In a couple weeks, it will have been one whole year since Masters at Arms was published. Wow! In such short time, more than 20,000 readers have purchased all three of the books in the series. Many of them have read them and have fallen in love with my three wounded warriors, Adam, Marc, and Damián.
In late August, God willing, there will be a fourth book in the series—Nobody's Perfect—and readers will get to watch as Damián and Savi work toward their happy ending, at long last. This has been the most difficult book for me to write. I've been working on it since late January, with lotsof breaks—and escapes. The others were written and edited in 2-3 months, but not this one.
Writing about an incest survivor has been a challenge for me as a writer, having been one myself (although not with my father, but another male relative), as well as having been abused sexually by others as a child from 1 to 12 years of age. I'm writing this blog to make sure readers are aware of the content of this book. I don't want anyone blindsided. It will be unlike any Romance—erotic or otherwise—that you've ever read. I don't sugarcoat or gloss over the difficulty of this journey for a survivor to reconnect with her body after having shut down for decades. (I'm aware that males are survivors of abuse, as well, but this story is about a female survivor.)
While Savi's torture and abuse are worse than the things I can recall about my own abuse (much is still blocked out for me), the emotions felt by survivors of all types of abuse (sexual, emotional, verbal, physical, etc.) are much the same—fear, inability to trust, triggers by certain words, phrases, touch.
Last week, I shared a blog and excerpt on the BDSM Authors Playroom blog. In late June, I did a similar piece with a different excerpt on the BDSM Book Reviews. The outpouring of comments, personal e-mails, personal FB messages, and face-to-face comments I've received from my fellow survivors has encouraged me that the book will be welcomed by survivors and not seen an exploitation of their abuse. It won't be easy to read—because it certainly wasn't easy to write—but the survivors I've heard from seem to understand that and still welcome seeing how Savi and Damián use sadomasochism and control techniques to help her overcome her past abuse.
First, I'll share with you some of the public comments I received from fellow survivors:
Crystal wrote: "Can't wait to read more on Savi's story. As a survivor of child abuse myself, I love hearing how other survivors cope and heal from the past."
Becki wrote: "After 35 years of 'conventional' therapy, I still haven't gotten over what happened to me as a child or my father's reaction to it (saying it was my fault because I was leading the man on). I have a lot of repressed anger that I can only release through pain. Most people can't understand this, but it is my way of coping when the emotions get to be too much to handle. I'm really looking forward to reading Damián and Savi's story. I know it will be difficult, but I've found that I can learn new coping mechanisms through reading these books and other people's stories."
As a long-time Romance reader (since the 1970s!), I was able to see how love, sex, and romance should be in the fantasy world of Romance novels, but it still seemed foreign and something that could never happen to someone like me. As Heidi said, you feel isolated, as if you're the only one. That's part of why I wanted to write a book like this. Since therapy, I've been able to speak openly about it and break the silence. My husband did a lot to help me over the years We aren't in the lifestyle, but he is very patient and gentle. He definitely inspired that side of Damián's character.
But as I read Romances, I've always been bothered by how easily previously abused heroines in "got over" their traumatic abuses from the past, especially the sexual ones. They would be all hot and heavy by chapter six or ten or whatever, which just made me feel inadequate because I couldn't "get over it." I decided that, if I'm going to write about realistic BDSM communities (rather than the fantasy ones), then it was equally important to me that I write realistically about Savi's journey to heal from sexual abuse.
I saved this book for last in the initial three romances in the series, following up on the prequels introduced in Masters at Arms, knowing it would be difficult to write and knowing that the longer Savi was in therapy working on healing, the better it would be. Early on in the writing of this book, though, I could tell she had a long way to go, because she'd avoided sexual-healing therapy, figuring there was no place in her life for sex ever again.
However, Savi and Damián shared that tender day in the beach cave in Masters. Memories of that time before she'd shut herself down sexually keep invading her psyche, making her want more than what she sees in her future as far as sex goes. Then she watches Damián, who is a service Top and sadist at the Masters at Arms Club, whipping a woman much like herself and something clicks for her. She wants to change. She wants to feel again.
Even so, the trust issues alone that she has to overcome will take up much of the book. Sure, I could give a transitional phrase of "three months later" and fast forward in the relationship with a paragraph or so of what happened in the intervening time, but that won't convey to readers the baby steps it takes for her to begin to trust men again—steps that actually started in Nobody's Hero when she saw Damian with his niece, Teresa. The violation you feel when someone you should be able to trust implicitly abuses you can't be explained in this short blog, but it is profound and the effects last a lifetime.
