Jun 242015

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. 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.

May 152015

I will present at Cornucopia in Nanaimo, BC, on May 23rd.

It’s been a while since I posted anything here, though I’ve been posting to my Pinterest board and have a queue of daily posts set up on my Tumblr. Most of my work on this project has gone into trying to get a literary agent for the book, via cold emails of my query or proposal.

I thought I had an agent for a while, attached to a major NYC firm who wanted to see my complete manuscript within hours of receiving my proposal. After a while, she said she wanted to start showing it to Canadian publishers. While this was exciting, I wasn’t sure how this procedure went. I asked her if this constituted her being “my agent”, and later asked for some kind of formal agreement. She sent me a one-page agreement which included words like “irrevocable” and did not include anything about getting out of the agreement. The sample agent agreements I had read all had some kind of escape clause. When I asked about this, she said that was their standard agreement, and they never had problems releasing a client. After wavering a bit, I pressed ahead and asked for some kind of addition to the agreement. In case something happened like no publisher deal after a year, and I could be released. Instead, she said she would “step aside” and let somebody else handle my book, as I obviously didn’t trust her at this early stage.

This was baffling. I didn’t expect a major NYC firm to operate on a handshake deal or refuse to include an escape clause. I’ve worked on and off in creative fields for many years, and it is important to make clear the ownership of material, and for the creator to retain as many rights as possible. Getting dumped by this agent is probably for the best, but it does put the project back to the beginning.

Mar 022015

After literally ten years of work in writing, researching, and ordering obscure books via inter-library loan that have probably put me on some kind of watch list, I now have an actual complete first draft that is ready to show to potential publishers and agents. It weighs in at about 112,000 words. Likely I will have to trim that down for publication.

It feels good to be done, and weird to move onto the next phase of this project, which is trying to sell it to somebody. On Wednesday, I sent a proposal to an agent I’ve contacted before. I sent more cold proposals to agents I researched on the net. This is a whole new realm with new challenges, and I have no idea how this will work. Self-publishing is an option, but I would like to try conventional publishing first.

“Done” needs a certain qualification. I would like to cover Japanese sadomasochism, but I have yet to find good resource material in English. There’s also a gap like the early 20th century, but there may not be any research available. The current draft is intact, but certainly can be expanded upon.

I will continue updating this blog with interesting finds, ongoing research, and progress on acquiring an editor or publisher.

Jan 152015

I haven’t updated this in a long time, in part because my energy has gone into actually working on the book instead of blog posts. The good news is that I’m getting close to having a complete rough draft of the entire manuscript, one that I can send to beta readers, agents and publishers. I completed Chapter 13 on the political/legal status of BDSM, weighing in at 10,300 words, which brings the total word count to over 100,000 words. All that’s left is the conclusion, which I’m currently banging my head against. Once that’s done, I can resume sending out proposals. (I’d like to do a chapter on the Japanese parallel evolution of BDSM, but that’s on hold until I can find more research material.)

I am presenting my History of BDSM talk at Westward Bound, a three-day conference presented by Metro Vancouver Kink. My presentation will be at 9am, Saturday, January 31st. I haven’t done this presentation in a while, and my ideas and knowledge has changed so much that I may have to start over from scratch.

I have another presentation later this year; more details later.

Better late than never: check out the Tyee article about Jian Ghomeshi affair and its link (or lack thereof) to the BDSM scene:

Sep 122014

I’ve completed chapter 9, coming in at about 9,000 words. Technically, I completed it again, but I reshuffled things around a bit. Chapter 8 is now about the relationship between BDSM and fascism/militarism. Chapter 9 is now about the early 20th century. Since so much of that is influenced by the aftermath of the Great War, and the forces that led to the next war, I decided to put it after the fascism chapter.

To be frank, I’m not completely satisfied with my work. This period was something of a gap in my research, between the relatively well-documented Victorian and post-WWII periods. I have a few leads, such as Edith Kadivec and William Seabrook, and a few documented cases (Percy Grainger and TE Lawrence, for example), but not enough substantial material. Nothing like the Munby-Cullwick relationship, and nothing to really tie it all together.

I’ve also cheated a bit and referred to questionable sources like the Spanking Art wiki on subjects like early French bondage photography studios and the life of Edith Kadivec.

However, the goal now is to complete a rough but finished draft I can show to prospective agents and publishers. The sections with dodgey sources can be edited or cut later.

As the project currently stands, the next two chapters cover the Internet Era (c.1990-2000) and the post-Internet Era (2000-), with an emphasis on the BDSM community as a political entity and the attacks against it. After that comes a foreword, an afterword, and possibly an appendix on Japanese sadomasochism. My current goal is to finish a presentable draft by the end of 2014, and I actually feel fairly confident that I can achieve that.

In the meantime, I am also editing the Master-slave history anthology.

