Category: Books

Let’s Read! Chapter 1 of Asexuality and Sexual Normativity

Posted January 9, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Hi, everyone! Welcome to the very first official post of Let’s Read Asexual Academia, a series in which I read, react to and critically discuss academic papers about asexuality. You are cordially invited to join in reading about asexuality.

Currently, the let’s read is focused on Asexuality and Sexual Normativity: An Anthology. Published in 2014, this book collects a special edition of the journal Psychology & Sexuality in 2013. (I messed up the dates in the post announcing the let’s read. My apologies for that.) This post will cover some of the introduction, though its main focus is on the first essay in the anthology.

This first post is available to everyone, to give you all an idea of what to expect, but the remaining 9 papers (or chapters) of the book will only be available to patrons. I aim to have a discussion of a paper up once a week, which means we’ll finish this book around mid-March.

Without further ado, let me offer you the essay! (Note: It’s around 3,300 words long.)

A Discussion of “Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys” through the Eyes of an Asexual from the Future

One of the things you see a lot of in online discussions of asexuality (and to a lesser extent aromanticism) is a reference to a study conducted by Anthony Bogaert that concluded that about 1% of the population is asexual and, therefore, asexuality is a valid and real sexual orientation that should be acknowledged. That’s… usually also pretty much it for citing and discussing research into asexuality. At best, the assumption exists that people are aware of the study that Bogaert did: what he was looking for, how he came to those conclusions and what that means.

There is, however, more to it than that. Bogaert’s study is from 2004. I didn’t discover asexuality until around 2011 and was still exploring what that all meant for me by the time this book was published in 2013. By that time, almost a decade had passed since Bogaert first published his findings. I had no idea that there was more out there to be found, that Bogaert hadn’t conducted his own survey but analysed data from a much larger study, that other people were doing academic research based on other surveys, that they were all leading to similar conclusions insofar as the survey allowed them to draw those. I didn’t know, because no one ever mentions that these surveys and their findings exist.

I didn’t know that what is now known as the split model attraction to, at the very least, non-academic aromantics and some asexuals wasn’t just a known factor in academic research regarding asexuality, but an important part on the discussions of the limitations of the research done to date.

I didn’t know that research, repeatedly, suggests that asexuality is not, in fact, a sexual disorder that needs treatment and that researchers into asexuality may actively discourage health professionals from deciding it’s an issue. Mostly because a lot of asexual and aromantic people seeking help for something unrelated end up discovering their lack of sexual and/or romantic attraction being blamed for their issues and assumed to be causing them distress.

To date, I know of only three academic books that were published on the matter of asexuality. There are some more popscience publications, but that’s about it. You’re more likely to find individual papers. Asexuality and Sexual Normativity (edited by mark Carrigan, Kristina Gupta and Todd G. Morrison) is one of those books. It’s an anthology that collects a set of papers from a special edition of a psychology journal.

And I’ll admit that everything I’ve experienced and heard about psychology and asexuality made me step into this book wary, expecting to find myself invalidated and discussed in ways that made me tear my hair out. The introduction itself managed to make me not just interested in the chapters on asexuality and HSDD (Hypoactive sexual desire disorder) but excited to read them which isn’t a thing I’d ever say. I was dreading those and what they might say, how they might invalidate core parts of my identity. But the introduction itself already went “These are two different things”, so… I’m hopeful.

Then for this week’s discussion I read the first paper in the anthology. That’s Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys by Catherine R.H. Aicken, Catherine H. Mercer and Jackie A. Cassell. This paper is, in effect, a collation and summary of the qualitative research that had been done to date, so up to 2013. You shouldn’t go into it expecting an incredibly deep look at the numbers because this is an overview that only really highlights the main findings overall, where the surveys fail and the importance of more research.

Let me just say that, as a dyscalculic not-mathsy-person, I actually really enjoyed reading this paper. If I had to offer a single point of criticism on it, it’s that the paper, like the surveys it analyses, erases the spectrum of asexuality, as evidenced by its opening paragraph. The very first paragraph of the paper gives the reader the definition of asexuality used in it. That definition is “absence of sexual attraction to others”, and the researchers continue with a statement that they “recognise that this definition is contested.” I should note that the discussions about the academic definition of asexuality are somewhat broader than the discussions I’ve seen in asexual communities but both cover roughly the same gist.

