5PV: publishing code for aces and aros

Did you know that, until recently, fictitious asexual and/or aromantic people were not represented via genre in the book publishing industry? They are now, and I would like to think that (a little self-blowing of trumpet here) I had something to do with it.

The background: Various alpha-numeric codes are used by publishers and retailers to categorise books into genres and sub-genres. One much-utilised list is generated by BISG, the Book Industry Study Group, a US trade association. Another system, Thema, is multi-lingual and is promoted as the subject category scheme for the global book trade. Thema has interest groups or user groups in various countries and language groups, all of whom represent different elements of the book supply chain. Any suggestions the groups make regarding coding changes have to undergo a stringent validation process by Thema’s International Steering Committee: too many codes would make the system unworkable. It has to be shown that a topic requires a code of its own, that is, that it cannot be expressed via two existing codes. (I imagine that BISG members adhere to a similar policy.)

My involvement: I’m the author of a crime/mystery/ relationships series that features a gay, polyamorous quad who live in County Durham, north-east England. I’m not poly. I’m asexual, and I included a fair amount of own-voice thinking in Book 3. The crime involved a forged painting; the book was Ace in the Picture, published in November, 2019. I discovered that, in terms of publishing categories, aces weren’t in the picture at all! BISG (via BISAC) could offer FICO 11000 ( Fiction/LGBT/Gay). Thema offered 5PS (Relating to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People) and 5PSG ( Relating to Gay People). No ace-rep. No aro-rep. Hmmm… My ace in the picture, a detective called Nick Seabrooke, didn’t exist, and neither, in a sense, did I.

I already had a Book 4 in mind – I’m currently on Book 6 – and, in between developing the characters and the plots, I began writing emails to EDItEUR, the organisation responsible for Thema, and to BISG. I asked people on AVEN* to suggest relevant book titles. I completed forms. I submitted information. I explained, as best I could, why the existing codings were inadequate. I’m pleased to say that, earlier in June, I received an email from a representative at EDItEUR who had kindly kept our correspondence live. Asexual and aromantic (actually, ‘or’ aromantic) were added as qualifiers to the updated version of Thema v1.4 that was published in April, 2020. The code is 5PV: Relating to asexual or aromantic people.

The irony Well, this is a little ironic. I doubt that I, personally, can benefit from the new coding because my work is mainly published by Amazon KDP. Amazon uses a very convoluted form of the BISG/BISAC list and has no specific ace and/or aro classification. (I’ve been told that ace/ aro rep is on BISG’s radar.) However, if you are publishing and using a more general distributor, then at least you know that you can now make it clear that your story features a character who is ace or aro. Hopefully, retailers will pick up on this development and shelve their books and their on-line listings accordingly and thereby make asexuality and aromanticism more visible. Some links below.

My books: County Durham Quad series https://amazon.com/-/e/B07PDGWWPG (Books 3, 4, 5 feature Nick Seabrooke. TW, brief descriptions of sexual intimacy – not Nick – in books 1 – 4) Books 1, 2 and 3 are also available via http://www.rowanvalebooks.com.

The Amazon page also links to Scar Ghyll Levels, a short story about compromise in an asexual/ non asexual relationship. There’s an audio version of Scar Ghyll Levels, with photographs of the Yorkshire setting, at https://youtu.be/M6xSuQ9utWg

Thema : https://www.editeur.org

AVEN: the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network https://www.asexuality.org

County Durham Quad Review Response

I’ve posted this Dennis Lovett photograph before. I can imagine the quad (and Nick) walking over these hills.

Another post about the setting of my mysteries featuring a gay, polyamorous quad. The prompt is a Goodreads review of A Share In A Secret, the fifth tale in the series. The reviewer’s grandmother came from County Durham, and that’s what had caused the interest. As I said when I guested on Brad Shreve’s Gay Mystery Podcast (link below), I’m in no way a skilful describer of scenery, and I don’t particularly enjoy reading scenic descriptions. I do love facts, though, especially geological ones, and I do try to give a flavour of the county in terms of the effect of the rocks on the landscape and on its industrial and social history. A problem with County Durham is – which County Durham? The geology changes as you travel eastwards from the bleakly beautiful moorlands of Upper Weardale to the lovely-in-a-different-sort-of-way North Sea coast. (Have to state ‘County Durham’ because, just to confuse matters, Durham on its own is the name of the county town – a sort of state capital.)

