Where are the asexual protagonists?

It’s Valentine’s Day when I’m starting this post, for context.  I’ve always had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  On the one hand, fun candy and cupcakes and valentines when you’re in elementary school.  On the other hand…. Actually, let’s not discuss the other hand.  Instead, I’m going to talk a bit about love and sex and characters in stories.  So, fasten your seat belts.

Growing up as a teenager in a conservative culture, I was greatly bothered by all the adults telling me a series of things about love and sex, but most of them boiled down to:

When you’re a child, you’re only capable of puppy love.  Look how cute that is.  But once you hit puberty, then you start being capable of “real love” and so you should watch out and take care whom you date, whom you get attached to, how fast you let things progress, &c. &c.

The belief I encountered over and over was that a) children are not capable of “real” aka romantic love, and b) puberty aka “increased sex drive” is when love actually starts being possible.

I knew this was messed up at the time.  After all, my friends were more than capable of developing “crushes”, no matter that we were five, ten, or fifteen.  Sure, the feelings of the fifteen year olds were probably rated on a more intense scale than the five year olds, but the drama level wasn’t all that different between the age groups, nor was the complete sincerity of the moment.  To have the adults tell me over and over again that what we felt wasn’t “real” and that only when we were adults like them would real affection be possible was insulting, condescending, and seemed to me to be very short-sighted.  Had the adults all forgotten what it was to be young? Or were they just in some form of extreme denial?  Did they honestly think that children and adults were separate creatures? I wondered. Probably.

But today, as I was considering all the stories I sought but couldn’t find as a teenager, it hit me that it’s much, much worse than that.  The adults telling me that love only starts at puberty sincerely believed, at a subconscious level, that “real” love and sex are equated, inseparable, and…ugh. Ughgghghghg.

Take a look at this horrifying sentence: if you love me, then prove it by having sex with me.

Love, you see, only happens, at worst, when sex is involved, at best, when an activated sex drive is involved.

That’s messed up. Messed. Up.  Messed up. Messed up. Messed up.

This is me being squicked out.  But now we know where that creepy “request” snuck into our world from.

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So, how does this relate to my request for more asexual and/or aromantic protagonists.

((Sidenote: For those of you unfamiliar with the terms asexual or aromantic, you might be more familiar with the other most-often quoted labels tossed around when discussing sexuality: LGBTQ – lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer.  Asexual is often added to the list as a label for those who are not attracted to anyone or anything on a sexual level, ever.  Though it’s also broadened occasionally to a spectrum of people who are simply disinterested in sexual relationships–for now or for all time, that doesn’t matter and doesn’t need disputing.  Aromantics, on the other hand, are those who rarely–if ever–experience romantic attraction.  For this discussion, I’m not going to stick within any rigid labeling systems or go into a debate on who is allowed to be called what but instead open up the spectrum of possibility. ))

When I was a teenager, the storyline I wanted most to read involved a female protagonist who was disinterested in romance or sex.  I wanted to see someone more like me who was more interested in doing her own thing, creating, exploring, having adventures, or saving the world (without squeezing a love triangle in). Oh yes, and developing lots of friendships with all sorts of cool, interesting people.

See, I loved reading, but the problem with reading a lot of books when all of them decide that teenagers are hotblooded young things is that my reading experience all felt the same, uniform, and so it all felt both unrealistic and, frankly, like an overdose.  Sure, I had hotblooded young thing friends who jumped from love to love, who got into indecisive or shy love triangles, who had secret crushes that then spilled over into tentative dating, who kissed passionately and lived on the wild edge of desire, or felt the need to find a partner to “complete” them at seventeen.  But were all of my friends like that?  No.  Were they like that all the time? No.  So, reading began to feel like eating a steady diet of chocolate.  Sure, there were different flavors of chocolate: milky and light, dark and lush, adventurous and spicy, waxy and fake, drinkable or eatable.  But what I really wanted, what I really craved was something–anything else.  Vanilla, maybe.  Strawberry, cherry’s jubilee, mango delight.  Something that felt closer to home, for once.  Something that expanded possibilities.

