Monday, October 06, 2014

The Knife of Narcissus Part 5 ~ Guest Blog, Release Day Review and Giveaway

The Knife of Narcissus 5

OK, I said in Part 4 how much Lucius is growing on me. Well, don’t get me wrong but in Part 5 he does some pretty silly things that I could have slapped him for. However, like all friends he just needs putting right and hopefully everything will turn out OK in the end. Still love him though.

Carolyne has been taking us on a Roman journey of discover and today she is talking about slaves in historical fiction. Will be interesting to hear what she has to say, considering what I said in my last review.

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Guest Post ~ Dub-con, Non-con, and Writing About Slaves in Historical Fiction

It’s hard to be true to some historical eras without acknowledging how frequently sex fell into the categories of dubious consent or complete non-consent.

The heart of historical m/m—whom it’s acceptable to love, whom it’s acceptable to show affection to and how, whom it’s acceptable to be intimate with—brings that to the forefront. Rome, for all its reputation for wild orgies and crazy emperors, had a conservative core as wide as anything in, say, the modern United States, and was far less interested in changing that. Two men of equal social status and shared interests might love each other, but there were limited ways they could show it without bringing the anger of society down on them for their lack of manly-man-ness (even though poets such as Martial reported that people secretly, hypocritically did as they wished). A man could, however, feel free to compel someone of lower status into his bed. Non-con was part of daily life.

I went into writing The Knife of Narcissus knowing that a story about mostly ordinary folks in Ancient Rome would be a tough sell (there are no active-duty gladiators or soldiers, no stabbings or poisonings or deadly chariot races...what was I thinking?). I didn’t feel I could afford to alienate any potential readers. The issues around consent in romance, about warnings and triggers, are complicated. How can a person write about an entire era of dub-con and non-con in a way that will work for as many readers as possible?

Each chapter was a new challenge to keep the erotica side...um...lively. I worried about how to depict the Roman world without making its uglier sides feel like they’re part of the sexy-funtimes. Now I can see that, because I had that constraint so strongly in mind, the contrast between consent and non-consent ended up becoming a larger element of the plot. It migrated from being a theme or a tag into being integral to who the protagonist is. I’m glad that happened. It allowed Lucius to grow over the course of the story into a very atypical man of his era. His love for his best friend opens his eyes to the ways in which consenting sex is restricted in their world and non-consenting sex is matter-of-fact. He wants his world to give him consent to love where he wants; he finds it hard to take consent away from anyone else, even if they’re only his slaves.

Decadent sexual games held over from previous imperial regimes are still currency in Lucius’s city, and even the upper classes feel compelled to participate. This is a current he can comfortably swim in, so it’s depicted on the page. He enjoys it, or he’s bored by it, but he’s never non-consenting. For other characters, it’s humiliation—and not the fun kind. That wasn’t the sort of story I was telling, so those incidents stay off the page.

As a reader I’m not against non-con. Stories can be a space for experiencing events and emotions, processing them, understanding them; consenting to enjoy them. As a writer, I feel constrained and very worried about what readers would reject. And about what’s simply unacceptable to depict.

Originally, Lucius’s family slave Arpalycus was going to be in his early teens, perhaps 14. An age when his master might be most interested in taking him to bed, when he’s young, pretty, and vulnerable. When a slave would be most desirable. That would have meant there’d be no physical relationship between Arpalycus and Lucius, and big part of the story would never have existed. Of course fourteen is perfectly old enough to fall in love, physically old enough to be sexually active—and old enough to be exploited and used in a society where masters had complete control over their slave’s bodies. Master and slave might have affection for each other (Martial wrote about this, too), but too much emotion of any kind would be considered tacky. Your neighbours would frown if you mistreated your slaves, but the definition of “mistreatment” was circumstantial and had a broad range. Your scribe might be pampered, protected, welcome in your bed; your farm slave was about the equivalent of an inanimate plough.

