Book Review: “Bound By The Summer Prince” (Spellbound Hearts Book 2) by Mistral Dawn.@MistralKDawn #RRBC

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Say Hi to author Mistral Dawn, as I review her book, ”Bound By The Summer Prince (Spellbound Hearts Book 2.)

Meet the author.

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US, but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)). She has written three full-length novels in the Spellbound Hearts series, Taken By The Huntsman, Bound By The Summer Prince, and Captivated By The Winter King, as well as Intrigue In The Summer Court, a novella in the Spellbound Hearts series.

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The Summer Court is in an uproar. The king has just been executed for unpardonable crimes, and the queen is prostrate with grief over his loss. This leaves the Summer kingdom bereft of true leadership; a problem which is compounded by the fact that the laws of Fairie require balance to be maintained by having a male and a female ruler for both Season Courts at all times. Uaine, the Summer prince, is the only one who can put things right, but he is without a mate. Knowing that he must take a bride quickly, for the sake of his people, even though he is struggling with his own feelings of pain and anger over his father’s treachery, he goes for a walk in a forest near the palace to try to clear his head and determine how best to choose a female to rule beside him.

 

While walking Uaine discovers a human female running loose in Fairie, which is against the most basic tenets of Fae law. Furious at one more problem he must deal with, he takes her prisoner and locks her in the dungeon; only to discover later that she is his soul-mate. The magical bond between them means they are meant to be together forever, but humans can’t feel the magic of Fairie. Will Uaine be able to win her heart and convince her that she can trust him to keep her safe from all the dangers of Fairie…including himself?

Roni is a human con woman and petty thief. Having run afoul of the local crime syndicate in the city where she is staying, she finds herself running for her life. Trouble is no stranger to her, but when she falls through a hole in a wall and finds herself in a world with carnivorous trees and rocks that eat people she realizes she may have found more of it than she can deal with. Rescued/arrested by the prince of the Summer Court, it doesn’t take long for her to formulate a plan to use him to get herself home. Unfortunately for her, she soon finds that her heart, which she had thought long ago turned to stone, has begun to feel the love she has been playing at. Will she be able to overcome a lifetime of caution and allow herself to follow her heart? Can a criminal love a cop?

Please be aware that this book contains explicit sexual scenes, depictions of BDSM, and anal play. If these things disturb you, then this may not be the book for you

 

MY REVIEW:🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Bound by The Summer Prince was recommended to me by members of a book club I belong to. Erotic Fantasy is not normally a genre I seek out to read, but this book has opened that door and made certain I will explore it further.

The characters have layers of complexity that peel away like a Spanish onion leaving their underbelly exposed and vulnerable.

There is nothing two dimensional in this work, and Author Mistral Dawn has crafted beautifully drawn characterizations.

Let’s explore Roni. Roni is street-smart, savvy, and prides herself on her ability to always remain one step ahead of anyone else in her dark life. She is uncompromisingly human, and therefore fallible. Her underestimation of the people she has conned has resulted in her running for her life, and tasting the fear that being pursued carries with it.

Author Mistral Dawn cleverly draws us into this character, and because of the hidden depths of pain, and Roni’s refusal to acknowledge her ability to really feel the love she normally uses as a weapon, I find myself liking her, and ultimately cheering for her to not only survive the Fae world she stumbles into, but to find the magic that will turn her cold heart into a warm and beating thing.

The Summer Prince, Uaine, is Fae. A man struggling to come to terms with the betrayal of his father the King who paid the ultimate price of execution for his acts. Uaine worries for his mother as her grief overwhelms her, and although he knows he must marry in order to take his place as king, his heart is heavy, he wants and needs much more than the females offering themselves to him. He craves a woman who will see beyond the trappings of Royalty and share the depth of love he is capable of feeling.

The story develops well, and we are given deeper insights into the characters, and the land they are in.

I don’t want to introduce spoilers, the book deserves to be read.

The author has introduced the erotic sequences with a deft touch. Allowing the reader to see, feel and hear her characters as they further explore their feelings and each other. The sexual content is not used simply for shock value, but it is interwoven with tenderness in a way that will leave most readers nodding in understanding as they read.

