An Ace Cover?

I’ve finalised the cover for the third book in my series about a gay polyamorous quad who live in North East England. The house style is  similar to that of the previous two, but there are five silhouetted men this time instead of the usual four. Here it is. Design copyright is Billie Hastie’s of Rowanvale Books:

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Normally, Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil, my gay quad,  are black against a solid background. Introducing a character who is asexual posed a problem. In terms of ace colours, he should be black, not them, and the quad, being allo, should be white. I settled on black for Nick, the asexual detective, and a less saturated black for the quad. So all the colours of the asexual flag are there – black, white, purple and grey – even though, in a sense, they’re somewhat mixed up. The story ends with these colours, too, as they’re the colours of the moorland that frames the little hamlet that’s the focus of the action and is the setting of the final scene.

I’m not aphantasic, but I have no real idea what any of these men look like. I know how my gay quad act, but  they are very vague, physically. I only ‘see’ some basic details – general build, general age, eye colour. I can’t visualise the details at all. The men are faceless. It’s one reason why I like using silhouettes, but, also, the silhouettes let me focus on the grouping. The quad are very  ‘together’ in this story. There are none of the tensions that threatened their harmony in Polyamory on Trial. Nick, on the other hand, is an onlooker. Hence his separation.

The little infinity heart is there, next to my name. That’s just me being silly in a way. It’s a symbol that has featured on both the previous covers and it’s symbolic of the way that the quad run their lives: the infinity sign for honesty and openness, the heart for love and passion. Just like Nick, the quad know that passion (sex) and love are different. Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil may occupy a very different place on the ace-to-sexual spectrum, but each of them has that awareness. If I write Nick into a  fourth story, I may make him see that he has more in common with the quad’s attitudes than he thinks he has and that they have more in common than they think with his.

Please do let me know if you like the cover. My covers are very stark and spartan compared to the majority of M/M genre jackets, but I like them like that. Also, I suppose that what lies inside the cover is never as sassy as M/M usually is, so no titillating bare torsos in evidence. Two little flames at most.

Ace in the Picture will be published at the end of March and will be available in all the major formats. I’ve booked an April slot on Lily Blunt’s brilliant Gay Book Promotions, and I’ll probably also use NetGalley, but I’m happy to offer a copy to anyone who reads this and blogs, vlogs or pods and could thereby offer a little publicity. So, if you’d like a copy, again, please do let me know.

Ace in the Picture tbp by Rowanvale Books at https://www.rowanvalebooks.com

Lily Blunt’s PR site: https://www.gaybookpromotions.wordpress.com

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25 Years of Pictures of Perfection

No poly. No ace. Just a totally self-indulgent frolic for this first post of 2019 and a few apologies e.g. for the many exclamation marks.

Can you remember the first time you came across a queer fictional character  who was integral to the story as opposed to just queerly standing in the shadows and who was represented with affection, displayed  in a positive light? I can and, maybe surprisingly, it was in a Reginald Hill Dalziel and Pascoe story many years ago. I read every single book in the series partly because I’m a fan of the author, but mainly because I wanted to see how Hill developed his wonderful gay detective, Edgar Wield. Snippets here, snippets there, and, in Child’s Play and Death’s Jest Book, a whole sub-plot, but in Pictures of Perfection, one of my favourite books, Sergeant Wield took centre stage. I can’t let the twenty-fifth anniversary of the book’s first publication pass without paying homage to its late author and to Wieldy. The first queer cop I ever met in print rides  into a not-so-sleepy, anachronistically feudalistic Yorkshire village and saves it from the baddies single-handedly. So, apologies.  And this won’t mean much unless you’ve read the story.

Here therefore, with a flourish of trumpets (and the drone of a cello) is The Ballad of Sir Edgar after the style of Squire Selwyn Guillemard of Enscombe Olde Hall.

‘twas in the Spring at Reckoning the story did begin

In days not old, a knight so bold ‘pon bike came riding in.

Dressed all in black, along the tracks of Yorkshire he did race

On Enscombe’s street he felt it meet to slacken off his pace.

He paused to seek tea – strong not weak- with which to slake his thirst.

