In September, the book I’ve been editing for the past few years, Our Lives, Our History: Consensual Master/Slave Relationships from Ancient Times to the 21st Century finally launched. It was a longer and more difficult project than I anticipated, when a friend referred MTTA to me to edit their commissioned work. I worked with great people, learned new skills, and got to travel to the US three times, including visiting the Smithsonian Museums of American History and Air and Space in Washington DC. But it’s out now in print, with an ebook edition anticipated next year.
After about 163 queries to literary agents over four months, 40 of which resulted in rejections, one finally said he wanted to represent my book on the history of sadomasochism. We had a couple of phone conversations in which we talked about background and changing my proposal, and he sent me a copy of his agreement.
Unlike the previous agent, this included provisions for breaking off the agreement if I wasn’t satisfied. My friends who know about the writing business looked the agreement over for me, and were okay with it. After my usual anxious waffling, I put the printed, signed agreement in the mail. It should reach the agent in Toronto by the end of this week.
I have no idea what’s going to happen next. The agent says he will start showing my current draft of of the manuscript and a new version of the proposal to American publishers in July. I definitely want to keep revising the manuscript, as I’m running the chapters through my writer’s workshop. I have yet to look at certain research elements, such as Robert Bienvenu’s thesis.
I will continue blogging on this site.
In other news, the shared world science fiction project my writer’s group has been working on for six years is finally nearing completion and we are talking about self-publishing as a “season” of novellas.
Under urging from friends, I’ve decided to start a new project and resume an old one.
The first is The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to the Fifty Shades trilogy, a version of the live-blogging series on my other blog. After more than 80,000 words of commentary and critique on this bestselling erotic romance, I decided to revise, expand and edit them into a book, with some new material. It will be published via ebook on Amazon Kindle and other channels, though I won’t remove the original posts. I see this as charging a premium for a more refined product in a more convenient format (unlike the Fifty Shades books, which look like the original fanfiction postings were published without any copy-editing.)
Yes, it’s somewhat parasitical, but since EL James is freely cribbing from Stephanie Meyer, who says she was cribbing from Jane Austen, why break the chain? In part, this is motivated by money. I have the much discussed “platform”, with my website and my satellite content on Tumblr, Pinterest and Scoop.it, but no revenue short from a trickle from the ad banners and the Amazon affiliate links. I want to see how much money I can bring in, even though the high-water mark of the trilogy’s commercial success has passed (at least until the movie hits theatres).
I’m just dipping my toe into the murky waters of self-publishing via Kindle. I’ve already applied for an ISBN (free in Canada), and I’m grappling with the Kindle’s idiosyncratic formatting. There’s still a myriad of other issues like making the cover image, deciding on the licensing and so on. In part, this is a training run for the next big thing.
The second project is getting back to writing my history of BDSM book. I know I promised I would finish a draft last year, and didn’t, but let’s give it another shot. I intend to finish a draft by the end of year and if possible, and self-publish it. I’m even considering launching a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign to finance getting it professionally edited and formatted.
I’ve officially agreed to edit a collection of essays on the history of Master-slave relationships, commissioned by the Master Taino’s Training Academy.
I’m very excited about this project, as I will help create a contribution to the scholarship of the history of this field, and also get to work with people who have been involved in this subculture from its earliest days. My hope is that this book will have a place on shelves next to classics like Leatherfolk and Different Loving.
This project should run into 2014, at which point I will present the finished manuscript to MTTA for them to either publish themselves or present to a publisher.
Okay, the bus gets to the truck crossing. We file out, get in line, same as usual.
The Homeland Security agent/guard/officer/whatever I get looks like a cliche stereotype. Navy blue uniform, short, squat guy, thick neck, looks like he sweats a lot, bulldog physique, super-fine military buzz cut, looks like he drew his hairline with a ruler.
He looks at my passport and says, where are you going?
I know you arenâ€™t supposed to say, â€œIâ€™m travelling on business,â€ because then they start asking about whether youâ€™re taking money or goods into the US. I also decide that being evasive about my trip would look bad. I decide honesty is the best policy, but hope he doesnâ€™t pry too far. â€œIâ€™m presenting at a conference in Maryland.â€
I hesitate a bit here. Then say, â€œConsensual master-slave relationships.â€ Being vague would only make him more suspicious.
He seemed completely baffled by the concept, as if he had never heard of anything remotely like it before.
I explained a bit. â€œitâ€™s all consensual, all role-play.:
He still looked at me like I was talking about putting live frogs in blenders and hitting frappe.
He asked me about my profession, and where I lived, which I told him. He asked to see some proof I had been invited, and I showed him the email with my plane ticket information.
He still looked confused. â€œIs this a sexual thing at all?â€
I said, truthfully, â€œYes, some of the time.â€
I took a book out of my pack and showed him a picture of Hannah Cullwick and gave him a 10-second presentation on her relationship with Arthur Munby.
