I’m actually really excited about this #AskMeAnything, because it’s a great topic AND I have a series of AMAs coming to the blog in the next few weeks where I will have guests either helping me discuss a topic, or sharing their own insight on them! This is awesome because not only does it strengthen the pool of information on here, but it also reminds me to turn things into AMAs when I get asked about it. ^_^ Today’s topic comes from my new cover designer BFF Laura Hidalgo of Beyond DEF, and we co-wrote this topic together. I hope you lovelies enjoy it!
Curious what the #AskMeAnything is? Check out the official AMA page on my site over here.
Q: When it comes to book covers, does the first impression really matter most?
This is a topic that spurs a lot of conversation, especially among indie authors who are handling a book from inception to marketing launch. Some authors feel that a strong story (and positive reviews from loyal fans) will carry the weight in “getting the word out” about a book. Others are so new to publishing their own books that just having a cover with their name on it can leave them starstruck and thrilled with a cover, and I can admit I was definitely that person in my early times as an author.
But, let’s be honest, authors are word people.
We love language, we love the story, we love the characters, and our knowledge of graphics tends to be… lacking. That’s why when it comes to having this conversation, and making the right choices, I wanted to write this post with my new cover design bestie Laura, so just know that her fingerprints are all over this conversation alongside me.
Don’t judge a book by its cover!
Or, actually, do, because you’re going to anyway. The saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is often a mantra for many, but in the book industry the first impression does matter the most. Many people are drawn to attractiveness; whether it’s the beauty of a person, clothes in a magazine, or the decor in the HGTV Dream House – we are naturally inclined to appreciate the appeal they have on our senses. The same can be said for book covers and how readers respond to them.
This fact is even more important to the self-published author who is trying to stand out from the masses. Imagine – there are easily THIRTY THOUSAND books released in the Romance genre on Amazon on a monthly basis.
So how do you stand out?
This is exactly the question authors ask themselves all the time, especially when they’re first getting started. Unfortunately, we don’t always know how to stand out. Some people are naturally able to figure it out, or have experience in other ways to know the right look / feel / design elements to make a book pop for readers, but I didn’t. I had vague ideas, and absolutely none of the skill to make it happen. That doesn’t mean I didn’t find some success. When it comes to business I was able to recruit better on LinkedIn and it helped me to build a reader base through word of mouth, through fans from my Literotica days, and by forming solid relationships with readers and other authors on social media.
But I wasn’t rolling in the money, and although I couldn’t have articulated (even with my love of words) exactly what my covers were missing, I knew they were missing something. I looked at the covers from top sellers in Dark Romance and I would just sigh and stare at them and wonder who made them, how much they cost, etc., etc., etc…
I had already said 2018 would be my year, and that meant I was going to invest in my books like I never had before. When it came time for me to release ‘Destruction’ I knew I’d spent enough time dreaming and asking questions, and I made the decision to put my foot down and throw everything into making that release stand out. And that’s when I was introduced to Laura Hidalgo (by my lovely friend Marissa Honeycutt). I had already been impressed by her skill in the covers I’d seen her make, and I was excited to see what she could do for me, but I had no idea just HOW amazing it would be to work with her.
What’s the difference working with a professional cover designer?
There are plenty of premade cover sites, cheap options on sites like Fiverr, and anyone can download Adobe Photoshop for $10/mo (or any other image editing software) and try their hand at it, but this is one of those areas where you truly get what you pay for. Designing covers is art, and if you’re not working with an artist that ALSO has their pulse on the book community, at the end of the day you will still sell books – but you may not sell them to the level you’re dreaming about.
Laura talked with me about the feel of the book, what I imagined, and then spent hours combing through stock photos with me. Then, because she already knew what she was capable of DOING with the stock photos, she got me to look at photos that I would have brushed aside before because they didn’t look right to me. And because she has the skill and the experience, she could see all the possibilities in different stock photos and describe them to me so I could imagine them too. That is how we worked together on ‘Destruction’, and the results speak for themselves.
While I also put more advertising focus / money on ‘Destruction’ in ways I hadn’t in the past, I really didn’t do that much different. I just had a really fucking amazing cover, and a brand that told people I was a dark romance author. Yet, the day that the cover reveal happened for this book, social media exploded with tons of people saying the same thing over and over and over.
“OMG that cover is gorgeous!”
People were sharing the book on social media just to show their friends the cover. It meant that people who may have otherwise scrolled past my book actually stopped and looked. Even with a catchy tagline, hot title, or lots of readers talking about how good it is, there are just so many books coming out all the time that a book needs something else to rise up out of the sea of covers and new releases.
This cover, and Laura Hidalgo’s talent, did that for me. To describe myself as shocked, blown away, amazed, and any other synonym you can think of would still be an understatement to how I felt as I watched the book climb the ranks on Amazon and then stay there.
I don’t like to discuss finances in public. Part of me thinks it’s just catty, and the other part just says that it doesn’t really matter, but I will say that my sales in December were incredible. Numbers aside, I think what matters the most is the question that Laura asked me…
Was it worth the investment?
My answer was a resounding YES! Fuck yes, abso-fucking-lutely yes. And the word “investment” here is really fucking important, because working with strong designers costs money. Probably more money than a new author is comfortable spending, but I’ve been wondering lately what a cover like ^that one^ could have done for me two years ago. What solid branding and a cohesive feel to my books could have done for the time it took me to get to where I am now, which is leaps and bounds from where I was this time last year. It’s why I turned around and begged Laura to do the ‘Imperfect Monster’ cover, and the results are speaking for themselves there as well.
There are very very few overnight successes, most of us are on the long-term grind at this gig. The people who hit it big with their first book are literally the one in a million (possibly even a worse ratio than that), and there are lots of extremely good books that just never get the attention they deserve. And, let’s face it, what we want / need / crave as authors is to have attention on our books. We spend weeks or months writing them, and a reader can make a decision with a passing glance on if they want to give you a try or not.
If the cover doesn’t draw their eye, they may never click to read your blurb.
If they don’t read your blurb, they’re probably not going to pick up your book either.
And if they don’t read that book, then how likely are they to read a future book if you don’t change anything?