His mouth was dry. He thought he’d try the Wayside Café first.

No bikers! Tut! Still thirsty, but. He finally rode home.

He’s back next day. How queer! How gay! And this time not alone.

Three came to find a policeman. Mind, the policeman was not lost.

But ancient ways of ancient days were nearly so – such cost.

Guy Guillemard! A man so hard that no one wished him Squire.

Enscombe was saved. Birthright was waived – and Wieldy the denier.

For he stepped forth. Spoke loud to north. To west. To south. To east.

“The Law!” he voiced. Enscombe rejoiced. Wieldy ‘killed’ the beast!

With gratitude, a multitude did hope the knight would stay.

And Enscombe’s charms held tight his arms. He never got away!                

(‘Still thirsty, but’ – a Yorkshireism : ‘but’ = ‘though’) Actually, Wieldy wasn’t dressed all in black. He wore a silver star on the breast of his biker jacket – a lovely touch for a lawman. And he fell in love!!! (Sort of) And yes, I know that my Gay Quad stories feature a biker detective (well, ex-detective) but Wield would never be blatantly out like Mike Angells, nor would he dream of taking the law into his own hands the way Mike does. And he’d never ever be polyamorous! Sorry. Couldn’t help it. Back to normal poly and ace things next time.

Extreme and Maladaptive Dreaming

I’ve sat on this post for ages. I’ve no professional clinical background and I’m reluctant to chat about things I’ve limited knowledge of. Here goes…

When I first discovered the label ‘asexuality’, I was stunned: there were thousands of people who thought just like me! When I read a little more and discovered that I could add a further label and still be one of thousands, I was thrilled. ‘Aegosexuality’ – a term that explained so much, and being aegoace was so very ‘normal’. (Ditto being aegoallo.) So, when I read, a year or so back, of ‘extreme dreaming’, I was equally prepared to undergo another enjoyable little voyage of self-discovery. After some further research, though, I wondered if I’d been right to set off.

I first heard of extreme dreaming on the BBC’s online site. There were interviews with people who, like me, enjoy spending time in a fantasy world. Nothing to do with hallucinations or delusions, and nothing to do with fan fics, sci-fi or computer games either. The situations and the characters imagined existed solely in the mind of the participants, and they all knew it. Some of them, like me, wrote their fantasies down. No problem there. Surely all fiction writers are fantasy prone: how else can a story be realised? I even included a comment about extreme dreaming in the bio in my first novel, Badge of Loyalty

I can see that daydreaming could be a problem for a writer. Foolish to find yourself considering how to extricate protagonists from tricky situations when you’re on the motorway slip road. Real dangers there, not just imaginary ones. Much more sensible to compartmentalise one’s life and regard writing as a hobby or a job with flexible but limited hours. On the whole, that’s what I do–which isn’t to say that I don’t find myself daydreaming at other times. I do. Often. But as I noted in Badge of Loyaltys bio, I lead a very full ‘real’ life: daydreaming hasn’t taken over. I can see how it could, though. If someone’s trip to a fantasy world has greater appeal than life in the stay-at-home one, then they might be tempted to spend an excessive amount of time in a land divorced from reality. Apparently, this happens to some folk, and the term for resisting coming home is ‘Maladaptive Daydreaming’.

The term was coined in 2002 by an Israeli professor of clinical psychology, Eli Somer. In a paper for the Journal of Contemporary Psychology*, he defined MD as “extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning”. Initially, the term described six patients who attended a trauma practice. (That is, they already had clinical diagnoses. In this instance,  a ‘dissociative disorder’ or a ‘narcissistic personality disorder’.) All six had richly developed fantasy lives which they found so difficult to put on hold that real-life relationships, and sometimes work and study, suffered. Hence ‘maladaptive’. Fantasy proneness resulted in behaviour that failed to fit them for life.