Mike is the only member of the quad who was actually (well, fictitiously) born and brought up in County Durham. He’s from Bishop Auckland and Bishop is a real place. Like so many towns in one part of the county, it used to be a pit town. The lifeblood was coal. Was coal. The Durham coalfield was famous. It was a huge employer, involving those who worked in the collieries and in the heavy manufacturing industries that sprang from them. Coal dominated the economy and the scenery, and I wonder if the reviewer’s granny grew up in a pit town. If so, it would be unrecognisable today. Almost every visual aspect of that life is gone. It was wiped away in the 1980’s for what many feel were purely political reasons, not for economic ones, and nor because of environmental concerns. But nothing sufficiently substantial was put there to replace coal and the industries that depended on it, and the region has never recovered. It has one of the lowest median incomes in the UK and one of the highest unemployment rates. Traditionally, the coal towns were Labour Party strongholds, but, in desperation almost, in the last Parliamentary elections, nearly every constituency went blue and voted Tory. Mike comments on the change in A Share In A Secret. He says that his dad would turn in his grave if he knew how the voting had gone. It’s because Mike feels for ‘his’ people that he’s determined to get to the bottom of the scam that, in the story, is fleecing money out of men who’ve been made redundant as yet another factory has closed.

The quad don’t live in a town on the old coal fields, but in a little village (a hamlet) in the hills of Upper Weardale. Tunhope, Tunhead, Tun Beck… they’re fictitious (as is Warbridge) but places and streams like them exist in and off the valley (the dale) of the River Wear, west of the town of Crook. The photo above is of one such place. Small towns and villages that developed alongside quarries, usually for extracting limestone. Like the coal, the quarrying is nearly all gone now. Tunhead Quarry always has a role in the stories. The quad seem to find themselves in permanent danger there! In Book 5, though, it’s an old, abandoned lead mine that causes problems. Another industry long-vanished. Now, there are caravan sites near the river where the land is flat. And there are sheep on the hillsides, of course – usually, my curly-horned favourites, Swaledales. I have to be honest, I’ve translocated a waterfall! Raith, the artist and ceramicist in the quad, often walks across the hills to ‘Harnell Force’ and paints its gushing water. I’ve the real High Force in mind. It’s a waterfall in Teesdale, the County’s other major river valley. Weardale is beautiful – but it has nothing quite as stunning as High Force.

There are ways to see what the stories’ setting is like. Through YouTube. Any, absolutely any of John Twist’s seamless drone-shot uploads of Weardale will glide you over the kind of scenery my men wake up to every day. And, for the once-coal-based areas further east, there is Kevin Lear. He’s in his sixties, I think, born in Bishop, and he’s a prolific uploader. I’m thinking solely of his The Life of Kevin Lear vlogs, though. (They usually have ‘Durham’ in the title.) In these, he rides his blue bike around the streets and towns he knew in his childhood, reminiscing. TW – some swearing (just like Mike!). And, although it’s Arkengarthdale in Yorkshire, not Weardale in County Durham, there’s my own upload of 200 photos that illustrate the audio version of the short story Scar Ghyll Levels. The story is about two young lead miners, one (like me and my character, Nick) asexual. The area’s geology is similar and so, as in Upper Weardale, lead was mined there too.

It’s very strange. I can see the scenery in my head. I just can’t put those images into words that sound like words in novels. If I tried to, they’d come out like an essay. Best not to attempt it, I think! Some links:

Goodreads link to all works: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17706061.Jude_Tresswell

Amazon buy link for A Share In A Secret http://www.amazon.com/dp/B087B72WG2 (That’s the eBook. Paperback version also available)

YouTube link to audio version of Scar Ghyll Levels plus photographs https://youtu.be/M6xSuQ9utWg

Podcast http://www.gaymysterypodcast.com/550930/3350791-four-times-as-much-mystery-with-jude-tresswell

Gay Mystery Podcast Chat

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to Brad Shreve on his Gay Mystery Podcast. It airs weekly, and he has talked to many writers, famous ones and less famous ones like myself! It was smashing to be his guest, and I really enjoyed it. We covered lots of topics: the motivation behind the novels, the characters, the covers, the challenges… we didn’t discuss the part asexuality has played in developing the content of the plots unfortunately. It was on the list, but the half an hour went so quickly and Brad asked about other items first. The pod was cast (?) on 16th April, and is available on many different platforms. Here’s a link to Brad’s main site, if you would like to listen (or see the full list of platforms and episodes) : http://www.gaymysterypodcast.com . My specific link is below. Sessions always begin with a book review by Justene of ReQueered Tales, and the author interviews start around 5 or 10 minutes in. I love the mini-title to mine (chosen by Brad). He calls it Four Times As Much Mystery with Jude Tresswell – because the stories are about four men of course!

The fourth book in the County Durham Quad series, Body Parts and Mind Games, and the short story, Scar Ghyll Levels, were both self-published on Amazon. They’re priced low – a lot of people are struggling – as are the three stories which were published by Rowanvale Books. I’ll be self-publishing a fifth County Durham Quad tale very shortly (ebook and paperback). It’s A Share in a Secret. I always think of the stories as lying somewhere between a series and a serial (although I do believe each can be read as a standalone) and, as in any serial, past events have a habit of resurfacing. More about Book 5 next time. AS OF 24th APRIL, Book 5 ebook and paperback are now available..

