Well, it’s been a long while since I last had something new out. I’ve actually been working away behind the scenes for most of that time, and I have six new things to offer in total. (Number six is on chapter 31 of 36, so I’m counting it as near to finished as makes no odds. Barring acts of God and accidental death, I expect it to be finished in August.)
It’s always a bit frustrating when you’re beavering away and yet as far as the rest of the world is concerned, you’re doing nothing. So I’m delighted and relieved to be able to announce the near arrival of the first of the six. This one is Labyrinth – a historical novella set in Minoan Crete, featuring genderqueer inventor Kikeru, bisexual ship owner Rusa, Kikeru’s ace mum Maja and Rusa’s aromantic daughter Jadikira.
I have seen cover art and it is truly awesome. I can’t express how pleased I am with it. However, I also can’t show it to you yet because Riptide want to be the ones who reveal it to the world. So here is a flirty little glimpse of the upper right hand corner!
Kikeru, the child of a priestess at the sacred temple of Knossos in ancient Crete, believes that the goddesses are laughing at him. They expect him to choose whether he is a man or a woman, when he’s both. They expect him to choose whether to be a husband to a wife, or a celibate priestess in the temple, when all he wants to do is invent things and be with the person he loves.
Unfortunately, that person is Rusa, the handsome ship owner who is most decidedly a man and therefore off-limits no matter what he chooses. And did he mention that the goddesses also expect him to avert war with the Greeks?
The Greeks have an army. Kikeru has his mother, Maja, who is pressuring him to give her grandchildren; Jadikira, Rusa’s pregnant daughter; and superstitious Rusa, who is terrified of what the goddesses will think of him being in love with one of their chosen ones.
It’s a tall order to save Crete from conquest, win his love, and keep both halves of himself. Luckily, at least the daemons are on his side.
I must do a post about the research that went into it, because it certainly seems like a lovely place to have lived, and you can’t say that about many ancient civilizations. I must also go and put up a page for it on my website!
And lastly of all, I ought to mention that it’s now available for pre-order here 🙂
Hwaet! I was on Twitter the other day when I intercepted a tweet from Dvorah saying “My next book is going to feature an asexual character, so if anyone has suggestions for what to do/not to do, I’d love to talk about it!”
My first thought was “I am an asexual and I have written a novel featuring an asexual character, which several people have told me represented the ace experience recognizably well. I could probably help!” So I said as much. Dvorah said “I’m mainly trying to get a sense of any big Nonos for writing ace, and the commonalities among differing experiences,” which struck me as something I could do, so I started typing out my first thoughts on the subject.
But then my second thoughts were “but I already know that I can’t speak for all aces any more than one person could speak for all straight people.” I’ve been in enough inter-ace disputes by now to know that we’re really diverse as a grouping.
So then I thought “Well, perhaps what I should do is type up my own thoughts, and then put the whole thing on my blog so that other aces could join in and speak up for themselves.” And that’s where I find myself now.
Below is my response to the initial query, unfiltered through my second thoughts, but I invite any other aces who might be reading to weigh in with their own takes, and either correct me, back me up, or add things I’ve overlooked, as necessary.
Off the top of my head I would say the things to avoid were any assumption that an ace character must be inhuman in some way – where we are depicted at all it’s often as robots or aliens or childlike innocent beings whose understanding of the complexities of life are poor. We’re not cold and unemotional. We’re not incapable of having crushes and starry eyed romantic feelings (unless we’re also aromantic, which presumably isn’t the case for your character.)
On the other side of things we are missing that orientation towards sex with other people that other orientations have. So we’re unlikely to ever be checking anyone out, sexually. We’re usually going to be completely unaware of how others react to us sexually. We’ll put on nice clothes to look smart and well dressed, and be surprised when that equates to other people as ‘trying to look sexy’ – because sexiness is just not on our minds as a thing to be aware of.