Ooops…I can see some points of similarity between Somer’s six M. Dreamers and me: aspects of childhood experience, type of education, the reasons for fantasising, the (often violent) themes that are involved–Badge of Loyalty is brutal at the end. What’s more, there’s that word ‘dissociative’. Is it linked to the ‘disconnect’ described by Bogaert that characterises autochorissexuality/ aegosexuality? As I’ve posted before ( Aegosexuality and M/M fiction: strange bedfellows ), I attribute my interest in the M/M genre in part to having that disconnect. (Painting with a narrow brush there: my interest, not everyone’s.) Should I be attributing my interest to some form of malignant fantasising instead? I began to feel really uneasy reading this MD stuff. But, after all, Somer’s was a qualitative not a quantitative investigation and the participants were already in a fragile state of mind and he was only talking about six people and that doesn’t seem enough to build a theory of phobic behaviour on etc, etc… Does it? I enjoy daydreaming. I don’t want to start thinking that, somehow, it’s an unhealthy way to pass the time.

Well, other studies suggest that there is a difference between dreamers with a history of clinical referrals and dreamers who are more ‘psychologically healthy’. Here is Steven R. Gold’s take on the subject:

“…psychologically healthy subjects use their daydreams in a way that enhances their good feelings about themselves while distressed subjects interpret their daydreams as another sign of weakness, inadequacy, etc.”   (Gold et al. 1986)

The second half of Gold’s sentence definitely describes Eli Somer’s patients. In fact, they found themselves in a feedback loop. On the one hand, daydreaming offered them a temporary respite from the negative feelings they had about themselves. On the other hand, surfacing from their fantasies resulted in guilt, confusion and self-awareness, which reinforced poor self-image and depression. That’s not how I feel about my daydreams at all. I don’t feel guilty about their contents and I’m sure that they’ve never made me feel depressed. On the contrary, I usually experience a self-satisfying sense of creativity when they’ve led to my adding some words to the page. I channel the daydreams into something pleasurable. And I suppose that, in a way, that gets me back to aegosexuality and the words ‘dissociative’ and ‘disconnect’. Similar words, but I don’t think that they mean identical things. (This world of psychotherapy is so very full of arcana.) Somer’s interviewees were dissociative in the sense that there were two sets of identities co-existing in a single person. (Knowingly. They were under no delusions.) They participated in their fantasies as this other person. Power fantasies. They became the charismatic, strong-willed, successful people that, in real life, they knew they couldn’t be. Small wonder that the reality left them feeling inadequate and depressed. My daydreams simply aren’t like that. They take place in the third person, not in the first. They’re the tales of a gay polyamorous quad. They neither involve me nor any ‘super-power-me’. I’m entirely disconnected from the polyam-related sections of the plots. I’m entirely disconnected from the four gay protagonists. I’m not trying to be like them and I’ve no wish to share all the aspects of their lifestyle. (I would like to live in rural County Durham though! In summer, anyway.) It seems to me that mine is a very different sort of ‘dis’ from Somer’s. OK, maybe working out plots that involve men shagging has its own set of problems, but maladaptive daydreaming isn’t one of them.

I do hope that Somer’s six people managed to get their lives back on track. If anyone feels that daydreaming–maladaptive, extreme or otherwise–might be affecting their life to the point that they find that daydreaming has become unwieldy and/or distressing, there is a long-running blog plus forum on the web which offers advice, links and a place to share thoughts and ideas about triggers and taking back control. It’s at http://wildminds.ning.com. ‘Wild minds’. That conjures up so many images…

…………………………………………………..

Novels: Badge of Loyalty and Polyamory on Trial were both published in 2018  (February and August respectively). Paperbacks and e books from the usual distributors and from Rowanvale Books at http://www.rowanvalebooks.com. A third ‘Gay Quad’ story, Ace in the Picture will be published in late March 2019.

*See Maladaptive Dreaming: A Qualitative Inquiry. Eli Somer, Ph.D. Paper for the  Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, Vol 32 Nos 2/3 Fall 2002. It’s downloadable and it contains the Steven R. Gold reference (Originally at Gold et al. (1996), ‘Daydreaming and Mental Health’ in Imagination, Cognition and Personality 6 (1) 67-73. ) Unfortunately, unless you are affiliated to e.g. a university, Gold et al.’s paper costs some money.

Asexual Unawareness in Book Publishing

Here’s the thing: there are several LGBT book publishing categories available to authors and publishers now, but none of them refer specifically to aces.