I will recommend Bound by The Summer Prince to everyone that enjoys a well-crafted, fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I will now be seeking out other works from Author Mistral Dawn.

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Purchase Bound By The Summer Prince here on Amazon

Mistral Dawn’s AUTHOR Page on Amazon

Follow @MistralKDawn on TWITTER

Find Mistral Dawns Blog here

 

Book Review: Silke Ming

Book Review: Silke Ming “Three Degrees East of Bliss.”

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My Review: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Jason Porter and Gabrielle Parker are modern day lovers. Author Silke Ming wastes no time introducing the insecurity felt by Jason Porter when night after night, for weeks at a time, his partners’ dreams cause him to call out the name of ‘Nicholas’. This causes intense jealousy and insecurity on Jason’s part and an unwillingness to believe Gabriel’s cries of innocence as he denies any knowledge of anyone with that name.

Jason is so distraught he enlists the aid of his business partner, a fellow psychologist, to hypnotize Gabriel and discover the truth. The sessions themselves are not divulged, we see only the outcome.

Whilst under hypnosis Gabriel returns to a different place in time. The author introduces two pivotal characters almost immediately, they meet on the ‘Merciless’ a ship bound for Barbados from Ireland in 1914.

Young priest Damian Fassnidge, is under punishment for breaking his vow of celibacy with another man. He has been sent to the place considered by the church in Ireland to be the worst and most punishing post of all … in Barbados. Damian is afforded courtesy because of his position as a priest, and his journey on board is not a severe as others.

His first night on board ship, he meets up with a likeable rogue by the name of Nicholas Duffy.

Afraid because of his immediate and overwhelming attraction towards the young man, Damien does everything he can to ensure his personal barriers stay in place. The chapters that follow show how over a period of months on the island that barrier is broken down and the two men become lovers whilst Damien still attempts to maintain his post as priest.

 Suffice it to say the sexual content is explicit; and not unexpected, as the book is  clearly categorized as erotica.

The sexual content  is well written and not employed purely for shock value. The love between these two men will be tested and tested again in the three years that follow.

They use sex both as a reward and as punishment. With BDSM used by mutual consent.

The ending came a little unexpectedly and for me it was too abrupt. I would like to have seen much more of the reaction to the remarkable journey revealed by the hypnotherapy on the present day lovers.

However; the ending does open the book up for a sequel. I do hope there is one.

The title of this book is drawn from the name of an alcoholic cocktail that is very popular on the island. This book is due for release shortly.

Author Page.

Goodreads Page.

 

 

Discussion: ‘The Relevance of Sex in Literature in 2016.’ Guest Eden Baylee.

I’m delighted to welcome Author Eden Baylee to the discussion. This is the final post in the month long series, thanks to all of you for participating.

   The discussion from the original post in 2011.

As sex exists today as it has since the beginning of time, I’d say it’s absolutely relevant in literature. If I didn’t think it was, I wouldn’t be writing contemporary erotica.

We all know that sex sells, but even in the genre I write, more sex does not necessarily make the story better. Given this, I’d like to approach the question a bit differently and ask “To what extent should sexual content be included in literature?”

What guides me in answering this question is simple. Does sex contribute to the story? If it’s included to develop the characters, then it’s relevant. If it’s a gratuitous scene that adds nothing to advance the plot, then it should be edited out. Sex without context is meaningless. Not only does it detract from the story, but it could also turn the reader off. Why? Readers are not fools, and they don’t like to be treated as such.

I’ll illustrate this point by using the medium of film.

Let’s start with car chases as representative of sex in literature.

Everyone loves a good car chase scene. It’s exciting, gets your heart racing, and should move the plot forward (even if only metaphorically). Some of the best car chases I’ve seen are from movies such as: Ronin; The Bourne Identity; The French Connection; and the classic—Bullitt.

Why did I like these films? Because they had a plot and characters I cared about. There was an intricate storyline that involved more than just a speeding car, but when the car chase did happen, it was integral to the plot. I didn’t feel as if the director added it as an afterthought or filler to make the movie more “saleable.”