Surprisingly, the paper (like the introduction) acknowledges the split attraction model in all but name and makes a distinction between ‘romantic asexuals’, ‘aromantic asexuals’ and ‘sexuals’. (I’ll be using ‘alloromantic’ or ‘allosexual’ to discuss general identity groups unless I’m referring directly to what the paper is saying.) To my knowledge the terminology here is at least somewhat outdated, but it can be explained by the concept that the split attraction model was only starting to be formed and the idea of (a)sexuality as a spectrum wasn’t as well known. The paper itself makes it clear that they’re using asexual/sexual as a binary definition, effectively if potentially unknowningly erasing the experiences of grayasexuals and demisexuals who would, according to the survey data available to the researchers, be found under ‘sexuals’ even if and even though an analysis of anecdotal experiences would make it clear that these are distinct aspects of asexuality. The use of ‘allosexual’ in favour of ‘sexual’ allows discussions of sexuality and sexual attraction to be more nuanced than they were at the time this paper was written.

The use of ‘sexual’ was, to me and my 2018 lens of asexuality and aromantic studies, very jarring and it sent me down a tangential thought of the way language, culture and how we understand the world all come about. A frequent, ah, complaint made against asexuality by ace-exclusionists is that the term ‘asexual’ is simply too new and too modern. No one was asexual before the word was coined, therefore asexuals are special snowflakes[1]. To my surprise and delight, the introduction at least acknowledges the possibility of how the language we use shape our understanding of the world around us[2]. This isn’t a concept that’s new to queer studies. Looks at the past, especially those through a queer lens, are rife with warnings that we cannot simply apply modern labels to people who didn’t have the same concepts or definitions of sexuality that we did. We know that the past didn’t view sexuality quite the same way we do nowadays and we do our best to account for that.

For all that, though, discussions about asexuality seem to be the only discussions where people try to use the absence of a modern understanding of sexuality as a reason to say this modern understanding of sexuality is therefore clearly and categorically something ‘made up’ by people who ‘want to be oppressed’. The reasoning there is something like “Because there was no concept of asexuality the way we understand it today in the past, asexuality isn’t a valid orientation”. But that type of reasoning ignores that we allow most every other queer identity the benefit of the doubt. Despite the pitfalls of assigning modern concepts to historical people, there are no shortcomings of people arguing for the fact that Sappho was a lesbian or that Jeanne d’Arc was transgender; it’s just they didn’t have words. And, listen, I’m not contesting those assertions (for one I’m not a historian; for another the arguments are pretty convincing). I’m just pointing out that the absence of modern definitions of the words we ascribe queer identities is not an issue with recognising these identities as real and valid (and historically present, linguistic issues aside) while it is an issue when it concerns asexuality. I doubt this anthology of papers will offer me a look into that, but boy do I ever want one and I hope someone’s already done or is doing research in that area. Also I would like to note that Western people-whom-we-might-now-describe-as-asexual actually did have a word they could use to describe their experiences. That word is ‘celibate’ and its existence is kind of a bane to a lot of asexual people who just repeatedly have to explain the difference and how the word does not, in fact, apply to them. Fun fact: according to the paper about a third of asexuals has or has had sex and is in a relationship, possibly with children, but then I’m getting ahead of myself.

The paper goes on to say

In the analysis, it was assumed that asexuals would respond ‘something else’, instead of heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual (Poston & Baumle, 2010). However, in order to pick responses that best fit their experience, asexuals may in fact categorise romantic relationships in which they do not necessarily feel sexual attraction, as hetero-, homo-, or bisexual, and not ‘something else’ (Brotto et al., 2010) (Aicken et al., 2013)

which, if I’m honest, annoys me spectacularly. There’s nothing wrong with this assertion, as such. It’s a statement of fact about the way that romantic asexuals may muddle the survey data. The idea here is, of course, that romantic attraction will get mistaken for sexual attraction and that a non-insignificant portion of alloromantic asexuals will answer the question of who they’re sexually attracted to by stating who they’re romantically attracted to. Since the surveys make no distinction between romantic or sexual attraction either, that means there’s a potentially significant portion of asexuals who are getting excluded from these surveys.

Some of this could have been addressed by a simple note reminding people of the existence of aromantics. It would, at the very least, have aided in acknowledging that romantic and sexual orientations are not the same thing. While academic research in 2013 evidently didn’t acknowledge the split attraction model by name, it is obviously using that model to discuss findings regarding (a)sexuality. So despite ace-exclusionists being all “Ew, that’s homophobic” about it, this is a model that academic research finds valuable enough to include in its discussions and if their beef with asexual and aromantic studies is “that’s not authentic enough”, here you go: peer-reviewed academic research is using it too and was doing so as early as 2013.