If someone else is wearing a ‘sexy’ outfit, I would probably be like ‘are you sure you’re comfortable in that? Doesn’t all that leather kind of chafe?’ And they’ll be ‘but look at my butt!’ and I’ll be ‘Yeah, it’s a butt. It holds up your legs. So?’ Because to me there’s nothing sexy about sexy clothes or sexy body parts. They’re neutral, like pieces of furnature. They might be pretty, like a particularly nice carpet or lawn chair, but they’re not something to get sexually worked up about.
I personally don’t like dirty jokes or innuendo. It jolts me, because every time it happens it reminds me that human life is driven by this big dumb stupid factor that isn’t even all that important. Every time, it smacks me in the face with the fact that I’m abnormal because I’m missing something that everyone else has. (But I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I don’t want it for myself, I just wish people would stop rubbing my face in it all the time.)
On the other hand, I know there are aces out there who are fascinated by dirty jokes. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s in a spirit of research or something. You’d have to ask them.
When I wrote Aidan from Blue Steel Chain, I wrote him without a sexual fantasy life, because I didn’t want readers who were unaware of things like autochorissexualism to get confused about how someone who was asexual could have fantasies that involved other people boning. But surveys of slash writers and queer romance writers seem to indicate there’s a large number of aces for whom sharing the sexuality of imaginary characters is – I can’t think of a better way to put this – is the closest thing they come to having a sexuality of their own. (I’m only allowing myself to say this, because I’m in this group, so I’m talking about myself.)
It still doesn’t mean we find actual people sexually attractive, mind you. If offered the chance to somehow become part of that fictional world and join in, I would go “ew, no!” Because I’m not actually attracted to either of those people. I’m just imaginatively sharing an experience that I personally don’t have and can’t have in any other way.
So what I’m saying here is that there are aces who have a sexual fantasy life, and there are aces who don’t. It’s just their sexual fantasy life almost certainly doesn’t feature themself having sex with anyone.
Equally, there are aces who masturbate and aces who don’t. Masturbation doesn’t involve finding another person sexually attractive, so your character wouldn’t have to turn in his ace card at the door if it’s something that he did. He just probably wouldn’t be thinking about any real life people – not even his lover – while he was doing it.
However, I’d also say that a level of sex-revulsion is quite common. It’s normal for a person to have a cycle of responsiveness from “we could do sex if you wanted” to “don’t even talk about that gross stuff in the same room as me,” in the same way that presumably allosexual people are not equally up for it all the time.
This is one reason why we insist that it’s an orientation rather than a behaviour, btw, because it’s not about what you do, it’s about the way you think and the things you notice and value in the world. Some aces can actually enjoy the act of sex – because an orgasm will happen if sex is done well and all your bits are in working order, and an orgasm is… nice. It’s enjoyable. But the drive to have sex is not there. It’s entirely possible for an ace to have great sex with someone they love the night before, and still wake up in the morning with no feeling that sex is important or valuable or that they particularly want to have it again. There are many more important things to be concentrating on.
We’re also no more a group-think than any other orientation, so you’ll have aces who are outgoing and bubbly and cuddly and fascinated with everyone’s relationships and great at giving advice, through to aces who are introverted and touch-averse and really love Star Wars. The second sort are the stereotype at present, so if your character is like that, you may get accused of writing a stereotype. However, I am the second sort, so you wouldn’t actually be wrong.
In a similar way, you’re going to get stick whether or not you show the ace character having sex with the non-ace character. A lot of aces will be “oh, fuck it, why are we always the ones who have to compromise? Why can’t the allo-sexual character give up sex for the ace instead?!” And a lot of other ones will be “I’ve had a happy 20 year relationship with my partner. Sex is not that important so why wouldn’t I occasionally do it to please the one I love?”
I am also the second sort in this hypothesis, but I can see the first people’s point. It is vanishingly rare to see a love story where the ace doesn’t have to consent to sex. I think ace readers would find it immensely liberating to read a story where it was the allosexual partner who had to conform their expectations to what the ace character wanted rather than the other way around. OTOH, your allosexual readers are going to find that very challenging!