Something that also didn’t do the bait and switch of “she’s disinterested in dating guys–but only because she’s lesbian! woohoo!”  Nothing against lesbians, but when I was hoping  to finally get an aro/ace storyline, it’d jerk my chain. x.x

Sure, you can read books by men, they often don’t write romance, you might say.  But think again.  Most of the time when I’ve read a story without any romance at all written by a guy it’s when the cast is all male.  And if you add a female, suddenly her one goal in life is to pair up with someone.  And, um, those aren’t really very satisfying underlying assumptions.

Here, let’s change tacks.  This might demonstrate better.

Imagine Harry Potter where Harry, Hermione, and Ron don’t fall in love with each other but instead treat each other like lifelong friends and might-as-well-be siblings.  Funnily enough, just like the actors became.  Emma Watson said it felt weird kissing the other actors because it felt like kissing her brothers.  No kidding.

Imagine Legend of Korra where instead of putting together a hasty bisexual/romantic ending that implies that one way or another romance is always needed for a happy ever after, the gang is allowed to end with: making the world a better place and friendship is enough.

Imagine Star Wars where the “two guys & a girl” scenario doesn’t end up in her falling for one or the other–or both–of them.  I don’t know.  If Earth blew up, I think I’d be too busy grieving and fighting back to be flirting, and if some scoundrel tried to get handsy I’d tell him to grow a heart, but hey that’s just me.  ((And yes, I know there’s a whole chunk of the Internet who really wants Finn at the center of this new triangle, but to them I say: whyyyyyyyy does it always have to be about romance whyyyyy. *whine* ))

Imagine a Frozen that doesn’t feel obligated to end with a kiss, thereby uprooting the point of the whole story up till that moment.

Imagine an Agent Carter that is less about how many men hate her or fall in love with her or want up her skirt and more about her awesome platonic friendship and dynamic with Jarvis.

Actually, let’s just imagine for a moment a world in which spending time with someone (of any gender) doesn’t become a contractual obligation that you have to consider dating them.  And saying a polite “no thanks” to their interest isn’t an insult.  It’s like the Romance/Hook-up Story-line of Life has the right-of-way or something.  If someone is romantically interested it’s like you’re obligated to either indulge or tip-toe around their fancies or else you’re some sort of unnatural monster.

Which is one of the many reasons why I think asexual and aromantic protagonists are so important.  We are what we eat.  Our expectations of the world and life are shaped by the stories we read and watch and are told.

And even if you wouldn’t label  yourself “fully” asexual or aromantic I really hope you have multiple asexual and aromantic relationships in your life.  I hope your S.O. or partner isn’t your only relationship outside of your immediate family.  I hope, if sex disappeared tomorrow, you’d still be able to love and appreciate your partner.  And if you’re searching for a partner, I hope you treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness rather than a “oh, they’re not for me, TOSS!” or a “they won’t give me the time of day, TOSS!” attitude.

((Sidenote: Sometimes it feels like the conservative Christian cultural ideal of Heaven is divided into male and female sections and the only people allowed to cross over and talk to each other are spouses and siblings. x.x))

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Here are a few asexual/aromantic spectrum character ideas to start the writing world brainstorming:

-a child character who travels to another world, becomes its ruler, and realizes that in this world everything and anything is possible–which means they don’t have to return home from Narnia and become a child again in order to avoid the complications of getting married there

-a teenage girl who is more interested in filming murder mysteries in a graveyard with her friends (some of whom may be ghosts) than going to the prom

-a teenage guy who isn’t interested in  masturbation and/or porn, not because he thinks it’s evil but because he thinks it’s pointless, boring, or unfulfilling.  (But this trait isn’t just to show how “wonderful” he is as a future romantic lead, please.)

