Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Life Among Predators - Part II

I’m happy to host Dr. Matthew Scrivens for a return visit. Dr. Scrivens has a Masters Degree in Psychology and a DD in Religion. Last week he talked about his personal experience in treating teenage male sexual offenders, especially a singular predator-to-be. Today he delves more deeply into their criminal minds. 

Let’s just be clear. BDSM and fetishes are not criminal behaviors nor do they—unto themselves—represent any type of pathology. That said, there are two sides to every coin.

Take a term like sadism. In psychiatry, sadism is defined as a person who takes gratification, sexual or otherwise, in causing pain or degradation to others. A friend of mine self-identifies as a sadist. She is not however, a predator. Let me give you a recent example. My friend and I were attending a demonstration of fire play at a local BDSM club. After the demo, we went outside and discovered that her car had been towed. As you can imagine, she was very upset and angry. Jokingly, I said, “I know you’re upset, why don’t you go back in the club and take it out on one of those subs.”

“I never play when I’m angry.”

You see, she understands boundaries and safety. She knows herself well enough to know that she could go too far and hurt someone if she is too emotional.

As another Dom said, “If you break your toys, you can’t play with them any more.”

My friend engages in her sadism in a healthy and consensual manner. A pathological sadist would have gone back in that club and vented their frustration on someone. A villain would be a pathological sadist, someone whose needs are paramount and lacking in consideration for their playmate.

In my line of work, I dealt with a lot of pathological people—human predators, people that seemed devoid of all compassion and empathy. A few were as close to evil without being the Devil himself.

If there is a devil, I’m positive that he or she is gorgeous, charismatic, and sexy because no one with horns, hooves, and claws is going to successfully seduce me down the road to rack and ruin. However, put a sexy, beautiful man in front of me and I probably won’t be thinking with my rational brain.

This principle is particularly effective when it comes to villains. Very little can be as deadly or as effective as beauty to lead someone to their doom. Do you recall the famous last line of the classic monster movie, King Kong? As the beast lay dead on the pavement, a reporter says, “Oh no. It wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.”

Beauty has delivered many a person into catastrophe. One has only to look at the iconic femme fatale in Film Noir—from Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven, and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, to Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, and Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, to name just a few—beautiful women using seduction to lead men into danger, mayhem, and murder.  Yes, an attractive villain can get much further along than one that looks scary.

A good real-life example of deadly beauty was Ted Bundy. He was both charismatic and handsome. He feigned weakness by wearing a fake arm cast. This engendered sympathy and a false sense of security in his potential victims. If he’d looked like a crazy, homeless person, I’m willing to bet that the majority of his victims wouldn’t have been so willing to engage with him.

In my novel Sole Survivor, the serial killer Todd Eldin sees his muscled body as a lethal weapon for seducing and killing. Ironically, I’ve had several readers confide that they were extremely aroused by Todd. He stimulated feelings of both desire and repulsion.

Another attribute of an effective villain is confidence. Have you ever been so clear about the rightness of an action, that all the naysayers of the world could not convince you otherwise?

A common link between all the various perpetrators that I’ve worked with is their conviction that at the time of their crime, they felt justified in the actions they took. One has only to remember the relentless Inspector Javert in Les Miserables to see an example of this twisted conviction at work. There is no mercy or deliberation or contemplation; there’s only the fulfillment of the desire.

In other words, a lion doesn’t consider the impact on the herd when it kills and eats a gazelle. The lion knows what it desires and takes it. The shark does not worry about the feelings of the seal.   The spider doesn’t pity the fly. The same applies to the human predator and his/her victims. They want, so they take:

“The bitch had it coming.” “The fag looked at me.” “If she hadn’t opened the door, I wouldn’t have raped her.” “She said ‘no’ but she really wanted it.” “Nobody disrespects me.”

All the perpetrators I’ve dealt with have reported an absolute conviction in their actions, a single-minded focus. So, everything my villain, Todd Eldin, does directly supports his hedonistic and narcissistic endeavors. His belief, like many of the real-life predators, is based on a perceived innate, God-given right to enjoy the world and its inhabitants in whatsoever manner he desires—for he is superior.