The authors then get into more detail regarding how the surveys were performed, which sent me on a tangent reading survey questions, but let’s start at the beginning. The first (well-known) research into asexuality stems from Anthony F. Bogaert’s Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample from 2004, which led to the book Understanding Asexuality, published in 2012.

Bogaert analysed the responses of the Natsal-1, which is where the oft-cited idea that 1% of the population is asexual comes from. It does not, as I’ve seen people claim, come from a survey specifically created to identify asexuality and it does not, as I’ve seen people claim, come from a sample size too small to draw any reasonable conclusions. (In any case, other independent research and further analysis of Natsal surveys largely support the original claim.) Natsal stands for “National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles” and is a survey conducted by NatCen Social Research, the largest independent social research institute in the UK. Natsal-1 refers to the first survey of this type, conducted in 1990-1991. Natsal-2 refers to the second survey of this type, conducted in 2000-2001. At the time this paper was written, Natsal-3 (2010-2011) does not appear to have been available for inclusion in the paper’s analysis.

If you’d like to know more about the Natsal-3, you can go directly to the survey’s website or you can read more about it on the NatCen website. Since the Natsal-3 offers a transcript of its revised questionnaire, I’d like to point out that the question most relevant to this analysis, that of whether someone has experienced sexual attraction, does not appear to be changed. I’d also like to note that while the Natsal-3 is pretty good at repeatedly reminding respondents how the survey interprets certain terms ‘sexual attraction’ is not part of the terms they define. The paper will point out that some asexuals may mistake romantic attraction for sexual attraction or otherwise not know how to interpret ‘sexual attraction’, so if there is to be a fourth Natsal in 2020-2021, I would urge the researchers in charge of that to offer a definition of how they define ‘sexual attraction’ in the interest of gathering more accurate data. (While I’m at it, more awareness that nonbinary people exist would be welcome to.)

At this point, the paper gets into a table of results that I just… genuinely cannot parse effectively on my own. I’m sorry. I plead dyscalculia. What I can parse, though, reveals some interested pieces of data. You’ll have to get the research and tables yourself if you want to verify what I’m about to say, but honestly the book is worth getting for this essay alone and if you’re interested in research regarding asexuality you want this essay.

Among the interesting pieces of data it reveals is that between the Natsal-1 and Natsal-2 the prevalence of ‘people who identify as never experiencing sexual attraction’ has gone down rather than up. It would be incredibly interesting to see how the Natsal-3 compares to them because of the dates of the surveys. Natsal-2 was conducted right in the year that asexuality started to gain some visibility, so you might expect the number of people identifying as ‘not interested in sex’ to go up as awareness increases. Yet Natsal-2’s numbers are down from the first survey and we’ve no idea what Natsal-3 is like in that regard. Did they go up? Did they drop further? Were they roughly the same as Natsal-2? Is asexuality less prevalent than we first assumed? How does the increased understanding of asexuality (and sexuality as a whole) as a spectrum affect these surveys? We don’t know!

What we do know is that these survey numbers are going to be inaccurate representations of asexuality so long as they maintain the binary divide between asexual/sexual that the researchers are using and the paper never really touches on that. I bring this up largely because, as a demisexual, my experiences have an incredibly and not insignificant amount of overlap with those of asexuals. Yet, if I were to participate in a Natsal survey, my experiences would also lump me in the ‘sexual’ category even though a more detailed look at those experiences places me, quite firmly, in the ‘asexual’ category. The survey just isn’t designed to handle the inclusion of certain experiences with sexual desire, leading to miscategorisation and erasure of these experiences. The paper will acknowledge this eventually once in almost a throw-away sentence later on; I just think it needed to be a larger part of their criticism.

Another thing that these surveys uncovered is that “[a]bsence of sexual attraction was more commonly reported among respondents of Indian and Pakistani ethnic origin, who made up 12.2% men and 23.2% of women without sexual attraction (in contrast to 2.7% and 2.8% of those who experienced sexual attraction).” (Aicken et al., 2013) Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Despite the overwhelming whiteness of asexual communities, especially online, according to surveys white people do not, in fact, make up the largest group of people reporting no sexual attraction. This is where my inability to read the tables effectively was really strong because this is something that the paper will say explicitly a bit later, but what it doesn’t do (because it assumes you can read the tables effectively) is give you the numbers or a sense of the size of the difference.