I think it’s interesting to write a romance where sex is the main conflict rather than a force pulling the characters together. You can’t just have the characters gravitating together by sexual chemistry – there have to be other reasons for why they would fall in love. Shared goals and perils, genuine admiration for each other’s characters, that kind of thing. And that kind of thing has to be compelling enough to counteract the fact that they have mismatched sexual needs. Also the mismatched sexual needs will need to be negotiated and renegotiated every time with continuing respect and love. That problem will never go away. It will always have to be managed and lived with, but it can be done successfully if the love is enough.
Heh. I don’t know if that helps. Now I read it back it sounds angrier than I expected. I thought I was very chill about it, but it turns out it can be quite alienating, living in a world where you just don’t get, at all, that one big thing that everyone else claims is a basic human drive.
And with that I throw open the comments for anyone else who wants to weigh in or ask more questions 🙂
It’s time to talk about Space Opera. It’s a good time to talk about Space Opera, in fact, given that Star Wars roared back to life this year with The Force Awakens. While I did enjoy TFA, I also felt it was a bit of a re-tread of the Original Trilogy. I appreciated that our heroes were now a woman and a black man, and I found both characters endearing, but I didn’t feel there was much that was new in the storytelling. Maybe I should wait and see what the next film does with this underwhelming start before I carp, though. Maybe they’re deliberately setting up parallels so they can surprise us by how differently they develop them in the next one.
I wasn’t this critical about the first Star Wars. And when I say ‘the first Star Wars’ I mean Star Wars: A New Hope, which I went to see when it was first released. I put in my dues as a SW fan! I queued round the block in the rain to see ANH, and it was worth it. I still remember that shot of the Star Destroyer passing overhead – and passing – and passing – and passing – as one of the greatest moments of cinematic awe of my life. It was a moment that redefined the size of science fiction films. They’d been intimate and thoughtful before then. Now they were huge and fun and maybe not terribly scientific any more, but who cared because they still had aliens and spaceships, right?
Heh. I don’t want to get into the argument about whether space opera can be called science fiction or not, because (a) that’s a sidetrack to what I’m supposed to be talking about here, and (b) it isn’t. It’s a genre of its own, and it’s probably all the better for it.
But my massive digression up there is intended to establish that I’ve been a space opera fan for a very long time. I’ve also (I’ve only just realized) always been a complete sucker for scenes of beautiful ships being slowly revealed in all their glory. Three of my favourite franchises ever open with a ‘look at this beautiful ship’ scene – the Dauntless in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Star Destroyer in Star Wars, and Destiny in Stargate Universe. That’s probably all you’ve got to do to ensnare me, then – a glamourous shot of a big war machine, and I’m in.
Putting the second diversion aside, I’ll get to the point of this post, which is that I’ve been very silent recently. Partly due to my dad’s final illness, of course, but partly because I’ve been writing a space opera trilogy. It looks like I’m on course to finish the third book by the end of August, after which I will self publish them. It’s a bit of an experiment. The books are plain old fashioned adventure with alien cities and sentient planets and religious versus secular societies and extreme body modification and intergalactic threats to the future of the human race. There’s a bit of romance, but they aren’t Romances, if you know what I mean.
The main reason I’m not trying to get them published with mainstream publishers is that the heroes are queer – an asexual homoromantic couple, a lesbian couple and a bisexual man/butch straight woman who spends half the first book sex-changed and learns quite a lot about herself and her beliefs in the process.
While the queer romance community is doing great things providing queer romances, I’ve been hearing that people sometimes wanted books where queer people got to save the world. So that’s what these are.
Sadly self publishing means I’m left to my own devices when it comes to titles and cover art. Currently I’m thinking of them as the Lioness Series, comprising of Lioness of Cygnus Five, Heart of Cygnus Five and Pride of Cygnus Five. Final cover art not made yet, but this is a sneak peek at what I think they might look like if the photos I want are still available when I finally go to buy them:
You have no idea how hard it is to find pictures of battle-hardened space-navy Latinas in their forties. Aurora is therefore way too young. But I’ve got to make do with what I can get!