Like most serial killers, Todd sees himself above and beyond society. Throughout the story, he manipulates, taunts, and kills with seeming impunity. An interesting question for the reader is, “Will Todd’s hubris be his ultimate undoing—like it is for most human predators?”

You see, within the inflated sense of entitlement and superiority lurk the seeds of self-destruction. The criminal gets lazy, from too much success (getting away with it) or over-confidence in his or her own abilities. They might begin to believe their own hype. Most common of all, they want credit/acclaim for their actions and reveal (brag) to others of their conquests. This can result in writing letters to the police or media, leaving clues, or just getting sloppy.

For those interested in a more in-depth exploration, in 2013 I’ll be releasing a book through JMS Books the working title of which is Inside the Criminal Mind: a writer’s guide to creating believable villains.

Also, take a look inside a serial killer’s mind in my gay erotic thriller Sole Survivor,  also published by JMS Books:

Two men want Adam Huntington. One wants to love him, the other wants to kill him.

Five years ago, Adam survived an attack by one of California’s most horrific serial killers. The experience scarred him, both inside and out. So to create a new life—one without the world-known moniker 'Adam, the Sole Survivor'—he moves to New York City, where he can be just another face in the crowd.

NYPD Detective Jake O'Malley takes the motto of “Serve and Protect” very seriously in all things, especially in matters of the heart. He’s had enough of cheating lovers and believes in monogamy, respect, and romance. His first date with Adam is a disaster. But when their paths cross ten months later, he asks for a second chance. Despite his large and physically imposing frame, Jake hopes Adam will come to trust and eventually love him.

Todd Eldin sees his muscled body as a finely honed tool, perfect for seducing and killing. When the police begin searching for the killer in a series of sexually sadistic murders, Todd successfully operates below the radar, until he spins a web to catch a more prominent prey—Adam, the one that got away.

Has Adam finally outrun his luck? Can anyone survive the horrors of being caged, beaten and tortured for a second time? Or will Adam be able to use what he learned in California to save himself and his lover? Who will survive this deadliest of love triangles?

~~ Dr. Matthew Scrivens

My deepest thanks to Matthew Scrivens for a chilling look into the mind of a serial killer. Imagine how horrible his villain will be when you read Sole Survivor!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Life Among Predators - Part I

I’m thrilled to have Dr. Matthew Scrivens guest blogging today about sexual predators and the criminal mind. Dr. Scrivens has a Masters Degree in Psychology and a DD in Religion and know knows whereof he speaks. 

First, let me start by thanking the amazingly talented Cris Anson for this opportunity to share some of my experiences and knowledge on her blog. I had the good fortune to spend a three-day weekend with Cris and several other writers at the premiere BDSM for Writers Experiential Workshop presented by Dr. Charley Ferrer. To describe the weekend in one word would be futile, unless “Mind-blowing” counts as one word.

I was both an attendee and a presenter. Based on my educational and work background, Dr. Charley invited me to speak on the subject of “the criminal mind and mental illness.” BDSM is often used in literature as an example of deviant behavior, usually indicative of a disorder. Research doesn’t support such a claim; thus I attempted to show accurate symptoms of mental illness verses fetishes and/or BDSM-type activities.

During my Master’s program in Psychology I received certification in providing therapy to victims and perpetrators of violent crimes.  I was somewhat of an anomaly in my classes. My fellow students were intent on learning all they could to help victims of violent crimes. I, on the other hand, was intent on learning everything I could about the perpetrators.  If this seems odd to you, you aren’t alone. Many of my fellow students as well as a few of my professors found it strange, too.

My reasoning was two-fold.

Firstly, as a child I was the victim of a violent crime. I had spent years healing through self-exploration and therapy. With my personal experiences and the professional training I was receiving, I felt I had a decent grasp on providing therapy to victims. Besides, I was interested in stopping additional victims from being created. It was the old adage: if you put a fence at the top of the cliff, you don’t need an ambulance at the bottom.

Secondly, I felt that if I could understand the perpetrator, I would no longer feel like a victim. In some way, I rationalized if I could make sense of my world, I could once more feel safe in it.

I don’t know if I fulfilled either of my two main reasons for focusing on perpetrators, but I certainly learned a lot about how the criminal mind works. By the way, it’s not a fun place in which to spend time.