-a teenager called on to save the kingdom/world who doesn’t automatically fall in love with the only opposite-gender member of their party.  They’re too busy saving the day to experience more than passing glimmers of attraction and respect, let alone worry about feelings or romance.

-a cross-dresser who finds everyone attractive and interesting but is completely disinterested in sex or romance

-a character who was sexually abused in their backstory, who can no longer feel sexual attraction but who lives whole and healthy and happy in their asexual relationship of choice with their S.O.

-a chronically ill character who still has a ticking clock for a uterus but has no desire to “do anything about it” with anyone, but desires only to fill the time and energy they have to spend with other interests and pursuits instead.  Plots and subplots ensue.

-a character who finds stargazing more engrossing than attractive-people-gazing

-a character who shows up at the scene of a crime and doesn’t automatically start narrating about how hot someone is while everyone’s standing over the dead body, and in fact doesn’t notice hotness at all because someone they knew just died.  Or else the mystery presented is more intriguing than the spectators or the colleagues, though this doesn’t mean they’re a jerk about it.

-an expert flirt who never goes past flirting.  The flirting’s the fun part.

-a courtesan who’s just doing their job.  The political maneuvering and the intrigue are the real perks.

– a character who lost their beloved spouse but then doesn’t turn around and fall in love with the next character you pair them up to adventure with during the course of your story.  Instead, they find a comfortable friendship.

-a pair of friends who grew up together who then (surprisingly *cough*) remain still just friends by story’s end

-an extrovert who loves people and whom everyone loves to be around, who is charismatic and charming, but who isn’t interested in dating “just yet.”  (They’ve been saying that for years–if not decades–at this point).

-a Regency spinster who thinks she got the best end of the deal

-a eunuch who doesn’t mope a lot about how he no longer has “real man parts”.  He’s probably too busy being besties with one of the ladies in the harem and making sure all the other eunuchs stop having dramas long enough to remember their duties–and solving the king’s murder.  Or maybe it’s the queen’s murder.  ‘Cause, y’know.  Just add murder mystery.

-an old, young-looking vampire who–after centuries of watching them be born, grow old, and die–has developed the boundaries necessary to not actually fall in love with mortals, but enjoys their friendship and their company.  (You might think this is impossible, that all it would take is the “right mortal” to woo him back to romance, but then I ask you how people generally don’t fall romantically in love with their siblings or, now, with their first cousins :p)  I would love love love to read a paranormal friendship romance sometime.

-a character who finds themselves completely disinterested in sex with their current partner, and finds this baffling despite their romantic attachment, …to be dealt with amidst high-stakes car chases, or something equally crazy but generally sexualized.

-a religious celibate who doesn’t make a morose martyr out of themself or pull a holier-than-thou or actually need to “suppress” or “fight” anything but enjoys their singledom with a sense of simplicity and true, relaxed enjoyment.

-a tender-hearted (rather than tough/stoic) knight, who loves deeply, who swears loyalty and protection, but who is uninterested in relationships beyond brother, sister, friend, liege.  Extra points if it’s a ladyknight, since everyone is constantly trying to pair those up with someone. :p

Later I might recommend some stories, but I think this post is long enough. -.-

What about you?  Favorite asexual or aromantic/non-romantic/platonic stories or characters? What about character wishlists or scenario wishlists? Let’s brainstorm together, wooooo~.

 

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2015 in Review

As predicted, this has been a year of all sorts of personal life disruptive changes.  However, it hasn’t been without its successes.

This year I

Persinette_2-published Persinette (on Patreon, Amazon, eBooksAreForever, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Scribd, and Payhip).

-am pleased to see Persinette‘s received a great collection of ratings and reviews at Goodreads for such a niche book.

-wrote two short stories, one dark and one light, while trying out various methods of writing/typing on my tablet when I had no computer access.  I wrote both of them with anthology submissions as prompts, but even though I completely was not expecting anything out of it, they were both short-listed. o.o

-got a new laptop after months of our trying to fix the old one.  The old one I landed up turning into an internet-less, mostly program-less writing machine, aka The Glorified Typewriter.