I’ve already touched on the paper’s finding that asexuals can and do get into relationships and may have kids. The analysis doesn’t really go into how or why asexuals choose to this, but they do acknowledge that there are a variety of reasons and not all of them will be captures by a survey like this. In fact, when it comes to having children, “[o]ne in three men and one in five women with an absence of sexual attraction had children, in contrast to almost half of men and almost two-thirds of women with sexual attraction”.

I bring this up largely because these findings so directly contradict the stereotype of (aromantic) asexuals as robotic or dead or emotionless or, basically, in any way divorced from society. Research, actual academic research, indicates that these stereotypes are nonsense. Okay, fine, research suggests that the majority of asexuals lives their life not according to the social ideal, but my point is that this majority is a lot smaller than the stereotype would have you believe. (And even then it’s still a stereotype that isn’t really bourne out by the surveys, as we’ll see in a little bit.)

Lastly, the research indicates that “more than half of women without sexual attraction agreed or agreed strongly to the statement [that sex is the most important part of any marriage or relationship]”. The survey takes a while to point out that there appears to be no link between this number and sexual coercion, which I think is a bit of an oversight, to put it mildly. Part of that stems from having seen the ways ace-exclusionists deal with the very concept of asexuality and coercion. (It’s basically “You weren’t coerced. Okay, maybe you were, but it wasn’t because you’re asexual. No, not even if the person doing the coercing explicitly says so. It can’t have been because you’re asexual because asexuals can’t be coerced.”) It’s extremely dismissive of people’s experiences, for a start. But, more than that, the paper makes no reference to the way that society exerts pressure on individuals or how deeply entrenched rape culture is in (Western) society and it doesn’t allow the possibility that people are saying they weren’t coerced because certain methods of coercion are so prevalent in society that they don’t register that way. Better sex education, as the paper points out, would go a very long way, especially considering the fact that a lot of this societal-level coercion gets dismissed or assumed as normal and that any change to the status quo means the people challenging it are obsessed with sexuality. Which is how we get bigots telling queer people that their very existence is X-rated (yes, asexuals, even the sex-repulsed and sex-negative ones, get that too) and that including queer characters in children’s media is ‘sexualising children’. (It’s not.) The paper, though, doesn’t really acknowledge that which is one of the larger failings because it’s an area that absolutely requires more research and societal awareness, especially if we want queer (of any letter in the acronym) kids to grow up safe and happy.

After that the paper goes onto discuss some of the (potential) ramifications of research on asexuality and on asexuality research, which it would have been nice to see expanded a little bit. Aicken et al. discuss, very briefly, the way asexuality is ignored in certain areas such as law, but it spends most of its time discussing the relationship between asexuality and disorders. While it doesn’t go into detail, the paper explicitly states that asexuality was medicalised, possibly due to the its relation to disability[3], as well as noting that all the surveys to date agree that asexuality is not inherently problematic for people reporting no sexual attraction. In fact, the surveys all agree that most asexuals seem satisfied with their sex life, although some would like to have more sex. The paper further states that asexuals whose partner is pushing them to get help for their lack of sexual attraction be referred to relationship counselling rather than, say, a sexual health specialist or otherwise seeks help ‘fixing’ their sexual attraction. The paper ends by explicitly telling health professionals not to assume that a lack of sexual attraction is “problematic for the individuals who experience it” because research indicates that this assumption is wrong, and that, likewise, health professionals should not assume that someone who does not experience sexual attraction is not sexually active or incapable of pursuing romantic relationships. It would have been nice to see another note about aromanticism, because it’s very erasive of aromanticism at this point, but honestly this level of detail and nuance is miles above what I was expecting from research before 2016.

 

References

Aicken, Catherine R.H., Catherine H. Mercer and Jackie A. Cassell. “Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys.” Carrigan, Mark, Kristina Gupta and Todd G. Morrison. Asexuality and Sexual Normativity: An Anthology. Routledge, 2014. Ebook.

Bogaert, A.F. “Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample.” Journal of Sex Research 41 (2004): 279–287.

Deutscher, Guy. Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages. 2010. Ebook.

National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. 2015. Website. 3 January 2019. <http://www.natsal.ac.uk/natsal-3.aspx>.

 

[1] Another common tactic to discredit the word is to bring up negative associations with the person who coined it. They say “The person who coined ‘asexual’ is a homophobe, therefore the entire concept is homophobic and invalid”. Apparently, according to them, only the most pure and virtuous and totally unproblematic people are allowed to coin words. Or something.

[2] If you find it interesting too, Guy Deutscher’s Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages is a pretty nice introduction to the concept of how language and culture shape one another.