Even if there’s affection, a slave can’t consent—there’s no choice in that equation. I didn’t want to glamorise that. Anything that transpires between the masters in the story (Bassus, Lucius, Trio) and the slaves (Arpalycus, Bellerophon, Atalanta, Perseus, Callida, Eurymedon, the girl sold by Fabius the Mover) is by definition non-con. It shades into dub-con for Perseus, who rules the house behind the scenes; and perhaps for women in a marriage arranged against their wishes. I wanted to establish from the start that the relationship between Lucius and Arpalycus, in and out of bed (couch, chair, footstool table, etc. etc.), would be as consenting as possible.

In the end, of all the characters in the story, it’s not the happily married couple who escape the cage of dubious consent and non-consent, it’s not Lucius and Arpalycus and the understanding between them—but it’s the prostitute, who uses her body on her own terms. Lucius is looking for love, but also for a consenting relationship, in an entire society built on non-con. It turned out that looking at the story in those terms, as being about how consent has changed over the ages, was just as interesting for me as thinking of it as being about the forbidden love of two equals.

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Title: The Knife of Narcissus ~ Part 5

Author: Carolyne Chand

Publisher: Self-Published

Release: 6th October2014

Genre: M/M (Historical)

Rating:

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Synopsis

The quest to find his wife’s lover has embroiled Lucius Sentius in corruption and debauchery at a high level. The men he must confront are tied to the emperor, and the price of their help involves a strange game of humiliation. The corruption of a city that shrugged off mad emperor Nero, and replaced him with a new brand of decadence, fits Lucius like a well-draped toga. If he’s willing to wear his new guise.

Velleia has been carrying a secret not so different than Lucius’s own: love lost to distance and circumstance. To help the wife he now respects, he will have to take the risk of becoming the man his reputation claims him to be.

His brother-in-law Aulus’s secrets are just business: a shipment of smuggled goods that is drawing Lucius ever more deeply into dangerous intrigues. And looming over it all, Trio is due to return to the city of Rome.

Whatever secrets Trio is carrying have built a wall of thorns between him and Lucius, a wall Lucius is no long sure he has the means to tear down. Lucius may already be what Trio feared he would become. Revealing the truth of their lives could be too painful for both of them.

Mark’s Review

There are times that I feel I need to give Lucius a good shake. He has now decided to to take it upon himself to make Valleia happy and in so doing I feel has let himself into a deal that he may well regret. Gawd, he can be so infuriating at times due to his innocence in some things. I guess we'll only find this out in the next two parts whether or not he comes a cropper or manages to get everything back in order.

Aulus's cargo has arrived and when he sees what it actually is, is quite shocked and immediately seeks the help of his father Bassus. Once again I just want to shake him as even here I feel he is getting into something way above his head. Lucius exasperates me at times in a paternalistic sort of way. For all of his bedroom Olympics and carnal experience, when it comes to matters of the heart and judging people's character and motives, he still strikes me as incredibly naive, endearing but naive. Again I guess we'll find out later how all this pans out.

So due to all this Lucius is endearing himself to me, more and more and is getting an ever bigger piece of my heart with every part of this story I read. He wants to do good by everybody close to him, but in so doing I get the impression he only really drops himself more into trouble that he's going to regret later.

The big revelation in this part is that Trio turns up on the doorstep after his period away, so will Trio stay? Does he run off again? Will they both finally admit, or at least Trio, the love they have for each other? Well, here you're going to have to read this for yourselves I'm afraid. All I wanted to do was just bang their bloody heads together! The love is definitely there but the pair of them just can’t seem to get it together. It always starts with them both pussy footing around each other and then one or the other says something and BOOM another misunderstanding. I think this is also borne out of total lack of intention too.

Lucius actually says the three words, "I love you." But to who? Well, you had better catch up with the series. I'm sure I'm going to be in for a few more surprises yet before the end of the story though. This one revelation through me for a loop, but when you say “I love you” to someone then that pretty much smacks of commitment, whether it’s for the best or not will remain to be seen.

