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

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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.

Sequel? Standalone? Both?

My second novel, Polyamory on Trial, went live at the end of August. Writing it posed three main problems, one of which I’d be pleased to hear people’s opinions on.

According to the blurb – and my intention – Poly on T can be read as either a sequel to Badge of Loyalty or as a standalone. Is being both a possibility?

I am, as I’ve posted before, a huge fan of a Scottish author called Jack Dickson. He wrote some standalones (Crossing Jordan, Oddfellows)  but he also wrote a trilogy about a gay cop/ ex-cop called Jas Anderson. By sheer chance, I read the three books in the order they were written. My favourite is Some kind of love, the third in the trio. If I had read the three books out of order, I wouldn’t have been half as satisfied. Some bits of background story do appear in Some kind of love‘s first chapter. Some references to earlier characters are sprinkled across the pages. Had I not already been fully aware of the nature of the protagonists’ relationship, though, and of the events which brought them together… Oh! I’d have missed so much!

And so to my two books.

I’ve tried to get ‘new’ readers up to speed as quickly as I can, working information in around the dialogue, and sometimes, directly, but I can’t repeat Badge of Loyalty‘s story, and I’m very aware that readers who haven’t met my four lovely men before might wonder what the hell is going on. (I think my men are lovely, anyway! A couple of Goodreads reviewers didn’t agree!) The hints and little details serve another purpose, of course. I hope they’ll tempt ‘new’ readers to backtrack and buy the first book.

I’d be interested in general thoughts about this sort of writing dilemma. I’d be interested in thoughts about the degree of success I’ve had in dealing with it.

Badge of Loyalty and Polyamory on Trial both by Jude Tresswell, in paperback and ebook, and published by Rowanvale Books Ltd ( http://www.rowanvalebooks.com )

Tetrachromatic vision: could Raith have it?

As readers of my gay quad stories know, Raith, ceramist, artist and ex-con, sees, not the million or so colours that most of us see, but ten million. He’s described as a tetrachromat. But should he be? Tetrachromats are women. Men aren’t supposed to have that sort of vision. Phil, the doctor in the quad, is explaining why not to the other three:

“You’ve heard of rods and cones?” There were nods of affirmation. “Rods for light intensity. Cones for colour discrimination. Most people have three functioning sets of cone cells. Each set responds to a different range of colours. One set deals with reds. One deals with blues. One with greens. You see other colours in combination.”

“How?” asked Raith. “Where’s the yellow? Blue and yellow make green.”

“That’s paints, love. Light works differently.”

“Oh.”

“So, three sets of cone cells. Trichromatic vision. Now, there’s a gene called the optic gene. It affects the pigments in the eye that respond to light. Sometimes the optic gene undergoes mutation. The gene is on the X chromosome.” Phil waited.

“Ah,” said Mike, as the penny dropped. “Women have two X chromosomes. Men have one X and one Y.”

“Exactly. So a woman can receive the mutated gene from both parents. A man can only receive it from one. The usual result in a man is colour blindness. A woman who has the mutation on both chromosomes ends up with four functioning sets of cone cells instead of the usual three. Tetra: four. That fourth kind of cone results in greater colour intensification and greater colour discrimination. Tetrachromatic vision.”

“But I’m a man!” Raith said. “I’m bi though. Could that affect it?”

“That’s your orientation, Raith. Not your gender. Orientation and gender are different,” said Ross.

“Yeah, but maybe it’s affected my genes. Is being bi or gay or whatever genetic, Phil? Maybe I’m gender fluid. Could I be?”

“Your first question- I wouldn’t like to say. Years ago, I did a lot of research into being gay – just trying to understand myself – or accept myself – but both I and the science have moved on. It’s moving forward every day.  Your second question – no. You’ve never given any indication that you wake up uncertain of your gender. ”

“For God’s sake, Raith. You might go in for a bit of cross dressin’, but that’s nuthin’ to do with your gender. Just your lousy fashion taste.”

“Ha ha. Very funny. So I’m just a bisexual male who, for some reason, sees like women see. Can we get back to my being a terra- thing, please?”

“Tetra, idiot. Not terra. Though thinkin’ about it…”

“You shite! Tetra then. How have I got it if I can’t have  got it through the mutation?”

“Well, ” said Phil, “there must be other reasons, though they’re not fully understood yet. One thing is that tetrachromacy occurs in other species regardless of gender. Birds, fish…it’s almost as though humans have lost a gene which was common in the past.”

“You mean it’s the rest of us who’ve mutated – not Raith!”  Mike suggested, grinning.

“It isn’t funny. But is that what you mean?”

“Perhaps you just haven’t evolved as much as the rest of us have.”

“Fuck you, Mike!”

“It’s sort of what I mean, yes. I don’t follow the research in any detailed way. It’s a very different branch of medicine from mine.”

“Medicine? Am I ill then?”

“No. Bad choice of words. It involves a different aspect of the human body from the one I’m usually acquainted with.”