[3] And we can see this in the backlash disabled asexuals may face when trying to discuss their experiences as asexuals given the way disability has been desexualised and the way disabled people have fought hard to reclaim a sexual identity in recent years. Whether there is overlap between the ways in which allosexual disabled people lash out against asexual disabled people speaking about their experiences and the ways in which allosexual queer people lash out against asexuals is out of scope of the article and my discussion of it, but I feel it may be something worth exploring.

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Let’s Read Academic Asexual Literature

Posted January 2, 2019 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, News, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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After some deliberation, I opted to write and post this today as to give people a decent length of advance notice in case anyone wanted to join in.

As many of you know, I have a strong and vested interest in asexual and aromantic literature, whether that’s fiction with ace and/or aro characters or literature about asexuality and aromanticism.

One of the main aspects of my studies is, currently, simply looking at what individual authors have done with asexual representation and what, if any, patterns in representation that we can find in them. (The latter resulted in an 8,500 word essay examining tropes.) Asexual and aromantic studies are, to my knowledge, incredibly new, so I’m going slowly, making sure that I, well, study the trees before I really start looking at the forest. (It’d be remiss of me not to point out that asexual and aromantic studies are a subset of queer studies as a whole. They are.)

Anyway, one thing that I really want to do – partially inspired by the reception tweeting my initial reactions to Asexualities and partially by fellow Patron creator Sandstone‘s literary work – is share more of that reading with you all.

Which means that I’ve found something to fill up my Wednesday posting slot! At least for a good chunk of the year: I’ll be reading and discussing or commenting on nonfiction relating to asexuality and/or aromanticism. Mostly the former, admittedly. This means I’ll be rereading or revisiting nonfiction I’ve read too.

As with the livereacts I’ve been doing last year, the first post for each book will be publicly available to everyone and the later chapter will be available to Patrons only. I’ll also be commenting on the articles and books as I go on Discord, so Patrons of $5+ can join in with the discussion of specific points or not as they please. That said, due to my erratic scheduling in offline life, they will not be regular or announced with much warning. I’d like to think the fact that they’re books and cover nonfiction topics makes them more accessible than the livereacts were.

What does that mean in concrete terms? Well, the very first book I want to read for this is Asexuality and Sexual Normativity: An Anthology edited by Mark Carrigan, Kristina Gupta and Todd G. Morrison. This anthology was originally published as a special edition of Psychology and Sexuality. The book was published by Routledge in 2013. The special edition comes from 2011.

That means the articles in this anthology are already somewhat older compared to our understanding of asexuality and aromanticism today. Which I’ll cover in more detail in the discussion of the introduction because I have things to say. Unless I forgot them in which case I had things to say. I’ll be reading through and commenting on one article per week on, as mentioned, Wednesdays.

If you’re wondering why I’m not starting with Anthony Bogaert’s Understanding Asexuality, that’s partially because I don’t have a copy and largely because I’m honestly more interested in what people did after that book was published, but I do want to read and discuss it at some point.

I mean, at present it’s one of three academically published books about asexuality. Oh, don’t get me wrong! There are more nonfiction books about asexuality – The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker springs to mind as an excellent introductory resource – but they’re more popscience than academic.

After reading Asexuality and Sexual Normativity, I’m not sure. I just know I want to start with that one because it’ll allow me to build a stronger nonfiction list of works cited when working on my own essays.

To that effect, I’d like to share some papers and titles I’ve got access to that may be of interest. If it’s marked with an asterisk I’ve read it before. (Note: This is not all that’s out there. This is what I have access to right now.)

Books

  • Asexuality and Sexual Normativity
  • Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives
  • The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality *
  • All About Demisexuality *
  • Demisexuality and the Asexuality Spectrum *

Papers

Aaaand that’s it so far, but that should easily keep my occupied for… at least half a year? I mean the first book I’m reading is going to take me three months to get through at this pace. That said, please please if you have suggestions for things I could read, throw them at me because I keep getting lost in rather a lot of articles about asexual reproduction in biology which is, um, not what I’m looking for. (Yes, even when I narrow it down to literary articles.) And I’d rather know an article exists (and can’t afford it) than not know it exists at all.

Anyway, that’s the current plan! Starting next week, January 9th 2019, Wednesdays are Talk About Asexuality And Aromanticism In Nonfiction Days until I run out of material to talk about.

Come join me. It’ll be fun. 😀

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Guest Excerpt: Orbit by Leigh Hellman

Posted November 29, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Orbit by Leigh Hellman

Hi, everyone. A few days ago, author Leigh Hellman visited the blog to write a fantastic guest post about their debut release, Orbit, a new adult science fiction novel! Today, I’m upping the book celebrations by sharing an excerpt with you all!