-started a new novel project, which is still continuing.  Alas, I’d hoped to have it done by now, but I’ve been making better progress on it than I did with Queen, my last longer-fiction project.  It took me about four years to write 44k on Queen, but I’ve managed to write 40k on this novel.  However, I’m going to have to rewrite a lot of that, since one of the main characters wasn’t working.

-wrote a prequel story to my novel project, then rewrote it based on one reader’s feedback and will rewrite it again based on another reader’s feedback.  I don’t mind though (much), because each time I work on it I learn more about the main character who was giving me troubles and I learn more about plotting short stories that are attached to other stories–which I’ve so far been unsuccessful at.

-received more support at my Patreon towards covering web-hosting costs for my translations.

IMG_0781-put my Bibliography back up, since I have something to actually fill it with now, haha. XD

And last but not least, the light short story, “What She Saw by Lantern Light,” was published in the anthology I wrote it for, Frozen Fairy Tales.

 

 

 


Behind the scenes: What She Saw By Lantern Light

I’ve been a fan of both Enchanted Conversation and World Weaver Press for years.  So when I saw the announcement that Kate Wolford would be heading up a joint anthology of original or lesser-known fairy tales set in winter, I decided I would write towards her prompt.  I never actually expected that she would like it, though I did try to hit both her theme and word count goals as a sort of experiment for myself.

What follows is a spoiler-free behind-the-scenes glimpse into the story, why it turned out the way it did, for those who like to read such things.

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When I sat down to write the story in April (2015), my grandmother, for whom I’d been the primary caretaker the first six months or so of her brain cancer, had just recently passed away.  My own health, since I had my own chronic illness to contend with, had been thoroughly shot to pieces, but as part of my recovery I’d decided to return to writing again little by little.

I also had no workable computer at the time and so the idea was that I’d trial out writing a couple short stories on my 7″ tablet paired with a new bluetooth keyboard before delving into anything longer.  This set-up created the interesting effect of only being able to see a few lines of story at a time.

If the tale is packed full of details, it’s because if I didn’t write them, they would not exist.  Whatever ended up “on paper” became the story in my head, not the other way around.

In the bleak midwinter…

The opening line of the Frozen Fairy Tales prompt also happened to be the title of one of my favorite carols.  I’ve included the version that has meant the most to me over the years, trekking with me through the snowfalls and dark nights of my time living in Armenia, and soothing my grandmother’s anxiety as we sat together in her living room in our last month together.  I tried to capture the essence of the song in my story, both consciously and unconsciously.

“And a woman as had her wits about her.”

The Secret of Roan Inish is perhaps my favorite folktale movie of all time.  I watched it religiously when I was younger, to my sister’s bemusement.  If I was going to write a own folktale retelling, I had to pay homage to it in some way, if only in a turn of phrase.  Everyone with Netflix should check it out.

‘Not old like me. I mean old. Old like darkness and stars,’ she said to the flames.

Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time has been my “bedtime story” audiobook of choice in recent years.  It never fails to sooth my own anxiety and help me conquer my insomnia (a frequent, pesky demon since my chronic illness struck).  One of my favorite scenes is when Nanny Ogg tells Susan, granddaughter of Death, her own hearth-tale about the lady Time giving birth to a mostly-mortal boy.  In honor of Terry Pratchett’s passing and in thanks for all the comfort and relief, I paid tribute to this scene by giving my favorite line a cameo.

Christkindelsmärik

(Photographer Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons)

(Photographer Claude TRUONG-NGOC, Wikimedia Commons)

The original Alsatian folktale I based my retelling on starts off with a newly-wed young woman setting off on her first, midnight trip from Rosheim to sell goods at the market in Strasbourg.  Making the switch to Strasbourg’s world-famous, centuries-old Christmas Market seemed like a perfect change to make, given the winter theme.