This is the review I hold to my heart whenever the topic of “can women write stories about gay men – or rather ought they to?” comes around. I wrote Captain’s Surrender partly in order to show people that you didn’t have to choose between your sexuality and your faith, you could have both. I thought if even one person got that message, so that they could stop feeling damned and/or condemned, it would justify my writing the books that I wanted to write.
Well, this is that review.
I’m so thankful for it! There are times when I feel the pressure – I’m not gay enough, I’m not male enough, I’m not persecuted enough to speak for this community. (As it turns out, I’m not straight and I’m not female either, but that’s a different story.) And when those doubts strike, I remember this review in particular, and others like it I’ve had since, and I tell myself that nevertheless, I’m still not being entirely selfish in carrying on.
I know Jay from my old Livejournal days, but I didn’t know that she had been busily writing exactly the sort of books that I love to read. Seriously? Elves! Elven private investigators. Queer main characters? Right there in the middle of the Venn diagram with me, where m/m romance, Fantasy/Mystery and adventure overlaps. How did I not know about this before? I’m very excited therefore to be able to hand over to her:
Hi! I’m Jay. I write a mixture of fantasy, m/m romance and crime. Seems like an odd combination? Well, most of my stories were originally written for my own entertainment and those are three genres I enjoy so it seemed reasonable to try putting them together. I have always told myself stories and I wanted to share them with a wider audience than my immediate friends.
I decided to self publish because my initial works were the wrong length or the wrong genre for publishers and because I was anxious to retain control over various aspects of the publication process. I use friends, met through online writing groups, as beta readers, editors and proof readers and trust them to do a good job. As an ex-English teacher I think I’m competent to judge their work but I know I shouldn’t trust myself to do my own editing – you read what you think you wrote!
I design my own covers, using photography (which is a hobby) and photoshopping techniques. I’m pleased with the results. I wanted to get away from the kind of cover that has the hero or heroine as the focus, and give a taste of the ‘world’ I was writing about. That’s partly to let my readers use their own imagination when picturing my characters and partly because I enjoy world building and hope it’s a strong aspect of my stories. I often dislike covers that have a sultry looking model, male or female, representing the main character – I want both more and less from a cover.
I also do my own formatting which is perhaps the hardest part of the entire self-publishing adventure. I ‘practised’ on three novella length publications before embarking on formatting my novels but I have to tell you it doesn’t get any easier. I love writing, don’t mind rewrites, and hate formatting!
I’m aware that self publishing means a hard slog self marketing, but from what I can gather, this is becoming more and more true of mainstream publishing. And that’s why I’m so glad of the opportunity to talk to more people about my books.
My main novels are a series centred round a female detective-in-training. She’s an elf, on a world where humans and elves live in comparative harmony. Genef has two ‘side-kicks’ in time-honoured crime novel tradition. One is a young dragon, accidentally imprinted on her at his hatching, and the other is her gay brother, Fel. Scratch, the dragon, enables us to see Genef’s world through the eyes of a child though as the series progresses he is growing up – fast. Fel provides the romance interest (nothing explicit) for the series but his adventures are a sub-plot and the main story arc concerns Genef’s training and her gradual acquisition of the magical skills that give the series its name – The Skilled Investigators.
The first volume, The Scroll, deals with Genef’s acceptance into the guild of investigators and the successful though sad conclusion to her first murder case. She must leave home to live and work in the capital but in volume two, The Market, she has to travel overseas to unravel the theft of some royal jewels. There she becomes embroiled in further troubles involving murder and kidnapping which threaten her brother and her dragon. The third book, The Crown, sees her travelling again, to track down an important piece of royal jewellery that was not retrieved in The Market. This story has Scratch as a teenage dragon, acting alone for the first time and in some chapters becoming the focus of the narrative. This third book is written and is currently being edited. The first two are available on Amazon, and, for people who have an e-reader other than Kindle, on Smashwords.
The Scroll – on Amazon
The Scroll – on Smashwords
The Market – on Amazon
The Market – on Smashwords
There are six books planned altogether. Genef will return to the capital to investigate a murder nearby, then cross the border to a human kingdom in an undercover disguise. Finally, in the last book, she will return to her family home where yet another case awaits her and the possibility of romance, though her personal affairs will remain sidelined and merely a hope for the future. Fel, on the other hand, will find happiness within the series.
