Monday, March 31, 2014

Just a little update

If you've been paying attention here lately, you know that sometime in the near future, I'm going to give you a free, no-strings-attached deluxe edition of Sleepwalkers with bonus material. Well, I've just finished the first draft of some of that bonus material: a mini-prequel about Angela and Reynaldo (Paul's parents) at Fort Bliss, testing Dreamer on a human subject for the very first time. You might remember that chimps react differently to Dreamer: it doesn't make them horny. So Angela and Reynaldo aren't prepared for what happens when they dose PFC Susan Kelly. I don't think you'll be entirely prepared, either. There are still some things you don't know about Dreamer.

Now, I do have a full prequel planned, and I even have a title for it: "Bliss." But it's going to be a pretty big story, and it might take me a while to put together, so for now I'm giving you "Welcome to Bliss." Don't worry; it doesn't end on a cliffhanger. It's a self-contained story arc and is, I think, scorchingly hot.

I can't wait to hear what you think about it, but right now I don't know exactly when the e-book will be out. You see, I've commissioned someone else to do the cover; and while I'm keeping her identity a surprise for now, I will tell you that the covers she makes for her own e-books are always spectacular. I can't wait to see what she does with Sleepwalkers. Anyway, just keep your eyes peeled for the publication announcement, because the book will only be free for three days - and it will only be free to my blog readers. That's my secret gift to you for all the wonderful feedback you gave me about the story last year.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Out-of-context follies with Clark Ashton Smith

Hervé Scott Flament
I'm still browsing the collected short stories of Clark Ashton Smith, which you can read for free online at The Eldritch Dark or download for free at MemoWare. One of his most famous stories is The Dweller in the Gulf. It tells the story of three adventurers on Mars who are abducted by a tribe of blind aliens and carried into lightless depths far underground. Along the way, they find themselves falling into a a half-ecstatic, half-horrified trance. Eventually they meet the creature causing the trance, but before they do, they encounter its idol, which the humans feel compelled to worship right along with the Martians.

Now, make no mistake: this is a horror story. It does not have a happy ending. But if you take this particular scene out of context, it should be right up your erotic-mind-control-loving alley. Then, if you like, you can read the alternate ending I came up with for the story. It combines elements of  "The Dweller in the Gulf" with elements of another of Smith's most famous works, The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis. But if you choose to read my ending, you'll have to beware of spoilers. First the quote from "The Dweller," then the revised ending.

The place was overpowering, it oppressed the senses, crushed the brain. The very stone was like an embodiment of darkness; and light and vision were ephemeral intruders in this demesne of the blind. Somehow, the earthmen were weighed down by a conviction that escape was impossible. A strange lethargy claimed them. They did not even discuss their situation, but stood listless and silent.

Anon, from the filthy gloom, a number of the Martians reappeared. With the same suggestion of controlled automatism that had marked all their actions, they gathered about the men once more, and urged them into the yawning cavern.

Hervé Scott Flament
Step by step, the three were borne along in that weird and leprous procession. The obscene columns multiplied, the cave deepened before them with endless vistas, like a revelation of foul things that drowse at the nadir of night. Faintly at first, but more strongly as they went on, there came to them an insidious feeling of somnolence, such as might have been caused by mephitical effluvia. They rebelled against it, for the drowsiness was somehow dark and evil. It grew heavier upon them—and then they came to the core of the horror.

Between the thick and seemingly topless pillars, the floor ascended in an altar of seven oblique and pyramidal tiers. On the top, there squatted an image of pale metal: a thing no larger than a hare, but monstrous beyond all imagining.

The Martians crowded about the earthmen. One of them took Bellman by the arm, as if urging him to climb the altar. With the slow steps of a dreamer, he mounted the sloping tiers, and Chivers and Maspic followed.

The image resembled nothing they had ever seen on the red planet—or elsewhere. It was carven of whitish gold, and it represented a humped animal with a smooth and overhanging carapace from beneath which its head and members issued in tortoise fashion. The head was venomously flat, triangular—and eyeless. From the drooping corners of the cruelly slitted mouth, two long proboscides curved upward, hollow and cuplike at the ends. The thing was furnished with a series of short legs, issuing at uniform intervals from under the carapace, and a curious double tail was coiled and braided beneath its crouching body. The feet were round, and had the shape of small, inverted goblets.

Unclean and bestial as a figment of some atavistic madness, the eidolon seemed to drowse on the altar. It troubled the mind with a slow, insidious horror, it assailed the senses with an emanating stupor, an effluence as of primal worlds before the creation of light, where life might teem and raven slothfully in the blind ooze.