Sunday’s child…

The concept of a child born on Sunday being able to see into and participate in the world of spirits and faeries I borrowed from a different Alsatian folktale, which I translated from an oral telling under the title “The Faerie’s Gift of Tears.”

My own family lore…

I grew up with stories about my ancestors, including how one Swedish ancestor of mine (a young woman) would regularly walk for long hours of the night to “commute” between where she worked and where her family lived.  And there was this one time where she thought she saw something frightening in the dark…. I won’t tell you what it was or what it turned out to be, but the imagery has stayed with me.  My grandmother also told me a couple tales of her family members encountering friendly ghosts.  So, there’s that.

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“What She Saw By Lantern Light”

Our first snowfall ironically marks the occasion.  My short story “What She Saw By Lantern Light” can now be found in the anthology Frozen Fairy Tales.

Winter is not coming. Winter is here. As unique and beautifully formed as a snowflake, each of these fifteen stories spins a brand new tale or offers a fresh take on an old favorite like Jack Frost, The Snow Queen, or The Frog King. From a drafty castle to a blustery Japanese village, from a snow-packed road to the cozy hearth of a farmhouse, from an empty coffee house in Buffalo, New York, to a cold night outside a university library, these stories fully explore the perils and possibilities of the snow, wind, ice, and bone-chilling cold that traditional fairy tale characters seldom encounter.

In the bleak midwinter, heed the irresistible call of fairy tales. Just open these pages, snuggle down, and wait for an icy blast of fantasy to carry you away. With all new stories of love, adventure, sorrow, and triumph by Tina Anton, Amanda Bergloff, Gavin Bradley, L.A. Christensen, Steven Grimm, Christina Ruth Johnson, Rowan Lindstrom, Alison McBain, Aimee Ogden, J. Patrick Pazdziora, Lissa Marie Redmond, Anna Salonen, Lissa Sloan, Charity Tahmaseb, and David Turnbull to help you dream through the cold days and nights of this most dreaded season.

Table of Contents:

Introduction by Kate Wolford
The Stolen Heart by Christina Ruth Johnson
Faithful Henry by Steven Grimm
The Ice Fisher by J. Patrick Pazdziora
Buffalo Wings by Lissa Marie Redmond
Cold Bites by Tina Anton
Death in Winter by Lissa Sloan
Simon the Cold by Charity Tahmaseb
The Light of the Moon, the Strength of the Storm, the Warmth of the Sun by Aimee Ogden
A Heart of Winter by Anna Salonen
Happily Ever After by Amanda Bergloff
The Heart of Yuki-Onna by Alison McBain
The Wolf Queen by Rowan Lindstrom
What She Saw by Lantern Light by L.A. Christensen
The Shard of Glass by David Turnbull
How Jack Frost Stole Winter by Gavin Bradley

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Story accepted!

Happy All Saints’ Day!

My Alsatian folktale retelling “What She Saw By Lantern Light” will be published in Enchanted Conversation‘s and World Weaver Press‘ joint winter anthology, Frozen Fairy Tales.  You can find out more information, including the announced table of contents, here. You can find Frozen Fairy Tales on Goodreads, here.

I’ll post more once the anthology’s released. 🙂

Until then, I put my Bibliography back up, fully fleshed-out.  I took it down a couple years ago because it was depressingly empty and I felt having it up was rather pointless (and discouraging).  But now it is much fuller! And there is a point to having one! Woot woot.

 

 


Persinette Wide Release

It took me longer than I was expecting to put together this wide release.  First came life things, then came a bug in the ePub, then came various hitches with several different retailers.  However, it’s all come together and Persinette is now available at a variety of e-book retailers.

Persinette_2

A hundred years before Rapunzel, there was Persinette. Before the Old Witch ever locked Rapunzel in a tower, a Fairy set out to change Persinette’s destiny.

