extremely fond of, er, female companionship, but he never does anything with the intent to make Sarya feel bad or to control her. He actually isn't as big a jackass as Sarya thinks he is, but she cuts him no slack whatsoever.
Jackassery Index: 5
Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): Silas commits one supreme act of jackassery, fairly early on in the series. Even while I was writing it I was thinking, Dude, no! You don't do that! To his credit, he realizes almost right away what he had done and why it was bad, and feels really bad about it. Lainie doesn't hesitate to let him know how bad he'd made her feel, but after some awkward conversations and a really spectacular act of redeeming himself, she forgives him. And he's just been a doll ever since :D
Jackassery Index: 5
Conclusion: No one's perfect, and everyone does stupid things that hurt someone else, even when they don't mean to. But just because you might have had a good excuse for making a stupid mistake or otherwise doing something hurtful (past trauma, the demands of your job, temporary stupidity), there's never a reason why you can't apologize, do something to make up for it, and try to do better in the future.
Coming up: Bondage.
So, I'm taking a look at the heroes of my novels in comparison to the current hot trend of novels about hot, tormented billionaire hunks who like to play rough. The previous post evaluated them on the Billionaire scale, with Adan Muari from Sarya's Song topping out at 11 (on a scale of 1 to 10), and the others coming in considerably under that. Next up: the twin factors on the Bad Boy scale: Inner Torment and Jackassery.
These two are linked because, in my extensive analysis of the trend (that is, reading lots of reviews, both positive and negative, of books on the "Falling in Love With a Billionaire" list on Goodreads), the male protagonist's past trauma and inner torment are what lead to his extreme narcissistic, hedonistic, selfish, and domineering behavior (aka his jackassery) and provide the excuse, nay, the justification, for any and all such acts. The overall idea is that the sweet young thing he fixates upon as his conquest (female in the examples I've seen, though I suppose this trend could also exist in the M/M romance sector) eventually comes to peace with and/or helps him overcome his inner torment and the accompanying bad behavior.
(Because I'm analyzing Inner Torment and Jackassery separately, this is going to turn into a four-part series. Me and series, it always turns out there has to be one more installment.)
My heroes on the Inner Torment scale (ratings are a function of badness of the stuff they've had to deal with combined with how well they deal with it) (Also, these are the characters as they are at the beginning of the books, more or less. Sometimes things get better, sometimes they get worse, bwahahahaha):
Prince Eruz (Urdaisunia): His father hates him. His brothers hate him. His wives are mad at him, and his concubines aren't too terribly thrilled with him either. His country is falling apart, and he's wrestling with all these inconvenient ideas about equality between the Sazars and the Urdai and how just because you conquered someone doesn't mean it's ok to abuse and oppress them. But Eruz is mostly too busy trying to do his job and figure out how to do what's best for everyone to go all emo over this stuff. And at least his daughter loves him <3 :D
Inner Torment rating: 3
Sevry (Chosen of Azara): His country was at war from the time he was three until he was twenty-three. After that, his people destroyed and his country in ruins, he spends a very long time on a seemingly hopeless quest to try to restore what was lost. His circumstances keep him isolated, constantly on the run, unable to tell the truth about himself or form close relationships with anyone. He's dedicated to his duty and determined to carry it out, but he's lonely and he's getting pretty tired. He still manages to keep it together, barely.
Inner Torment rating: 7
Roric (The Lost Book of Anggird): Hoo boy. Roric. Wow. I struggled with this novel for years, just not quite sure where Roric was coming from. And then one day he opened up and told me about his past, and I was both horrified by what he'd been through and terrified of writing about it. I thought there was no way I could write about a character with stuff like that in his past. I'm just not qualified (and I'm expecting some pushback for taking on a subject like this when the novel is released). On the other hand, I finally understood why he is the way he is - the accomodations he's come to in his effort to deal with his past and rebuild his life. Once I understood him, the story was much easier to write.
Inner Torment rating: 10. Possibly 11.
Adan (Sarya's Song): Incredibly rich, good-looking, popular, and talented, from a large and loving family. His father actually expects him to work, as in manual labor, on the family plantations during his visits home, so he knows what hard work is like and he understands, to an extent, what life is like for those less fortunate than him. He's pretty easy-going and content with life, except that as a teenager he did one incredibly thoughtless thing which totally ruined all his chances with the only girl he'll ever love. Not that he's given up hope, though.
Inner Torment rating: 2
Silas (Daughter of the Wildings): As a kid, he made some selfish and thoughtless decisions, which had devastating consequences for someone he cared about. Rather than (or, in addition to) being traumatized by that, he learned from it. Eventually, spurred on by the ideals he came to embrace as a result of that incident, he threw away the wealth and privilege he was born to and chose the life he's living now, and is happy with it.
