Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


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Headslapped by Royalties

Writing is like flailing in the dark and flinching when an invisible hand smacks you upside the back of the head.  It’s like being Tony DiNozzo, never knowing when Gibbs is sneaking up behind you.  Of course, sometimes a little smacking is a good thing.

The mail brought my royalty check today, and Out of Balance… a little book that came out six months ago and largely vanished… suddenly churned out triple-digit sales.  Um… what?

Now I am not complaining.  At all.  Nope, I will take that kind of surprise any day of the week and twice on Sunday. However, the business of writing annoys me endlessly.

I haven’t advertised this book, I can’t find any reviews, and no one has mentioned it randomly appearing on Barnes and Noble shelves near you. I know there was a convention recently in Albuquerque, so did someone make a display of “local authors”?  I don’t know.

I have no idea why this book suddenly “took off” any more than I know why other books haven’t.  I love Insistent Hunger with Paige, the cop who takes shit from no one, not even when her rookie partner shows up minus his heartbeat.  No one else loves that story like I do.

Sometimes I have a clue.  When Teddypig ripped on Gathering Storm, giving it one star and saying I’d broken faith with romance readers by failing to fulfill the requirements of a romance book, my sales skyrocketed. To be honest, he’s a little right.  That’s a suspense novel with two main characters who happen to get down and dirty. I’m tempted to send him a copy of my upcoming BDSM romance In the Weeds and pray he hates it just as much.

However, writing is a profession for people who like tightrope walking or maybe it’s more those who like long walks off short piers in rocky terrain.  You don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know what will take off like an out-of-control conflagration and what will fizzle away.

You definitely don’t know why you suddenly get a royalty check that actually looks like a paycheck.  Does anyone out there know why Out of Balance has suddenly found an audience? Anyone?  Anyone? Bueller?

 


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Emotional Hangover

I think indulging in story is an exercise in psychic vampirism. I’m a vampire, and I don’t want to give up the literary blood source—which might explain why I write my own stories when the vein goes dry. Psychologists would disagree since they call it the “paradox of fiction,” but whatever.

I have to say that right now I’m having the same sort of post-good-story fictional psychic spillover from Supernatural that I had the first time I read Brave New World or The Count of Monte Cristo.  Yeah, don’t just me.  I was nine or ten, and I was obsessed with the Count of Monte Cristo there for a while.

Besides, it’s not like Supernatural is some literary classic, but it pulled at the angst, the guilt, the pain in a way few shows do.  Buffy hit that note, but let’s be honest—most television pain revolves around broken relationships and self-importance.  I don’t feel for them, and I felt for the boys.

So, when we fall into this story funk, this place where the mind keeps rolling over the emotions and the events of fiction, psychologists call it the paradox of fiction, the idea that A) We have emotional responses to fiction.  B) “Emotions for objects logically presuppose beliefs in the existence and features of those objects” and C) We know fiction is fiction.  The quote came from Jerrold Levinson. I’d cite it properly, but honestly, who cares?

The Greeks called this same feeling catharsis and said we needed to let our negative emotions all hang out and have a good cry at a play before we got too caught up in our own lives and self-destructed.

So here’s the question… does everyone feel this psychic vampirism?  I feel like I’ve been emotionally feeding off the story, and now that the story has come to a logical conclusion, it’s like I’m full. I’m actively avoiding the sixth season because I don’t want to spoil the taste of a really good meal.  I want to start Joey W Hill’s vampire queen series, which Emma recommended, but what if it ruins this angst perfection?  The last time I felt this sense of perfect ending from television was Xena.

Yeah, I know.  Xena sucked at the end.  I don’t even want to talk about magical children because it will depress the hell out of me.  However, the ending was perfect.

Xena dies to stop a demon, and when she learns that she could return only at the cost of 40,000 souls trapped in a magical spell, she asks Gabrielle to let her go.  These two have died and come back to life so many times that it’s not funny, but Xena won’t live at the cost of other’s suffering. This after she tortured and burned her way through her corner of Greece. But that decision leaves Gabrielle alone.

And in the closing image, Gabrielle stands at the side of a ship going somewhere, and suddenly Xena is there beside her. Xena’s ghost will follow Gabrielle, waiting for the time when they can be together again.  It was a perfect image and I just wanted to live in that moment.

But the part that’s depressing (and that makes me wish I could unlearn some stuff) is that psychologists would call that a pre-programmed response… an emotional program triggered by stimuli designed to elicit a quick and consistent reaction in response to a specific problem.

Psychologist Katja Mellmann believes that the paradox of fiction—our ability to have real emotions based off fictional situations—comes from evolution.  These emotion-programs detect triggers, real or fictional.  Like she points out, we have the same emotional response to a baby as to a doll that has the specific features of a baby (awwwww… isn’t that cute???) Kindchenschema may be an interesting idea, but am I really that pre-programmed?

According to Mellmann, I am. The situational parameters or structural features trigger the program and as it continues, certain subroutines engage depending on which features the person observes.  She would call it perfectly logical.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why Susan dislikes Supernatural and its habit of killing women, and I really love the angst and see the women’s deaths (and the men’s too) as just part of the angst-mill.  It doesn’t explain why I adore the ending of Xena and other fans are still bemoaning it a decade later.

I guess I’m just going to hope that Mellmann is wrong and I’m right. My emotions aren’t pre-programmed, and while I am feeling my internal literary vampire, I have a choice about what blood to feed on.

Right now, I’m still enjoying my last meal so I’m going to go clean my house.


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Dominants and Dean

So, I just mainlined seasons one through five of Supernatural. Sex.

Yep, sex.  That’s what I kept thinking about while I watched it, and I’m sure that came in part from the rather… um… energetic sex scenes the series included.