Feb 192014

I finished Chapter 11, “Unknown Pleasures”, with it coming in at 8,600 words. It covers roughly 1970-1990, including the rise of aboveground kink organizations like TES, Society of Janus, GMSMA, and PEP, as well as the unfortunate decline of the gay male leather culture due to AIDS and other factors. The second half covers kink’s infection of/appropriation by mainstream culture, through music and fashion.

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Dec 312013

Let me come clean and say I didn’t finish a draft by the end of 2013, nor am I particularly close. I am closer to completion, having made significant progress by finishing a few chapters. Furthermore, I have a clearer view of the path ahead.

Currently I’m working on the chapter that covers about 1970 to 1990, the post-Stonewall, pre-Internet era. This will cover the rise of aboveground kink organizations like TES, Janus, Samois, LSM and GMSMA, and how they coped with the AIDS crisis and other challenges. One of the interesting dynamics of this period was how the previous generation of gay leathermen interacted with the new crop of straights, bisexuals and lesbians. The post-1970 BDSM culture was built on the infrastructure of leathermen, both their venues and their expertise. Which is not to say that other communities didn’t have their own stories to tell.

In that light, it’s a bit sad that the relationship was always a bit unstable and didn’t last. In the 1980s, the impact of AIDS and the gentrification of leatherman districts in San Francisco and New York City decimated those communities, and straight/bi organizations basically split off from the leatherman culture.

I’m in touch with some of the founders of TES and GMSMA, and they’ve provided some much-appreciated resources. This is also a bit dicey, as I’m describing people who may still be alive. By necessity, this book will be a broad and not particularly deep.

I definitely think I can finish a draft this year, and then start sending queries to agents and publishers.

Nov 282013

Weighing in at 6,100 words, “The Velvet Underground” covers roughly 1945-1970, including the gay male leather culture; the fetish porn production business centered around NYC with artists like John Willie, Eric Stanton and Gene Bilbrew and models like Bettie Page and Tana Louise; and a little bit about the contact-service-based heterosexual kink scene. I would like to do more about the heterosexual scene as it existed then, but I just don’t have the references yet. Thus, the chapter is a little shorter and rougher than I would like.

I want to cover Story of O (1954), but it doesn’t fit in a chapter largely about American pulp porn. I may need to do a chapter about high literary kink porn, like O and The Image.

The other problem I have to face is I kind of skipped over the 1910-1945 period, apart from a few bits in the fascism chapter, and I don’t have enough material to make a strong theme for a chapter. It would be a grab bag/”and then…” chapter. Friends have counseled me that it is better to admit the limited availability of source material and cover what I can than just skip over it.

Next up is chapter 10, roughly 1970 to 1990, which covers the first aboveground kink organizations and the articulation of the kink ethos; the professionalization of the kink porn industry; the punk-kink dialectic; and the influence on the mainstream, such as fashion and movies like Nine and a Half Weeks.

I think that pushing forwards to a complete draft by the end of the year might be feasible, but it has other values in that it shows me areas I need to research, and just having something I could show to prospective publishers with the caveat “It needs some work.”

Nov 162013

Though it took longer than I thought, I did finally finish chapter 8, which covers the relationship between fascism/militarism and BDSM, roughly running from WWI to the second Gulf War. This chapter cuts across historical periods quite a bit.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I can’t include everything. Much as I’d like to talk about things like TE Lawrence’s kinks or the psychodynamics of fascism in literature, there just isn’t room. I’m telling a story, and that involves deciding what is and isn’t relevant.

Next is chapter 9, which starts with the post-WWII period (early gay male leather culture, the Klaws, John Willie’s Bizarre) and ends circa 1972 (professionalization of BDSM porn industry, first above-ground BDSM organizations). Structuring this chapter will be a little tricky, as there are several different movements in parallel that only slightly interact with each other.

My goal is to finish some kind of rough draft by the end of the year, which means three chapters plus the introduction and conclusion in a month and a half. That looks pretty daunting, particularly as this is the period that I know the least about.

Aug 262013

I had hoped to finish the first draft of Chapter 7 by the end of July, but that wasn’t to be. Once part of a completely overlong chapter, I mainly just knocked it down to 8,000 words and restructured a bit. I removed some redundant quotes, particularly the bits from My Secret Life.

This is mainly about the upper class kinksters of the Victorian era, and how they interacted with the psychological establishment of the era. There was an interesting dialectic between art and science in this period, with artists looking to science for inspiration about the extremes of human nature, and scientists borrowing names and concepts from artists.

Next chapter is “Every Woman Adores a Fascist”, formerly “Age of War”. I’ve decided I can’t follow a linear chronology, at least in this chapter, which covers the Nazisploitation aesthetic and the tenuous links between fascism and sadomasochism, running from at least the rise of fascism in the 1930s to the Italian Nazisploitation film boom of the late 1970s. This is one of the trickiest subjects to tackle, which can be loosely grouped under the heading of “cultural trauma play”, along with raceplay.