“Phil’s used to lookin’ up people’s bums not lookin’ into their eyes, Raith. As he says – a different aspect.”

“I know that there can be a lot of variation in the properties of the opsin gene. I do know of one study which suggests that around eight per cent of males presumed to be colour ‘normal’ have sufficiently big variants that they could exhibit extended colour perception relative to ‘normal’ trichromatic males. They might have four photopigments present instead of the usual three.”

“Eight per cent is a lot. Where are all these men? Not in the art world, obviously,” said Ross. “I only know of one other tetrachromatic artist – an Australian woman, Concetta Antico.” 

“It’s thought that two to three percent of women have the required mutation. That’s millions of women. Presumably, the gene doesn’t get switched on for some reason. It must be the same with the men. There’s another possibility, though.  I mentioned the rods before. It’s thought that at low light intensities, the rod cells may contribute to colour vision. They’d give a small region of tetrachromacy in the colour spectrum. The greatest sensitivity would be at the blueish green wavelengths.”

“That is interesting,” Ross agreed. “Raith likes to paint water. He chooses to live in this dark and gloomy part of England. Even at the height of summer, light levels are hardly Mediterranean.”

“And we often get worried about you gettin’ lost on the moors because you’re still out there paintin’ long after dusk,” said Mike….

( text © Jude Tresswell, 2018)

So, it seems to me that Raith could, as he puts it, have this tetra-thing. Concetta Antico is a real painter. You can see her paintings on the net. When ‘normal’ tri-coned folk like me look at them, they seem no different from anyone else’s in some ways. That’s because my eye doesn’t distinguish the colours, doesn’t discriminate between them. In other ways they do look different. They are bright. Astonishingly bright. Imagine looking at peacock and kingfisher feathers – and seeing such intensity everywhere.  I would think it’s overwhelming sometimes, but perhaps tetrachromats are simply used to it. It’s their normal way of seeing the world.

If readers are interested in following this up: see Richer color experience in observers with multiple photopigment opsin genes Jameson. Highnote and Wasserman, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2001, 8 (2) 244-261. It is a Wiki link. Also Sjoberg, M.Neitz, Balding and J.Neitz, 1998 in Vision Research, 38, L cone pigment genes expressed in normal vision. This is referred to in Jameson et al’s research but I had difficulty accessing the original.

For less strenuous reading, Raith and co are the protagonists of Badge of Loyalty (pub. February 2018) and Polyamory on Trial (pub. August, 2018). Both are by Jude Tresswell and are available as paperback and e book from the usual distributors or from http://www.rowanvalebooks.com .

Viability of Polyam Lifestyles

I’ve already blogged about the gay Colombian throuple who inspired my stories. Here, I’m digging deeper into why I’m intrigued by their lifestyle.

I’ve partnered one man for many years, but I can see that, if I shared my life with other people too, some problems (‘challenges’ is just euphemistic to me) could be overcome more easily. The sort of things I pick up on in the stories, really: someone else to discuss issues with, someone else who’ll offer and provide emotional support and sex, someone else to go a walk with, to see a film with…someone else to ask.

I can see that the fact that there’s ‘more than one’ creates some problems too: ganging up and taking sides, making decisions democratically, finding the time to get together to talk… I doubt it’s easy to make a poly relationship work. I reckon it takes a great deal of effort and a lot of commitment, especially if it’s the kind of closed relationship my four men have.

I think that the thing that might affect the lifestyle’s viability the most, though, is the one that’s indicated by the terminology that has grown up around polyamory. Yes, the grouping might comprise several people, but there will be a ‘primary pairing’ and, by default in a quad, a ‘secondary’ one. I don’t see how this distinction can be avoided. Presumably, a relationship is begun by two, then further folk are added. How would it feel to be these additions? How can the primary pair ensure that the people who arrive later feel equal? This is the issue I have tried to explore in Polyamory on Trial. I arrived at a solution, but I’m not happy with it. I need to rephrase that. I’m happy with the story. (I’d probably give it 4 stars on Goodreads. There’s always room for improvement, so not the full five.) I’d like to think that there were alternative endings though – other means of dealing with the dynamics that arise when pairings are primary and secondary. My problem is that I can’t think of any.

I know that my stories are difficult to classify (Keith John Glaeske said so when he reviewed Badge of Loyalty for Out in Print in April, and some Goodreads reviewers feel likewise) but I doubt that B of L’s sequel will be read by many people who adopt the poly lifestyle. For me, that’s a real shame. I would like to know if I have accurately described  the tensions that might arise. Perhaps I’m making mountains out of molehills, but I think that I would feel as Phil, one of my four men, does. When life is going well, problems seem small and manageable, but when it isn’t…

Polyamory on Trial will be published at the end of August. Just a few weeks away! In fact, I’ve just finished reading the proof. I might have to write a sequel of a sequel – if I can think of ways to solve my dilemma. No bright ideas at the moment.

A note to Goodreads users. Most of my posts have photos and images. They show as errors on the Goodreads link unfortunately but are fine on WordPress.com’s own site.