Being an author is hard, lovelies. If you are an author, you’re probably nodding at the screen, or did a little snort laugh when you read that sentence, because this isn’t new information. Many of us do this in addition to a day job, in addition to our families, in addition to LIFE IN GENERAL, and that means that we’re already pouring everything we have left into these stories. Then we publish through a publisher, or on our own, and we stalk the book to look for reviews / reader reaction / ranks / shares on social media / etc. and just hope that we get any kind of return on OUR investment into that book.
So, why not do everything you can to get readers to click on it?
First impressions matter.
Before the reader gets close enough to learn anything about the book, the cover has probably already told them a lot about it, and as word people we may not be putting out the right vibes to draw in the right readers. You know who knows how to capture the right look and feel for a cover to make it connect to readers in the correct genre? Cover designers. You know who is more likely to make an emotion fueled decision? The author.
Working with a cover designer is a collaboration. It’s a partnership to walk a line somewhere between the book’s real characters / story, and the elements that make the book feel like it belongs in that genre and make it marketable.
What’s the bottom line here?
There are no guarantees when it comes to selling books. Sometimes books with average covers hit it big, and sometimes gorgeous covers still get missed. Bleh stories get big bucks, while incredible stories get ignored. But, we also know that when it comes to the controllable aspects of this insane job that we all signed up for – it’s always best to take care of what we can.
So, be ready to have your book judged by its cover. Find a great designer and make it the best damn cover you can. Make it fit the market, make it align with the bestsellers that are similar to your book, and get those new readers who don’t know your name to click on it. Draw them in with the visuals so you can wow them with your words.
And remember, for most of us, this is a journey not a sudden jackpot. Every incremental increase in readers / sales is a win, and it builds and builds.
Until next time,
PS – Share your favorite cover designers in the comments here or on social media! Share the wealth, inspire each other with gorgeous covers, and remember that I’m cheering you on, lovelies (and Laura would love to work with you and help you get there).
Look! It’s another #AskMeAnything and I’m actually very excited about today’s topic. Mostly because I get asked questions a lot that have to do with the Dom/Domme perspective on things, and while I can give what I’ve heard or been told or “my opinion”… really the best answer is just to ask an actual dominant. SO! While I’m waiting for my Dom to be willing to post something (he said maybe) I thought it would be REALLY cool to share this guest post from a woman named Mary Wyman who is a Domme and has some great stuff to share with all of us! Curious what the #AskMeAnything is? Check out the official AMA page on my site over here. Enjoy!
Q: What’s it like to be a Domme? What would you share about it? (guest post)
I am Mary, I am 53 years old, and I am a military service veteran. I have two grown children; my oldest is a veteran himself. My daughter is married to a former marine. I also have two grandchildren and one child who is special needs and a child of my heart. (His dad, my ex, died and the child considers me his mom. I am the only mom he knows.) His sister, my daughter, has custody.
I was asked to give insight into what it’s like to be a Domme, and share a bit about me, so here it goes.
How did you get started in BDSM?
When I was in High School I was really naïve. I had heard sexual words and phrases but I didn’t even know what they meant. I had two very surprised friends explain to me what the term “blow job” meant. I had thought it was literal. You blow on it. Once they stopped laughing they kindly explained that it was not what I thought it was. Needless to say it was several years before I even learned that BDSM was a real thing and not something made up for the porn industry.
I did what I always do when I want to learn something new. I went to research it. Thank goodness for the internet and chat rooms. My first BDSM websites I went to were a treasure trove of excellent information and people who were willing to share their knowledge with me. So a huge step in learning about BDSM is doing the research. BDSMlibrary.com and Fetlife.com became my go to websites for the first few months. From there I went to my first munches, demonstrations, parties, Dom/sub talks in the local community. I eventually attended events in other cities and found a rather close knit international community online as well. There is even a good deal of information on SecondLife where you can attend informational classes on domination, submission, and munches or talks just for dominants or sub only, and even switches (for people who see and feel both sides of the Dom/sub coin, as it were).
How did you go from being a sub to a dominant?
When I first started in the lifestyle, I found I was more curious than wanting to experience one side or the other. I experimented and observed for a good six months or more before getting my feet wet. From the beginning it was a lot of research, like every day for several months before ever doing a scene with anyone. I first tried bottoming to a sadist. It is probably not the best thing to start out as. But as things go, I learned a lot especially what I do not like, and what I will and will not accept.
Even with all of the research I had done, I still managed to do some very risky things, like accepting actions that went past what was agreed to in a scene. I was new and thinking it was just a little past our agreed to level of intensity and level of pain. It took me a while to find my footing and what I would and would not allow. After the first time, the next several times were within boundaries… but just barely. After the third time of him going beyond agreement, I wouldn’t see him again. He did not learn and did that to two other people that I know about. It got to the point where none of the submissives/bottoms would accept to play or scene with him and he eventually left the group.
I tried being a submissive for a time and even learned the difference between sub and slave, it is not very clear when you are “told” about it, or at least it wasn’t for me. I had to experience it for myself. I had a Dominant for several months. We explored the different types of submission, even being a Little, which involves age play (just a side note here, age play is not about pedophilia or molestation), I also explored things like edge play, kidnap roleplay, bondage and restraints, humiliation and pet play to name but a few.
After a short break, I tried being a slave for a Master, not just a BDSM style slave but also a lifestyle Gorean slave. Many people disagree about BDSM vs Gorean lifestylers, for me I refer to it as being on the same tree but on a different branch.
It wasn’t long before I figured out that I wasn’t really cut out to be a submissive or a slave. I kept trying to “top from the bottom” but not in a sense that I was trying to be “bratty” to get my way. It was just more in my nature to nurture and be in charge.
So for a time I found a submissive of my own. My first submissive was long distance and online and we used to do a lot of live video. He was a great sub and we ended our relationship on good terms. He wasn’t confident at subbing in real life, face to face and had wanted some time to feel what it was like without being “out” as it were. And I was in the same kind of mindset only as a female dominant, as there are very few in my region, much less city. Then I found a sub through FetLife and met up at a public place to do our first face to face meet. We tried for a three month contract, it wasn’t a long relationship, as his wants and needs and my wants and needs didn’t quite line up. He was more into play partners and scenes, and mine were more lifestyle and longer commitment.
What is different about being a Domme?
Many people I meet think that I am just “play acting” as a dominant because of my background being a submissive. But some of the best dominants and masters I know started that way. Not every male is going to be dominant and not every female is going to be a submissive. There are females who just cannot tolerate someone trying to put them into that role. There are some females that just have to be in charge. For me it is more about taking care of someone, finding out what they need. In reality there is no difference in being a Domme (or female dominant) than there is in being a male one… other than gender.