As always, let me give you the plot synopsis first! Author bio goes at the end this time! Because I’m mean like that. But go read this awesomeness!

Orbit by Leigh HellmanCiaan Gennett isn’t green, despite the brand of light hair that betrays her heritage: an Earth mother. A mother she remembers but doesn’t know, who left one day and never came back. Ciaan’s as metal as her home planet—cold and hard and full of so many cracks she’s trying to ignore that she doesn’t have time to wonder about questions that don’t get answers.

After one too many run-ins with the law, Ciaan finds herself sentenced to probation at a port facility and given an ultimatum: Prove that your potential is worth believing in. With help from her best friend Tidoris, Ciaan stays away from trouble—and trouble stays away from her. But when a routine refueling turns into a revelation, Ciaan and Tidoris find themselves forced into an alliance with an Earth captain of questionable morality and his stoic, artificially-grown first officer. Their escalating resistance against bureaucratic cover-ups begins unraveling a history of human monstrosity and an ugly truth that Ciaan isn’t so sure she wants to discover.

Now they all must decide how far they are willing to dig into humanity’s dark desperation—and what they are willing to do about what digs back.

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Excerpt content warnings: bullying, threat/promise of physical violence Read More

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Guest Post: Writing to a Mirror by Leigh Hellman

Posted November 27, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Orbit by Leigh Hellman

Hey, everyone! I’m really stoked to say that I’m hosting another guest post today! This time, it’s a guest post by debut author Leigh Hellman. Leigh is here to discuss their book, Orbit. Specifically, the long road this book undertook to getting written and the way it intersects with queerness.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I’m absolutely thrilled to have books where somewhat older people first start to explore and embrace their queerness because that’s honestly not something I see often and I think these are incredibly important stories.

Let me give you the plot synopsis and a brief biography of Leigh first!

Orbit by Leigh HellmanCiaan Gennett isn’t green, despite the brand of light hair that betrays her heritage: an Earth mother. A mother she remembers but doesn’t know, who left one day and never came back. Ciaan’s as metal as her home planet—cold and hard and full of so many cracks she’s trying to ignore that she doesn’t have time to wonder about questions that don’t get answers.

After one too many run-ins with the law, Ciaan finds herself sentenced to probation at a port facility and given an ultimatum: Prove that your potential is worth believing in. With help from her best friend Tidoris, Ciaan stays away from trouble—and trouble stays away from her. But when a routine refueling turns into a revelation, Ciaan and Tidoris find themselves forced into an alliance with an Earth captain of questionable morality and his stoic, artificially-grown first officer. Their escalating resistance against bureaucratic cover-ups begins unraveling a history of human monstrosity and an ugly truth that Ciaan isn’t so sure she wants to discover.

Now they all must decide how far they are willing to dig into humanity’s dark desperation—and what they are willing to do about what digs back.

*

Leigh Hellman is a queer/asexual and genderqueer writer, originally from the western suburbs of Chicago, and a graduate of the MA Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After gaining the ever-lucrative BA in English, they spent five years living and teaching in South Korea before returning to their native Midwest.

Leigh’s short fiction and creative nonfiction work has been featured in Hippocampus Magazine, VIDA Review, and Fulbright Korea Infusion Magazine. Their critical and journalistic work has been featured in the American Book Review, the Gwangju News magazine, and the Windy City Times. Their first novel, Orbit, is a new adult speculative fiction story now available through Snowy Wings Publishing. They also have a historical fantasy piece included in the SWP anthology, Magic at Midnight.

Leigh is a strong advocate for full-day breakfast menus, all varieties of dark chocolate, building a wardrobe based primarily on bad puns, and bathing in the tears of their enemies.

Welcome, Leigh!

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Guest Post: Writing an Asexual Dominant by Nicole Field

Posted October 23, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Hey, everyone! Earlier this month, author Nicole Field released From the Same Star featuring an asexual love interest, Steve, and today Nicole is here to talk a little bit about the book! In honour of Asexual Awareness Week, Nicole will be talking specifically about asexuality and the way that it relates to Steve’s BDSM play. There’ll also be a short excerpt at the end!

From the Same Star is the second book in Nicole’s Kismet series, following One Last Drop. One Last Drop focuses on other characters, so you don’t have to read that before diving into this one! Both are slice-of-life f/f romances with some BDSM elements but no explicit content.