That’s exactly how I view sex in literature. Page after page of sex is like watching a two-hour car chase on the big screen. Though it may be exciting for a little while, it quickly becomes tedious if you can’t answer some basic questions: Who are these people? What have they done? Why are they being chased?

In a well-made film, the requirement for car chases is balanced with the need to advance the story. This is the same balance needed for sex within literature. If you can’t answer the questions: Who are these people? Why are they having sex? Why are they having this type of sex? Then my prediction is you really won’t give a damn why they’re having sex at all.

The second point is realism. Any work of fiction is only successful to the extent that the audience can willfully suspend their disbelief. When the filmmaker pushes too far, the work fails—the same goes for authors, especially when it comes to writing sex. Most adults have experienced sex. For this reason alone, it’s essential to keep it real. The challenge is to write it in a way that is creative and yet sensual. Maintaining believability means characters are not engaging in acrobatic moves that even a contortionist could not muster. It’s sex, not gymnastics! Unless your writing involves the paranormal or shape-shifters, characters should not possess superhuman powers when having sex. That includes the frequency, type, and amount of sex they have.

The third comparison to film is genre. If you watch a comedy, you expect to laugh. If you watch a horror movie, you expect to be scared. The same expectations are inherent in literature. No matter what genre you write in, there is opportunity to include sex in your story—if it’s appropriate. Expanding on the car chase analogy, inclusion of one in a “heist” film would be expected, but not so for a mystery or science fiction film unless it makes sense to the story.

Erotica is a genre that obviously contains sexual content. Often misunderstood, some equate it to pornography, thereby discrediting it as nothing more than “just” sex. Because of this negative association, some writers of erotica have taken to calling themselves romance or erotica/romance authors—myself included. It’s not that I think romance is more credible or respected as a genre, but it does give me a wider audience. Some readers want more sex than is provided in the “happily ever after” romance novels. Good erotica delivers more sex—along with a strong storyline, riveting plot, and interesting characters.

It’s important to know what you’re getting when you buy something, and perhaps that’s the main reason to define the genres. At the heart of it though, does it matter if you call yourself a romance author, erotica author, or author of fiction who writes with strong erotic elements? I think not. Call yourself what you like, but if you are writing sex in literature today—do it for the right reasons: To draw your readers into the plot of the story; to arouse them to connect to your characters; and finally, to have them fully commit to your book, awaiting the next one with bated breath.

Eden’s update. 2016.

 

When the lovely Suzanna Burke, asked me to pen an update to an article I wrote for her series, “The Relevance of Sex In Literature in 2011,” I was shocked to realize how much time had passed.

I don’t usually re-read my old blogs because they tend to sound dated. Either my writing style has changed, or new information has come to light since its writing. In this case, I re-read the article only to provide myself with context. In the process, I made an interesting discovery. It was as if I were reading my words for the very first time. The post still resonated with me—five years later!

Of course, much has changed since I wrote that piece, both in the world of literature and in my own writing. What did not surprise me though, is that “sex is still relevant in literature,” and I’d wager that if Suzanna asked me to update my thoughts again in five years, I would give the same answer.

As long as we live, serious literature must at least acknowledge that sex exists. How this acknowledgment insinuates itself into the pages of a book is up to the author. Not all writing about sex will be good. For example, when I wrote my first article, Fifty Shades of Gray had not yet been released. Since then, opinions on the book have run the gamut. It’s been called:

The best thing for the erotica industry

A book that will get women in touch with their sexuality

A misogynist tale that has turned back the women’s movement

A dangerous and inaccurate representation of the BDSM lifestyle

The worst thing for the erotica industry

 

Confession time.

I never read past page 98 of the first book, so I won’t speak to the merits of the story. What I can say is the book came along at a time when people were open to a dialogue about sexuality. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook made it possible for everyone to voice their opinions. Good or bad, the book allowed for conversation about sexuality, and denial that it existed was futile. Everyone was talking about it. It may have taken a popular (if not a great) book to kick-start the conversation, but it was a conversation, nonetheless.