How do you find play partners?
Finding a partner can be a bit tricky sometimes. I don’t mind doing a scene once in a while. But mostly it is more lifestyle for me. I won’t do casual play and I won’t even consider a scene unless I have talked and observed a potential for at least six months. I am always on the safe side, using public meeting places or parties with my local group.
Everyone in the group has undergone a criminal background check and referral. In this day and age no one can be too careful. It is always stressed and stressed again for submissives to be extremely careful. But in reality it is everyone who needs to be extremely careful. Have fun but put your safety first. Use a safety net. Let two or three people know where and who you are going to be with. I found a few people on Fetlife to meet up with and just because I am a dominant doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some sicko just itching to take a Domme down a peg or worse. Even males need to be careful, a drug slipped in a drink can knock him out as well as it would a female. Chains and restraints hold men as securely as they do a female.
What is your favourite thing to do as a dominant/top?
I like the mental aspect of being a top or dominant. Finding out how a submissive thinks, or how they feel about something. Do they like to be tied up or does it affect them more to be commanded not to move? Helping them grow and become confident in who they are or want to be, seeing them progress to that next great achievement.
I can be quite sadistic or extremely sensual. It is really dependent on the individual submissive or bottom. It is quite exhilarating to get a submissive who revels in their submission and will just kneel at your feet because it is their joy and they feel as if the sense of submission they are experiencing is going to explode out of them because it is not a cup overflowing so much as it is a nuclear explosion. It is a very powerful and heady thing to realize you helped them grow and understand that about themselves.
Researching implements before using them?
There are always ways to keep learning in this lifestyle. One of things I find most important to do is to research play/punishment implements and ideas before using them. Whether it is an idea on trying something new or an implement itself it is very important to get a very thorough understanding of it before trying it out.
Whether I am thinking about treating a submissive/bottom as an object or using a new implement on them for some kind of impact play or sensual play or punishment or whatever. I will first bring the idea up and we will talk about it, how they feel and think about it. Not just if they like or do not like the idea but have an in-depth informative discussion on the subject. And of course there is always researching through the internet, and information from others. Just watching someone use a bullwhip is not going to make you an expert on what it is like to use it or feel what it can do to your body. I will test it out on myself first. I will find someone who is not only knowledgeable but who has trained and become an expert in how to handle a bullwhip (on people not horses or cows, etc). I do the same for things like treating a sub as an object like a table or footrest.
I spoke with several people, submissives and dominants about puppy play, kitten play, and pony play. I went to several events and demonstrations with my submissive and he also did research before we ventured into that type of play. It worked out well for us and it had some surprising revelations as we got into it. He and I both thought he would be kind of puppy-like, but as it went on, we found he was very much more like a German Shepherd, bold strong and very dignified. It was very rewarding.
You could watch a video of someone laying stripes with a bamboo or rattan cane, but that is only the first step in learning about it. And you definitely would never want anyone to use one on you, or use one on your submissive, before learning how to use it properly. Some of these can and will do serious damage if not used properly. And not every person is going to be able to tolerate the same implement or idea. Just because submissive A can handle being spanked with a paddle or belt does not meant that submissive B will. The same can be said for things that are too intense, not just pain, but things that can cause pleasure, but can be too intense, like a Hitachi wand can push the boundaries over the limit from intense to way too much depending on how it is used.
The same can be said for how you treat a submissive, for example, I knew a dominant who used to give their submissive the silent treatment when they were upset with them. The submissive ended up being greatly harmed, as in damaged, to the point of needing to be hospitalized and in therapy because they ended up feeling so emotionally cut off and abandoned. The mental aspect of submission is the most powerful implement, and it can cause just as much serious damage as any physical implement.
What am I up to these days?
For the last several years, I have found a niche as a mentor for both males and females, dominant and submissive, that are new to the lifestyle, whether it is for scening for a casual one-off type of encounter, or a longer series of scenes, or getting started into a long-term commitment relationship, or even helping with a collaring ceremony. I have also been known to attend demos and even a fetish ball or two. I also like to travel to other communities and observe or just hangout talking with dominants and submissives alike. Whether someone is old hat or brand new to the lifestyle, I am always willing to listen to ideas and everyone has something worthwhile to contribute.
I spend my days helping my roommate take care of a precocious 5 year old. I homeschool, and take her on outings. We have fun setting up obstacle courses in the yard and blasting Linkin Park music while we paint.
I also spend three months of the year across the country to spend time with my daughter and her family, helping take care of and homeschooling a special needs child. He needs constant care due to having brain cancer at the age of 18 months. He has significant delays and is ventilator dependent at night and has a trach to keep his airway stable. He uses a tablet and signing to communicate and is quite a charming kid. His dad died suddenly back in 2013 and his biological mom isn’t in the picture. I have spent every summer since then giving my daughter a much needed break from July to October.
I also like to read. I will read just about anything, from classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “The Hobbit”, to not so classics like Vampirates (the little 5 yr old loves this one), or “Harry Potter”. But I also love to read most things “Shifter”, “vampire”, and of course in the realm of BDSM or what I call the Dark Side (Kidnapping, forced…etc). I love to read romance and age play, domestic discipline and throw in some SEALs and alpha males for dessert.
Wasn’t that cool, lovelies? I am SO GRATEFUL for the time Mary took to talk with us about being a Domme, and as she mentioned above she loves to talk and support others interested in the BDSM community. Just like I always say my inbox is open, and I’m happy to help, now we have Mary for when those interested in the dominant side of the coin want to talk! Her facebook page is over here and she was willing to let me share it.
Please tell her thank you for her time, and be sure to always keep an eye out for more wonderful Ask Me Anything posts! <3
Wow! It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these, and I’m thrilled with the response to the other AMAs I’ve posted about BDSM and the life of a submissive. That’s what inspired me to start thinking about what else I could share, and so today’s #AskMeAnything is on a topic I’ve had a lot of people chat with me about. Curious what the #AskMeAnything is? Check out the official AMA page on my site over here. Enjoy!
Q: How can you be submissive in public (without blowing your cover)?