Dimly the earthmen saw that the altar swarmed with the blind Martians, who were crowding past them about the image. As if in some fantastic ritual of touch, these creatures were fondling the eidolon with their lank fingers, were tracing its loathsome outlines. Upon their brutal faces a narcotic ecstasy was imprinted. Compelled like sleepers in some abhorrent dream, Bellman, Chivers and Maspic followed their example.

Hervé Scott Flament
The thing was cold to the touch, and clammy as if it had lain recently in a bed of slime. But it seemed to live, to throb and swell under their finger-tips. From it, in heavy, ceaseless waves, a dark vibration surged: an opiate power that clouded the eyes; that poured its baleful slumber into the blood.
With senses that swam in a strange darkness, they were vaguely aware of the pressure of thronging bodies that displaced them at the altar-summit. Anon, certain of these, recoiling as if satiate with the drug-like effluence, bore them along the oblique tiers to the cavern-floor. Still retaining their torches in nerveless fingers, they saw that the place teemed with the white people, who had gathered for that unholy ceremony. Through blackening blurs of shadow, the men watched them as they seethed up and down on the pyramid like a leprous, living frieze.

Chivers and Maspic, yielding first to the influence, slid to the floor in utter sopor. But Bellman, more resistant, seemed to fall and drift through a world of lightless dreams. His sensations were anomalous, unfamiliar to the last degree. Everywhere there was a brooding, palpable Power for which he could find no visual image: a Power that exhaled a miasmal slumber. In those dreams, by insensible graduations, forgetting the last glimmer of his human self, he somehow identified himself with the eyeless people; he lived and moved as they, in profound caverns, on nighted roads. And yet he was something else: an Entity without name that ruled over the blind and was worshipped by them; a thing that dwelt in the ancient putrescent waters, in the nether deep, and came forth at intervals to raven unspeakably. In that duality of being, he sated himself at blind feasts—and was also devoured. With all this, like a third element of identity, the eidolon was associated: but only a tactile sense, and not as an optic memory. There was no light anywhere—and not even the recollection of light.

Now here's my idea for a less horrifying, much sexier ending. Just remember, I'll have to spoil "The Dweller in the Gulf" and "The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" in order to give it to you, so bail out now if you don't want to know how those stories ended.

In Smith's version of "The Dweller in the Gulf," the creature blinds its victims by sucking out their eyeballs. Meanwhile, the creatures in the vaults of Yoh-Vombis encase the top halves of their victims heads, blinding them and turning them into shambling zombies - but they control their victims by eating away most of the victims' brains.

Hervé Scott Flament
In my alternate ending, the Dweller and the vault-creatures have developed a symbiotic relationship which doesn't require them to feed on their victims' bodies. The humans are captured and stupefied by the influence of the Dweller. Then, when their minds are fully subdued, the vault-creatures float down from the ceiling and engulf their heads. As soon as any spark of self-will reawakens in their victim's minds, the vault-creatures suck it away. They live on the thoughts and wills of other creatures and exude their own commands into their heads. But the Dweller lives on worship, and on the toil of the slaves it shares with the vault-creatures. They farm fungi and blind cave animals for the Dweller. And whenever they capture a a new slave, they hold a drugged orgy of devotion to both their symbiotic masters.

*All the art in this post comes from Herve Scott-Flament. None of it relates directly to the stories I discuss here, but Clark Ashton Smith is one of Scott-Flament's influences.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Some excellent mainstream mind control

art by Jeremy Zerfoss
Have you heard of Annihilation? The book, I mean, not the concept. It's the first in a trilogy (all coming out this year, thank goodness - I don't want to have to wait) by Jeff VanderMeer. I haven't read anything else by him yet, but I've heard great things about him and plan to read more soon - including the second and third books in this series. Annihilation has me totally hooked.

I won't try to give you a "reviewer's review" because I know you're here for the mind control, so let me give you a synopsis with enough spoilers to pique an EMC fetishist's interest.

First, imagine H.P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith living today, in or near Florida. He's writing a fantasy/horror novel set in his neck of the woods - only it's not quite his neck of the woods, because in his story it's been invaded by, um, something from what might be another dimension. The Southern Reach, a mysterious organization that keeps sending expeditions into this place, calls it Area X. Half the people who go into it vanish or die, and the ones who make it out sometimes aren't quite themselves afterwards. And yet people keep going in.