Inner Torment rating: 2
Conclusion: My guys have all been through bad stuff (and continue to go through it). Some of it only mildly traumatizing, some of it devastating. They do have bad dreams and bad memories and painful, complicated emotions. But life is hard for everyone. Harder for some than for others, but no one is entitled to a bump-free ride through life, so they deal with it and go on as best as they can.
Next time: The Jackassery Index (or, Why in the world do the ladies put up with this $&%@#???)
You see them all over the place, on the bestseller lists, in ads on Goodreads, on the front pages on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and probably on the front tables at brick&mortar bookstores and prominently displayed at Target. Novels about a fabulously wealthy, hot, tormented hunk who sets eyes on some sweet young thing and decides he is going to have his way with her (or possibly him; I'm not conversant with m/m romance but I wouldn't be surprised if this trend exists in that sector too) and won't take No for an answer. Kink ensues. (Note: I haven't actually read any of these, but I've read a bunch of book descriptions and reviews on GoodReads. Close enough for literary analysis, right? :-D)
So, being the hard-blogging author that I am, I decided to examine my own novels through the lens of the 3 B's to see how they stack up to the latest hot trend, on a totally arbitrary scale from 1 to 10. This will be a series of three posts because there's a lot to talk about. (Oh, and as I'll be talking about books of mine that I haven't released yet, I will do my utmost to avoid spoilers. As always, the disclaimer is that these are romances in addition to being fantasy, so the more-or-less HEA is a given.)
First up: Billionaires.
The guys in these books are all fabulously, obnoxiously, breathtakingly rich. They are in their 20's and own half of Manhattan or Seattle or wherever. They seduce women in the offices of their world conglomerate headquarters and at expensive hotels where one night costs the same as a mortgage payment or two or four for us regular folks.
Let's examine the heroes from my first five books (Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, The Lost Book of Anggird, Sarya's Song, and the Daughter of the Wildings series - which is actually six books but I'll consider it as one) through the billionaire filter.
In Urdaisunia, Prince Eruz is the High Prince, the heir to the throne. Pretty good deal, right? He's gonna be king one day! Awesome :) But...the land of Urdaisunia has been suffering from worsening drought, food shortages, and epidemics for years, and has enemies from all sides, inside the country and out (and above), eyeing it so they can exploit what few resources it still has. Still sounds great, right? Oh, and his position as heir to the throne depends on the approval of his seriously disapproving father and his ability to outsmart his scheming brothers. All things considered, just chucking everything and running off to start over from scratch somewhere else starts to look pretty good.
Billionaire rating: 6
Chosen of Azara: Sevry is an actual, real live king. Yay! But he's got no country, no people, no home, no nothing. All he's got to offer a girl is an empty land, a ruined convent, a pure heart, and a willingness to work hard.
Billionaire rating: 1
The Lost Book of Anggird: Roric is a professor, a highly valued breed in the Vorunne Dominion, and he's one of the elite of the elite. He's extremely well-compensated, both in salary (though he seldom has to actually handle any money himself) and in the living accomodations and other perks he's provided with. And then one night it all goes kablooey and he finds himself left with nothing but the love of a good woman (or not?), a price on his head, and an interesting new talent (as one of the test readers put it).
Billionaire rating: 2
Sarya's Song: Adan is the heir of a fabulously wealthy family. Want to know how wealthy? Allow me to refer you to this quote from the book:
Adan Muari, tall, handsome, well built, auburn haired, heir of a family that owned nearly a quarter of Msaka Ras and a substantial portion of Msaka Dolna, possessed a True baritone voice of divine quality and extraordinary [magical] strength, and an equally extraordinary opinion of himself.
Msaka Ras and Msaka Dolna are not companies, nor buildings, nor city blocks. They aren't cities, or counties, or provinces, or even countries. They're continents. So yes, he's incredibly rich. But if the world's going to end, what difference does money make?
Billionaire rating: 10. or maybe 11.
Daughter of the Wildings: Silas was born into one of the elitest of the elite mage families in Granadaia. He walked away from it all because he seriously disapproves of everything his family stands for and believes in, and they feel the same way about him. So now he's just making his way as a bounty hunter across the Wildings. If he catches a good bounty with a good price, he lives well for a while. No captures, no money. But he has his freedom and his integrity, which mean more to him than money any day.
Billionaire rating: 2
Conclusion: Money and status aren't everything, and can be lost just like that. When you've got nothing left but yourself (or, in a relationship, when you've got nothing left but each other), that's when you see what you're really made of: money and status, or something more substantial.
So far Adan is in the lead with a B,BB,&B rating of 11 (on a scale of 1 to 10). Next post: we'll see how he and the other guys stack up on the twin measures of Bad Boy-ness, inner torment and jackassery. Stay tuned!
To see Camille LaGuire's take on this theme, start with this post on her blog: http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2013/09/day-6-and-billionaire-bad-boy-scale.html
Welcome to the reveal of the cover for Sarya's Song! So glad you could stop by. Please help yourself to punch and cookies at the buffet table, and enjoy your visit :-)
And here's the cover!