The book also seems to be opening eyes to what real-life BDSM is all about. Julianne wrote: "Wow, that was such an emotional post, Kallypso. I wouldn't have thought about BDSM as healing. It's wonderful that it can help that way. The excerpt brought tears to my eyes. Damián is priceless, so patient and understanding. He's just what Savi needs to help her."
In erotic romance novels and erotica, the focus usually is on the kinky-sex side of the relationship, and I've certainly enjoyed writing and reading those books, too. But the really good books in the genre show that this is more than techniques and positions. The lifestyle is about finding like-minded souls who understand these needs that society labels as twisted and depraved. It's about forming their own community of people who can provide acceptance and support.
Kathy H., one of my beta readers who is in the lifestyle, has read hundreds of BDSM-genre books and said this was THE best she's ever read because it showed how the community really is—with members helping each other face their demons. While I am not active in this community, the people I have come to know since I began researching this series last year make me envy what they have with one another.
So far, only my editor and beta readers have seen the bulk of the story. They often were left with gut-wrenching chapter endings, not able to just turn the page and see that it would all work out. One said she had to take a Xanax because by chapter 20 or so, she was upset after reading another such cliffhanger. (Luckily, the next chapter was in her mailbox and had a much better ending.)
Khriste Close, another of my beta readers, wrote: “…(A)fter BETA reading for you, I am so very much in love with these two people and, well, all the others. I can definitely see from both points of view about how each one is trying to help the other cope. I am totally drained and mentally exhausted after reading what I have read, but also so much in love with Damián (and Savi) for how they are written as true emotional real people with major flaws, instead of picture-perfect annoyances."
Jennifer, a clinical psychologist who beta reads for me said that my flashback scenes are the most emotionally honest she'd read in fiction.
I am hoping readers outside the BDSM community and those who come into contact with abuse survivors to gain understanding from reading Damian and Savi's story. Mel commented at BDSM Authors Playroom blog: "Thank you, Kally, for approaching an issue that causes so much pain. I was not a victim, however, my mother was and I continued to see the aftermath throughout my childhood and into adulthood... Thank you for helping so many understand."
DarkBloodyVamp wrote: "By showing those of us not in the lifestyle that BDSM is more than whips and chains but a way of expressing and empowering oneself beyond social constraints… the more I read your posts the more you open my eyes and make me ask questions I never asked about myself before."
Emily added: "It's funny now some people think of BDSM being all about pain and they don't realize how freeing and healing it can actually be."
And Basia said: "I just wanted to comment that it’s so good to see BDSM represented as something that can be GOOD for someone who was abused."
I guess I'm writing this blog because I want to prepare readers for something different in this book. You know I have characters with deep emotional and physical wounds and I don't shy away from that. So, if you can read the story, I hope you do and that you find something that can help you understand yourself or perhaps a family member or friend who has been through some of what Savi has been through.
I don't plan on categorizing the book as erotica and maybe not as erotic anything, because most of the BDSM in this book is not intended to be titillating. But it IS a Romance and there WILL be a happy ending, I assure you. That is why I only read fiction in the Romance genre. I need to be assured that there will be happy endings before I can watch characters go through so much pain and angst.
Of course, I don't write books that tie everything up in a neat bow at the end, as my long-time readers know. My characters will continue to come back in later books to work on real problems in their relationships. Similarly, Damian and Savi will show up in later books, showing how their relationship is progressing, including their love life.
Becki commented on the above blog: "I'm not worried about the lack of sex in the book. The genre is what originally drew me in but, now that the characters are part of my family, the continuing story is what will keep me coming back."
I hope other readers are equally willing to give Savi and Damián time to move on in their relationship at their own speed. Of course, don't expect the book to be a downer. There will be some delightful moments as Damián tries to coax Savi to lighten up, too. I often mix laughter and tears—sometimes in the same scene. And I love sexual humor.
You'll also get to see Marc and Angelina again, as they worth through a major bump in their relationship. And Adam is going to be a father-figure you would expect him to be to Damián, but it's really endearing to see him begin to take on a fatherly role with Savi, as well. She's never know a father's love and I'm anxious to see how their relationship develops in that regard, as well.
Now I'll share a bit of the excerpt shared earlier, in case you missed it. This is one of the first scenes in which Damián is on a mission to help Savi release some of the horrific memories of her past. He has placed wooden clothespins down her sides and under her arms and is now preparing to remove them, one at a time:
Damián's hands stroked her back from her neck to just above her butt, then moved around to her chest, pressing his arms into the pins on her sides. She knew the clothespins must be digging into her flesh, but still felt nothing too terribly uncomfortable.
Just numbness and pressure.