I’m a firm believer that myths can only be debunked when we talk about them. This is especially true on the topic of sexuality, which is still a taboo subject for many. An open dialogue goes a long way to creating understanding and stamping out ignorance. Even if we agree to disagree, we can no longer remain in the dark.

My hope is the conversation continues.

 

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Eden’s updated bio:

Since penning several books of erotica, Eden Baylee has expanded her writing to the mystery and suspense genres.

In 2014, she launched the first novel of her trilogy with Dr. Kate Hampton—a psychological mystery/suspense called STRANGER AT SUNSET. She is now working on the next two books in the series.

Eden still writes erotica when given the opportunity, and many of her stories, regardless of genre, will continue to explore the basic human characteristics of love, hate, and sexuality.

Connect to her via her: Website | Twitter @edenbaylee | Facebook

 

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Discussion: “The Relevance of Sex in Literature in 2016”

Please join in the discussion with today’s guest, Maxwell Cynn.

Discussion sex

It is hard to believe it’s been five years, Soooz. Thanks for asking me back. Most of what I wrote in the post below still holds true today, though in the wake of fifty shades of everything the lines between “mainstream fiction” and hard core adult erotica have been smashed. The books and stories my wife once called porn are tame in comparison to YA romance today, and some of the current erotic literature is so graphic even an old smut writer like myself is appalled.

But I still believe it is the place of writers and publishers, not would be censors, to categorize and market their work. In todays market self-publishing is more and more common, which gives artists more creative freedom than ever—but also more responsibility. As content producer and publisher we choose how we market our work and to whom. It is our call if we promote a Triple-X narrative as YA romance or mark it as 18+.

Today there are no taboo subjects or editorial censors applied to literature. Anything goes and sex sells. It has been a long time since I’ve heard anyone even suggest parental labels or censorship. Sellers, like Amazon or B&N, have placed some restrictions on marketing by removing clearly adult content that is not marked as such. But slap on an 18+ tag and you can write anything. To me that is reasonable.

Some may say that the 18+ label is in itself a form of Parental Warning Label which I wrote against. To me, it is more akin to the old brick and mortar sellers who had a section in the back for adult lit. I think most writers of adult lit and erotica will agree the 18+ tag is often more of a marketing tool than censorship. If I’m looking for erotica I’m not searching YA on Amazon, I’m going straight to the adult section and searching 18+.

I do, however, continue to believe we have saturated mainstream literature with adult themes to the point nothing shocks anymore. The sweet little erotic romances I once wrote are tame even in the teen market these days, and I considered them to be purely Adult Only when I published them. By the same token I could not compete in today’s adult market trying to sell my works as erotica, they are too prudish, but I refuse to market erotica to teens. In a way I have censored myself by removing all my adult titles from the market.

As I warned in my earlier post, we have pushed the limits to the point that our words become impotent. The teen sex scene in a YA novel is just another scene the reader has read time and again, and watched more vividly in movies or on cable, and perhaps even experienced first hand. There is no power in our words to draw emotions from our reader or provoke thought. I mourn the lost days of innocence when a heroine’s sideline fantasy of her hero’s kiss could make a reader blush with anticipation.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but when we live in a world where anything goes, and often does, there is little left in the writer’s arsenal to shock and awe the reader. Today sex in literature is as mundane as characters sitting at the table talking. Eros has lost his magic and we have lost the power and beauty of erotic prose.

The original post in 2011.

Maxwell Cynn

Should Books Have Parental Warning Labels?

Thank you, Soooz for letting me come on your blog and rant a bit.

Censorship is ever a contentious issue in art. We bring it on ourselves: pushing the limits, trying to be hip, begging attention by being controversial. “It’s art!” is the general cry–when someone pisses in a glass or takes a picture of something in their arse. When Hemingway, and those of his generation, fought with publishers it was about the odd curse word. Hemingway wanted his dialog and prose to be real–the way people actually speak. When romance writers battled against the censors they wanted to show the sensual side of romance. But those battles were over long ago.

Today I can drop the f-bomb in a book or on my blog without anyone batting an eye. I can describe scenes that would make a nun wet or a hooker blush without fear of being arrested. But still some people push the limits. When I first started writing romance my wife accused me of writing porn. But current YA romance makes what I write seem quaint and almost prudish, and teenagers are reading it without blushing. So writers and artists go to unbelievable extremes to be controversial, and then people scream for censorship.