Let me set the scene. My professional career began in California’s mental health services. At the time, the profession was still reeling from the McMartin Preschool fiasco—an almost ten-year case that happened at the height of the child abuse/ satanic ritual abuse hysteria of the Eighties and Nineties. The case was based on the bizarre allegations of a woman diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and fed by an over-zealous therapist using highly questionable techniques that ultimately were determined to have coerced young children into making untrue claims through false memories. The resulting trial, considered to be the longest and most expensive in United States’ legal history, resulted in no convictions.

It was under this environment that I worked at a group home for court-mandated teenage sex offenders. Some definitely deserved to be there, and I still worry about them to this day. I had serious questions about whether a few of the residents belonged at the group home or if they were victims of the then current zeitgeist.

One particular resident caused me the most concern. Obviously, I cannot, nor would I, use any real names or identifying characteristics, as all my work was performed under strict laws of confidentiality. So we’ll call the young man Oscar.

Oscar had molested an infant. This, in and of itself, was enough to garner additional attention. However, it was the way he presented himself when he knew people were watching and when he thought they weren’t, that still causes me concern.

At the time I knew him, Oscar hadn’t fully developed his skills of manipulation, but he was hard at work on them. Oscar appeared personable and gregarious, unless things didn’t go his way. Then he would go through three distinct phases. Initially, he would try to cajole with humor. When that failed, he moved to subtle intimidation, using his larger size to imply his power. On those specific occasions when he was determined to gain his goal at all costs, he would become insidious in his attempts to manipulate the younger residents to do his bidding. Through bullying, bribing, and ultimately physical attacks, he worked his way with a single-minded focus.

Scarier still was the way Oscar appeared to troll the streets when the group was out in public. He became a predator; there is no other way to describe it. Oscar was a starving viper and everyone else was food. You could see him assess each potential victim, weighing their value as to what they could do for him: monetarily, sexually, or socially. His head would go down so his bangs would cover his narrowed eyes, but you could see him peeking out, scanning, analyzing. Hands in pockets, shoulders slumped, he’d try to blend in, try to disappear—and Oscar was good at it.

Zeroing in on one particular person—usually female, young, alone, and small of stature—he’d sidle up, make eye contact with a smile, and attempt to engage them in conversation. Whenever I witnessed Oscar’s way of interacting with the world, it never failed to elicit a shiver in me. I knew I was watching a true predator.

You’re probably wondering what I did about Oscar. Honestly, there wasn’t much I could do. Oscar knew the right words to say, the right emotions to express in therapy…how do you convict someone based on gut feelings and nebulous observations? Oscar always expressed remorse and a willingness to change. As I was only one—and the youngest—of various mental health personnel treating him, my observations didn’t hold the gravitas of older, more established providers.

Given the zeitgeist of the time, they were more focused on Oscar being a victim of his difficult childhood. I was more aware of the predator-in-training.

And like any successful predator, Oscar watched, listened, and most importantly learned how to use everything to his advantage—even me. I don’t know what ultimately happened to Oscar; I left my position before he graduated from the program.

Next week, I’ll share what I learned from predators like Oscar, and how I used those things to create Todd Eldin, a serial killer in my gay erotic thriller Sole Survivor.

~ ~ Dr. Matthew Scrivens

Wow! Scary thoughts. My thanks to Matthew for outlining the beginnings of a true predator. Readers, please come back next week to see how Matthew Scrivens weaves chilling facts like these into a truly suspenseful story. On Goodreads, 61% of readers rated Sole Survivor 4 or 5. I can’t wait to read it myself! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Awesome RomantiCon 2012

It seems that everyone on FaceBook who went to RomantiCon already has already uploaded and posted their photos, unpacked their bags and done laundry, caught up on their sleep, and written 5,000 words their first day back. Except me. I'm sooo late with everything.

This techno-nerd did, however, manage to transfer some photos to the computer, so I'm posting a few that came out well. Starting with the "Awesome Author" awards which Ellora's Cave She-E-O Patricia Marks gave to Desiree Holt and me. The design around the star reads "You Make a Difference."