The categories are used by distributors and retailers to ensure that books are shelved appropriately.  The idea is that a cookery book on “How to fry an egg” won’t turn up in the “How to keep poultry” section. There are two main lists. One is produced by BISG, the Book Industry Study Group. It’s called BISAC. The other is produced by BIC, short for Book Industry Communications. It’s called Thema. The lists aren’t static.  For example, in 2018, two new LGBT categories were added to the  BISAC  options, one applying to books with a bisexual focus, and one to books that are trans in focus. But where does that leave aces? Where does that leave my stories and me?

The protagonists in my latest tale, Ace in the Picture, are, as always, four gay, polyamorous men who are (a) involved in fighting crime and (b) working out the intricacies of their relationship. I could dip into a variety of current fiction categories to describe the genres. For example, BISAC offers both LGBT/Gay and Mystery and Detective. Thema offers an interest qualifier relating to Gay People.

But, but, but… this time, there’s an important secondary character, a detective sergeant called Nick Seabrooke. Nick is asexual.  According to BISAC, the queer alphabet stops at the T of LGBT. There isn’t even a “+” or a “Q”. So, in the BISAC publishing world, Nick Seabrooke, asexual detective,  doesn’t exist. Thema does offer up a Q added to LGBT, but there’s nothing specifically ace. I’m doing Nick, and asexuality, a disservice if I allocate these codes to my book and assume that they cover him too.

As there are no specifically ace categories, there is nowhere to promote an increased awareness of what one type of asexuality might look like. (One type: I know that there are many types of ace.) This seems wrong to me.

I’m trying to do my bit. I contacted the Book Industry Study Group, explained what I saw as a problem, and asked them to consider including an asexual BISAC coding in 2020. I had a quick response. I was sent a form to complete with a request to submit information about relevant titles, publishers and ISBNs.  I posted a request on AVEN, the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, seeking suggestions. (I’ll be honest: I like to write but I’m not an avid fiction reader so I needed some help. A big thank you to the people who responded.) I’ve also written to BIC (awaiting a response) and to anyone else I can think of who might help or be able to suggest a contact. (I’m seriously lacking contacts in the publishing world.)

Any future changes will be too late for me, though: I’m hoping to publish early next Spring. Meanwhile… I’m not going to rely on the LGBT codes for the new book. I might not even use them, and opt for “Love and Relationships” (and “Mystery and Detective” ) instead, placing words like “asexual” into the keyword sections of the metadata that goes to distributors. How distributors use metadata… that’s another (very moany) story.

Any other ideas, do please tell me.

There’s a full list of the current BISAC categories and their codes on the https://bisg.org website. There’s a link to the current Thema codes on http://www.bic.org.uk.

Ace in the Picture will be self-published via Rowanvale Books, hopefully on 31st March, 2019 http://www.rowanvalebooks.com

The truth is hard to write

It’s said that truth is stranger than fiction. It’s certainly harder to write.

Deciding how characters interact with story lines interests me partly because they influence each other. Sometimes, one or both must change. I suppose that some authors have the whole caboodle fully sussed before they touch the keyboard, but I don’t. I know where I’m starting out, and I’m confident that I know how my gay quad will behave and react to events, but the story’s development and denouement, and the minor characters… well, they’re more of a mystery.

Just a month back, I hadn’t fully decided how the plot in my third story would evolve. I had a new character, a detective called Nick Seabrooke. I was sure he was ace, and pretty certain he was homoromantic, but, as I wrote, I could sense his confusion. Or, rather, I could sense my confusion – not as a teller of tales, but because, in some ways, Nick is like me. I don’t mean that the tale is autobiographical. It isn’t, but whereas the quad are figments of my vivid imagination, aspects of Nick do lie much closer to home. And, weirdly, that made him harder to write.