Today, I should be in County Durham, not just writing about it, walking around Upper Weardale taking photographs for YouTube as the backdrop to extracts from the tales. Like everyone else’s travel plans, mine have been scuppered by Covid-19. If listening to Brad’s podcast whets your appetite for seeing the sites that the quad would know well, I can only suggest checking out the 200 or so photographs on the YouTube video of the audio version of Scar Ghyll Levels. (Link below) They’re primarily of Arkengarthdale in Yorkshire, not of Upper Weardale, County Durham, but the geology, scenery and industrial history are similar. They give the flavour of the bleak beauty that I have in mind when I think of the quad’s imaginary village of Tunhead.

I hope everyone can keep safe and well, Jude

http://www.gaymysterypodcast.com/550930/3350791-four-times-as-much-mystery-with-jude-tresswell

Scar Ghyll Levels YouTube https://youtu.be/M6xSuQ9utWg

Amazon buy links https://amazon.com/-/e/B07PDGWWPG

Naming Characters

“Ross. Why Ross, I wonder?”

It’s what a most unpleasant doctor asks Ross, one of the protagonists in the latest County Durham Quad tale, Body Parts And Mind Games. So, why Ross, and why Mike, Raith and Phil, the other three guys in the quad? Promo, plot, personalities, pure fun: they’re basically how I named my men.

Promo: I’ve still got Brexit on the brain. Nigel, Jeremy, Ian and Boris might be suitable names for politicians and party leaders, but they’re too unwieldy for a jacket blurb. I wanted a list that was both smooth and snappy. Something single-syllabled that flew off the tongue. Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil seemed to fit the bill.

Plot: To some extent, the men’s surnames stem from the story lines. English surnames are often those of places, and I needed one with north-east links. I chose ‘Whitburn’, the name of a small town three miles from the city of Sunderland. Phil explains… “If only Ross had had a different surname, not one named after a town in north-east England. Whitburn-Howe. That’s Ross’s surname. He usually only uses the ‘Whitburn’ and that was the part that caused us so much trouble. Within bell-ringing distance of Sunderland, and it rang one bell too many for our comfort.” Not surprising that the villain in Badge of Loyalty, who is from the area, should recall an affair that involved Ross Whitburn-Howe and, in doing so, set a chain of events in motion. I could have chosen other local place names, but Ross is quite a posh guy, which leads me on to…

Personality Does class affect personality? It contributes to expectations and their outcome, so, yes, in a way, and class remains an important factor in UK society. Double-barrelled surnames have traditionally been associated with the posher echelons, so Ross got a double dose of one: Whitburn and Howe. He’s not a snob, though, which is why, as Phil explained, Ross usually only uses the ‘Whitburn’. And the others? Well, Phil himself is by far the most conservative of the other three men (small c – nothing to do with politics). He’s hard-working, conscientious, a respected surgeon… and he often wishes that life were quieter than it is. Poor Phil – always out of his comfort zone! I gave him a good, solid traditional name to suit his character. He is Philip Hywel Roberts. ‘Philip’ is classical, derived from Greek. Phil’s parents are Welsh and ‘Hywel’ is pure Welsh and still in vogue. ‘Roberts’ (together with ‘Robertson’) is a surname with a long history that’s found over much of the UK. There are lots of Robertses in Wales. Philip Hywel Roberts – steady, just like Phil. In some ways, he’s all the things Mike isn’t.

Mike is the tough guy of the group. Biker, ex-cop, risk taker. Even his descriptors contain hard, harsh sounds, and I gave him two in his name: the ‘k’ in ‘Mike’ and the ‘g’ in his surname, Angells. (There are sections in the first two books that, hopefully, ensure that his surname is pronounced as ‘angles’ not as ‘angels’.) Of course, Mike’s hardness is partly a front. He is all the things that his tough-sounding name suggests, but he’s much much more.

Raith is the fourth protagonist. He’s creative. He’s destructive. He’s extremely high-maintenance. He needed an unusual name that reflected his wild personality but mostly, with Raith, it was simply a case of having…

Pure fun I had lots of fun naming Raith, or, rather, Raith Rodrigo Balan (stress on the ‘lan’). Raith’s parents are from South America and my husband had been reading books by Chilean author, Roberto Bolano. (There’s a tilde missing on the final ‘o’: I couldn’t reproduce it in the WP editor.) I played around with the vowels and omitted the last one. As for ‘Raith’ itself (‘ai’ pronounced as in ‘rain’) – I’m a football (soccer) fan. Raith Rovers are a Scottish football team. I’ve always thought that ‘Raith Rovers’ was a lovely name for a football team, so I borrowed a bit of it.

And there’s a further fun Scottish connection, this time with Ross. ‘Ross and Cromarty’ used to be a single Scottish county. I’ve always loved maps and atlases and Ross and Cromarty’s pink blob and far north location always fired my imagination when I was a little girl. It almost wasn’t in Britain! Officially, now, it’s lost its county status and since 1996 has been part of the unitary council area of ‘Highland’. It will always be the separate Ross and Cromarty to me, though, and when I wanted a name for one of the quad, and another for their much-loved home, I chose Ross for the former and Cromarty for the latter. So, that’s “Why Ross?” Nothing fancy – just a bit of fun laced with nostalgia.

