Falling on the A-Spec

This past week (Feb 19-25) was Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week. Before last week I did not know there was such a thing as a arospec awareness week, but there it was. Twitter seemed to lump aro in with asexual for a sort of aro/ace spec awareness week, and as most of the people I follow are in some way associated with the LGBTQIA community, I saw a large number of posts flooding my Twitter feed related to this topic.

As such, before I even got out of bed on the morning of Sunday, February 19, I had encountered something alarming/exciting. Lying in bed browsing Twitter, I happened across a thread wherein a person described what being aromantic/asexual means to her.

And holy shit.

It was me.

It was exactly how I’ve felt for years.

Dear God, can’t I even get out of bed before having life-altering self-revelations on a Sunday morning?!

This post is gonna get a bit personal, but hey, what else is new? I’ve been spilling my guts here every week for months. I believe in a policy of openness, because there are countless things in the world that many people experience, but few people talk about. I have found great solace from those few people willing to talk about these things, so I’m going to be one, in hopes that my gut-spilling and openness can help someone else someday.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

I must admit, I spent most of Sunday, uh, “in a state,” as they say (“they” here being people in the 1800s). I’ve never thought of myself as asexual or aromantic, but then, I never really knew what ace/aro was. I knew what it meant, but I never knew what it feels like. It’s easy to regurgitate a dictionary definition: “Aromantic – a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction.” Well… I’m married, so at some point I was romantically attracted to someone, so I’m not aromantic… Right? “Asexuality – a lack of sexual feelings or desire.” Well, I have sex, I enjoy sex, so I’m not asexual. Right?

…Right?

Turns out no, not really.

Ace/aro identity is a very nuanced thing. I’m vaguely afraid to write anything about it here, because I literally just learned about most of it a week ago and it’s all still very uncertain, so I’m not willing to make my own statements about it as a whole. I’m just going to express how I feel, and compare it to what I’ve read about how other people–people identifying as ace/aro–feel.

I’ve always just considered myself as having a low sex drive. I can go weeks without sex and not even notice. In fact, I usually do go weeks without sex. I have to make a pointed effort to remember to occasionally have sex with my husband, because it doesn’t matter to me either way if we do or don’t. I’ve been with the same guy for nearly ten years, though, so that’s natural, right? All those jokes about married couples never having sex, hardy har har, that’s all it is, right? He’s the only guy I’ve ever had a relationship with–I never did any dating or sleeping around or playing the field or any of that nonsense in high school or college. I never really had the opportunity… but, in retrospect, I also never really had the desire. One-night stands, casual sex, the mere idea of all that kind of horrified me. But I also have anxiety and hate to deal with strangers, so that’s probably all that is, right? I like to look at shirtless guys. I get ridiculous crushes on celebrities and silly crushes on random people I see on the bus or in the hall at work. I have sex with my husband and I enjoy it. I’m not devoid of sexual attraction… so I’m not asexual. Right?  (I’m not trying to give the impression I’m in denial or that I don’t want to be ace/aro, I just don’t want to wrongfully claim a label)

Then I read this post, and Rachel Sharp’s explanation was exactly how I’ve felt all my life. How I still feel. She wrote: “I do feel romantic attraction. I do get crushes (a lot). But for me, a crush isn’t about sex. It’s a cuddle-crush. I want someone I like to like me back and be affectionate. If sex is involved, okay, that can be fun. But so are roller coasters, and swimming in the ocean, and playing video games together. I feel approximately the same emotional investment and drive for all of these activities.

surprised-scared

THAT’S ME!

THAT. IS. ME.

I get crushes on random people and I want to talk to them about life, or books, or movies, or dogs! I want to go for walks, or plant a garden! I don’t care if we so much as kiss. I have no desire to “jump their bones” or “do naughty things to them,” even if I find them super physically appealing. I’ve always felt it odd that people talk about fantasizing about sex with celebrities or so on. Sure, they’re hot, but I don’t think about having sex with them. When I get crushes on people, I literally just want to talk to them. Even with my husband, I am just as content with cuddling or sitting on the couch together as I am with sex (maybe even more so).

So hey, it seems I fall on the a-spectrum somewhere.Who knew?!