"Cris Anson, Ellora's Cave, Awesome Author 2012"

This award so took me by surprise that I don't remember half of what Patty said as she read off the citation. The gist of it was, Desiree and I both lost our husbands while writing for Ellora's Cave and we came back stronger and sexier (in print, anyway) than ever. In slogging through widowhood and beyond, I've come to appreciate everything life has to offer, especially making new friends and ogling the gorgeous, much younger Cavemen. I do remember that tears ran down my cheeks as I returned to my seat, truly humbled and grateful to be part of the EC family.

With the Cavemen and my Awesome Author Award

As to the rest of the weekend, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's the equivalent of 10,000 words or so:

The 2012 Cavemen posing and having fun

The JillyBelles with our editor, Jillian Bell - photo by Will Duke, Ellora's Cave
Justin Whitfield and Taylor Cole, authors of "Take It Off!", with Kathy Kulig

Kaenar Langford, Joy Harris, Jillian Bell

Kristin Daniels, Caveman Rodney, Kristyn Warren

Rodney always makes people laugh, and I'm no exception
Poi Dancing 101 with a Cleveland Exotic Dance teacher

Heidi Lynn Anderson, Lisa Lee, Caveman Christian, Francesca Hawley
Cris Anson, Caveman Ryan, Cristal Ryder
Cavemen Ace and Nick
Caveman Taylor movin' it!

Caveman Ryan with Fran Lee

Kaenar Langford, Shoshanna Evers, Cassandra Carr

Nicole Austin, my tablemate at the BookFair

Rodney received a special "Ultimate Caveman" trophy, which he promptly noted was three inches bigger than the Alpha Caveman trophy.

Ultimate Caveman Rodney
And last, but far from least, the participants voted for Alpha Caveman of the Year, Nick Soto *sigh*

2013 Alpha Caveman Nick Soto

If I mislabeled anyone, please let me know, and feel free to paddle my butt at next year's RomantiCon (October 10-13, 2013 at the same place, McKinley Grand Hotel in Canton, Ohio).

Which was your favorite Caveman?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Down Memory Lane: Getting Ready for Romanticon!

Instead of my normal Wednesday, I'm posting this early because I want everyone to join in the anticipation.... Please forgive the haphazard look of the photo placement. I still can't get the hang of it!

Romanticon™ starts on Thursday! This is Ellora’s Cave’s fourth annual conference for erotic romance authors and readers. Here’s a look down memory lane: 
Psychedelic Friday - Taylor, Tara, Angelo 2009

The Cavemen in formal attire

The inaugural con, 2009, in Richfield, Ohio, included a psychedelic look at the 1960s complete with mini-skirts, maxi-boots, tie-die shirts, and a pizza-and-bingo party, and an unforgettable experience for three EC authors (Tara Nina, Eve Vaughn and me), who posed with a Caveman for the cover of one of our own books. Gifts and door prizes galore, including an Asus mini-computer and Sony eBook reader. We took over the entire motel and were invited back the following year. 

Tara posed for her own cover 2009

Rodney gets caught at Bingo 2010

Kristin shimmies with Lorenzo 2010

In 2010, door prizes included Kindles, Nooks, laptops and baskets and more baskets of goodies donated by EC authors. Our Cougar Challenge authors hosted a workshop which, among other fun things, paired notable older women with younger men. The best pair.... Raquel Welch and Vin Diesel. We also raffled off an awesome stuffed 3-foot-high cougar. Other workshop topics included covers, sex toys, and writerly things as well as several focused on what readers want. Roaring Twenties dinner Friday. A Tenth Anniversary Celebration on Saturday included the Cavemen dressed as Trek Mi Q'an warriors from Jaid Black’s The Empress’ New Clothes. The bingo party culminated with a craziest hat contest. 

Angelo and Keanu as Trek Mi Q'an Warriors 2010

Some Cougars with their Cavemen 2010

Angelo, Tara (the Twenties Moll) and Jason 2010

Jaid Black, Lisa Grey +Cavemen 2011

Last year we outgrew our hotel and moved to Akron. Again, a mix of writers’ and readers’ workshops—BDSM, flogging, sex games, Steampunk, erotic horror, burlesque and pole-dancing classes, and a public outdoor photo shoot . Friday night 10,000 B.C. and Saturday night futuristic costumes were imaginative and the Cavemen looked awesome!
Flogging lesson 2011

Cindy Spencer-Paper, Michelle Polaris, Kate Poole 2010

Each year, of course, included a BookFair open to the public, at which authors autograph their books. Everyone should bring an extra tote bag (or suitcase) for all the free books and prizes as well as purchases.