Annihilation is concerned with the twelfth expedition. This time the Southern Reach has chosen four women identified only by their roles: the biologist, the psychologist, and two others (I'll bet you can already guess it's the psychologist who practices mind control, right?). The biologist is the narrator, and since she doesn't know why the Southern Reach picked an all-female team this go-around, we don't know either. It doesn't seem to matter much from a plot standpoint, although it did make me think of Tabico's Blue - and not just because of the gender makeup of the team.

Almost as soon as they hit base camp, the researchers discover a stone tunnel with a spiral staircase that leads down to some unknowable depth below the surface (Notice the spiral. If you read the book, notice all the spirals). When the team explores it, the biologist is quickly infected by some sort of alien spores (Yeah, it's that kind of book. Are you excited yet?) that render her immune to the psychologist's hypnosis. All four of them already knew the psychologist had used hypnosis to keep them calm while crossing the border into Area X, but the biologist is the first to realize how deep their team leader has sunk her claws into them.

As a matter of fact, the control the psychologist exerts over the others is far beyond anything a real-life hypnotist could accomplish. It makes me wonder whether VanderMeer is taking creative license or whether the Southern Reach employs some actual technological and/or supernatural method of mind control, maybe something they picked up in Area X and kept to themselves. It's possible. Like I said, this is just the first book in a trilogy; a lot remains unexplained at the end.

Anyway, the Southern Reach knows a lot more about Area X than it lets on. Take the scene below, where the biologist pretends to be hypnotized along with the others so she can see what the psychologist is up to. You won't understand all of what happens here, but you're not supposed to. Not this early in the story. Just ask yourself why the psychologist has to command her team to keep seeing the structure as if it's made of shell and stone. If it's not made of shell and stone, then what is it really made of? Why don't they see it as it really is right from the beginning? And why doesn't the psychologist want them to see it as it really is?

If you're intrigued by the quote below, you can read the whole first chapter of the book over on io9.

Then she abruptly stood and said three words: "Consolidation of authority."

Immediately the surveyor and the anthropologist beside me went slack, their eyes unfocused. I was shocked, but I mimicked them, hoping that the psychologist had not noticed the lag. I felt no compulsion whatsoever, but clearly we had been preprogrammed to enter a hypnotic state in response to those words, uttered by the psychologist.

Her demeanor more assertive than just a moment before, the psychologist said, "You will retain a memory of having discussed several options with regard to the tunnel. You will find that you ultimately agreed with me about the best course of action, and that you felt quite confident about this course of action. You will experience a sensation of calm whenever you think about this decision, and you will remain calm once back inside the tunnel, although you will react to any stimuli as per your training. You will not take undue risks.

"You will continue to see a structure that is made of coquina and stone. You will trust your colleagues completely and feel a continued sense of fellowship with them. When you emerge from the structure, any time you see a bird in flight it will trigger a strong feeling that you are doing the right thing, that you are in the right place. When I snap my fingers, you will have no memory of this conversation, but will follow my directives. You will feel very tired and you will want to retire to your tents to get a good night's sleep before tomorrow's activities. You will not dream. You will not have nightmares."

I stared straight ahead as she said these words, and when she snapped her fingers I took my cue from the actions of the other two. I don't believe the psychologist suspected anything, and I retired to my tent just as the others retired to their tents.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Tenpack of Trixies is now live on Smashwords

Well, that was easy. This morning I showed you some work in progress on the cover (and I added a semi-secret message at the end - be sure to read it, because I'm not repeating it!). I wasn't sure whether I could get the whole e-book finished this weekend, but I did it with more than a day to spare [Edit from a later date: and now I've redone it. It was too easy].

The hardest part about this e-book was the polishing because I made huge revisions to the whole center section of the story. In fact, Chapter 2 is almost an entire rewrite. But all throughout, I've switched characters and situations, reordered scenes, reduced exposition, amped dramatic tension, and...well, let's just say I've done something very special to the social worker. You'll like her. A lot. She'll make some of you dream of cherry pie and cherry stems.

If you'd like to purchase the e-book at Smashwords, the link is here, and you can get 25% with the coupon code JX64Q.


Work in progress

I'm spending the weekend trying to finish the cover of my next e-book, "A Tenpack of Trixies." I have the Trixie herself (or, rather, themselves - the good thing about the Trixie story is that I can just clone this one image nine times) done aside from her legs, so now it's time to create her doll box. But I thought you might like to see her now in all her naked glory, since I'll have to cover her naughty bits for the e-book cover.

As usual, I created this image by compositing several photos from Lex's site HypnoDolls. The body is mostly Rachelle Summers', although I had to Frankenstein it together from various shots. That explains why her legs are wonky. I might or might not have to fix them, depending on how I design the box. Trixie's head is Portia Victoria's, and once again, it's a composite of different shots with some manipulation to make her look more doll-like.