There will always be those who wish to draw a line and keep everyone behind it. The line itself is arbitrary and changes with generations. And there will always be those who seem compelled to step over that line if only because it is there. But there is a difference between being true to our art and being controversial simply for the sake of controversy. Hemingway wanted characters to speak as men speak (he actually had a battle over the word “swell” because it was slang–not proper English) and romantics wanted to portray love as couples truly loved, without resorting to euphemism and purple prose.

The only good censorship is that which we impose on ourselves, for the truth of our art, not that which we impose on others. I often write fairly provocative erotic romance. In the context of those stories I feel it is beautiful and expressive. I enjoy fine erotic art for the same reasons. But I also write hard science fiction, fantasy, and romance, among other things. There is a different standard, a different feel in mainstream fiction.

In a recent manuscript set in the 1920s the dialog I wrote contained virtually no cursing. That fit the sensibilities of the period, the characters, and the setting. I threw the f-bomb into a scene that was very intense and violent. It fit, and added powerful emotion to the scene. The hero and heroine never kiss, until the scene where he proposes to her, and not even the professional girls venture beyond a ‘PG’ rating in their flirtatious behavior. Yet the story is at times highly romantic, the heroine is extremely sensual, and the villains are harsh and violent. It is an adult novel.

When we use sex, language, or violence simply to shock and stir controversy it lessens our art. It also lessens the impact of our words. When a villain in the above novel says, “I’m gonna stomp your ass and fuck your girlfriend,” it’s a shock to the reader. When the hero drops the f-bomb in the midst of an intense and violent scene the reader feels that intensity along with the hero’s fear and frustration. The words have power because they are rare and unexpected.

In the same way, less is more when it comes to sex in literature. If the romantic lead goes down on the heroine in the first few pages what is left for the remainder? Sexual tension is best achieved by no sex at all–the desire, the need, the longing, restricted and contained at every turn. Anticipation builds to a long awaited and often denied climax, yet if that climax becomes common place, mundane, there is no anticipation, but only rote predictable outcomes. His tongue slips over her clit yet again, yada, yada, yawn–let’s move on with the story.

And so we are left with only the most graphic, deviant, kinky scenes with which to titillate our readers, and the would-be censors scream foul. Sex has lost its power and our words are left limp and impotent. Sex in literature is like anything else we write–too much lessens the value of all. The same happens with violence, blood, and gore. Readers become desensitized, writers ramp it up to new levels, and censors try to establish new lines of defense.

I never want to see Parental Advisory labels slapped on the cover of books, nor publishers attempt to censor Free Speech, but writers do bear responsibility for their words whether they wish to admit it or not. With YA, and even Middle Grade fiction taking on ever more mature tone, Adult and Erotic fiction push the extremes to compensate. Writers are why the sensibilities of censors are inflamed. When teen heroes are slinging f-bombs and teen heroines are playing the slut it’s hard to blame parents for being upset with contemporary fiction.

Writers need to understand that by flooding literature with more sex, more graphic language, more violence, and more controversy we dilute the power of our own words. We must censor ourselves or be censored by others. Throwing our characters in bed is cheap and easy, while not letting them quite get that far may be more difficult it is far more powerful and often more erotic. Mama used to say that people curse because they have a weak vocabulary. I implore my fellow writers to use your words. Set limits on your characters and make them strain against the bonds.

Disclaimer: Of course none of this has anything to do with Literary Erotica, which is all about the sex. The above diatribe concerns mainstream fiction. Erotica is by definition pure eroticism–the triple X of the literary world. I write that too, and enjoy reading it as well. But as purely adult entertainment, different standards apply. Erotica is already branded as Adult Only and often resigned to a child proof section in book stores. Should all books with sexual content be likewise branded?

Please join in the discussion. Comment below.

 

Discussion: ‘The Relevance of Sex In Literature in 2016’ Guest: Dan Holloway.