A: Well, lovelies, like always I want to be honest that ^this^ question wasn’t directly asked to me, it’s more pulled from a variety of discussions I’ve had with people who are active in the lifestyle, and those who want to be or used to be. A lot of those questions spawned from the comments I made on Facebook, and in the AMA post about how much control to give your Dom (over here) where I talked about how nervous I was to make my Dom’s coffee for him in public when we first started seeing each other, and then how I came to be comfortable with it.
To recap that, I feel like the first “test” my Dom gave me was the task of making his coffee for him at a local lunch spot. The first time we went out to eat in public was weeks, possibly a month or two, after we started seeing each other. Since he was so dominant, and affected me so strongly as a sub, I always felt like everyone in the proximity could pick up on it and would “figure us out”. By that time I knew how he liked his coffee, because he’d directed me to make it at his house a few times and so by then I knew it by heart. Still, that moment when he nudged his coffee cup towards me on the table and told me to prepare it… it sent my head spiraling.
I’d never done something like this with a Dom before.
There was an immediate, very clear, very urgent instinct to tell him, “No! Fuck no! Don’t you see all of these VANILLA PEOPLE HERE?!”. But I also really liked playing with him, and so I verrrryyyy subtly pulled his coffee cup towards me, made it the way he liked with my face aimed down toward the table, and then inched it back to the middle while simultaneously pleading with the universe that no one would notice. For some reason, I really thought everyone would notice (even though I rarely pay attention to wtf other diners are doing when I’m out to eat), but no one commented. No one even gave a side-eye, despite my rampant blushing.
And then, it became a thing.
Whenever we were out together, when my Dom would order coffee at the end of the meal (which could be a European thing, or an “I don’t want to drive tipsy” thing) I would make his coffee. Slowly, and over time, over months and months, I grew comfortable with it. I actually expected it. When the time came for him to order me an after-dinner-drink and himself a coffee, I was mentally prepared to make the coffee the way he liked. A little cream, a little sugar substitute (stevia or splenda), stirred until the color looked right, and then presented off the table with one hand underneath and the handle facing towards him.
It just felt… normal.
I honestly cannot remember the moment where it transcended from uncomfortable paranoia, to comfortable normality, but I can tell you that it did reach that point. It became an expectation from my end. If he reached for his coffee first, I snatched it away, because it was my job to prep his coffee, and over the last 2-3 years there have been very few times when he has made his own coffee with me present. Now, I even take it straight from the waiter, even when they try to hand it to him. He really likes it when I do that. ^_^
Okay, so how do I do this shit in public without feeling like a spotlight shines on me?
Let’s be honest here, most of us don’t want to advertise to the vanilla public that we’re in the BDSM community, and that our chosen partner is our dominant. It’s fucking awkward. It’s basically begging for some kind of chastisement… be it an eyeroll, hushed whispers, or rumors spread about us. There are a lot of public displays that we wouldn’t want our peers (whatever the environment) to look at too closely and then make decisions about who we are as people. Just because we choose to submit to SOMEONE, doesn’t mean we submit to everyone (see my AMA on being Type-A and Submissive). This can make it really hard to do public displays of submission, even if those public displays are simply making a cup of coffee and presenting it.
But let me share a few insights I’ve found over the past few years.
First, and foremost, if someone is vanilla they usually have no fucking idea what they’re looking at. I always point this out whenever I talk about making my Dom’s coffee in public, because it usually occurs in restaurants where the waitstaff and other patrons have the opportunity to observe. But, I have to tell you, in three years… no one has said a word. Or even made an awkward comment, or a rude gesture / display. I’m the first to admit that this surprised me, especially since my Dom and I live in Texas, I expected something, but… nada. Zilch. Zip. In three years of showing CLEARLY (to me) submissive behavior in public, we have NEVER been ostracized, scorned, or commented on. Even when it’s at the bar, directly in front of a bartender over and over and over.
Trust me, I’m as shocked as you are.
Second, there are times when things look completely normal to other people, but within our dynamic they take on a completely different purpose / reason. The perfect example of this is really the purpose of this post. My Dom and I love going to Shakespeare in the Park. We catch at least one show of each play, and we get the luxurious opportunity to sit on a manicured lawn while we watch actors from around Dallas play out Shakespeare or other popular plays on the stage. Everyone brings wine, food, snacks, and we do too.
But, for BDSM couples, those public situations can be different.
And ^that^ is really the crux of this post. Sure, I was fine making my Dom’s coffee in restaurants after a while, but pouring him wine and making us both plates of food in public, when I’m literally in front of others and three or four feet from the next person watching the play… it’s different. It’s more intense, but the best part of it is that for a submissive that makes the submission all the more intense, and that’s really what I want to talk about in today’s AMA.
After two years of this, we have it down to a science. No matter who does the shopping, when we end up at the event I set out my picnic blanket (with the nylon side to keep out the moisture on the ground), the Dom brings his low-profile camp chairs, and we both contribute to my portable cooler full of food and wine.
I really can’t explain why I feel comfortable serving my Dom his wine from the blanket, while he sits in the chair. I can’t explain the mental gymnastics I may have completed to feel not just comfortable, but good in making plates of food for my Dom and I while we wait for the play to start.
It came on so casually, so easily, that I couldn’t tell you the trick to it even if I tried. For that, I’m sorry.
All I can say is that making our meal, and serving it to my Dom, makes me happy.
I’m always preaching on my website, and in my books, that personal happiness is really the only thing we’re seeking. There’s no chance in fucking hell that we’re going to convince the rest of the world to do whatever it is we do to make our BDSM relationships work, but we still want them – and that means we need to be okay with them.
I get an intense feeling of mental quiet when I’m sitting on the picnic blanket, while my Dom is in the chair, and I pour him wine, make him food, serve it to him above my head with my head bowed. That is undeniable. I relish it. I appreciate it. I’m fucking grateful for it, because I have a Dom who wants and expects these types of things from me and he respects and pampers the hell out of me in return. Fulfilling his needs, gives me more satisfaction than I can adequately describe (which should say a lot, since I’m apparently an author).
If you’ve followed me at all, you know the craziness I’ve dealt with in the last year or two. A mom dying of cancer, a kid dealing with being too young to understand it all, a day job that only gets more intense, and an author job that gets both more satisfying and more difficult the more popular my books become……….. it’s rough.
But, and this is what I want you to take away, lovelies – submission helps.