Buy details for the novels (both ebook and paperback format) are on my Amazon Author Page at https://amazon.com/-/e/B07PDGWWPG . The first three books of the series are also available from http://www.rowanvalebooks.com . Thank you for reading.

A PS: I recently posted about Rugby Super League team, Wigan, and the team’s response to Catalans Dragons’ signing of Israel Folau. Because of Coronavirus, the match I referred to is off, of course. I hope everyone keeps well.

Jack Dickson’s Jas Anderson trilogy

I wouldn’t know how to write a good book review so this isn’t one. It’s a post around a set of books though: FreeForm, Banged Up and a story I’ve read so often I could probably recite it – Some Kind of Love.

This is probably a damaging admission, but I rarely read fiction. It’s not that I don’t want to, but doing so’s a struggle. I’ve mentioned before that I can’t, for the life of me, visualise my County Durham quad and hence there are silhouettes on all the book covers. (Ditto the cover of Scar Ghyll Levels, which isn’t about the quad) I’ve also mentioned that I struggle with depictions of scenery too. If I’ve actually been to the site of a story’s setting or seen something similar, then fine. If I haven’t, whole paragraphs are meaningless, formless in my non-picture mind. So, it’s no surprise that 99.9% of the books on my shelves are non-fiction and, of the the tiny space that isn’t, well, most of that is taken up with books by two authors: Reginald Hill, who wrote crime novels set in Yorkshire (my favourite county) and Jack Dickson, who wrote novels containing crimes that were set in Glasgow. (I’ve six JD books. He wrote seven.)

I’ve never been to Glasgow, but I know enough about it to feel that Jas Anderson, the hero (Hero? Antihero?) of the trilogy, inhabits a world I understand. There are so many parallels between Glasgow and my own home town, Liverpool. I’ve put that in the present tense. That’s probably wrong. Liverpool has altered from the city of my childhood. I remember it as a busy port with men employed in heavy industry, working class, pub on every corner, crime-ridden, with areas you didn’t go to… just like Glasgow was and possibly still is. And, of course, there was football. That needs to be written in capital letters; it’s so important: FOOTBALL. (This does have something to do with Jas Anderson, I promise!) Both the cities were and are football-mad. Intra-city rivalry: Liverpool and Everton, Celtic and Rangers. The rivalry had roots in religious differences and, in Liverpool, that’s changed. Now, there are teams from other cities for Liverpudlians to hate: inter-city rivalry, the Manchester teams especially. I don’t think it’s lessened so much in Glasgow. There’s no one to threaten the Glasgow pairing; they’re better than the other squads. Their fans are left with being nasty to each other and, in the process, they can keep alive all that old religious intolerance. The initial crime in Some Kind of Love (finally back to the books!) stems from this hatred. Sadly, I feel I understand it. There’s a sense in which I wish I didn’t. Curious fact: one of my idols, Steven Gerrard, ex-captain of Liverpool who grew up about ten minutes’ walk from where I did, is now the manager of Rangers. I imagine he feels as I do: Glasgow is a familiar world.

So why blog about the trilogy now? Because a group of people have got together and formed a company called ReQueered Tales. They’re publishing work that has gone out of print and three of their recent ‘requeerings’ are the three Jas Anderson stories. They published the last one just a week or so ago. Here’s a thing: the new cover for Some Kind of Love features a footy pitch. It’s so much more thoughtfully designed than my old 2002 one was. I know that my own covers are minimalist, but I do think hard about the stance and positioning of the silhouettes. That old GMP cover… well, I thought it was awful, actually. (Likewise, the old Banged Up cover)

Two more things before I close… these books… there are some women in them, but the focus is on men. I’ve posted about this before – often! I can’t deal with depictions of het-norm relationships, nor, in fact, with any sort of relationship that isn’t M on M. If there’s love on the page, it has to be gay. (One of my favourite books – one of my few fic books! – is the exception that proves the proverbial rule. It’s Zane Grey’s The Light of Western Stars published over a century ago. It’s very het-norm, but I’ve sort of erased the heroine and her antics from the story. Who needs her when the hero is the intense and darkly brooding fictional love of my life, Gene Stewart? There’s something of Gene in my Mike Angells although, firstly, Mike is gay and, secondly, he rides a motor bike and not a horse.) The other thing is, you’d get a lot more out of Some Kind of Love if you’d read Banged Up first. The relationship between Jas and Stevie is… well… it’s just lovely (wipes tears), and you would understand it better if you had read the two books in order. I’d better stop or else this will turn into a review. Gosh – a leap year day post! Thank you for reading – Jude

Jack Dickson’s Jas Anderson trilogy: republished by ReQueered Tales whose website is at http://www.requeeredtales.com

My own books: https://amazon.com/-/e/B07PDGWWPG (All 4 County Durham Quad tales in paperback and e-book; Scar Ghyll Levels e-book only. County Durham Quad 1, 2 and 3 also at http://www.rowanvalebooks.com and via usual outlets.) Audio version of Scar Ghyll Levels available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/M6xSuQ9utWg

Wigan makes me proud!