I’d have thought that I’d be more familiar with the workings of my own (female, asexual, aegosexual) mind than that of four gay men, but even at the story’s end – the very last sentence – I wasn’t sure what Nick would do. That is, I wasn’t sure what I would do if I found myself in his situation. Being aegoace, I found it almost impossible to imagine. I’m not used to putting myself in my characters’ shoes. Hence, I’ve left his actions unresolved. I never have this problem when I deal with Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil! I created them. For me, there are no surprises. I don’t mean that I manipulate their actions and responses – a sort of writing puppeteer. I mean that I feel I know them very well. I know that Mike will be driven by the mixture of hardness and softness that makes him, to me, the most interesting and attractive of my men. I know that Ross will  stand beside him, ready to pick up the pieces should he fall. I know that Phil will (usually) be the voice of reason, the one who urges caution, and I know that Raith will be impetuous and impulsive, an artist who is disarmingly artless, but his unpredictability doesn’t make him difficult to write. Nick Seabrooke, though – he was hard to write.

Nick knows he’s ace. No problem there. The ace flag is striped black, grey, white and purple and he’s firmly in the black part. It’s his fluctuation on the aro/ro spectrum that’s the problem though. He doesn’t seem entirely certain which end he inhabits and, moreover, he’s affected by proximity. It’s that old adage “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”. In Nick’s case, it doesn’t. The quad live in north east England. Nick is based in London. As long as he’s several hundred miles away from County Durham, he’s fine.  When the case he’s working on takes him up there, he isn’t. Even talking on the phone sends his thoughts back north. So, far too often for his comfort, Nick finds himself asking: what precisely am I feeling?

It bothers me that I’ve left the ending of the story unresolved. I like tales that finish. I would never read those books that have alternative endings – the ones where you can choose to pursue optional plots and turn to the pages accordingly. I want to be taken to an ending by the author. I think you can put a whole picture into an ending. Go out with a bang, sort of thing. That’s why I paid particular attention to the final two-word sentence of Badge of Loyalty, and to the final paragraph of Polyamory on Trial. And yet, the picture at the end of the third story in the series is clouded. I’m not happy with it, but I would be equally unhappy had I painted it more clearly.

The story is Ace in the Picture. I’m hoping to publish early 2019. For some great photos of  County Durham, all linked to the stories (Text only on Goodreads ) see May 2018 ‘s post County Durham Photos and Fiction 

See http://www.netgalley.com/book/147290/reviews for reviewers’ comments about Polyamory on Trial.

Turbidites and Polyamory? There’s a Link!

Do I need to defend the contents of this post? I’ve been asked about the header image, so it’s arguably relevant. The image contains a lot of grey. That’s definitely relevant.

The west Wales coast, south of a pretty village called Llangrannog.… there are tiny coves and stretches of beach that are only accessible when the tide is out, and I took the header photo on one of those beaches. The rocks are the results of catastrophic landslides. The rocks are known as turbidites. Can’t avoid a little geology here – though why am I apologising? Geology is wonderful!

Sometimes, a major mass of sediment is dislodged by a spectacularly powerful geological event. In the case of turbidites, this usually happens under water and where there is a slope. The sediment increases the water’s density. Gravity and the increased density increase the speed of flow. This denser water races downwards as a fast-moving current —  a turbidity current (a little Latin as well as a little geology: ‘turbid’ from ‘turbidus’  from ‘turba’ — a crowd or a disturbance) and turbidity currents occur today.

There was a huge turbidite flow in December 2016.* It affected Monterey Canyon, an underwater feature off the Californian coast. The details were measured on ‘smart boulders’ (BEDs – Benthic Event Detectors) and some of the sensors, with anchors weighing over a ton, were dragged along for 7 kilometres. The mass of sand and rock caught up in the current kept on moving for more than 50 kilometres. It slipped from a point nearly 300 metres below the sea surface to more than 1,800 metres below. Pretty dramatic stuff. In millions of years, the results might look like the rocks in the photo.

‘My’ rocks were deposited in Ordovician** times, maybe five hundred million years ago. Back then (according to paleogeologists), what is now the Welsh Ceredigion coast was somewhere near the edge of a continent a long way south of the Equator. The continent was moving, perhaps at growth-of-a-fingernail speed, across a shrinking ocean. Eventually, it came up against parts of what are now Scotland, Ireland and North America. They had all been across the ocean’s other side. (Plate tectonics. I love it!) And the movement caused the instability which led, amongst other things, to the turbidite flows. (The ‘other things’ included the volcanoes which produced Snowdonia.)