Things are now hotting up for the final two parts and I'm hooked on finding out how all this works out. As I have no problem with serials, it was nice to read a few books between and then come back to the continuing saga of Lucius. As the release dates for each part are only two weeks apart I feel that this time is just about right for this kind of serial. Would I maybe read an omnibus edition? Well quite possibly, but I feel this way you can reflect more on what Lucius has done and how he has behaved until now before plunging into the continuation. The omnibus edition I reckon would be quite substantial novel in size and therefore I like it that it can be broken up into more digestible and manageable books. You know the feeling when you open your ereader and it says something like 18 hours left in the book – uughh! That for me is the attraction sometimes of serials if they are not so far apart in release dates that you haven’t forgotten the previous books before you start on the current one.  After all there was almost one year between books in the Harry Potter series for example and that didn't seem to put people off. So the two week rhythm here for me personally works well.

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Series Reading Order and Release Dates

In keeping with the serial flavour of the story, I will be reading the series and reviewing the following books in the series on their respective release day. Also Carolyne will be accompanying each release with a guest post on some aspect of Roman life – can’t wait! I’m sure it’ll be absolutely fascinating.

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Release: 24th August

Guest Post: Why a Serial?

Mark’s Review

Synopsis

Lucius Sentius, along with most people in the city of Rome, assumes that the debauched and chaotic days of Nero are behind them now that Rome has settled down under a sober new ruler, Vespasian. Lucius may be only the son of a merchant, but his newly arranged marriage to an older widow will bring powerful connections and an enviable life. If he keeps himself on a respectable path.

That seems impossible when he discovers that his heart lies somewhere not at all respectable: his lifelong friend Trio, the reserved and serious son of one of the most reserved and pious families in the city.

As Lucius is pushed along the course of duty to family, to his promised spouse, and to Rome itself, he begins to see under the surface of his city, into a net of intrigues, manipulation, and corruption that can carry him upward in status and and bring him what he most wants...or destroy both him and the people he loves.

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Release: 8th September

Guest Post: Digging Out the Details ~ Delicious and Dangerous Roman Cookery (with a recipe for ancient cookies)

Mark’s Review

Synopsis

Lucius Sentius had always assumed the debauched and corrupt days of Nero were over. He was wrong. Being celibate and sober may be good for the reputation, but it’s a dead-end path for an ambitious Roman looking to rise to wealth and power in the city.

His friendship with the man he loves has been broken by the flare of passion between them, his wife has a better command of his household than he does, and gossip around the city about his hedonistic lifestyle is growing faster than any actual attempt to be wanton. When his new brother-in-law hires him to take on a mysterious task for a powerful, unidentified patron that requires someone willing to set aside all scruples, Lucius throws himself into a chance to prove his worth.

It’s enough to make a man turn to the gods for help. In Lucius’s case, the one goddess who seems to listen—to the right sort of worship—is Venus....

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Release: 22nd September

Guest Post: Digging Out the Details ~ Clothing, What Does a Roman Wear Under his Toga or How Do You Get Him Out of It?

Mark’s Review

Synopsis

Lucius Sentius, son of a prominent merchant, ambitious young Roman himself, and exemplar of the new generation in a newly strengthened Empire, is building a reputation. Mostly a terrible one, and mostly thanks to a possibly insane poet who has taken an interest in elegizing his allegedly wild ways in graffiti on toilet-house walls.

Notoriety will only keep the man Lucius loves away from him. Trio has fled the city, leaving a tangle of half-truths between them, sending baffling missives. The answers the gods seem to be making to Lucius’s prayers are only more knots to unravel.

Lucius is determined to set at least one part of his life and reputation right—his marriage bed. A few rehearsals first with appropriate teachers seems to be the obvious solution to get past his hesitation. But life and love are never as simple as he would hope. And his wife, Velleia, has plans and secrets of her own.

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Release: 6th October

Guest Post: Dub-con, Non-con, and Writing About Slaves in Historical Fiction

Synopsis

The quest to find his wife’s lover has embroiled Lucius Sentius in corruption and debauchery at a high level. The men he must confront are tied to the emperor, and the price of their help involves a strange game of humiliation. The corruption of a city that shrugged off mad emperor Nero, and replaced him with a new brand of decadence, fits Lucius like a well-draped toga. If he’s willing to wear his new guise.