BOOKS RELEVANCE

 I’m delighted to welcome my first guest in this JULY long discussion; say hello to Dan Holloway.  The article begins with Dan’s responses to this discussion circa 2011 … and concludes with his thought now, five years on.

2011

Crossing the Line

I was really excited at the thought of writing this because I thought I’d have a gazillion things to fire off. I’m still excited. But the main thing I think about sex in literature isn’t really expandable on. People have a problem with sex because it’s “different” from the other things we do. Simple as. It goes back to the early Platonists and the argument was bollocks then and it’s bollocks now. End of.

So what am I going to say? OK, here’s what.

I write transgressive material. By no means all of what I write is transgressive. Some of it is just normal everyday lives, like my novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, which has a reasonable amount of sex but just because sex is a reasonable part of what the characters do. Some of my shorts have no sex or violence or swearing or even drugs. Not because my characters don’t do sex, violence, swearing or drugs but because the bit of their lives I’m writing about happens not to have any. Just like the way in my transgressive work the characters often don’t sit in traffic jams (sometimes they do!), not because they don’t do that but because they don’t in the bit of their lives I’m writing about.

So what *is* transgression and why would I write about it?

Transgression is basically just stuff that most people don’t think of as normal. OK, it’s more than a penchant for marmite and eggnog sandwiches. It’s behaviour that “society” considers beyond the pale. I’ll get into examples later.

Now, there’s all kinds of stuff we could say about the line between sensationalism and art, and when it’s OK to write about transgression because it’s for a “serious purpose.” But that’s seven kinds of bollocks, as I hope 1997’s seminal art exhibition Sensation showed. The wonderful, liberating thing about so-called Young British Art is that it took the whole “is this art or is it sensationalism?” debate and gave it a well-deserved finger.

So I’m not going to say there are good reasons for writing about transgressive behaviour and bad reasons, or good texts and bad texts. And I’m not going to talk about copycat behaviour because that’s seven more kinds of bollocks.

I want to talk about why I write what I write. And mention a coupla heroes along the way. The first being the not-very-obviously-transgressive Banana Yoshimoto, the author of N.P., which is my favourite book of all time. It’s about a collection of short stories by a dead writer, and the existence of an unpublished final story. And an incestuous relationship that causes quiet devastation but is – and this is the transgressive bit – portrayed as the pure emotional heart of the book.

It’s this aspect that characterises Transgressive Fiction with capital letters, and is what interests me most: the sympathetic portrayal of behaviour considered to be beyond society’s pale. It’s something that makes readers extraordinarily uncomfortable, because rather like lab rats or Pavlov’s bow-wows we are conditioned to expect certain behaviours to be treated a certain way.

What refusing to paint those behaviours the expected way, or reward or punish them as expected does is jar our expectations. An illustration of how much people can’t get their heads around this kind of thing is the Oscar-winning film American Beauty, which received its 18 certificate in the UK…because it portrayed recreational drug use non-judgmentally…if you’ve ever heard anything so ridiculous.

Which brings me to another thing, which is that to create this jar through the sympathetic portrayal of unacceptable behaviour, you actually have to do a pretty good job of the characterisation. Otherwise you don’t get the sympathy. And part of that is to show characters in the round. Which a lot of writing both on the grim and the rose-tinted side doesn’t do.

This rounded characterisation, which just happens to include things that are “unacceptable” serves two incredibly important purposes which are at the heart of transgressive writing, or at least the kind I do and enjoy. First, it makes us question where the value of a person is located and even whether the idea of a person being good or bad makes any sense.

But even that doesn’t get to the bottom of it, because we’re still accepting the unacceptability of the acts portrayed, and for me the single most important thing transgressive writing does is make us question where we draw our lines. Which isn’t to say we should shift them. Not at all – but if we leave them where they are, we do so having thought about them. Take a person you’ve grown to love over the course of a book, whose tastes run to the exotic, shall we say? Does that mean you were wrong to love them? What does it say about you and your character judgment that you did? Does it mean their tastes are OK – because it’s them who chose them? Or does it just mean everyone’s who they are and there’s a story to be told about each of us that has infinitely more nuances of shade and depth than we can ever put down in words? And is *that* the point where what we read helps us to begin to know ourselves a little better, or at least to ask the questions that will get us on the way?