This year promises to be just as much fun, at a yet larger hotel in Canton, Ohio. See here for workshops Cris Anson is giving. Friday night will be a celebration, with tears and smiles, of Caveman Angelo’s life. You bet I'll be telling you all about it when I return with new books, new friends and new memories.

Which is your favorite photo?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Getting Naked at Paddles — BDSM: Part IV

Here’s the last of a 4-part series describing my experiences at the BDSM Workshop for the Writers weekend Dr. Charley Ferrer held in August. The venue was Paddles, the longest-running New York City dungeon. Photo used with permission from Michael of Paddles. I'm so glad I had written this weeks ago, because the emotions here are totally opposite those of my previous post.

Nervous? You bet I was. After all, this senior citizen was about to get naked in front of a bunch of strangers in a BDSM dungeon.

All in the name of research.


Being a voyeur on Friday night (see "All Hands on Deck" blog from September 26) was only a taste. Saturday would be a TES party (The Eulingspiegel Society, the oldest and largest BDSM support and education group in the U.S.). With lots of participants. And bystanders. And Traveling Fool (TF), the violet wand specialist who had given our Writers Workshop a hands-on demonstration earlier that day.


I got *ahem* warmed up earlier in the night with my first real spanking (Friday night was just a two-minute taste). Dr. Charley had introduced me to a pleasant-looking, fortyish gentleman who took me aside to discuss my first-time status, quietly explaining what he’d be doing and suggesting the obligatory “Red” and “Yellow” safewords. Then he led me by the hand to a dim loft corner (there are no private rooms, just nooks and crannies), arranged two chairs side by side, and sat down on one.

One of many ways to spank.
With some coaching, I arranged myself belly down across his thighs and rested my elbows on the second chair.  I felt the fabric of my skirt slide up over my butt and the heat of his hand on my bare (well, thonged) skin. Over the next fifteen or twenty minutes he alternately stroked and smacked, softly at first then harder, occasionally stopping the impact to ask how I was doing, never stopping the stroking, the soothing. Always, always there was contact, connection, concern.

Then he called a halt. Um, you’re done? Wait, wasn’t I, you know, supposed to come? He smiled. That isn’t the point, he said. The point was the spanking, the heat, the sharing.


For the necessary Aftercare, he sat me on his lap, cuddling me, talking to me, letting me absorb the stinging heat and, yes, the connection between us. I didn’t see how red my arse was until back in my hotel room. Wow. Not once had I felt true pain. Stinging, yes, but not abuse.

Skirt resettled around my calves, I wandered around, watching a Dom tenderly bind his sub in ropes, stroking, nuzzling, cuddling her, being there for her. Even my untutored eye could tell when she went into subspace.

I watched a Domme flog one of our group, who was also getting first-hand research. To me it seemed too hard and ouchy but she kept stopping to ask if the recipient was okay and always got the green light.

I saw a man abuse his slave with needles and punching and dirty talk while her hands and feet were restrained by thick spreaders, an edge play it was sometimes hard to watch. Definitely not for neophytes.

A birthday party for the rope Dom’s sub came next. Bound and almost naked, she was led to a chair on the small stage. Clamps connected by a chain adorned her nipples. A thin rope connected to the chain was slung over a bar about 8 feet high. The other end of the rope held a paper cup which patrons were instructed to fill with quarters. They did, eagerly. I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks as to the science of it. Diabolical. But I noticed the Dom watched his sub carefully. As soon as he judged her discomfort level to be at her limit of pain—which, she later told us, she bore stoically because she wanted to please her Sir—he swooped up the full, now-heavy cup. Amid a round of applause for the show, a candle-lit birthday cake was brought to the stage and the birthday song raucously sung.

Then it was my turn. TF was ready for me. It was sink-or-swim time.