Velleia has been carrying a secret not so different than Lucius’s own: love lost to distance and circumstance. To help the wife he now respects, he will have to take the risk of becoming the man his reputation claims him to be.
His brother-in-law Aulus’s secrets are just business: a shipment of smuggled goods that is drawing Lucius ever more deeply into dangerous intrigues. And looming over it all, Trio is due to return to the city of Rome.

Whatever secrets Trio is carrying have built a wall of thorns between him and Lucius, a wall Lucius is no long sure he has the means to tear down. Lucius may already be what Trio feared he would become. Revealing the truth of their lives could be too painful for both of them.

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Release: 20th October

Guest Post: Crazy Roman Emperors

Synopsis

The cargo Lucius has smuggled into Rome for his brother-in-law Aulus is enough wealth to power an army, bringing them both to the attention of the imperial family. Now Lucius stands in a precarious position between two dangerous princes, poised to be either a favored courtier or an inconvenience marked for disposal—and forced to navigate his way through the same sexual intrigues Aulus has hinted that Trio, the man Lucius loves, is also a part of.

Trio is still a Gordian Knot Lucius intends to cut open. Knowing now that Trio is caught in more than the guilt of unmanly, un-Roman love for a friend, Lucius sets out with him and their two attendants on the search to find Velleia’s missing slave. In the remoteness of the Campanian countryside, under the looming, smoke-shrouded mountain that commands the skyline, Lucius intends to devote himself to refueling the flame he knows still burns between him and Trio.

Nothing will stand in the way...except perhaps Arpalycus, the handsome and tempting slave who has become for Lucius much more than servant, far more than confidante.

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Release: 3rd November

Guest Post: Put on Your Party Toga ~ It’s Saturnalia Season and The End of the Serial.

Synopsis

Lucius Sentius, along with most people in the city of Rome, assumed that the debauched days of Nero were long behind them. He was wrong.

Swept into the sexual games of powerful men, he has had to navigate intrigues, lies, and rumour on his path to status and respectability. Torn between reputation and love, ambition and obligation, his heart still lies somewhere not at all respectable: a very un-Roman love for his very Roman friend Trio, the sort of relationship that only the most powerful—or the most ignored—may have.

In the course of a summer Lucius has gone from curious innocent to devoted worshipper of Venus, following both his heart and other instincts. But his dedication to the goddess stands between him and what he truly hopes to win. In the remoteness of the Campanian countryside, Lucius tries to refuel the flame between Trio and himself.
He is no longer the person who fell in love. But neither is Trio...

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About the Author

I write things. Strange things. A few short stories have been published under other names. I’m working on a choose-your-own-darned-path adventure set in ancient Rome, because I just can’t get enough of that setting for some reason. I’m tiptoeing around self-publishing a Rome-based naughty novel called Knife of Narcissus. Two other stories set in the same world, but with different characters and at different places on the timeline, are mostly written.

Against everyone’s better judgement, I spend a lot of time writing about swords and sandals. Sometimes I write about Revolutionary War vampires, cross-dressing girl pirates, and elves in spaceships, too.

Connect with the Author

FACEBOOK | WEBSITE | GOODREADS | TWITTER

 

Buy Links

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

All Romance Ebooks

Smash Words

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Giveaway

Carolyne will be giving away one ebook copy of The Knife of Narcissus Part 5. Just enter the Rafflecopter draw below. Good luck X

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5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the chance ilove series

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  2. I enjoy serials, however I hate to wait too long between each of the series:)

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  3. if they come out close together i dont mind serials..hate when i read a book and have to wait forever for the next

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  4. love them just hate waiting for them haha

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  5. I like serials as long as they're not overly long (in book length, that is doesn't exceed more that 10-15 books). I'm pretty patient and don't mind waiting for an installment as long as it's not two or more years.

    ReplyDelete