I’m not terribly excellent at keeping up with my blogging. Oftentimes, I’ll make a draft of a blog post and never manage to get it scheduled. I now have twelve pages of never published drafts of posts. My aim over the next twelve months is to get those posts…well, posted. 🙂 So some of the material might be dated, but it is still relevant to the books available over to the right on this blog.
First up, a guest post/interview I did at Rainbow Gold Reviews for The River Leith! 😀 Yay!
“I’m so excited to have Leta Blake on the blog today, talking about what inspired her to write her latest book The River Leith. You can read my 9/10 pots of gold review of the book HERE.
During my research of amnesia and memory for the writing of The River Leith I read through a number of extraordinary cases and it became clear to me that no one amnesia case is exactly like another.
“With Ganymede Quartet, I tried to make all the things that weren’t slavery in the 20th century as historically accurate as possible, and that included the language I used. Here are some words that would have come in handy but were not appropriate for the time period.”
“Remembering is an unstable and profoundly unreliable process–it’s easy come, easy go as we learn how true memories can be obliterated, and false ones added. And Oliver Sacks joins us to tell the story of an amnesiac whose love for his wife and music transcend his 7-second memory.”
I did a lot of research for The River Leith. The above Radiolab episode was some of the most interesting and memorable. The section on Clive Wearing was touching, amazing, and very depressing all at once. I absolutely recommend this episode for anyone curious about memory and amnesia.
So, I’ve been working on what I envisioned as a rather simple, summer love novella with a Trans* MC. I wanted her Trans* identity to be secondary to the love story.
However, as I’m researching, and reading compelling things like THIS ARTICLE, I find myself tempted to make the story something I hadn’t intended. I thought, “Oh, I could have the MC volunteer in the city, working with trans*people who aren’t in as good a situation as she is in.”
And I still might, but if I do that, I have to make sure the book doesn’t get preachy, because that was never, ever, ever the point of what I wanted to write.
So, yes, I have to know my story. That is imperative when writing.
By the way, that’s a good article up there. Check it out!
Another helpful page was the ranch hand job description. (Did your dirty mind read that the wrong way, too? No? Just me? Typical.) Which allowed me to figure out what would be some realistic activities for Rob and hands.
The absolute most helpful part, though, was the blog associated with the page, Millenium Cowboy . Basically, it helped with forming really realistic ideas of what a day of ranch work looked like, felt like, and, most especially, what terms were used in discussing the cattle or the work itself, because ranching, like all specialties, has it’s own little language.
As you might have guessed, I don’t own a small cattle ranch in Northwestern Montana. So, when it came down to making Rob’s rancherly duties more realistic, I needed to do some research. Luckily, as usual, the internet doth provide! All praise the internet!
Reading over that page gave me some general ideas about what activities Rob and his ranch hands would be getting into on the ranch, and gave me a few talking points, too. Such as, did you know:
Be aware that for most North American (especially those in Canada and northern USA) and European ranches winter feeding is the biggest source of financial loss in a ranch operation. It is often what makes or breaks the ranch as a business, so requires very careful management with an eye to absolutely no waste
This is especially true in Northwestern Montana where the winters can be brutal and a small cattle ranch is tough to keep up. There was another site that was helpful to me, also, when developing ideas on what Rob might do with his day on a ranch, how he would talk about his activities, what terms he’d use, etc. I’ll post about that on another day.
In the meantime, if you want to know about how to run a cattle ranch, click on the above link!
“I have leather horse whips, actually,” Rob said.
“Of course. Have you seen my ranch?”
In the first draft of Training Season, I wrote the above exchange, but, believe it or not, I hadn’t written a scene to follow involving the aforementioned whips. It was during the re-working of the draft that I realized that mentioning whips in a book that featured a few BDSM scenes, especially emotionally integral scenes, was like that famous gun in the first act. Once introduced, the whips needed to be used. The question then became when, how, and where to put them into the story. In addition, because I wanted to make sure that the whipping scene in Training Season was done fairly realistically, I did a ton of research into whipping in order to write it.
I consulted practitioners of BDSM, read forum discussions, read some how-to manuals, read a couple of books with whipping sections within them, and watched some videos (some professional porn but several homemade pieces demonstrating the activities I had Rob and Matty engage in). I’m sure I still got some of it wrong, but, for the most part, I think I did an okay job with that scene.