Read the French fairy tale that inspired the Grimm Brothers’ “Rapunzel,” learn about the authoress Mlle de La Force, and discover answers to questions such as why Persinette’s father traded her for a fistful of parsley and how she survived for years alone in her wilderness.

Includes translations of the French tale “Persinette” (1698), the Italian tale “Petrosinella” (1634), and the German tale “Rapunzel” (1812-57), along with background information on each of the tales and their authors.

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Librarians: Purchase Persinette for your library catalog with Overdrive or EbooksAreForever


Disappointments in Final Books

I jotted down this list last summer, after I’d read a lot of final books in trilogies/series and found that a lot of them were disappointing for the same set of reasons.  I wanted to write up the list while it was still fresh in my analytical-reader mind.  I meant to turn it into a blog post then, but a lot of crazy life stuff came first.  So, here it is now.  Feel free to add your own in the comments. I figure I can refer back to this list with my writer hat on later.

So, without further ado, things I thought made final books weak:

  • New set of main characters introduced, taking time/focus away from those we grew to love in the first two books.
  • New plot/story arcs introduced out of nowhere, then not given enough depth or resolution as the others.
  • Last minute betrayals, romances, or deaths included for “extra drama.”  These feel last minute because the betrayal/romance wasn’t set up or hinted at in previous books, and death wasn’t a possibility or a true risk before (no minor characters had died, so why should a major character die now, etc.)
  • Plot holes and other evidences of a rush job in writing, as if the author/editor were on a much tighter deadline than the previous books, less time allotted to think ramifications through properly, or they’d spent years mulling on or simmering over the first half of their story but only now discovered their ending, and so on.
  • An ending that isn’t given enough time or development to balance out everything that came before it, to feel satisfying or resolved.  (“In late, out early” misused).
  • Not enough hope (to counterbalance all the previous darkness)
  • Too epic, losing sight of the intimate stories and scale of the previous books and what made these compelling.

Anything about ending books that bothers you (as a reader)?


Persinette Stats

Persinette_2I love stats posts.  I don’t even know why.  There’s just something about them that are so fun?

Thanks to Rachel Aaron and Travis Bach for creating KDP Plus to consolidate Amazon numbers, though, or I might never have gone through the headache of doing so quite yet.  If you’re a self-publisher using Amazon, their graph-generator is absolutely fantastic.

So! Some quick stats for Persinette‘s first three months on Amazon.  I should also say, for its debut, I had enrolled it in Kindle Unlimited v.1.

Books sold from April to June: 51

Of those, 10 were from KU1/KOLL, 5 during pre-order

Books given away for May’s free-promotion week: 135

I’ll let you in on a secret, though.  July goose-egged! I was expecting a drop-off with the summer slump and the 3-month end, but not to fall all the way to zero.  Craziness. ETA: Oops! Misread my reports, haha. The confusion happened because I put a stop on my payments when I moved. Handy feature!

Otherwise, Goodreads has 3 reviews and 7 ratings (avg rating of 4.86) currently.  That’s fantastic for such a niche, little book.

Overall, I’m very happy with how thing are going, (especially since numbers picked back up in August even though I wasn’t doing any sort of promotion, haha).  I’m working on my next translations and projects, but in the meantime, numbers to grin at.  Not a shabby start at all.

ETA: I forgot a fun stat! Countries represented in the above? Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, USA, and the UK.

Hi readers! 😀


Call and Response poem

I’m going to be collecting a few things I’ve done elsewhere, here, to make up for the lack of interesting things lately on the blog while I work on writing and translating.  The first is a poem-response sent to a folklore aficionado acquaintance.  Check out his tumblr for lots of cool faerie-lore.


Interview

Today my interview with Lisa Carter for her Literary Translator Spotlight went up.

I’m overdue to update you all on what I’ve been up to, but being elaborate will have to come later.  Suffice it to say that I’m writing and translating incrementally behind the scenes. 🙂


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