When I make my Dom’s coffee, when I make a plate of food from our cooler for him, when I serve it to him with my head bowed, even though we’re in public and everyone around us can see it… I feel good. I feel like I’ve done something hard, to make someone I value feel good. If that isn’t the summary of being submissive, I don’t know what it is, but I can tell you that the weeks we’ve gone to Shakespeare in the Park have been some of the hardest for me (like some cosmic joke) but that when I focus in on what I can control, on how I can serve, on how I can make my Dom feel good so that I feel that sense of satisfaction… that is when I feel amazing. Powerful. Influential. In control. Perfect. Sexy. Wonderful. Wanted.
All of the good fucking adjectives you want to feel.
And I know that was a terrible run-on sentence above, but I don’t care. It was necessary. Just like it’s necessary in my life to do the tiny submissive gestures that work within the dynamic that me and my Dom have developed.
The most important thing to remember is that whatever works for you – it’s right.
Acting submissive in public feels like a scary concept the first time you do it. Actually, that’s a lie, it probably feels scary the first TEN times you do it, but the good news is that the more often you perform submissive acts in public, the more confident you’ll become in them. Obviously, I’m not talking about public sex acts (which can still be super fun) or wearing public displays of submission (like a collar, which can be thrilling and scary at the same time), but I want you all to know that serving in public, no matter how small the action, can take on a HUGE personal meaning for you and your Dom. And that’s all that matters.
You and your Dom. You and your Master. You and your Daddy. You and your… etcetera. That’s all that matters.
What you value, what they deem important, that’s the gist.
Choosing to submit, to perform those acts in public… it’s a gift.
A gift you can give your Dominant, your Master, your Daddy, etc. No matter what you choose to call your partner in this exhilarating BDSM landscape, you have an amazing opportunity to display teensy little blips of that submission in public which will do so much for you.
What will it do for you to display submission in public?
It can strengthen your bond, your relationship, your submission. It can give you that extended mental break from reality where you don’t have to stress or worry or think about anything else except for what your Dom wants (no matter their title). I can say from personal experience that with all of the personal and professional stress I’ve been under… those mental breaks of being submissive at the Shakespeare in the Park plays have been the most effective escapes I’ve found. It clears my head, they let me breathe, let me think, let me relax with the confidence that my Dom will always pick me up at the end of it. Even if I knelt on the picnic blanket at his feet for an hour, just because it’s what I needed. (I do sit in the chair after a while with his permission)
There is no right or wrong answer here.
I’ve said that before, in fact I’ve ranted about it when it comes to BDSM (over here), but what I want you to know are a few clear facts that I’ve observed in my years of playing, and my years of performing small acts of submission in public:
A) Vanilla people have no idea what they’re looking at, and pretty much always assume the most comfortable reason.
B) Things that seem INCREDIBLY meaningful to you, just look logical or easier to everyone else.
C) No matter what, if it makes YOU or your Dominant, feel good… who cares?
That’s really the purpose of this post. Do I know 100% if the people who have observed my acts of public submission really knew what they were observing? Of course not. I wouldn’t dare to make that assumption for myself, much less all of you, lovelies. But I will say that I know a lot of people who perform and attend the local Dallas performances of Shakespeare in the Park, and no matter how many times they’ve chatted with me afterward – and thanked me for attending – not once has anyone commented on my public displays.
So what is the answer?
The answer is that you should pursue whatever your dynamic suggests. Should you perform some kind of public submission? Should you go to your knees? Should you make their drink? Should you make their plate? Should you serve them from a lower position? Should you call them “Sir” in front of others? Should you ask permission to sit? Should you …. whatever?
You’re the only one that can decide that. I know where my limits are, and so does my Dom, and we’ve talked through them, and sometimes he pushes them a little to challenge me. But, it works for us. These small public acts of submission ground me, make us stronger in our relationship, and do more for us than the tiny risk that a complete stranger may give me the side-eye for serving my Dom his coffee.
Do what makes you happy, lovelies. That’s all I ask.
This is a very personal post in the #AskMeAnything series, and no one actually asked me about it, but I feel like it has some merit in the BDSM discussions we normally have on the AMA. Curious what the #AskMeAnything normally is? Check out the official AMA page on my site over here.
Q: How do you deal with past abuse and a love of BDSM?
A: Welllll, shit, lovelies. This week, I actually got a lot done. I knocked out stuff at work, I knocked out almost 10k on my current work-in-progress (WIP), and I ALSO got news from someone in my family that they had done research into the family history and decided to look up information on my father. Now, this person had no reason to know why this would be a poor choice, a bad idea in general, and the shit that has happened this week due to their “reveal” of this information is not the focus of this post.
The main thing you need to know before we keep going is the only piece of good news I got from that unwelcome research – he’s dead, and has been for years. I’m going to throw a tiny parade at the end of this post, and if you feel like joining me, file in. Feel free to skip ahead to the BDSM stuff below the backstory if you want.
So, here’s where you get to know more information than you probably ever wanted to know about a random author on the internet, but my father was a bastard. He abused my mom, he abused me, and he was a fucking nightmare. I literally used to have nightmares about him, but I’ve grown out of them. My grandparents pulled a Lifetime made-for-TV movie-esque escape for my mom and I when I was two. They drove over night to get to my parent’s house when my father left for work on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, spent an entire day packing up everything in the house my mother wanted to take with her, and then we all left the next day. My mother and I spent a week in a women’s shelter in south Texas while everyone looked for an apartment for us that my mom could afford on her single income (not so hot in the 1980’s) and then once we were settled there was more drama that I don’t remember at all because I was two.
The things I do know for sure? My father threatened to kill me and my mother, but no one believed my mother (except my grandparents). When she divorced him the courts said he had to have visitation with me, because there was no proof of abuse (i.e. photographic evidence by the time she filed). I then spent three more years “visiting” with him, where he continued to abuse me (thankfully not sexually) until my mom and I moved to a different city, where my mom got a much better paying job (enough to put me in a “real” daycare center, instead of staying with family friends) and that’s when official people noticed the bruises, marks, etc. CPS got involved, I was only 5 so I was assigned a representative who would “act as me” in court. I got photographed, recorded talking about all the insane shit he did, and when all of that was rolled out in court, my father signed away his parental rights, which I assume was in lieu of jail time, but since this is Texas… who the fuck knows. I do know for sure that since that time he has not legally been my father, and there was a restraining order against him until I turned 18 and became an adult.