This is an LGBTQ+ based post with refs to rugby, to Israel Folau and to Wigan! Nothing about my polyam quad, but a ref to the e-book and YouTube vid, Scar Ghyll Levels.

I’ve always been fond of Wigan. It’s a town mid-way between Liverpool and Manchester that grew prosperous on coal. It has a soccer team, but in common with many of Lancashire’s and Yorkshire’s old colliery and mill towns, the big thing there is rugby. Rugby League, that is, not Union. I’ve always been fond of the place because I used to live nearby. In fact, both of my children were born there; they’re Wiganers officially. I’m even fonder of Wigan, now – and that’s because of January’s events at Wigan Warriors. They play in the Rugby League Super League along with eleven other teams – and one of the eleven has recently signed a player called Israel Folau.

Israel Folau is (perhaps, was) a hugely popular Australian rugby union star who, in the past, has also played rugby league. I posted about him last April (link below). It had struck me as ironic that, at the very time that I published the short story, Scar Ghyll Levels, Israel Folau was in the news for voicing views that mirrored those spoken by the preacher in the story: people who were gay would go to Hell. Like my preacher, Folau’s views are bible-based. My preacher was talking in the 1880’s though, so I suppose he had a bit of an excuse. In Folau’s case, one thing led to another. Rugby Australia sacked him. He accused Rugby Australia of religious discrimination and took them to court. A financial settlement was reached in December. Some sports personnel came out (bad word choice, or perhaps a very good one) in Folau’s support. The majority deplored his homophobia. And then, late in January, to the anger and dismay of that majority, Super League team Catalans Dragons offered him a one-year deal.

The Rugby Football League and the Super League say that they deplored his previous comments, but that they are powerless to veto the registration of players: the ‘moral responsibility’* resides with the clubs. Even Catalans knew that, morally, they were on sticky ground. They say that they’ve built in safeguards that will ensure that Folau keeps his views to himself. To people who are LGBTQ+ and who are in sport, in fact, to everyone who believes that orientation should be respected, offering Folau a contract of any sort seems to endorse his homophobic views – and Wigan decided to do something about it!

Shortly after news of the Catalans deal was released to the public, Wigan announced that their match against the French side on March 22nd will become ‘Pride Day’. The chair of the club, Ian Lenagan, said that the club felt it was important to say that Rugby League is ‘a diverse and inclusive sport’. * So, the players will be wearing rainbow socks and laces and the club will be inviting LGBTQ+ groups along to help promote equality in the game. This is ‘just’ Pride Day, of course. Wigan has had a proper Pride Parade since 2016. This year’s is on August 8th. I think it’s great that a little town halfway between two giants is going to do this. Good on yer, Wigan.

Sources of information and quotes at * from BBC on-line, 28th January and wigantoday. net , also 28th January

Link to my previous post https://polyallsorts.wordpress.com/2019/04/18/no-choice-no-sin-the-israel-folau-case/ and, in case you’d like to listen to the audio version of the Scar Ghyll Levels story, the YouTube link is https://youtu.be/M6xSuQ9utWg Focus is nineteenth century lead mining/ sexual/ asexual relationship. Spoken to a background of 200 photos of Arkengarthdale, an old lead mining centre in Yorkshire.

Protagonists you could live with & an e-book freebie

Fictional protagonists that is. It’s something I’ve wondered about. Could I live with the four, gay, polyamorous men who comprise my County Durham Quad? I like them all, but would I want to share my life with them? Take Raith, for instance. Artist, ceramicist, and extremely high-maintenance. (Not financially. Mentally and emotionally.) He’d wear me out. Here’s Nick (who isn’t one of the four) expressing echoes of my own thoughts regarding Raith’s relationship with the rest of the quad:

No wonder it takes three of them. They can pass him to the next one when they’ve had enough. He pictured a conveyor belt, Raith travelling along it. Lifted off at appropriate times. Redeposited a little later. Then he felt ashamed of himself: it was an unkind thought.

Unkind, maybe, but understandable. Raith’s lovely, but he’s such hard work!

So, what about Raith’s husband, Phil? Colorectal surgeon. Conscientious, caring, careful. Maybe too careful for me, which isn’t to say that he’s boring; he isn’t, and he has a sense of humour (tho’ I’d have to dig deep to find it). He lives life in a bubble, though. His work and the quad. Nothing else really matters. Phil would always be there when I needed him – he’s very reliable, the antithesis of Raith – but I might want to shake him at times, screaming “Let your fucking hair down!” Phil’s lovely, too, but he’s a bit too ‘safe’ for me.