I might or might not get the e-book online this weekend, but it will be out soon, and I will be offering the usual 25% discount for the first month.

Now here's a little secret for those of you who bothered to read all the way down the post. Sometime in the (probably near) future, I'll be putting out a deluxe edition of Sleepwalkers with added content, a fantastic new cover I've commissioned from a fellow EMC writer, and - this is the secret part - you'll be able to get this edition absolutely free. I'm going to be sneaky about it, because I don't want every random EMC fan on the planet to know what I'm doing, but my regular blog readers will know. When the time is right, I'll make a post titled "This Post Will Self-Destruct in Three Days." Read that, follow the directions, and you'll have your free deluxe Sleepwalkers. But shh, don't tell anybody. Let's keep this to ourselves!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Oh, nothing much...just a beautiful description of an orgy

I came across this link a little while ago, and since I have some extra time this morning before I go to work, I decided to read it. I am not the kind of person who'd participate in an orgy, but I wanted put myself in the shoes of someone who would. And I wanted to know how it would feel in real life, as opposed to in a book or movie where everything is glamorized.

This is a description of a real orgy. It's beautifully written, and since my blog and my writing are mainly about sex, I thought you might like to read it too.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I hereby humbly request your input...on art

First, let me give another thank-you to everyone who encouraged me to get into e-publishing. I'm having a lot of fun with it, and I appreciate the little cushion it adds to each month's income. Now, I don't have the energy to do much marketing; but one thing I can do, and which I enjoy doing, is to make better cover art. That's why I'm asking for your input.

I've found all kinds of great tips on the MC Forum's e-publishing board (If you're publishing e-books, I encourage you to get involved there), and recently it gave me some advice on making better covers. I had thought I was doing pretty well, but that thread made me realize I'd overestimated myself. Using that advice, I went back and retouched the covers to two of my worst sellers, "Love in a Silver Socket" and "Mirrored in Your Eyes"; and I was rewarded almost instantly with a new sale ("A" new sale doesn't sound like much, but since these books were hardly moving at all, that one new sale means something).

So now I'm hoping to redo the Sleepwalkers cover yet again. My heartfelt wish is not to spend another week on it and then come up with another "meh" image like what you see in this post. But I think I'll do better this time, in part because I've improved my Gimp skills, and in part because I won't be starting from scratch. I plan to keep the models from the newer cover but reposition them so that they look more natural - and yeah, maybe start over with Hawthorne's body. Again. *sigh*. I also need to start over with her hypospray gun and use a typeface that's easier to see in thumbnail size. Basically, everything just needs to pop more.

So I'm turning to you for advice. It doesn't matter whether you're an artist or not, or how much you even know about art. I'd just like some honest (but kind!) advice about how I can improve the Sleepwalkers cover. What does and doesn't work about the current version? Do you think it would it help to add in some of the background elements from the older cover, or would that just make it look busy? What about the color scheme? I'm thinking about making the new typeface the same greenish-yellow as the gun, but I'm afraid that might look ugly instead of eye-catching. I'm also thinking of making the gun more obviously phallic, but I don't know if that would turn potential readers off instead of on. How would you feel about a gun that looked like a dildo, especially when a woman is holding it against a man?

I really, sincerely, want some honest opinions on this. Remember, I've configured my blog to let anyone leave comments in complete anonymity, and I won't delete anything that isn't spam or trolling. So please tell me what you think.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

All my ebooks are half price this week (and two are secretly free!)

It's "Read an Ebook" week at Smashwords, and I'm offering all my ebooks for half price - this week only. So if you've been thinking about buying something but haven't gotten around to it yet, now's your chance. Just follow the link above, choose whatever you like (as many as you like), and enter the coupon code "REW50" at checkout.

Also, if you've been waiting for a copy of Octopus Vulgaris and/or Willing Subject, you can get either or both of those completely free just by emailing me privately for the coupon code.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Perfectly faceless

Have you heard of Maison Martin Margiela? It's a fashion house so committed to drone-like depersonalization that the labels it puts on its clothes are just a series of numbers. But its biggest claim to fame is the masks you see in these pictures. They turn their models into faceless objects, less than human but oh so beautiful. That's how I see it, anyway.

Let's ignore the fact that a certain famous somebody (who's so conceited already that I won't lower myself to say his name) is a big part of why these masks became famous. Instead, let's revel in the idea of people whose individuality has been stolen from them. These models been reduced to living mannequins, objects of art - and they've been put on display in all their mindless glory, so that we can admire the skill of the ones who made them that way.