Then, on my 18th birthday he mailed me a cheap birthday card with a handwritten, 2 page letter (front and back) on notebook paper that outlined in psychotic ramblings why I was the only reason he abused my mother or me. Basically saying that an age 0 – 5 year old could “tempt him to violence” and “off-set the wheel of time”. Those are the only real quotes I remember from that letter that sent me into a panic attack.
Wonderful, right? Right…..
I’ve always been a little odd, and I know this. I’ve seen so many therapists, been on so much medication (on and off), where people tried to “fix me”, and eventually I just decided that I was done. I am who I am, and that person is not a victim, and fuck everything else. Fuck my diagnoses, fuck the opinions of various therapists, and fuck the labels. I may be a little twisted, a little not normal, and quite a bit damaged in the whole forming-long-term-emotionally-stable-relationships department, but I like me. I like who I am.
And you know what else I am, and always have been to my memory?
This is where the name of this post comes in, so feel free to skip down to here if you don’t want to hear my “sob story”.
So, if you’ve followed along you know my kinks. I love to play rough in the BDSM community. I’m a masochist and a painslut. I get off on pain, I like rough sex, I like submission, I like having a strong, alpha-male Dom who is just as emotionless as I am, and all of this makes me happy.
That has, seriously, been one of the biggest issues I’ve dealt with this week. Going through the above sentence over, and over, and over to remind myself of what I like. The things I’ve liked for over half my life at this point. Regardless of my history, my personal experiences, I have still developed my own kinks, my own needs, and they do make me happy and – as I always like to say on these AMA posts around BDSM – that is okay.
I had to say that to myself a lot this week. I spent about … three hours in the middle of the night having a full-blown anxiety attack on the phone with the Dom and it was the same line he kept telling me as I vented about everything. It is okay. It is okay. It is okay.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m so freaked out by it?
Why would past abuse be connected to BDSM?
Well, here’s the deal. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Personally, I hate the idea that people who are abused as children A) turn into abusers, or B) turn into twisted sexual deviants. It’s bullshit fed into the media by a bunch of assholes who were probably not abused as children, and therefore do not get to speak on the subject. I’m a very successful person, I have a great day job, I write sexy sexy books as a second job, I have a child (who I, btw, do not abuse), and in general I’d say my friends think I’m a pretty cool person to know.
It absolutely infuriates me that simply by existing as who I am, I somehow support the second claim on that list. And I fucking wish (more than I can even describe) that I could know with absolute certainty if I would have been kinky without the childhood I went through, and there are SO MANY examples of that being possible. For example, my Dom was not abused and is the matching puzzle piece to my kinky persuasion. I have a lot of friends in the community who were not abused, and are just as masochistic and kinky. Which means that people with totally well-adjusted, not-abusive childhoods can be active, fun members of the BDSM community, just like me.
So, what’s bothering you, and how does that matter in your BDSM lifestyle?
What drives me mad, and always has, is that I do know that some very specific elements of my kink are rooted in my abuse. My therapists had a lot of shitty (and judgmental) opinions about it… but I know a few things for sure.
First, I took the strongest memories of that abuse and made them mine. I took the power away from those memories. My father’s favorite thing to use was his belt, and now my favorite implement in play is a belt. Except, when a Dom uses a belt with me I have full control over it, and, also, they never use the metal fastenings on me. I can safeword, I can stop it with a word, and that is empowering. My father used to drink himself into unconsciousness, and so to make sure I didn’t wander or go somewhere I wasn’t supposed to, he used to tie me to furniture. Now? I like bondage. Yep, that’s fucked up. You can go ahead and nod your head, or look shocked at your screen, because yes, that is really fucked up, but the thing is that when bondage happens in BDSM – I am still in control. I can end it. I can say a word and make it all stop. So, once again? empowering.
Second, I also know that some of the memories of my abuse have permanently fucking ruined certain things for me. Most of all? I am perfectly fine with name calling, but I cannot be called ‘wench’ by anyone without physically flinching and shutting down for a minute or two. This is because this was the endearing ‘pet name’ my father chose for me, because he used to have me bring him beer from the fridge (he even tied a dog toy to the fridge handle so I could open it easier). So, a Dom can call me bitch, slut, whore, cunt, slave, what-the-fuck-ever, but if they accidentally call me wench – game over, bro. Safeword time. I’m out. THIS ESPECIALLY SUCKS, because in my non-BDSM time I love doing Ren Faires with my friends, and the word ‘wench’ gets thrown around quite liberally, and so I spend a lot of those days blocking out use of the word, reminding myself that no one is calling ‘my name’.
Alright, but does abuse = a love of BDSM?
Nope. Nopity nope, fucking no. Absolutely not. There are so many people who dealt with abuse and are not involved in the BDSM community. There are also people who were involved in abuse and enjoy the fantasies of abusive like situations in books, porn, etc. but they would never even want to participate in a safe, sane, consensual type situation in real life that resembled them. And then there are those who were abused, and happened to end up in the BDSM community. And I’m sure they have the same questions I spent this week asking myself, and my Dom, and the universe: Would I still like these things if my life had been different? Would I like different things? Would I have a more socially acceptable outlook on relationships and sex? Would I be vanilla?
The point is… we don’t know.
And we never will. Brain chemistry is pretty much still magic when it comes to science. Sure, they know *some* things about brain chemistry, and we’ve identified some artificially built chemicals that can help with some weird brain chemistry stuff and packaged them into medications, but if you’ve ever listened to nerdy science podcasts (like I do at random) you’ll learn that scientists are pretty open about how very little they understand about the brain, and DNA, and the entire concept of nature vs. nurture. Could my brain chemistry have been different before my abuse? Totally possible. Could it be possible that I was genetically pre-determined by my DNA to be a kinky, sexy, fun BDSM fanatic who would one day write books that celebrate this absolutely incredible lifestyle that helps and supports so many kick-ass people (whether they’re active in it or not)? Yep, ALSO POSSIBLE.
We just don’t know, and because of that… we just have to accept who we are.
No matter what your history is, your current health state, your life experiences… you have a choice to be who you want to be (without trying to figure out if that other thing is the ultimate cause of this thing you do now). Now, I’ve already admitted in this hellaciously long blog post that I spent several days this week losing my mind because that family member sent me a bunch of info on he-who-shall-not-be-named, and I kept my Dom up until past 2am in the morning freaking out on the phone because I was trying to answer all of those questions. It just took a long breakdown to get back to the place I had been before the terrible *surprise* gift from that family member. The place where I’d already accepted my history, and accepted who I am now. Recognized the fucked up similarities, and then reminded myself that, I am who I am, and I like me.