The books are mainstream and are hard to categorise. As I said, a mixture of genres! In a sense they follow a coming of age arc but are not specifically directed at a young adult market.
A couple of years ago I published two novellas and a book of short stories. These are all primarily m/m romance with some explicit passages. Whilst definitely ‘adult’ they are not really erotica. ‘The Lord of Shalott’ turns Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ on its head and explores the idea of the curse being the fact that the heir to Shalott was a boy who enjoyed wearing female clothing and was attracted to men. ‘Silkskin and the Forest People’ also twists legend. The basic tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is transferred to mediaeval Africa and the princess becomes a Zimbabwean prince. ‘Three Legends’ has an m/m version of a Northumbrian legend, an entirely invented ‘legend’ and a modern fairy story about a time thief.
You can find these via my author pages on Amazon and Smashwords. Because the books are ‘adult’ anyone looking on Smashwords should make sure the adult filter is off.
Jay Mountney on Amazon
Jay Mountney on Smashwords
You can read more about my books and my writing on my WordPress site. I’d be delighted to answer questions or just chat, about my writing or about self publishing, there or on Facebook.
Thanks for reading, and many thanks to Alex for hosting me!
Thanks to Jay Mountney for this Review of the Trowchester Series
I just finished the third book in Alex Beecroft’s Trowchester trilogy so thought I’d review them all at once. The books are modern m/m romance and are linked by the location, the fictional town of Trowchester which becomes very real to the reader over the course of the stories. The main characters of one book reappear as minor players in the others which is satisfying because we get to know that lives continue after each volume ends. Alex creates very three dimensional characters, with real lives, real problems and real adventures. I found myself caring very much what happened to them all.
It’s lovely to see a review that considers each book individually but also considers the series as a whole. I’m so glad she thinks that the books work well together 🙂
I keep wondering if I should write some more in this series. What do people think? Is there anything you would like to know more about in Trowchester and its environs?
What happened on the 23rd of June? Oh yeah, it was my birthday. It was also the EU referendum. I was ill with a nasty cold and headache that made me dizzy when I stood upright, and so was my husband and son, so our household were all miserable and grouchy. Also it was raining stair-rods and it continued to rain like the emptying of God’s bathtub all day long, while the light struggled to grow brighter than funeral-appropriate charcoal.
In this festive weather DH and I, and son, went out to vote to remain in the EU. There’s a long subplot to this story that involves taking son to the doctors’ for his injection only to find it had been stored wrong and he’d have to come back tomorrow when they’d got some new stuff in, and then the car breaking down in the rain on the way back, but I’m not going into that.
What I am saying is that I went to bed confident that everyone in their right minds had turned out to vote Remain, and that life would carry on without much upheaval in the morning.
First thing I heard this morning was DH going “Bugger. They’ve voted to leave.”
So, now it looks like we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, shut ourselves in with far right Conservatives and UKIP nutters actually having a chance to turn back the clock to Dickensian times, potentially lost Scotland and Northern Ireland as part of the Union and are looking at becoming more alone than we’ve been for three hundred years.
Time to take the ‘Great’ off Britain, I think. In fact, will we even need the term ‘Britain’ any more?
I’ve spent the day trying not to panic. It’s certainly a boot up the backside to my complaisant belief that nobody could really take UKIP seriously – that nothing could really go world-changingly wrong. I take some comfort from the stats that say the overwhelming bulk of the people who voted to leave are old – older even than me. As we die off, things should get better. (A cheery thought.)
And in the mean time it’s time for those of us who thought it was certain that sanity and compassion would win the day to realize that it’s not certain unless we fight for it. I’ve always voted and I will continue to vote, but clearly more is needed. I don’t know what exactly I can do, but I can at least make sure I’m speaking up against xenophobia and far right fascism before it spreads any further. My age demographic is the most evenly balanced on issues of social justice, so perhaps just talking to them about politics will help.
Remaining silent certainly won’t. God save us!