Let me illustrate a point using a non-sex example. Clothes. By preference I wear t-shirts, jeans a *lot* of accessories like gloves and bracelets, braces/suspenders, and a little make-up. I know several people who’d be offended if I showed up to dinner in that (though they’d always say “it’s because of my relatives” which is seventy times seven shades of bollocks as an argument). They’d maybe tell me whilst wearing a suit. And I might tell them I found their suit offensive. And they’d laugh and say “yes, but what I’m wearing is inoffensive but you’re wearing clothes you know could offend”. Now in case the reason they’re a fucktard isn’t obvious it’s this – if you accept the principle that clothing can offend, and that you as a subjective person can be offended, then you have to accept that any other subjective person can be offended – and if you’re all subjective then what offends may well be different in every case. Now I’m a come-as-you-are type so I *know* I’m a fucktard being offended by suits just because of their connotations with capitalist oppression and the denial of individuality and years of institutional violence to the mentally ill. So I’ll take it on the chin. But the fucktard in the suit better damn well be prepared to take it in the chin back. But they aren’t. They act surprised.

And that’s what transgressive fiction does – slowly makes people less surprised when individuals turn out to be, er, individuals with all the roundedness and unpredictability that entails. And step one in doing that is questioning EVERY stereotype, including the moral ones and those about the association between any two behaviours or any one or more behaviour and “character”. It asks “Is that too far?” and “OK, but is it *always* too far?” and “If it’s not always too far is it ever too far?”

Transgression doesn’t just point the finger at readers, though. We all draw our own lines and what and where they are form questions that constantly prod me in the side. There are things I will write – but not transgressively. Some forms of sexualised violence, for example. I have criminals carrying them out in thrillers. But that’s not transgressive. For me the transgression, the interesting questions, lies as much in the treatment as the material. It’s the tenderness of the incest in N.P. that makes it such a transgressive book ad makes it different from, say, Chinatown.

For me the hardest subject matter of all is nothing to do with sex. The most difficult scene I ever had to write, in The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Painted-Agnieszkas-Shoes-ebook/dp/B004QGYH6M), is when a racist is tearfully cradling her dead son. I almost certainly should have made it a more tender scene, forced readers to confront their feelings for her, but I just couldn’t do it. So she remained nothing but a monster. Racism, homophobia, things that could generically be called “hate crimes” terrify me in a way that other behaviours just don’t. I think it has to do with the sheer scope of the hate involved. The most sickening of paraphilias remain between individuals – a single, secretive perpetrator and their desperate victim. Hate crimes involve the complicity of millions in the systematic act of eradicating other millions. I think it’s that group aspect that terrifies me most. Since the first time I was surrounded by a gang of schoolyard bullies, I’ve always found groups the very last transgression, the line I won’t cross. And yet it’s a line I should cross, and I wrestle with myself daily about it.

There’s a line in Paul’s letter to the Romans that says the law made sin sinful. It took away the excuse. I don’t often find myself in agreement with St Paul, but that’s one of the wisest things I ever heard. Complacency, the belief we have it figured out, accepting the status quo but not even thinking we’re accepting the status quo because it’s somehow just “there” – that’s the most dangerous, disgusting, nauseating, sinful trait that infects every part of our society like spores of rot. Transgressive fiction does exactly what St Paul says about the law – it takes away the excuse for complacency. It takes our deepest held beliefs, the things that seem to be the very fibre and fabric of what it is to be human and reminds us that every one of those beliefs is nothing to do with “the way things are” but represents a choice we made.

Remember that next time you see the tabloids calling for censorship. What do they really object to? Some words on a page? Or having something there, in their line of sight, making them think things they would rather not. What’s really worse? The things we write about? Or it being OK for a whole society to hold moral opinions they’ve never questioned?

Dan Holloway’s thoughts now…circa 2016.

It’s fascinating reading this five years on. I guess we always know that lots will change over that length of time, especially in something so rapidly evolving as the digital world. But we never know exactly what that lots will be!

