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 . The first three are also available through Rowanvale Books at

Gay Book Promotions

Love Bytes Reviews

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 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 )

Buy link for the novel, which is called Body Parts And Mind Games

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 ( I couldn’t resist using it in Book 4.

Author Amazon Page: 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.)

If I’d known I was asexual…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about ‘ifs’. If I’d known about asexuality when I met my husband, would we have stayed together for so long? Would the relationship have even got off the ground? I’m almost glad I didn’t know; it might have wrecked everything.

Often, I tell myself I wish I’d known I was ace years ago. I spent most of my life believing I was frigid: asexuality simply wasn’t within the vocabulary. I didn’t want sex. I didn’t enjoy sex. I made excuses not to have it and, gradually, sex as in P to V stopped entirely. Perhaps, if we had had the words, we could have found some common ground or ways to compromise. We would at least have had some understanding. But… over the years, our relationship altered, and would have altered regardless of the complications introduced by different sexual agendas: relationships do change. I wouldn’t say that the romantic, fairy-tale, walking-on-air quality of the early years faded, for ‘faded’ seems so negative a word. Rather, it morphed into something less overtly romantic and, instead, more sensual and emotional. Certainly different from how it was originally, when, I now realise, I confused romantic and aesthetic attraction with sexual attraction. Today, there is true friendship, real concern, genuine care. I love my husband to bits. He is my best friend even if, at times, I could gladly strangle him. (Not really.) I have been so lucky to spend my life with him – and I admit that I’m the kind of person who needs to spend my life with someone.

So, I look at the advice that’s so often given on social media platforms and I wonder… You’re asexual. You don’t have to indulge in sexual activities that you don’t want. You should never (strong word) do something you’re uncomfortable with. Establish your boundaries. Tell a potential partner at the outset. Et cetera. In a sense, such advice seems absolutely right to me. Honesty is important. It would be very wrong to lead a partner on with promises you knew you wouldn’t keep. But, what if by following this advice, by being true to yourself, you do yourself out of the chance to develop other aspects of a relationship – the ones that can hold it together despite the problems caused by different agendas. OK, not knowing about asexuality caused my husband and me a helluva lot of heartache, but if I’d had the knowledge, if I’d have set out my boundaries, if he’d have said ‘Sorry, I’m off’… maybe ignorance is bliss after all.

Sometimes, I envy today’s asexuals. There’s AVEN, the Asexual Agenda, podcasts like AOK, YouTube vlogs, WordPress blogs, even books (I include some of my own!)… There are lots of possibilities, in some areas at least, to meet with other aces, dozens of ways to know that there are people like yourself out there and that, no, you’re not a frigid weirdo. Then I think a little more. Perhaps knowledge solves nothing. It simply brings a different set of problems. I just don’t know.

Lead mining in 19th century England

This is a very factual post with no polyamory, a little bit of asexuality, some social history and a lot of statistics. TW: refs to death. Not sure if I should apologise for that, but the blog is called polyallsorts, so..

I get very wrapped up in the characters I create. It’s painful for me to imagine, but the two young men who feature in the short tale, Scar Ghyll Levels, would probably have died by the time they were fifty. By then, they would have been ill, bent and misshapen – a combination of of mining accidents, spending half their lives in cramped conditions and long exposure to consumption, aka TB. ‘My’ boys worked in a relatively dry lead mine, which, maybe surprisingly, would have exacerbated their ill-health. The drier the mine levels, the dustier they would have been, and the greater likelihood of lung damage. Emphysema, silicosis…so Jake (asexual) and his partner, the story-teller (sexual), would have been more susceptible to TB than the people who worked down wetter mines – or who didn’t work down the mines at all.

My story is set in Arkengarthdale in Yorkshire, in the 1870’s. There are really clear stats that show the effects of working down the local lead mines on ill health. They apply to dates that are a decade earlier, but I’m assuming that improvements would have only been gradual, especially as the lead mining boom years were over, and profits and wages dropped accordingly. Little incentive for mine owners to make improvements. The figures that follow are derived from data collected for the Reeth Registration District, in part for census purposes. They apply to the period 1859 – 1861. (Reeth is the town at the junction of Arkengarthdale and Swaledale. It’s been in the news lately because Reeth and the surrounding area suffered bad floods. Bridges down, sheep drowned, property damaged.)

In the story, the narrator’s dad and Jake’s dad both die in their forties. They would have been around 30 in 1861, the time of the census. For a 30 year old miner in the Reeth District, in 1861, life expectancy was 49. So I wasn’t adding drama to the story. Just realism. A non-miner, aged 30, could have expected to live to 62.

Both the fathers die of some form of lung disease. Consumption was by far the greatest killer amongst the miners in the Reeth District. Deaths of males age 10 and older in the period 1859 – 1861 show that 32 miners died of consumption whereas only two non-miners did. That’s an astonishing difference. The worst hit group were the 35 – 39 year olds. Two hundred males in their thirties were registered as living in the District at the start of the period . Statistically, you would expect six of the two hundred to die with the three years 1859 -1861. In fact, twenty men in their thirties died. Eighteen of them were miners. Still young, and dead. What a harsh, harsh life.