I’m not willing to affix a label to myself yet. There are a lot of labels (ace, aro, gray-aro, demisexual, etc) and I find it very intimidating to try to put myself under one heading. There’s also a degree of feeling like an intruder–I’m headed towards my 30’s. Can I just suddenly affix a new label to my sexuality at this point? I’ve been unwilling to refer to myself as “straight” for years, but the question of what I should call myself has never really come up. It hasn’t really mattered. I’m married to a man and our relationship works regardless of what I call myself. For now, I feel like it’s enough to say I fall on the a-spec somewhere. And it’s kind of nice to realize that I don’t have some medical condition or that my lack of sex drive is not related to my husband or my marriage in any way. This is how I’ve felt all my life and there’s a word for it! There’s a community!

I’m not a weirdo! (at least not in this respect)

Woohoo!

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REJECTION

Well, my manuscript for Stray has received its first rejection!

I’m not disappointed (okay I’m a leeeetle bit disappointed, but not surprised). I was expecting a rejection. They even gave me some feedback!

I’ll treat you to a play-by-play of my emotional states as I went through this experience:

9:00pm – I see email in inbox. PANIC. Try to decide if I should just pretend I didn’t see it. That’ll make it go away right? No. No. You’re right. Okay. Need moral support. Send panicked message to friend. Friend demands I open it.

9:05pm – Nghhh. Rejection. Okay, this is okay, I expected this, it’s okay. Read the feedback.

9:10pm – Damn it. I should have revised more. I knew about one of these issues that they pointed out. I should have fixed it. It was not good enough. It is not good enough. I have failed. Dishonor on me, dishonor on my family, dishonor on my cow.

9:15pm – STOP THAT. NO. STOP THAT RIGHT NOW.

9:16pm – but…

9:17pm – NO. STOP. IT’S OKAY. GO WRITE. GO WRITE BEFORE YOU GET TOO DISCOURAGED WITH LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING TO EVER WRITE AGAIN. GET BACK ON THE HORSE AND ADDITIONAL CLICHES. DO THE THING.

9:18pm – *dejectedly stares at in-progress sequel to freshly-rejected book* but…

9:19pm – OKAY FINE, SET THOSE GUYS ASIDE. WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. WRITE YOUR SHORT STORY.

9:20pm – *buries the sadness under productivity… sorta*

I’ve spent the past few days in a state of contemplative blah, wondering if I should revise (AGAIN) before sending it off to the next place, or if I should just ship it away in its current state. One of the best writing teachers I’ve ever had advised me to send it off and see what the next place says, so that’s the plan now. I started re-researching other publishers last night. Torquere and Samhain are both closing, which I find alarming, especially after that All Romance debacle recently. The publishing industry is scary enough without publishers folding left and right. Torquere was the first m/m publisher I discovered when I started getting into this genre, so that one’s a double punch in the gut.

One of the great things about this rejection, though, is how positive everyone has been about it. I posted on Twitter and Facebook about it, and I have received so many “welcome to the club” sentiments and back-pats and encouraging words (from published authors!), I can’t even be a little bit sad (okay I can but I’m not letting it get to meI AM NOT LETTING IT GET TO ME I AM NOT).

I said when I started this blog that I wanted it to be a bit of a road map to publication. First stop was Dreamspinner and they rejected me. Next I make my meandering way down the list. I struggle because my book is lengthy (140,000ish words) and a few romance publishers seem to cap it at 120k. I’m disqualified from even attempting there. I am reluctant to try the really small presses after seeing longstanding ones flop. I am further limiting it if I look at the publisher’s Twitter page and they never post.

My list consists of three choices right now. I think they all allow simultaneous submissions (Dreamspinner doesn’t), so over the next couple weeks I’ll be putting together materials to ship Stray off to all of them at once. Might as well just rip off the band-aid. Let the rejections pour in upon me like a plague of frogs from heaven.

Rainbow Snippet – 1/28/17 – Andrew

Happy Saturday everyone! Here’s my Rainbow Snippet for the week!

I’m thinking this will be my last week sharing from Stray for now. I’m going to try my hand at a short story over the upcoming week and will likely share from that next, but we’ll see!

Anyway, here we go. Trystin and Andrew are in the car on the way home from the hospital. Andrew just asked Trystin why he offered him a job and a place to stay.



“I told you: I feel guilty. It’s partly my fault that this happened to you.”

Somehow I doubted he really felt all that bad. He had to have some kind of ulterior motive. “All right.”