Let me give you the plot description for From the Same Star and a short biography of Nicole, and then I’ll hand the blog over.

From the Same Star (Kismet #2) by Nicole FieldIn the aftermath of her mother’s death, Angela struggles to recover and re-enter the world. When she meets Steve, who works in the café across the street, she feels able to take a step out of her grief-filled home. With Steve, she hopes to do D/s as a way to take a break from the pain consuming her, but discovers that in doing kink, you bring all of who you are with you, including grief.

Then Steve’s best friend is in a tragic car accident, and winds up in a coma, and Angela longs to offer support to Steve, as well as receive it.

*

Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with one of her partners, two cats, a whole lot of books and a bottomless cup of tea.

Co-creator of Queer Writers Chat and reviewer for Just Love: Queer Book Reviews. Also likes tea, crochet and Gilmore Girls.

 

Welcome Nicole!

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Writing an Asexual Dominant by Nicole Field

First off, thanks to Lynn for hosting me during asexuality week.

I’m here to talk about my recent novel release, From the Same Star, and the asexual love interest of that novel – Steve.

When I conceived of the character of Steve, there were several things that I wanted to get across. Firstly: Although she is dominant by nature, she’s also an everyday person. She’s a waitress. She has long-standing friendships.

And she’s also on the asexuality spectrum.

To me, being on that spectrum was an integral part of Steve’s story, and the wider story that I wanted to tell. So much of the BDSM fiction out there is about the kinds of situations that are going to get one hot under the collar.

That’s not the intention of From the Same Star. This novel is not erotica. It’s a story about two people, and friendship, and healing, and BDSM.

Secondly: I wanted to show not just that Steve is an everyday person, but that she is human. I find the impression in media that dominants can’t be vulnerable to be very harmful. It’s an unrealistic expectation that might be okay in a fantasy narrative setting, but not something that’s so much set in the contemporary, real world as From the Same Star is.

Like One Last Drop before it, From the Same Star is a slice-of-life, f/f, slow burn romance novel with BDSM elements at its core. The dynamic that occurs between Steve and Angela is able to go a lot deeper than the one in One Last Drop because both Steve and Angela are more experienced in BDSM.

That doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. They do. And they also talk through their mistakes and manage to resolve them.

Steve’s sexuality doesn’t prevent any of that. Its presence only defines the direction that their dynamic will and won’t take in the story.

I’ve included a small snippet here:

“In the interests of good communication,” Steve said, once they were sitting in Steve’s room, both of them still holding hands, “I’m on the asexual spectrum. I don’t really have sex.”

Angela’s mouth opened in a silent ‘O’ of surprise. She didn’t exactly know what to say to that.

Steve went on. “I sometimes have sex, but it’s not often, and it’s not the point of my BDSM play.”

“But… kissing?” Angela found her voice again.

“The kissing in the living room…?”

“That was okay,” Steve said. She grinned. “More than okay, actually. After everything during the movie, I would have asked for it if you hadn’t.”

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Thank you so much for visiting, Nicole!

From the Same Star is available in paperback and ebook. You can buy the paperback here via Amazon (or find it any other retailer!) and the ebooks are available via the publisher’s web store as well as the usual eretailers.

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Cover Reveal: Life Within Parole Volume 2 by RoAnna Sylver

Posted October 1, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Life Within Parole Volume 2 by RoAnna Sylver

Life Within Parole Volume 2 by RoAnna Sylver

Coming October 11th, 2018

Preoder today!

Today I’m helping to spread the unveiling of Life Within Parole Volume 2 by awesome author, and fellow Kraken Collective member, RoAnna Sylver! I’ve already shared the cover above, so let me share the description as well!

Parole is full of danger—and secrets.

The deepest of them make up intricately interconnected stories. Damaged survivors finding each other, stitching their lives together in the harshest of places, forging precious bonds amidst the flames. Gradually growing trust, love, and understanding between found families. But there’s no escaping this place, its deadly realities, or its predators. A brutal capture. A hellish withdrawal and fragile recovery. A harrowing escape. A breakneck sprint across a haunted, poisoned wasteland.

Life and death, trust and betrayal, choking smoke and breaths of fresh air—all of these are just part of life within Parole.

* * *

Volume 2 contains ten new Chameleon Moon short stories, and while many stand alone, they’re best enjoyed between Books 1 and 2.

The book also comes with detailed content warnings at the start of the book, so you can easily look those up before purchasing by using Amazon’s Look Inside function.