Ooh, this is a first 🙂 How nice to have a message saying that Blue Steel Chain is an All Romance Ebook bestseller and to be given an icon to prove it.
Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues Series) by Alex Beecroft
At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.
Local archaeologist James Summers is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.
As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.
I did not expect that from a book with an asexual main character! Thank you to everyone who’s buying it 🙂
When the news of the Pulse shooting struck, my instinctive reaction was to shut up, withdraw, and stop wanting to exist in this world. That’s the unhealthy coping mechanism I’ve had towards violence since I was a child and it’s always kept me safe. It’s always kept me safely contained and safely silenced too.
But this is not the world I grew up in, when I was young and frightened. In that world it would have been unthinkable to have Pride processions in which the police were there to defend you. The President wouldn’t have gone on the air to express sympathy for the victims – he would have been the one who ordered the night club to be raided in the first place.
It seems impossible to think it, in the light of the shooting, but the world has become a better place for queer people in the last twenty years. And maybe that’s why the shooter decided it was time to put people back where they belonged, to make them afraid so they would shut up.
I wasn’t even sure if I deserved to talk about this. After all, I’m not American, I’m not gay and I’m not Latin@. It’s not for me to talk over the voices of anyone that is. But this morning I was talking with JL Merrow about growing up genderqueer/agender and thinking “thank God we don’t live in the ’70s any more.” Then I read this article from The Washington Post and it reminded me that the reason we don’t live in the ’70s any more – the reason things are better now – is that people have been speaking out, coming out, campaigning, being seen and refusing to shut up and hide all that time.
I like the note of hope the Washington Post manages to raise there. I like this post too. I like the way it says
“So if recent events, whether a tragedy today, or bigotry tomorrow threatened to steal that spark of pride from you, continue creating an accepting world.”
I can’t speak with any authority, except for the authority that says to the bigots out there Murdering people is wrong. Fucking stop it! Hurting people is wrong, regardless of their orientation or sexual behaviour or race or gender or genitals or religion, or whatever. You think your God – a good God, a merciful God – would have wanted this? There are not words to say how fucking wrong you are.
But this is me speaking anyway, because my instinctive reaction is to be silenced, and I’m not having that any more.
Yesterday my new morris side, Sutton Masque – a mixed Border Morris side – welcomed in the official start of summer on the 1st of June by dancing outside a couple of pubs in Ely. It was freezing, rainy and grey. A hardy Greek family sat outside The Cutter, under the porch heaters and watched us dance by the river. I hope we were a properly bizarre glimpse into the literal local colour for their holiday. We certainly appreciated having them as an audience because none of the natives had dared venture out.
Later we went down to The Fountain and danced there for another hour, still in the drizzle, with the light failing around us. Here our only audience was an Australian couple in fantastic Aran beanies (I covet a beanie like theirs.) They took our picture and told me they liked my face. I take that to mean that they liked my face paint. This made me very glad, because my attempt to look like a Wood Wose takes me a good half hour of preparation before I even make it out of the door. The dark green of the background colour doesn’t half stain your flannels when you wash it off!
This is my face:
taken after we’d given up on dancing and gone inside to play music and eat birthday cake. (Happy birthday Neil!)
I’m very proud of our new kit, which is dark green and gold, with a wild-man-of-the-woods, Jack-in-the-Green feel to it, and I am even beginning to get used to dancing in a top hat. You can see the full outfit here if you like, because the above is the indoors look without the tattered jacket.
In more relevant writing news, I’ve been spending my time finishing the first Porthkennack book for Riptide Press. Currently called Foxglove Copse, this is a contemporary m/m romance set in a fictional Cornish town with a slightly gothic twist. I’ve also done the first content edit pass for my huge long queer historical fantasy The Glass Floor, which should be coming out next year, and found a new home for Labyrinth, which had been contracted to Samhain Publishing but for which I got my rights back recently.
Right now, I’m working on the third book in my queer space opera trilogy Lioness of Cygnus 5. Have I told you about this? I don’t think I’ve told you about this. But it probably justifies its own post, so I’ll do that next time.