“What did you want, a great and moving speech?” He glanced at me, then scoffed. “You’re not special, Andrew.”



 

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Rainbow Snippet – 1/21/17 – Trystin

Happy Saturday everyone! Here’s my Rainbow Snippet for the week!

Trystin’s POV again, as he muses before picking his new house guest up from the hospital…



When I reached the hospital, I parked and sat in my car, staring up at the tall grey building. I thought about him, about all I knew about him, and realized I knew virtually nothing. He had an abusive background, he slept around, and… According to Ryan, who had called me after talking to Andrew in the hospital, “He’s a mess.” Beyond that, all I knew was what I’d learned the night I’d slept with him, and the more I thought about that night, the more I kicked myself for it. Not just because I’d cheated on Trisha, not just because I’d slipped back into bad habits for one night, but because it had led to this.



 

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Music and Writing – The Chicken or the Egg?

Every week, I do my best to participate in as many writing-related Twitter chats as I can. They’re fun, interactive, and they get my brain moving in different directions. A recent #writerspatch chat focused on playlists for writing. Questions included things like “How does music affect your writing process?” and “What is your favorite genre of music to listen to while writing, and why?” My favorite question was probably “Will your playlist affect your story, or will your story affect your playlist?”

For me, the answer is the latter. I listen to music almost constantly–probably around 12 hours a day. What I listen to depends on what I’m writing. When I wrote the first draft of Stray, over four years ago, I had just discovered Maroon 5, and I listened to their Hands All Over and Overexposed albums on a loop for months. Nothing else. No other bands. Nothing. When I first drafted the sequel to Stray, I listened to Bastille’s Bad Blood album on loop so many times I have flashbacks anytime I hear Dan Smith’s voice.

Since then, I’ve moved on to individualized playlists for characters. When I’m creating new characters, one of the first things I do for them is build a themed playlist. Andrew’s playlist is Fitz & the Tantrums, OK Go, Kongos, and Foster the People. Trystin gets classic rock and solo piano instrumentals. It helps me get into their heads. When I was pre-writing for NaNoWriMo, I spent an entire day at work switching between Pandora stations trying to figure out what my MC would listen to. After much station-hopping, I stumbled upon Milky Chance, Radical Face, The Head and the Heart, and The Decemberists, and knew I had found his home.

I’ve noticed recently that when I am working on a certain set of characters, my brain automatically craves the music I associate with them. Even if I’m not physically writing at the moment, if I’m at work or driving or just doing chores around the house, my brain (always writing in the background, let’s be real) just feels like listening to Ok Go. Or Mozart. Or Bastille. When I shift gears to work on a different WIP, whether I am consciously deciding or not, I suddenly crave a different kind of music.

What do you guys listen to when you write? Do you find that your playlists differ depending on the characters, or do you listen to music more for the overall ambience of a scene? Or does it even matter?

Rainbow Snippet – 1/14/17 – Andrew

Happy Saturday everyone! Here’s my Rainbow Snippet for the week!

This is Andrew’s POV. Trystin has come to visit him in the hospital…



“I have a spare bedroom. It’s yours if you take my job offer.”

It took a second for the words to sink in, and when they did, I had no idea how to respond. My mouth hung open as I stared at him.

“You look surprised.”

“Yeah,” I said. Here was a millionaire, or billionaire, I didn’t know, offering me a job and a place to live. I knew virtually nothing about him, and he knew even less about me.



 

Thanks for reading!!!

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Rainbow Snippet 3 – 12/31/16 – Andrew

Hello, snippeteers! Here’s my Rainbow Snippet for the week! In last week’s snip, Andrew was with a man in a bar, reflecting on the difficulties of going home with strangers vs. stealing from strangers…  This snip takes place later that same night. It was not a good night for him.



I managed to pick my jeans out of the pile. I’d puked on them. Of course. Someone on the bed shifted their weight and I froze, ready to bolt, but when no one grabbed or struck me, I continued looking for my shirt. When I shrugged it on I found that half the buttons had been ripped off in their haste to get me naked. My hands were trembling, and I tried clenching them into fists to calm myself down but my muscles seemed oddly out of my control. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move right, and I just wanted to run screaming from the room…



 

Thank you for reading! Please leave a comment to let me know what you think! I love feedback.

Don’t forget to check out the group at the link above to find snips from other authors, and check back every weekend for more!

Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!