Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What Lies Beneath?

Hello, I’m Ashe Barker and I write dirty romances, and can I start by saying how delighted I am to be joining this intriguing group of fellow authors. This is my very first post here and I’m really looking forward to connecting with everyone – readers and writers – in the future and to sharing some thoughts on the world, erotica, things generally. If you want to know more about me there’s a bit more detail at the end of this post. For now, though, let’s talk Costumes…

Some years ago, when my daughter was just a toddler, we went for a family meal at one of those funky play pubs very common here in the UK. You can imagine the sort of thing - they have soft play areas, crayons on the tables and colouring books instead of kids’ menus. There were a bunch of children in our group, all seated at a table close to we adults. The company mascot, one of the staff dressed in a cuddly life-size bear costume, went into action. Brewster Bear, emerged from his hidey hole behind the bar to mingle with the children and suddenly all hell was let loose.

Our daughter went hysterical. The whole screaming, shrieking, blind panic thing. We rushed across expecting broken limbs at the least. Scalds, missing fingers, something, anything to cause such distress. Nothing of the sort – she was simply terrified of poor Brewster who couldn’t scuttle off fast enough.

We have no idea what triggered this phobia, because that is most definitely what it is, and my daughter’s absolute and bone-deep terror of anyone dressed up continues to this day. Now, as a young adult, she can rationalize a bit more. She knows it’s just a person wearing a costume and a mask, and in no way presents any sort of a threat, but her reaction is only marginally less extreme. She will cross the road, leave the room, and on one memorable occasion abandoned a whole trolley of Christmas shopping at a supermarket checkout when a fundraising Santa dog appeared to help her load her groceries.

We’ve spoken about this, obviously, and she can’t really explain. The closest we get is that she imagines all sorts of horrors to be lurking behind the mask. Masks are an integral part of this phobia. Just the costume on its own isn’t enough to set off the reaction, it’s the concealing of the true face beneath which causes the panic attack.

So, we avoid situations which might create the problem, but that’s not as easy as you might imagine. We will never visit Disney World, that goes without saying, but people in animal costumes pop up all over, especially at Halloween and Christmas, and even in everyday life. Religious dress can include covering the face, even the sight of someone wearing a crash helmet can set off the reaction.

So what is it about the mystery of that which is concealed? I guess it goes back to some primeval flight or fight instinct – if it’s not familiar, recognizable and readily understood the chances are it’s dangerous so must be destroyed or escaped. And my daughter isn’t alone in this fear of hers … witness the distressing scene on a beach in Nice earlier this summer. Whilst I can readily appreciate the security concerns which give rise to that level of caution, and however we dress it up and seek to justify our actions, I still find it chilling that we can so easily slip back into our more primitive, fearful selves. Evolution has some way to go still, I suspect.

More about me:
I’ve been an avid reader of fiction for many years, erotic and other genres. I still love reading, the hotter the better. But now I have a good excuse for my guilty pleasure – research.

I tend to draw on my own experience to lend colour, detail and realism to my plots and characters. An incident here, a chance remark there, a bizarre event or quirky character, any of these can spark a story idea.

I live in the North of England, on the edge of the Brontë moors and enjoy drinking Earl Grey tea and the occasional flirtation with pole dancing. When not writing – which is not very often these days - my time is divided between my role as taxi driver and agony aunt for my teenage daughter, and caring for a menagerie of dogs, tortoises.  And a very grumpy cockatiel. 

At the last count I had around forty titles on general release with publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, and several more in the pipeline. I write M/f, M/M, and occasionally ring the changes with a little M/M/f. My books invariably feature BDSM. I write explicit stories, always hot, but offering far more than just sizzling sex. I like to read about complex characters, and to lose myself in compelling plots, so that’s what I try to write too.

I have a pile of story ideas still to work through, and keep thinking of new ones at the most unlikely moments, so you can expect to see a lot more from me.

I love to hear from readers or other authors. Here are my social media links:

Or you can email me direct on ashe.barker1@gmail.com


  1. Welcome, Ashe.

    The fear of what folks keep hidden frightens me as well, considering our upcoming elections. Perhaps the ultimate manifestation of a fear of clowns.

  2. Hi, Ashe!

    I'm so glad you agreed to join our band of reprobates!

    Interesting post, too. It's hard for me to identify, as I've always adored costumes, but I can see that this fear could be quite debilitating. How old is your daughter now? Are you sure she didn't have some experience in her very early childhood that is the root cause?

    Forty titles! Jeez, you've been busy. I still remember your first release... four years ago? Congratulations!

    1. I would think that an experience of that degree would be quite traumatic for a toddler. Sudden childhood shock would certainly have after effects relative to the victim's defense mechanisms.

      Perhaps a extreme manifestation of the fear of the obvious fake. A valuable reaction in life's circumstances.

      And wow, Ashe- Forty titles in four years? Your prolific output is enviable. I'm assuming they're short stories? If novels or collections, I'm bowled over.

  3. Hi, Ashe! Welcome!

    I'm excited to read your posts in general, and this one is really fascinating. While I don't react to masks the way you describe, I've sometimes really freaked myself out by worrying about things like what I would see if I were to turn my head and look in a certain direction. There can certainly be a terrifying element to what could be seen, and fear of the unknown is a longstanding trope.

  4. I can see that for a child who has learned to understand people by their facial expressions, "false" faces could be disorienting and terrifying.

  5. Welcome, Ashe. That is an interesting fear you've described, but it does seem logical. I remember wondering (as a child) why grownups thought clowns were funny, and why they assumed all children love clowns. I wasn't terrified, exactly, just not amused.
    Annabeth, have you heard of the folk belief (not sure which culture) that supernatural beings can't be seen from your peripheral vision (looking sideways)? I had a dream about someone who could only be seen if looked at head-on before I heard of that as a sign that the person isn't human or isn't alive.

    1. Oh wow, that's really interesting, Jean. Evocative and creepy.