Another amazing creation by DesignbyKatt! She did a great job of listening to what I wanted and what I was trying to convey with the cover, and found stock and brushes that fit perfectly. At first I wasn't thinking about putting Adan on the cover, just Sarya, but then he told me that considering what he has to put up with in the book he'd better be on the cover or else. Characters... As I like to say, you can't live with them, you can't whack them on the head with a shovel and bury them out back. (or, well, you can, but then that would mess up the story.) Anyway, so Katt came up with this, which I think is absolutely perfect for the book - dark and romantic, with music as a major element. This is the second cover she's done for me (the first one is Chosen of Azara) and it's been a pleasure working with her.
The book is in the early stages of revision right now, and, at the moment, I'm looking at an early 2014 release.
Finally, I'll leave you with a little snippet from the beginning of Sarya's Song:
[magic is worked through musical chants, and Sarya's job is to arrange the magical chants into rituals; a wedding rite, in this case. Right now, she's handing out new parts.]
"What's this?" a voice said from off to the side, where the soloists stood. Adan Muari held out one of the pages, staring at it. "I can't sing this. It's too high. What happened to my solo?"
So I went and did my civic duty on Tuesday. I got put on the short list for a jury, but in the end wasn't selected for the actual jury. Which was just as well, since my chronic fatigue syndrome would make it extremely difficult to serve on even a three-day trial, which this one was. But I was also a little disappointed, since it seemed like an interesting case.
One thing about jury duty is there are lots of stories to be found there. The pool of people summoned to jury duty represents all different ages and walks of life. If you like to people-watch, that's a great place to do it. How do people come dressed - casual or all dressed up? What do they bring with them to pass the time? What's their attitude about being there? And what are the "why's" behind all those things?
And that's just in the waiting room. Once you get to the courtroom, there are more stories. What's going on with the case? For this one, it was a young woman who was a passenger in a car where a quantity of drugs for sale was found. Did she have anything to do with it, or was it the other person, the driver, who was responsible for the drugs? It would have been interesting to hear the evidence on that.
The stories weren't just limited to the person on trial. The prosecuting attorney was blind; she even had her guide dog in the courtroom to guide her up to the judge's bench when one of the prospective jurors wanted to answer a question in private. My husband and I got married after his first year of law school, and I can tell you that getting through law school and taking the bar exam and then practicing law requires a mind-boggling amount of reading and writing. This attorney was making notes with a Braille tool, and I had to wonder how diificult it must have been for her to successfully get through school and pass the bar and then function in this job, and what it was that drove her to tackle all these hardships and challenges and make it to where she was.
On the defense side, one of the defense attorneys was a young woman from a small town (she mentioned it because a few of the prospective jurors were from the same small town, and she wanted to make sure none of them knew her) and from an ethnic background that tends to be poor and under-educated. What made her decide to become a lawyer, and what drove her to overcome the challenges she might have faced to get to that courtroom?
Then, as I was thinking about those two women, I realized that two of my female characters, Perarre from The Lost Book of Anggird and Sarya from Sarya's Song are women who have worked their way into academically challenging professions despite great odds against them. So that seems to be a theme that I'm drawn to.
And then there were the prospective jurors. We each had to give a short biographical statement about ourselves. Everyone's life is different, and everyone's life has something unique and interesting about it. Careers, educational background, family situations, interests - no two people had the same combination of things. One thing they asked was what bumper stickers we have on our cars. I was surprised that almost no one had bumper stickers, and the few who did had something completely innocuous (like me; my only bumper sticker is for my college alumni association). I was also surprised that more than one person had a son in prison. Those people did not make it onto the final jury. You could hear the emotion in their voices as they answered the question if you have a friend or family member in jail. That must be an incredibly heartbreaking thing to go through.
They also asked if we have previous experience on a jury, what kind of case, and what the verdict was. I was on the jury once in a robbery case, and we returned a guilty verdict. (The evidence was clear, but it was incredibly hard to pass a judgment on someone which meant that he would have to go to prison.) I'm guessing that that's why they didn't put me on the jury; defense attorneys probably don't like that.
So that was my day of jury duty. Going by how I feel today, two days later, I should probably try to get a medical exemption next time I'm summoned. But it was definitely worthwhile, both for knowing that I was fulfilling my civic responsibility, and for the nourishment for my writer's brain.
No Camp NaNo word count on Tuesday, obviously. Yesterday I only got 848.
Total word count: 2357/30,000
And I kind of liked this line from yesterday's output (remember this is raw and unedited, fresh from my brain):
Being found out as a mage was bad enough; being found out as a mage who cheated at cards would entitle that mage to additional gruesome variations on the standard hanging.
So, back to work now. Planning to write a good big chunk on that Camp NaNo novel today, and continue progress on the revision of Chosen of Azara. It needs more work that I had thought, so the release date might be getting pushed back to June. I'll see how it goes when I get to the parts that need major rewriting.
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