Unlike shows like The Sentinel where I had a background in fanfic before seeing the show, I walked into Supernatural utterly blind.  Despite the fact that I knew a lot of people slashed the brothers, I really don’t see the sexual subtext between them.  What I see between them is the smoldering anger and jealousy that festers in dysfunctional families.

However, I did find myself drawn to certain pairings.  I would love to put Dean with any number of people.  Prior to season five, I wanted him with Anna, the angel.  From the time I first met her, I wanted him with Ellen, the tough hunter and mother to Jo. I liked the history he had with Cassie Robinson, the tough reporter who refused to believe in the Supernatural. Hell, I wouldn’t have minded Dean going with the art dealer Sarah Blake. Hell, I even have a little fantasy involving Gabriel and Kali and Dean (or Gabriel and Dean or Kali and Dean). Early in the show, I couldn’t understand why people wanted Dean with Castiel, the cold angel who came with a big dose of colder reality.  Yes, I changed my mind later, but I’ll get to that.

Looking at my list of pairings, I had to wonder what I was thinking, because I was clearly off the script from the rest of fandom.  Yep, I was definitely heading in het directions, and usually I do like slash pairings.  I don’t think I ran into the answer until I started feeling the Castiel/Dean love.  When Castiel lost his temper and beat the snot out of Dean because Dean wanted to give up, I honestly felt the slashy vibe raise its little head.

So, what do these characters all have in common?  Anna, Ellen, Cassie, Sara, Gabriel, Kali, and late season five Castiel.  That’s an odd list.

That’s a flawed list.

Yep, I finally figured it out. I want a dominant who is flawed, and since I do see Dean as the ultimate submissive, I want him to have a partner who is flawed and owns those flaws.  Anna understood that her grace made her cold and loveless.  Ellen knew she had put Jo in the middle of the fight and she owned her own temper.  Gabriel… well, what can I say about Gabriel, the archangel in witness protection?  These characters know they aren’t perfect, and that makes them better.

No one is perfect, and when a dominant is too perfect (or who sees himself as perfect), I can’t relax and enjoy the story because I’m waiting for the inevitable disaster.

I cringed when people called Charleston from Gathering Storm the “perfect” dom who could fight anyone, plan anything, and understand all.  Um… he was the bait, not the one who came up with the plan to catch the bad guy, he had to call for backup and his job in the first big confrontation was to distract the guy, and when Vinnie first started sniffing around, he thought Vinnie was a bad guy. Charleston is so flawed it’s not funny, but because the story is in Vinnie’s point of view and Vinnie is a little idealistic, those flaws didn’t come through.

However, the fact is that I like flawed dominants.

And that’s why I am starting to feel the Castiel/Dean love. Late in season five, Castiel really started to understand his own flaws.  He doesn’t know what god wants or what he should do.  He recognizes his own anger, and as he told Sam, he knows that he has consistently underestimated the boys.  In other words, he’s now flawed enough for me to enjoy imaging him in a relationship.  Or rather he was always flawed, lost, and ignorant of human capacity for good, but now he recognizes he flaws.

I can trust him to know himself, so I can trust him to know a partner.


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Femdom

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I’ve never made a secret out of the fact that I love femdom.  That said, I hate reading much of the genre.  Feeling in need of a fix, I went and banged around Literotica for a while yesterday.  Women tricked men, abused men, terrorized men, and hurt men.  Um… is that sexy?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m out of touch with the rest of the femdom.  Maybe there’s something inherently sexy about a woman forcing a man the way some find rape fantasy the hottest thing since The Great Chicago Fire.  Maybe.  I don’t get it.  I like my dominant women (and men) to care about their submissives. Sure, they screw up, but they love the person they’re dominating.

Da’shay in Blowback is dominant and she pushes Tom places he would never go, but she does that because she knows the danger even if she can’t tell him.  She pushes him because she wants him to find a place where he’s happy.  And yeah, in real life, I would definitely say she pushes too hard, but the glory of fiction is that I can let her get a little dangerous. In the world of fanfic, I’ve made Cordelia (from Buffy) into a Domme more times than you can count.  I’ve let her sharpen her claws on Spike, Xander, Angel, and Harmony.  I’ve allowed Willow and Faith (also from Buffy) to do a more subtle form of taking charge of their men.  I’ve written River (Firefly) as a complete dominant, taking total charge of Jayne over his rather vocal and profane objections.  They all made it clear that they ruled the roost, and no one had permission to disagree with them.

However, reading other femdom stories, I was confronted with stories where women trap men, feminize them or humiliate them.  Men described their small dicks and admitted that a small dick made them a prime target for being owned.  Um… is it just me or is that a little… uh… fucking terrifying?  I thought the idea that a person’s physical traits defined their personality went out years ago. And the women who dominate these men don’t care how much pain they cause or what the male is getting out of it.

I’m guessing you’re not even going to be surprised that many of these are written by men.  I found myself back-buttoning time after time after time.

So, what do I want out of a dominant woman?  I want her to take control and not apologize.  I want her to take her submissive into account, even if she will never be ruled by him.  I want her to admit that she is not perfect and still stand up and insist that her imperfections are no reason to apologize for her strength.

Paige in Insistent Hunger strikes me as a Domme who just hasn’t found her groove yet.  She’s small, but as a cop, she never thinks her size makes her less effective.  She can give a drunk good-old-boy orders and make sure they stick.  And when a retired military man tried to tell her how to handle an investigation, she not-so-nicely told him to go fuck himself. But at the same time, she never tried to get a promotion–she never tried to move beyond being a small-town cop.  She had trust issues and control issues that made her very aware of her own flaws, even while she never backed down.

I guess I will be avoiding Literotica in my search for powerful, dominant women unless I develop an odd need to watch submissives get abused. Not likely.