I don’t know how much the weather would have weakened ‘my’ boys. I’ve walked over the ridge between Arkengarthdale and the once-prosperous Old Gang Mine and Surrender Mine in the middle of June and I’ve been drenched to the skin by driving rain and nearly blown off the hillside by cold, strong winds. I was wearing proper wet weather gear and it failed to keep me either warm or dry. At least I could place my clothing near a radiator when I got in. Jake and the narrator would have put cold, damp clothes back on next day. (No wonder they cuddled up closely at night. Warmth as well as love.) Bad weather on a diet that just about provided the calories their hard work needed, and was devoid of fruit and fresh veg.

I can only trace the outline of their lives. Its harshness is outside my experience and beyond my imagination. I hate to think of my boys being physically wrecked or dead before their time. I hope they get out of Arkengarthdale. I suppose that, as I created them, I can let them escape, but, for them, it would probably be too late. At the end of Scar Ghyll Levels, they are in the early twenties. They’ve already been exposed to dust and damp and other people’s TB-ridden breath for years. Even if I’d sent them to New Zealand, as Jake wants, they might not have lived for long.

A man who was sexual and a man who was ace managed to find each other, and loved each other enough to make compromises that both of them were satisfied with, even though neither of them understood the nature of the other’s needs…In real life, that kind of love is hard to find. I hope they were the lucky ones. I hope they lived long and were healthy. I doubt very much that they did. I hope they died within minutes of each other.

I have two hundred photos of the landscape and, as I’ve posted before, I want to use them as a back drop to an audio version of the story. There have been some hitches recording the text. Hopefully, I’ll sort this out soon. Meanwhile, here’s one …

Spoil tips and chimney at Old Gang Mine. Copyright Jude Tresswell

Scar Ghyll Levels is available as an eBook from Amazon. My Amazon author page is

There are lots of great books on lead mining. The stats I used are in Mining and Miners in Swaledale & Arkengarthdale by Alan Mills. It doesn’t seem to have an ASIN or an ISBN. I got it from Swaledale Museum.

Aces and Friends: Where’s Home?

(A brief response to Coyote’s request for submissions to the Asexual Agenda’s Carnival of Aces on the theme of ‘Home’)

Lack of time to use the internet a lot, but I regularly check the Asexual Agenda and AVEN sites. Usually on my phone or tablet. Sometimes seated at a desk in front of my PC. I don’t find the desktop set up very relaxing. Putting up with the discomfort has one big advantage when I’m forum-ferreting though: if users wish to offer it, there’s extra personal info. I always want to know the answer to the question, “Where is home?”

Some people inhabit places found in books, or dark spaces of the mind. Others make something wonderful up. They should be publishing poems and stories – there are some brilliant locations. (I’d give some examples, but I doubt it would be ethical.) The majority of users simply state a genuine place you can find on a map. I love geography. Homelands interest me.

It probably comes as no surprise that the asexual (and ace-friendly) community seems to be strongest in the United States and the United Kingdom. At least, it does when I’m looking. I’m sure there are lots of reasons. A time-zone bias perhaps. I tend to be on-line mid-evening, UK time. Not good for catching posters from Australia and Japan. Language bias maybe…although I don’t really think that language is the barrier it would have been, say, thirty years ago. A brief look the other night showed posters living in Poland, Belgium, Sweden and the Czech Republic. All were posting in English. Many homelands are represented – but others rarely or never are.

I can’t believe that the reason is that no one in those missing countries is ace. I’m prepared to believe that they don’t know that they are ace, though. I don’t like to think that there are people who are living with all the problems caused by ignorance of their orientation. Because their political and social and/ or religious systems are so repressed, they don’t have access to information, and they’re denied the comfort that comes from sharing on-line with a community of like-minded people. It’s so helpful to share like that, particularly if actually meeting other aces isn’t possible. However, this blog, or any blog published in response to Coyote’s request, is unlikely to be read by people who live, for example, in mainland China. Mine is hosted by WordPress, as is the Asexual Agenda’s, and I understand that although the WordPress software is unrestricted, all blogs hosted on are blocked there. Ditto if posts go out on Tumblr and Blogger. (Not sure about Pillowfort or Dreamwidth.)

But, occasionally, information does get through. When I last looked, there were over 7,000 posts on AVEN’s Alternate Language Forum (dating back, admittedly) and they included some from China. I shouldn’t have written that sentence. All that’s going through my head right now is Katie Melua’s ‘Nine million bicycles in Beijing’ and, sorry, it’s totally stoppered more blog-thoughts. If one or two per cent of the cyclists are asexual (the usual aces-in-the population figure that’s quoted), that’s a helluva lot of aces on saddles.

the Asexual Agenda:


Wiki has a lengthy article on internet censorship. Dates aren’t current, but under ‘Around the World’ there’s a neat map that shows the degree of restriction, and many links and briefings. For China-specific info, there’s