For example, when it came to choosing strike points and which instrument Rob would be willing to use, I took my sweet time. After a lot of research into what whips a rancher would actually have on hand, and what I wanted Rob to be able to do with those whips, I chose quirts rather than longer tail whips because of the control over the force of the strike. A strike can be very painful for a sub without actually being damaging if the dom has good control over the way the whip lands, and, according to my research, quirts provide a much better handle on that kind of precision of place and force than other types of whips.
Now, let’s discuss the chosen strike points. Some, at first blush, seem unlikely or potentially damaging, but given the instruments chosen they were doable. I researched the appropriate number of strikes on any particular strike point to make sure things didn’t go too far. Though, in the book itself, I chose to leave the actual number vague so intensity would build for the reader. If a strike point is given in the book, it is a possible strike point. Do I advise someone at home to have their inexperienced partner use a single tail quirt on their anus? No. If done incorrectly, there could be some serious damage done. But, this is a romance novel, a fantasy, and, thus, in this book, we can assume that Rob has the control and finesse to land the quirt with the kind of force that would cause pain (and it’s an anus, so that’s not a ton of force) and not cause real damage. Having said that, don’t try it at home, kids, or if you do, don’t blame me for any end result of your activity.
In addition to the whips, number of strikes, and strike points, I researched the end result of strikes. For example, I really wanted there to be welts, but given the instruments I chose–triple-tail and single tail quirts–research indicated that even on an untrained ass the marks wouldn’t last for more than a day in the hands of a skilled dom. Given that Training Season is a romance novel and not a how-to manual, we can assume Rob is a skilled enough dom to make that work. (Otherwise, he shouldn’t be doing the scene at all. But, again, that’s for real life, not fiction.)
Which brings me to this lovely rant by Amelia Gormley. I’ll sum up my response to it by saying I agree with all that she says, but I’ll take it one step farther for clarity: just so you know, folks, this book, and any other BDSM novel you read, is not real life. In real life, one would want to really slow down and discuss specific details of activities before any scene involving whips or edge play. But in novels, it’s about the story and the ride, and if it works for the characters and their journey, I’ll take them there. As Amelia puts it, these books are not how-to-BDSM or how-to-condom. Please don’t treat them as such.
And, on a less serious note, I loved researching whips. I loved watching scenes of people using different kinds of whips, and reading reviews of products (whip reviews are awesome!), and I loved the interaction with practitioners. I just love research of all kinds, but this was especially fun!
Which brings me to this awesome video by Scutter Martin. He drove through Whitefish, Montana, and recorded the whole thing. This really helped me to get a feel for the town, much more so than reading descriptions or looking at still pictures.
Truly, the internet is magic! And people record the coolest and most unusual things! Life and human beings are amazing!
It was a joy researching Training Season, and I hope that people feel the internet-power of all my research when they read it.
I had to do quite a bit of research on Whitefish, MT and Flathead Lake to write Training Season. While I’m sure I got some things wrong, and I know I stretched some of the timing to work the way I needed it to work, the power of the internet has made learning details about an area so much easier.
For example, Matty goes skating on Flathead Lake. I couldn’t have him near the biggest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, where the bays sometimes freeze over, in the middle of winter, without making him skate on it, now could I? But I haven’t been to Flathead County, much less skated on the lake, so I had no idea what that might be like. I did a google search, and lo and behold! Someone had posted to YouTube with a video of them skating on Flathead Lake! For real! And the comments had some awesome information that I really needed to make sure the scene I was writing was feasible and correctly described!
Quotes from the comments:
Em Powers said: “What you can’t see because the I’m skating by it too fast, is that the cracks in the ice show that it is about a foot thick. There were lots of ice fisherman out that day too. It has to be pretty cold for a long amount of time (or really cold for awhile) and there can’t be wind which kicks up waves, or snow or sleet during the crucial time when the ice is forming. That makes bumps in the ice and then it’s impossible to skate on. If we get to skate on it every three years, we’re lucky. There might be some bays where it’s always smooth when it freezes, but I’m not familiar with them. It doesn’t always freeze over, but it is not uncommon. It’s pretty big (30 miles long by 16 miles wide) so sometimes it isn’t completely frozen. The year I took the video (2007), there was a lot of very cold weather and little wind, which makes for a nice smooth surface on which to skate.”
In addition, I found this great video of the drive to Flathead Lake, which allowed me to have a good idea of what it is like to drive around in that area of Montana. I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t find this video all that fascinating, but, man, this was a lifesaver to me! Thank you, Pat, for posting this!
How did writers actually write before the internet? It beats me! Thank God for it!