Mike, on the other hand – biker and ex-cop – is anything but safe. If Phil is a list of ‘C’s, then Mike is a list of ‘A’s – apparently. He’s the action-man. Aggressive. Adventurous. Assertive. In some ways, I really admire him, but I think that I’d find his attributes almost as hard to live with as I’d find Phil’s quiet safety especially as, beneath the genuine toughness, Mike is the most anguished, agonised man in the books. Mike is so intense. He’d sacrifice himself for love – and drag everyone else down with him. In his own way, he’s as much a liability as Raith is. As much anti-hero as real hero. So, no. I couldn’t live with Mike. I am hard to please! Would Ross, Mike’s civil partner, do instead? (In England, there are options: marriage or a civil partnership.)

Ross is bright and lively and clever and friendly. He’s at ease with himself and his lifestyle. He’s very… nice, I suppose. He did a really crass, stupid thing when he was younger, though, and that would worry me. Yes, lots of us do things that, with hindsight, we regret, but it adds a question mark to Ross’s… not reliability exactly. More his scruples. I think that Ross could still act underhandedly if he felt he had to so, no, not Ross either. Oh dear! I love them all as book characters. Their differences mean that they are individuals within a four: they think and act differently; they speak differently. I have fun (and tears) writing about their adventures, but, no, they might love living with each other, but I wouldn’t love to live with any one of them.

If you’d like to read about the quad and see if you’d feel more like having them around the house than I would, their latest story, Body Parts And Mind Games, is available as both an e-book and a paperback. The e-book is free on Amazon from 16th to 20th January (2020) inclusive (midnight to midnight Western Pacific time) tho’ it’s always free on Unlimited. If you’ve already seen refs to it, that’s probably because of the great work done by Lily at Gay Book Promotions, and by Dani and the crew at Love Bytes Reviews. Buy links and links to their sites below. Thank you for reading. I hope you have a very very happy 2020!

All four County Durham Quad books are available via my Amazon Author Page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07PDGWWPG . The first three are also available through Rowanvale Books at http://www.rowanvalebooks.com.

Gay Book Promotions https://gaybookpromotions.wordpress.com

Love Bytes Reviews http://lovebytesreviews.com/2019/12/05/book-review-body-parts-and-mind-games-county-durham-quad-4-by-jude-tresswell/

More ace rep like this please…

Don’t know how many folk know this, but, every month, The Asexual Agenda blog puts out a call for submissions on an ace-related theme. This month’s theme is Literature, Academia and Storytelling, and some of the questions posed by Aria’s Hollow, December’s host, really caught my eye. These three for example: How do you feel about current ace representation in literature? What changes would you like to see? What kind of stories are you most interested in seeing more of? Now, I’m not an avid reader of ace-rep stories, and I think the reasons are connected with my answers to the questions.

Firstly, I want my ace characters to be explicitly ace. I don’t want to be asking the question ‘Are they or aren’t they?’ That might have to be something asked of fiction written before asexuality was a known and talked about orientation (which maybe contributes to my reasons for giving a lot of works a miss) but, for me, please, not now. If the characters are ace, I want to know it. I want to see the word used either on the page or in the author’s note to the reader. No ‘maybe’s. I want to think ‘Oh, there’s something here for me!’

Secondly, I want my ace characters to inhabit a world that’s mundane. By ‘mundane’, I don’t mean (Google search definition number 1) ‘Lacking interest or excitement, dull’, but, rather, definition 2: ‘of this earthly world rather than a heavenly or spiritual one’. I would add ‘nor a fantasy nor paranormal one’ to that. I know that fantasy and the paranormal are much loved and very popular genres, but for some reason that I fail to understand, my imagination will not let me go to either. So, to identify with a story’s characters, to see my thoughts mirrored in theirs (or not mirrored if there is a learning curve), I have to read fiction that is deeply grounded in terrestrial soil. So, what sort of mundane (definition 2) explicitly ace stories would I like to see more of? One theme in particular: navigating a route through an asexual-sexual relationship. The reason is simple enough: it echoes my real-life experience.

I’m switching from reader view to writer view here and asking a couple of questions of my own. In what ways can writers approach the asexual-sexual scenario? What are the possible story lines? In each of the following possibilities, I’m assuming that the ace character experiences some sort of attraction to the non-ace one. Romantic, sensual… something.

People meet, but the relationship fails. Their a/sexual needs are so different.
People meet, and despite a life without sex, they live happily ever after.
People meet, and they compromise. Sex not often, but sometimes.
People meet, and both are poly-favourable. Perhaps there’s a QPR.