Nearly all this stretch of coast is turbiditic, current after current gouging out sediment and sweeping the debris out along the sea floor where it finally came to rest in layers. The larger grains settled first. Sands for example. Then finer particles such as muds and clays  drifted through the water column and lay above them. Then maybe for hundreds or even thousands of years, all was quiet – and then it happened again. And again. And in the hundreds of millions of years since then, the layers  became compressed  and, eventually, turned to rock, seeing the light of day when, subsequently, earth movements caused their uplift.

You can see the layers in the photo. The paler layers are the sands, the darker ones the muds and clays. On this particular beach, you can scramble over striped boulders which have been eroded from the cliffs and smoothed and rounded by the waves. Most of the boulders are around a metre long. (Apologies for the lack of indication of scale: I hadn’t intended posting the photos.) There doesn’t seem to be another section of the UK coast quite like it.  So, just because I delight in reminding myself of west Wales and especially of Ceredigion, here are a couple of other photos.

Next time, back to polyam proper, but I hope you enjoyed the little excursion. And no mention of the books till now! I’m very fond of grey. As I’ve posted before, I’m asexual. I wouldn’t, couldn’t write the books I do if it weren’t for the fact that I’m not just ace, I’m anegoace (or aegoace). I don’t think there’s a flag for anegosexuality, but the ace flag comprises shades of grey. So, I think that my header photo is very appropriate.

If you wish to use the photos, fine, but could you credit me, Jude Tresswell, and reference the blog. Thanks.

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Here is a stretch of much deformed cliff, with a few of the boulders at the base.

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*The details appeared on the BBC on-line news 13.12.16

** The Ordovician Period is thought to have lasted from 510 million years ago to 439 million years ago. It was followed by the Silurian Period. Both Periods are named after Welsh tribes. North of the village of Llangrannog, the coastal rocks are still turbidites, but they are Silurian in age.

Asexual and polyamorous?

So far, I haven’t included anyone who’s ace in my books. The protagonists are fictional, and, being ace myself, I’ve steered clear – shied clear – of drawing on my own experiences. The next story does have a character who is, well, a little like me.

I know that a concern that’s common to many asexuals is the prospect of loneliness. I’m not writing that to the sound of violins  with a box of tissues at the ready. Aces can be perfectly happy with the present and future state of their life. It’s just that some aren’t. There are also the aces who don’t live alone, but who have to manage a relationship with someone who is sexual. Because there’s someone else to have sex with, would a non-monogamous lifestyle help in both those cases? (I’m loathe to say an ‘open’ lifestyle. Many polyam relationships are closed, of course – that of my four men, for instance. Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil don’t stray.)

I suppose I’m one of those people who always sees the problems! I can’t imagine poly suiting someone who is nudity averse. Sometimes you can’t avoid coming face to face with a prick or a pair of tits… hot summer mornings when getting dressed’s a chore, needing the loo when someone is taking a shower… Lots of similar scenarios. And how would the three of you (four of you, five of you) deal with the fact that romantic and sexual attraction are totally different? Would A (sexual) be content with cuddles from B (romantic and ace)  when C (sexual) offers up a lot more fun? And if B is romantic, would B feel jealous when A and C are indulging in foreplay together? I don’t know. I do know that it would take some working out!

I haven’t reached the end of my third story yet. Or, rather, I know what the end is going to be, but I haven’t decided exactly how I’ll get there. I’ve a homoromantic ace (As I said, the character is a bit like me – I’m hetero for a start, and female) who strives to analyse an attraction to one of my four men, and who is intrigued by their polyam lifestyle. Would he — he’s happy with the pronoun — like to be part of it? Probably, yes. Would it work if he was? Don’t know. If I’m going to have him in the next story too (assuming that there is one) I’m going to have to do some serious thinking about it.

For info: the first and second books, Badge of Loyalty and Polyamory on Trial, are published by Rowanvale Books Ltd and are available in paperback and ebook formats from the usual distributors and from http://www.rowanvalebooks.com.