I like me in all of my fucked-upness, and I happen to have some pretty wonderful people in my life that also accept my fucked-upness.
In that respect, I am damn fucking lucky, and in celebration of my nightmare fuel being dead & buried, and all of my wonderful friends who love me for me… it’s parade time.
This is another post from the Ask Me Anything series and it’s late because I’m still a little unsteady at the moment. Hooray for anxiety! Curious what the #AskMeAnything normally is? Check out the official AMA page on my site over here.
Q: This post is late because of anxiety, and I’m writing it because of anxiety, aaaand because due to anxiety I got to have the fun moment where my body (my kink and my sexuality) did not agree with my brain.
A: Ahhhh, anxiety. It fucking sucks. When I was younger anxiety used to come with bouts of really intense and violent depression, but I’m kind of glad to say that at thirty I’m just experiencing the panic attacks and total meltdowns (which in the scheme of things are not anywhere near as bad). This weekend was supposed to be me back to normal. I had a to-do list to tackle of pretty awesome stuff, I had my weekend planned out well, and started it off on the right foot on Friday by ticking absolutely everything off on my list.
On Saturday I didn’t do as well, but I did get 4k words down for my next book and I was damn proud of myself for that. In fact, I left in a pretty good mood on the way to the Dom’s house. We had dinner, had some sexy fun, and crashed.
Then, on Sunday morning (mere minutes after I woke up) the Dom started talking to me about how we hadn’t seen much of each other during my stressed out/panicky weeks, and that he wanted to spend more time with me. Now, we’d had some spectacular sex, a lot of fun, a delicious dinner, and my body/my kink/my appreciation of the relationship we have/allll of that was saying “Yes! This sounds great! I like this idea!”.
But as he kept talking my brain started to spiral. It started listing all of the things on my to-do list for that weekend (of which I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way done), then it started to list all of the things I need to do this week, this month, this year, and calculating what would happen to me if all of the times HE was listing for us to spend together actually happened.
So, I did what any normal sub/girlfriend does when her Dom/boyfriend says he wants to spend more time with her because he enjoys being around her – I hyperventilated, starting crying, and walked around the house completely nude trying to choke in air while waving him away every time he tried to touch me.
You know… the sexiest of all responses.
It was a fucking mess, and it took a long while for me to calm down, which meant that by the time he coaxed me into a shower like some kind of feral creature he discovered roaming the woods behind his beautiful new house … I’d wasted most of the morning. So, I couldn’t stop crying in the shower. I forgot how to shower for a few minutes and just stared at the shampoo/conditioner completely overwhelmed by the idea of washing my own hair. He made us coffee and breakfast while I managed to remember the basics of hygiene, and I left the shower like a damn catatonic zombie because somewhere in the depths of my non-responsive brain I was doing what I usually do when I’m in full-on meltdown mode…
I was calculating.
Calculating the number of hours I’d spent crying that morning, calculating my average word count per hour which told me how far I was behind on my word count for the weekend. Then I started calculating that if I left his house right then how long it would take me to get home, and if I should run some of those errands on my to-do list, or get to my writing to try and catch up. Which resulted in me standing in a towel in his living room frozen because my brain couldn’t calculate the greatest ROI (return on investment) for the time I had left on Sunday.
What ended up happening was my Dom worried about me, he felt terrible for sending me into a damn tailspin when I was just coming back to my functional level of being a real person, me refusing to eat/drink, and by the time I did get home I was so fucking useless that I literally curled in a ball in my bed and watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix while doing absolutely nothing else. (Which is a fantastic show btw, and I give it a 10/10 for watching during a mild nervous breakdown, or re-breakdown, or whatever).
And now you know why I didn’t post an ‘Ask Me Anything’ yesterday, which was definitely one of my to-do list items that did not get done.
I had some people surprised last week when I shared my struggles, because mental stuff is something we don’t often address, but I had even more people reach out to tell me it helped. So instead of writing something clever or funny on why I missed yesterday’s post, or haven’t replied to messages/emails, I decided to be honest.
I’m better than I was during my social media break, I promise, but if yesterday taught me anything it’s that I’m not completely well yet – but that’s okay. It is okay. And I will be okay… eventually. The Dom has been checking on me all day, I’ve had friends cheering me up with good news and messages, and I’ve got a ton of work done at the day job today.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when my brain steps back from the edge. I’m sure it will happen when my to-do list is a little lighter, and I get out some of the BIG writing projects I have this year that are looming over me.
I adore you lovelies, especially for caring about my crazy. It’s pretty awesome to have.
This is another post from the Ask Me Anything series and it’s in response to the texts / emails I’ve received this week since I’ve been on a break from Facebook (and really all social media) since late night on Monday. Curious what the #AskMeAnything normally is? Check out the official AMA page on my site over here.
Q: Where’d you go? What’s going on?
A: Obviously, those questions are the combination of a lot of very kind and wonderful messages that I’ve received over the last week, and the first thing I want to do is say thank you to each of you. Whether you sent me a message out of concern, or didn’t send a message because you thought it might bother me – I am grateful for both. I promise.
Aaaaaaand, now I’m going to answer the questions in more detail than I managed via text/email this week, and strangely enough this might be one of the most personal posts I’ve ever written because it’s about me as a person, and not me and my sex life, or me and my books, or me and my opinions on kink. I’m sort of taking a page from the book of one of my favorite people on the planet (and also one of my favorite musicians) Amanda Palmer. She’s well known for sort of baring her soul in her blog posts and on her Patreon and in her mailing list emails, and that’s what I’m going to do today.
So, where did you go?
Well, I took a Facebook break, which turned into an almost total social media break, late in the evening on Monday, 2/20. I think the more important question is the why.
Okay, so what’s going on?
If you’ve been following me for a while, and especially if you’ve been one of the ones supporting me and my bevy new releases in the first part of this year, then you already have a good idea of just how much I’ve had on my plate. I spent the end of 2016 in a fever dream of writing one full-length book (Black Light: Exposed), and one novella (The Tower in The Dark Forest boxset), but writing wasn’t the only thing going on in my life. I have a full-time day job, I’m a single mom, my mom has stage 4 cancer, and I had a huge certification exam that I took in November for the day job (where I’d also spent the previous 13 weeks in an intensive online study program).