"Savi, when it's time, I'm going to remove the clothespins one at a time. Immediately after each one is removed, I want you to attach a memory associated with a negative emotion—fear, anger, rage. You can scream, cry, cuss, or do whatever it takes to release that memory and feel that emotion, but you need to do it out loud and immediately. I need to hear it in order to take away its power over you.
Savi's mouth grew dry. She shook her head. "No, I don't think I can do this. I don't want to think about those things."
"You need to let those memories go so they'll no longer control or hurt you. They are holding you back. Even though you aren't consciously thinking about them now, they have held you hostage your entire adult life, possibly most of your childhood."
"I've repressed much of my childhood."
"Those will be some of the last memories you'll recall during this scene. It will take them longer to surface. But you want to release even the most painful of them."
She groaned. "Can I just think them? Don't make me say those things out loud, Sir." She didn't want him to know what she was.
"Speaking them is the best way to lessen their power over you. Otherwise, this will just be an exercise in pain for pain's sake. No value. No learning. No healing."
"But I don't feel pain. I don't feel anything."
Damián chuckled. "Oh, you'll definitely feel something before I'm finished, especially as the last pins are removed. The longer they pinch off the blood supply to your skin, the more you'll feel."
He truly expected her to feel something. He would be terribly disappointed when she didn't react at all. For some reason, the thought of disappointing him bothered her.
"Be my brave girl?"
"I'm not brave. I'm afraid of everything."
"Bullshit. You aren't afraid of me, are you?"
He stroked her cheek. "Savi, do you trust me to know what you need? To know what's best to help you?"
I think so.
She groaned again in frustration. How could he demand this of her? She couldn't think about the horrors of the past, much less speak of them. Most of the traumatic events she couldn't even remember anymore. She'd relegated those memories to the recesses of her mind long ago, right where she wanted them to stay.
"Trust me, Savi?"
If she didn't try this, she'd always wonder if it might have helped. She needed to do this.
"I want to hear you say the words."
"I…trust you, Damián…Sir."
He placed a kiss on her numb cheek. Her eyes stung. She wanted to feel his lips, but…nothing
"That's my girl."
His girl. She wasn't his girl, his dream, his anything. Yet, when he spoke to her like that, some broken, damaged piece of her wished she could be. The realization that a relationship with Damián could never be left her feeling surprisingly sad.
"I have restrained your arms and legs so that you won't be able to move. It's critical that you remain as still as possible so that I don't miss."
"You don't have to worry about anything but attaching a memory to each pin as I remove it. ¿Comprende?"
She didn't want to understand, but she did. "Yes, Sir."
Her heart pounded, but he brushed his lips across her ear and said, "I'm so proud of you."
That unfamiliar warmth spread through her again.
"Now, breathe, Savita."
He stepped away, moving behind her, and the loss hurt more than any since the night she heard him ride out of her life at her father's house. Her eyes burned. She blinked them to ease the sting. Silence. Fear surged to the surface.
"You won't leave me alone like this, will you, Sir?"
He cursed under his breath and seconds later placed his hands on the sides of her face forcing her to look at him.
"A responsible Dom or Top never leaves a sub alone when restrained. While there will be times when I want you to spend time in your head, right now, I want you to be thinking about some of the scenes you will release for me soon. Don't you dare even think I might leave you alone, restrained, at any time. Okay, Savita?"
Part of her wished he meant that as in forever, but she pushed that impossible thought aside. No one could ever love someone like her. He was just trying to help her. "Thank you, Sir."
His lips brushed hers. Tingling. She'd actually felt something! Perhaps because she hadn't anticipated it. Maybe if she let her guard down more, gave herself permission to feel something, this scene actually could do some good.
Savi pictured herself as Damián must see her, naked, arms and legs spread wide, exposed. She hadn't placed herself in such a vulnerable position with a man since she'd regained control of her life and body after escaping her father and Lyle.
Savi jumped. Well, more figuratively than physically, given how tightly he'd bound her. The sound of the whip popping in the air brought her senses to full alert.
Damián came from behind her. He had recoiled the whip and held it in his left hand. He walked in front of her, so near she felt his body heat. He wrapped the whip around her back at waist level. He pulled it from side to side against her back, letting the friction of the leather warm her skin.
"The whip is going to free you, Savi. I don't want you to fear it. I want you to embrace it as it is embracing you right now."
Please watch the following sites for announcements about the release date for Nobody's Perfect (late August):
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/KallypsoMastersAuthorPage
Web site: http://kallypsomasters.com (sign up for my newsletter here or at my blog)
This series needs to be read in order, starting with the introduction, Masters at Arms, which is free at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and All Romance eBooks. The other books in the series are just $3.99 each.