He looked and said, â€œAnd she enjoyed this?â€
â€œYes, she did.â€
He said, â€œI have a freelance journalist travelling to present on master-slave relationships,â€ as if this was something completely unprecedented.
This is when I started to sweat a bit. I was imagining that heâ€™d take me into some little room, thereâ€™d be another officer, thereâ€™d be latex gloves and CSIS and theyâ€™d beat me with phone books or somethingâ€¦
Finally, he put up his hands and said, â€œI just need to know you arenâ€™t doing anything illegal.â€
I told him, â€œNo, thereâ€™s no touching. I just give a lecture.â€
At long last, he turned away.
Just to make absolutely sure, I asked, â€œAm I free to go?â€
He said, â€œYes.â€ He looked like he was thinking, There are weird, messed-up people in the world, but if theyâ€™re not doing anything illegal, I canâ€™t do anything about it.
I ran my bags through the scanner and got back in line. THEN I got the shakes.
When Iâ€™m in a scary situation, I stay quite calm externally while it is happening. It doesnâ€™t hit me until afterwards.
By comparison, my encounter with Canadian border authorities was over in less than 30 seconds.
I’ll be at the Master-slave Conference 2012 on Labour Day weekend in Maryland, presenting on Sunday afternoon, 2:00pm to 3:30pm.
Origins of consensual Master-slave relationships in the 18th and 19th centuries
This presentation will explore the relationship between Atlantic slavery and erotic writing in the 18th and 19th centuries. The social relationships of slavery were used as “a mine of sentiment” by Romantic writers in both Europe and the Americas, and popular media used slavery as an element in stories of melodrama and Gothic romance, which in turn informed sexual fantasies. These fantasies are most fully realized in the consensual Master-slave relationship (and secret marriage) between gentleman barrister Arthur Munby and maid-of-all-work Hannah Cullwick in the late 19th century.
The rest of the time I’ll be taking meetings and recruiting contributors for a project I can’t discuss in detail yet. Networking, I’ll admit, is not my forte, but I’ll do my best.
It’s supposed to be 30 degrees that weekend, and I’ve heard stories about summer near Washington DC. Not the best climate for leather and latex.
If you see me, say hello.
On the way, I’m passing through Seattle. Depending on how the time and finances work out, I may drop by the Centre for Sex Positive Culture.
(crossposted from The History of BDSM)
About a month ago, I got a comment on my writing promotional blog from an editor at a local book publisher. She had seen my article on Maria Monk in Maisonneuve magazine, and wanted to know if I had any ideas for books on porn or sexuality.
Thrilled, I polished up my book proposal and the two completed chapters and emailed them too her. Then I started chewing my nails.
It ain’t pretty, but it’s done. I completed a first, rough, provisional, tentative, preliminary draft of chapter one, about 6,000 words that runs from Roman mystery cults to the banning of flagellant companies in the 14th century. It’s far from complete, but it is something I’m ready to show somebody else.
One of the thing I realized was that I had big gaps in my narrative. I spent the last week on a crash study on medieval Christianity, the founding of the great monastic orders and the debates over flagellation and other forms of discipline. The church has never been entirely comfortable with flagellation and other forms of asceticism, perhaps because it makes possible a connection with Christ through the body, and not through established hierarchy of intermediaries.
What’s next is Chapter 2, roughly 1500 (Pico della Mirandola’s discussion of flagellation) to 1700 (the Abbe Boileu’s discussion), the disagreement over how the human body is to be viewed. The starting point is the disagreement over the St. Theresa of Avila and her “transverberation”, her eroticised encounter with an angel that repeatedly stabbed her with a spear. In another time, St. Theresa’s experience, and art depicting it, would have been sacred, but in this time, it could be seen as profane, the result of sexuality perverted by the unnaturalness of convent life.
I may extend it to the trial of Father Girard over his affair with Catherine Cadiere around 1730, but that may be saved for the chapter on sensibility.
I’m not sure that even with a good work habit I can make my deadline of a completed manuscript by the end of October. On the other hand, I have a lot of stuff already done and researched, I just need to put it together and fill in the gaps.
While I missed the opportunity to present at this event, I will be attending Vancouver’s Westward Bound BDSM conference on February 3-5, presented by Metro Vancouver Kink. This promises a great weekend of educational events and play parties in Vancouver’s Maritime Labour Centre.
I’m a co-founder and former board member of Metro Vancouver Kink, and I’m always pleased to support the organization.
My brief history of erotica has been posted on BDSM Book Reviews:
I would argue that the bulk of what is categorized as erotica today can be traced back to two highly influential books, one from the early twentieth century, the other from the middle, both by women, both with women protagonists being initiated into exotic realms of pleasure, both widely dismissed as sensational, pornographic, misogynistic trash.