The first: my feeling is that this is a likely result irl; it’s certainly one that surfaces on forums. However, I don’t want to read about unhappiness in a story. I don’t want to be left with a feeling of sorrow and sadness. Life is hard enough without being brought down by a broken-heart tale. I want… I want a happy ending. The second plot line then, but how do you write a love story with protagonists who are content to dispense with sex? T. J. Klune managed in the delightful, funny, wonderful How to be a normal person. An ace/non-ace relationship that works, but (big but) there’s a tiny bit of me that feels that the outcome is almost too good, too happy to be true. Most sexual people (I think) do want sex, at least sometimes. I like my fiction to be truthful, if that makes sense, and so I think that sooner or later there would be a need to compromise. Hence, scenario three. But compromise is rarely satisfactory. By definition, neither party is really getting what they want; each is forfeiting something. It’s an idea that I explored in the story Scar Ghyll Levels. Its two young men are striving (and so far succeeding) to make their relationship work, but are either of them truly satisfied? One has sex he doesn’t really want. One has sex, but not as often as he’d like it. It’s a story line that I would like to see explored more often. I think there is scope for some really sensitive character development and for thoughtful navigation through a very tricky situation. (I’m not implying that I managed to do this successfully! Scar Ghyll is just a short ebook and YouTube video. It scratches the surface, no more.) However, the compromise trope necessarily excludes those characters who are sex repulsed or sex averse. How can a writer bring their stories to life?

I really would like to see more tales that focus on polyamory and queer platonic relationships. There is scope offered within those foci to explore situations whereby a sexual’s needs are met, but the ace’s well being isn’t threatened. There’d be boundaries to establish, problems to face, solutions to be worked out… The protagonists wouldn’t find it easy, but, by working together with commitment to the cause, they could reach their goal. These sorts of lifestyle choices fascinate me, and I’ve been working many of the details out in Books 3 and 4 of my County Durham Quad series. I don’t want to give everything away, but I do think Book 4 has an ace and a non-ace happy ending: all the characters get what they want. I’m sure that their future will have difficulties (Book 5?) but a poly/QPR/ace scenario is, for me, an interesting and exciting way to examine an asexual-sexual relationship.

Okay, as this was written in response to a blog request, I don’t wish to offer PR details of my own work directly: it would seem wrong to do so! There are plenty of details on my other Poly All Sorts posts – novel buy links, YouTube link – all there. I will just say that the latest novel, Body Parts And Mind Games (which does contain one short, intimate description) is available as an ebook and in paperback and I wrote it precisely because it’s the kind of thing I like to read and the kind of thing I’d like to see more of! Thank you for reading this – Jude, at Poly All Sorts.

An Ace-happy Solution?

A bit self-promotional, but it deals with a seriously ace issue so… I’ve had a busy fortnight. I finally uploaded an audio version of the short story Scar Ghyll Levels onto YouTube together with 200 photos of the story’s setting. I also released the fourth novel in the County Durham Quad series. Both explore a similar theme: navigating one’s way through a sexual-asexual relationship. (Not the main theme in the novel, but it’s pretty upfront.)

Without giving anything away, if I were the ace in the two stories, I’d be happier with the resolution offered in the novel. Its plot involves my gay quad solving another endangering crime, this time, linked to organ trafficking and far-right nationalism. Detective Nick Seabrooke (the eponymous Ace of Book 3, Ace in the Picture) reappears. How will he react to working with the quad again? How will they react to him? I’m really pleased with the outcome! It isn’t one that would suit me, but I think that it’s right for both Nick and the quad and, yes, everybody’s happy! (Sorry to be enigmatic, but spoilers…)

On the other hand, although Scar Ghyll Levels seems to have a satisfactory conclusion, I’m not sure if, from an asexual perspective, it does (or, even from a sexual one). Both of the men make compromises, one regarding frequency of sex, the other, well… the fact that he has it. Compromise always involves sacrifice and, when the compromise involves a/sexuality, then it’s a lot more sacrificial than backing down on what you want for dinner and decor. Even if one loves the other person, and the two young men do love each other, it isn’t the ideal way to manage a sexual/asexual relationship.

OK, both these works contain refs to intimacy, and both contain one explicit sequence. (At 22 minutes in the video – in the spoken word, that is. The photos are all landscapes.) I’m thrilled to bits with the photos, though, so, if you’re interested in seeing the Arkengarthdale area of North Yorkshire, you could always mute the sound! (Have you seen the film God’s Own Country? That’s filmed in a different part of Yorkshire. Arkengarthdale is equally bleak and equally beautiful. It was a lead-mining area and several photos are of derelict mine buildings: my two young men were lead miners.) Links to the video and to the new novel are below. Currently the novel is an ebook only, but I’m working on a paperback conversion. (Edited 14th November: I’ve uploaded the paperback version. It should be live in a day or so.)

YouTube Audio version of Scar Ghyll Levels: search on sgl asexual audio story or click https://youtu.be/M6xSuQ9utWg The thumbnail is the same as part of the ebook cover, that is, the hellish conditions of the lead mine with the two men reaching for each other. (Buy link for the ebook, which was published in March, is https://amazon.com/dp/B07Q4787J6 )

Buy link for the novel, which is called Body Parts And Mind Games https://amazon.com/dp/B08126BMCH

As always, the characters are in silhouette: I can never imagine their faces!