Having read a few of the stories already, I can confirm that you definitely want to read this after having read at least the first book in the series, Chameleon Moon, because a lot of these stories will rely on you knowing who the characters are. (They’re still delightful if you have no clue, but trust me. It’ll help.)

I’m really excited to see RoAnna release another volume of these stories. Her Chameleon Moon setting is a big, warm hug. Which I know, I know. Isn’t what you’d expect from a dystopian setting, but these are stories about marginalised people surviving and thriving in a hostile world and it’s glorious.

So go and check it out! And if you haven’t read Chameleon Moon before, go check that out first! I heartily recommend it. <3

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Guest Interview: Ceillie Simkiss on Learning Curves

Posted August 11, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Today I’m interviewing Ceillie Simkiss about her debut novella, Learning Curves, a sweet sapphic contemporary romance that comes out August 16th, 2018. Learning Curves is a delightful and diverse novella. I reviewed it earlier this week too, if you’d like my thoughts on it.

Disclaimer: I read an early draft of this novella and Ceillie is a friend. I’m super-excited for everyone to meet Cora and Elena. They’re just so lovely together and we need so much more f/f romance out there. <3

Without further ado, let me give you the book’s description and we’ll hop straight to the interview!

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Book Talk: Learning Curves

Posted August 6, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: Learning CurvesLearning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss
Pages: 91

Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can't afford distractions. She doesn't have time for love. 

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin. 

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they're stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other--even a surprise visit from Elena's family. 

From solitude to sweetness, there's nothing like falling in love. College may be strict...but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Doesn’t that description sound adorable? This is a super-sweet contemporary f/f novella in the vein of Shira Glassman’s Knit One, Girl Two, so if you liked that definitely check this upcoming novella out!

I just have no words for how adorable Elena and Cora are together. They’re just perfect and I wish this had been longer so we’d had more of a chance to spend time getting to know them and watching them learn about each other.

One of my favourite things about the book is probably Elena’s family and how close they are. I have a large extended family too and it was really nice to see the dynamics between everyone, even if only briefly.

I love the way that Elena and Cora prioritise good communication skills, explicitly putting off conversations they know they’re in no headspace to have at that time. They work together really well and it’s just such a wholesome story.

It’s very low-conflict, so don’t go into this expecting high drama, but for me at least that’s part of why I enjoyed it so much. It’s just about seeing two people living their lives and working out how to make a life together work out.

Definitely recommended if you’re looking for a good, fluffy read! Christmas features heavily, but I can absolutely see it as a comfy summer read too. It’s just that happy-making and filled with sunshine. <3

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Book Talk: Help Wanted

Posted July 31, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Book Talk: Help WantedHelp Wanted by J. Emery
Series: Ashveil Academy #1
Pages: 60

Em is confused about a lot of things: who she is, what she wants, how she’s going to pass Alchemy when she’s awful at it. The one thing she’s not confused about is how much she wants to buy her best friend (and college roommate) the best birthday present ever. Luckily the local magic supply shop is hiring. 

Her plan to get a job there would be working perfectly if not for her coworker Phineas who is in turns aggravating and endearingly awkward. She’s not sure if she wants to date him or wants to be him. The more time they spend together the more she thinks it may be both. 

Help Wanted is an 18,000 word novella with a gender and sexuality questioning f/m romance. It is the first in a new series about students at a contemporary magic college. 

Surprise book talk time! Today I’m talking about Help Wanted by J. Emery. I was going to do a proper ramble, but my equipment wasn’t cooperating (read: the ground loop is back and this time it’s so bad my voice gets eaten by the noise reduction too). So a good old-fashioned written talk it is!

CW: descriptions of gender dysphoria

Disclaimer: J. is a twitter friend of mine and I received a copy of this novella for a review.

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Guest Interview: Claudie Arseneault on Baker Thief

Posted June 8, 2018 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Books, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Wow, it’s been a while since I did one of these, but today I’m interviewing Claudie Arseneault to talk about her upcoming new superhero NA story centring aromantic characters and non-romantic relationships, Baker Thief. It’ll release on June 26th, 2018, so that’s not too long a wait now. It’s delightful!

Disclaimer: I edited Baker Thief and am biased not just because Claudie is a dear friend but because I edited the book. I just love it bits and bits and I can’t wait for you all to meet Claire, Adèle and everyone else. Baker Thief has been one of my favourite books of 2017, and I couldn’t talk about it, and I fully expect it to be one of my favourite books this year as well, and now I can talk about it. WHOOT!

So, without further ado, let me give you the description and we’ll hop on over to the interview.

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