When January hit I was already stretched too thin, and I knew that, my Dom knew that too and could see the edges of my sanity fraying, but I held myself together through sheer Type-A willpower, mostly because we still had another anthology to get out. But before I could even think of the next one, I had to promote my release in the Black Light universe, and then help in promoting The Dark Forest. For someone with a day job and a kid, that meant I got up at 5:30 or 6, worked all day, came home and took care of the kiddo, and once she was in bed I would sit down to whatever task was on my to-do list. In mid-January I wrote most of ‘Wet’ (from the Black Light: Valentine Roulette anthology) in a single wine-fueled kid-free day of writing, and then immediately dove into editing the other stories for the boxset to make sure they all aligned, that our world worked together as seamlessly as possible, and it just so happened that in an apocalyptic alignment of BS at the end of January my mom went into the hospital for chemo-related complications for 9 days.
So, I did what any self-respecting psycho type-A person would do when my plate was suddenly cracking under the weight of being too full – I stopped sleeping. I stayed up late, broke my bedtime rule with my Dom over and over (my punishments are stacked high for when my brain works again), and worked.
I worked because crossing things off my to-do list was the only thing that made me feel good.
That’s the curse of being Type-A, with an added spice of some OCD-like behaviors. When things get impossibly hard, it becomes the fuel for me to function to accomplish the things anyway. Even if it means sleeping 2-3 hours a night. Even if it means that I can feel the pieces deep under the calm, collected surface coming apart. I can fake it, and hold myself together, for as long as I absolutely need to.
And… that’s what I did.
We got the Valentine Roulette boxset out, and the release was an incredible success. We had a week FULL of takeover events to celebrate the release, with one takeover or another literally every night of the week. I was also involved in a ton of other cross-promotional opportunities in January / February with other authors, and those all went well, but it took a lot of time as well. During the not-sleeping I also worked on getting paperbacks of my novels prepared, getting my tax documents together, found a preschool for my kiddo, and generally just ignored the fact that I knew I was dancing a dangerously thin tightrope over a very deep, very dark hole.
It’s a game I’ve played often in my life, and it always ends the same way. As soon as the “must do” list gets finished (the list of stuff where people are depending on me to make things happen) … I lose it.
I remember shaking at the computer on Monday night as Livia and I finalized the Black Light giveaway, I remember opening up my to-do list and double checking it. Reviewing my email and the FB notifications queue. I remember checking my calendar to make sure nothing was looming on the horizon that I had forgot about, and when I realized it was actually all done, that the three books were out and doing well and I had met all of my obligations – I finally let myself feel the pain in my chest. The place where I couldn’t really draw a full breath, and I knew I was about ten minutes out from a full-blown panic attack.
That is when I posted on FB that I was going to step back for a week, I talked to my Street Team to make sure they knew, and then I turned off the computer and had a mini-breakdown. Anyone who has had panic attacks knows what it feels like, sort of like drowning even though you’re not even near water. Your lungs get tighter and tighter, your brain finally cracks open like some overripe fruit, and all the stress pours out into your consciousness like poison.
A panic attack is the moment when all your worst fears / anxieties come out to play. Only, they don’t play nice.
I know this. I’ve had full-scale breakdowns before because of doing stupid shit where I take on too much and eventually lose it. I’ve done the super fun sleeping in my closet for days kind of crazy, but this wasn’t that intense. For this mini-breakdown I crawled into bed and just succumbed to it, because I knew that no matter what I still had to get up and go to work. I still had to be a parent, but that this middle-of-the-night mindflaying was going to help me do all of that. To be quite honest, I don’t really remember much about Monday night after I got into bed. I know I talked to my Dom on the phone and apparently said some really disturbing and fucked up things that had him wanting to come over, but my hyperventilating hysterics let him know that the only thing that would really help me was panic-sobbing my way into a catatonic sleep.
Which, I guess I did.
I really don’t remember the discussion, but he told me about it last night when he came over. Or at least shared what he thought he should, and demanded I not put myself that close to the edge voluntarily again (and he’s right, this was a choice, and had the rest of my life not lost its shit at the same time I might have been able to handle it, but life happened and I will not try and do 3 full scale releases in 45 days ever again).
The good news?
I am coming out of it. I can breathe again. My chest doesn’t hurt anymore, and I haven’t had any more panic attacks since Monday night. I know that people have been worried / sad / confused about where I’ve been, but I’m writing this today to explain that I just needed some time away from the constant humming “need” of Facebook. If I’m online I see the notifications every minute or so and want to go read them / check them, even if I have other things to do. It was worse than usual due to all the takeovers, and the feeling of failure for not getting other things in my life done combined with the ever-present social media buzz was too much. I’m quite sure if I hadn’t stepped back when I did the breakdown would have been much worse.
I have accomplished a fucking ton in my week away from authory duties, lots of stuff I’ve needed to get done for a while, and with each checkmark on my life’s to-do list I’ve felt a little better. I even did some research for characters in upcoming books I need to write, and I actually planned out my writing this year. The commitment is still a lot, and I won’t be taking on anything else for 2017, but I’m pretty sure I can do it as long as I don’t lose my mind again.
In conclusion, thanks for putting up with me even though I’m crazy.
I say ^that same line^ to the Dom all the time, and he usually has something clever and charming to say in response, he likes to call me wonderful whenever I comment about how fucking psycho I am, but for some reason he seems to like me. And you guys seem to like me too. I can only hope you like me in spite of the fact that sometimes I do too much and lose my mind. I wish I could promise this wouldn’t happen again, but with my mom not doing well I’m sure I’ll have another freak out when she passes.
The world is hard for everyone, and I know I’ve got a lot of #FirstWorldProblems that my neuroses cause me to snap over, but I felt the urge to answer the questions that I’ve been asked this past week since it’s kind of a tradition on Ask Me Anything.
Basically, I adore you all and I’m so grateful to have you, even though I probably don’t deserve you guys.
PS – the anxiety demons in my brain are telling me not to post this, but I am anyway. Amanda Palmer says we have to trust each other, and while I still have spectacular trust issues, I’m trusting you guys on this one. Hopefully, you’ll all still be there in a few days when I log back on. <3