Deep breath.

I slid my skirt off and sat on the padded bench. Several of my classmates arrayed themselves around me to more or less shield me from passing traffic, and I unzipped my top, took another deep breath and bared all, then quickly snuggled onto the bench, eyes closed, heart pounding in my ears, turquoise thong and black flats my only garb.

Before I ‘fess up to my personal experience with electrical play, let’s go back to our class. TF had described the physics behind the violet wand, that it delivered a jolt not unlike walking over the carpet in dry winter air and feeling the static electricity when touching someone, that the current was less than that of a 9-volt battery. He used a foot switch to power the wands, but technical details are beyond my ability to explain. For more info, go to the International Violet Wand Guild.

He held the wand out for us to feel the tingle, first at low wattage then progressively higher, each of us finding our own level of tolerance to the various sensations. We discovered we could pass it along—each of us touched the person next to her and the current traveled along the route, diminishing but still discernible after five bodies.

TF’s assistant—let’s call him Andy (not his real name)—settled onto the portable massage table in his boxers to be the guinea pig, er, volunteer as we crowded around. TF used various glass attachments (some filled with gases to create a glow of varying colors) to stroke softly or poke more strongly for different effects. He draped a Mylar swag of the type used to decorate Christmas trees and we were urged to touch random parts of it to electrify various spots on Andy’s body. He seemed to have a continuous smile on his handsome young face as we, both singly and in concert, gave him pleasure.

Remarkably, TF observed that he could see my face glow as I watched Andy glow from my efforts. And it was true. Giving someone pleasure provides pleasure as well for the giver. Which is why many of these fetishists and players seek out partners at these scenes.

Which leads me back to Paddles. I tried to relax as TF stroked me with various glass heads or his electrified fingers, but he commented on my tenseness. “I think I’m anticipating,” I replied. What I really meant was, am I really out of my mind to go through with this?

That’s when the handkerchief was draped over half my face, cloaking my vision. Instantly I relaxed, probably because the anonymity it provided gave me permission to give myself over to his ministrations.

In no time I was squirming, writhing, feeling fingers of electricity in unanticipated places, from knees up to my shoulders and places in between. I found myself arching my back to receive more and yet more of the sensation. When he touched my nipples I reacted violently, so he repeated the action, with more and more pressure until my back was half off the mat wanting more. Then suddenly,

“Too much! Too much!”

Instantly all sensation stopped. TF lifted me to a sitting position and enclosed me in his avuncular bear hug, stroking my hair, rocking me slowly, whispering things like “It’s all right,” “I’m here for you,” “I won’t leave you”. From a rocking high I faced an endorphin drop that brought tears to my eyes and apologies to my lips, sorry that I ended his fun, sorry that I couldn’t last longer, that I didn’t mean for him to stop, I should have said “Yellow” instead.

I was told later it took about twenty minutes for that energy flow to dissipate. TF didn’t leave my side until I felt able to stand on my own two feet without assistance. Oops. I couldn’t.

Immediately Doctor Charley appeared in my vision, snapping orders: pull up a chair for her away from the padded table (after all, TF had a waiting list), get her a bottle of water from the bar to rehydrate her, give her a piece of birthday cake for the instant sugar hit. I was done for the night.

No big, since it was nearly two in the morning anyway. I didn’t get to see some of the other scenes, but workshop participant Kathy Kulig is also writing a 4-part series about the weekend, so be sure to go to her blog to read about her own experiences.

Oh, a final note. Climbing into yet another New York City cab, I was first into the back seat. I spied a shiny new penny, face up, on the floor. For those of you who follow Dear Abby, people occasionally report that those are pennies from a loved one in Heaven. I chose to believe that my penny was a sign that my late husband was approving my foray into BDSM. Because I know he’d have been there with me if he could have.

So there you have it. My name is Cris and I’m a violet wand junkie.

Er, a research junkie. Honest. All in the name of my craft. Look for a violet wand scene in my next book *grin*.

P.S. Doctor Charley walked me to my hotel room to be sure I got there safely, checked in with me again after I got home, and wrote me an email after two weeks asking about my mental and emotional state. That’s Aftercare!

What kinks turn you on? What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?