Is polyamory a choice?

Did you all wake up one morning and decide ‘Let’s be polyamorous’?

That’s what Nick Seabrooke (asexual detective on an under-cover investigation) asks Phil Roberts (colorectal surgeon/ proctologist*) in the soon-to-be-published fourth tale featuring Phil, Mike, Ross and Raith, a gay poly quad from North East England. Phil tells Nick that adopting a polyam lifestyle was both sudden and gradual. Life was becoming messy. The men didn’t cohabit – not for a long time – but, often, all four of them would gravitate to Cromarty. (Cromarty: the name of the quad’s house. A little joke: Ross and Cromarty is a Scottish county.) Phil goes on to explain that it needed a lot of sorting out. There were a great many… not obstacles exactly. Considerations, boundaries to clarify. That’s true of every relationship, but when more than a couple are involved, the need for compromise is surely magnified. For the quad, sorting things out required an awful lot of sitting down and talking.

To me, my four men have a poly mind-set, even if Ross only has intimate sex with Mike and likes to describe himself as a monogamous polyamorist. Is polyamory an orientation, or a choice whose success depends on having the mind-set, the right attitude to being more than two? I let Phil and Raith discuss the question. (Raith is Phil’s husband. Another Scottish connection: Raith Rovers are a soccer team.) In a little pillow talk, Phil tells Raith that he could, probably, handle loving and being loved by one man. Raith tells him

We’re better together. Four of us.

Yes, love. I know that… I’m just saying that, for me, four is a choice, and I’d say it’s a choice for you, too, and for Ross.

I don’t want it to be any other way.

I know, but that’s not exactly what I mean. It’s about what you and I and Ross want, but I think that, with Mike, it’s not a choice.

You mean it’s an orientation? Like being gay, or, according to the stuff I’ve read, like being ace?

No. I very much doubt that polyamory is an orientation. I simply mean that the choice is a narrower one for Mike. I think that he has to love a lot of people and he has to feel loved by a lot of people. It’s not something he wants. It’s something he needs.

I can’t make my mind up about this. Is Phil right? As I’ve written another crime story and not a dissertation, the question couldn’t really be explored, but I am curious. Choice or not? Mind-set or orientation? Don’t know. If it’s a choice, then you wouldn’t want to take it on lightly! I think that people who are involved in a polyamorous relationship must have to work extremely hard at achieving success. It must require enormous patience and tolerance, awareness and empathy, and, above all, a willingness to make an effort. It works for my quad, but as Phil explains, they work at it. But, also, I think the sort of person you are must be so significant. For example, I doubt that a poly would work if its members are prone to jealousy. Does A offer B more affection than they offer C? Does D feel left out of it? B always sides with C and that’s not fair etc. Jealousy leads to resentment and to the sorts of issues that featured in Book 2 of the series, Polyamory on Trial . At one point in the new, fourth story, Ross wonders if Nick’s return will threaten the quad’s stability. He decides that it won’t do so: jealousy had no place in a polyamorous relationship. Each man knew he was loved by the others. It made them secure. It allowed them to dispense with suspicion and mistrust. Things sometimes went wrong; of course they did… Ross thought of Phil’s resentment two years back, and of Mike’s one betrayal of trust, but, neither of those things had made him feel unsafe or apprehensive, or caused him to question the fundamental soundness of the quad. However, if someone is the jealous type – Ross isn’t – then polyamory won’t work no matter how often the others in the group insist that there’s love and no need to worry. Ditto if someone is highly sensitive and takes umbrage easily. I think that the other members have to make everyone feel wanted, loved and secure – which my men always try to do – but, equally, I think that everyone in the group has to have a certain toughness, confidence and strong-mindedness. I don’t think you can carry people in a poly. Members have to have the poly mind-set.

So, it doesn’t exactly seem a choice, for if you have to hold certain kinds of attitudes to be in a polyamorous relationship, then some sorts of people would be excluded or would soon drop out if they tried it, but I’m not sure that it’s an orientation either. Perhaps it all depends on the individual. For three of my men, it seems to be a choice. But Mike, the fourth? I think Phil might be wrong. It seems more than a choice for Mike. Loving more than two, and being loved by more than two is something that Mike needs. If he doesn’t have a choice about his way of loving, then, for him, it’s an orientation – I think.

* proctologist. I’d never heard the term, but it was mentioned in a review of Book 3, Ace in the Picture by Camille for a Joyfully Jay review (joyfullyjay.com). I couldn’t resist using it in Book 4.

Author Amazon Page: https://amazon.com/-/e/B07PDGWWPG Three stories feat. the quad – p/back and ebook – and an ebook, Scar Ghyll Levels (not part of the County Durham Quad series. It is set in Victorian England and describes a gay sexual/ asexual relationship.)