In this case, looking back over what I’ve read, the obvious development has been the flame war that’s taken place over the notion of safe spaces. I said in the original piece that I felt racism and homophobia were more dangerous than any transgressive sexual storytelling because of the extent of their reach, so I guess I was foreshadowing the debate a little.

I don’t want to say too much here, because this is about sex. But I do want to say that I find myself increasingly angry and frustrated with the discussion of content warnings and safe spaces. There is so much misinformation. By and large I have never met a group of people as actively engaged in holding difficult debates as those behind the calls for such spaces – this is not “generation snowflake” or whatever other demeaning term people want to throw at them. This is generation engaged, generation compassionate, generation activist. These are the people working to provide answers to the challenge of the cult of anti-intellectualism, the people working on eradicating hate, tackling climate change. By and large I find it is their critics who are the easily offended, the ones who want protecting, who won’t face what they can’t accept – that the world is changing and changing for the better and that maybe they need to take some accountability for the fact that change was necessary.

But back to sex. My timeline is a little hazy, but I think the original series predates the Paypal battle that nearly sunk a lot of self-publishers and small presses, and it certainly predates the most recent disputes with Amazon over the definitions of taste and decency. In those intervening years we have had cause as a community to examine ourselves. There was the outcry over the publication of the P*dophile’s Handbook, which led to rather less soul searching than it might have done amongst writers who were quick to call for its banning without wondering what the implications were for drawing lines in the sand. And we have had the growth of dinoporn and Chuck Tingle’s unique eroticization of the inanimate, which has led the debate into – a very lucrative – comedic turn at times.

At the same time, the years have seen other areas remain static. Outside of the sphere of erotica there has been very little to question our notion of the obscene. Maybe this is because the preceding years had seen so much. On screen in particular the period leading up to this piece had given us Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, Virginie Despentes’ Baise-Moi, Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, and the oeuvre of Eli Roth. What have we had since? The reclamation of the erotic with Blue is the Warmest Colour, and Lars von Trier’s descent into self-parody through Nymphomaniac.

In print, I guess the closest to a debate we’ve had has been the question of the complicity or objectification of young men in relations with older women through books like Alyssa Nutting’s Tampa and Ben Brooks’ Lolito, but to be honest neither of those books is remotely good enough to have raised more than an eyebrow. Controversy comes when the art is so good you can’t ignore it and you have to face down its content. That’s what Lolita did that Lolito failed to do, what The Necrophiliac or Wetlands did. The very best writers just seem not to have really said anything about sexual taboos in the past five years. In a way 50 Shades makes that surprising. But in a way it also explains it. 50 Shades revealed to us a world that wanted to talk about stuff the art world had done with decades earlier. A world that will endlessly dissect such poor portrayals of the mildest forms of excess really isn’t ready to have the buttons of its extremities pressed in interesting ways. It just wouldn’t know what to do with that, would probably ignore it altogether – and being ignored is what the transgressive writer fears most!

Please Join in the discussion , leave your comment.

 DAN HOLLOWAY can be found on the following links.

 http://danholloway.wordpress.com 

 Dan Holloway (http://eightcuts.com) runs the eight cuts gallery (http://eightcuts.com) literary project and is a spoken word performer and novelist. His transgressive performance pieces make up the collection (life:) razorblades included (http://www.amazon.co.uk/life-razorblades-included-ebook/dp/B003QTDLBW). His novel The Company of Fellows (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Company-of-Fellows/dp/B004PLMHYC) spent more than 2 weeks in Amazon’s top 100 fiction charts.

Discussion. “The Relevance of Sex in Literature 2016.”

Discussion sex

The list of guests continues to grow! Don’t miss the opportunity to express your views and insights into “The Relevance of Sex in Literature in 2016.”

Scheduling has begun, and I’m delighted that Dan Holloway author of ‘The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes ‘ will be first up on July 1st.

There are a few spots left open, but you’ll need to be quick. I need your posts on or by June 30th 2016.

Send me your expression of interest at suzieb4burke@hotmail.com

Please be certain to note “Relevance of Sex in Literature in 2016” in the subject line.

No word count limit.

For those who don’t wish to contribute a piece themselves, the discussion is wide open, simply read and comment.