I Like It Hard – A publishing anniversary

Apologies for cross-posting, but… it’s a special day – and not least because it’s the general election and also the day James Comey appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Cover of I Like It Hard by Francis James FranklinMy novelette, I Like It Hard, was published by Less Than Three Press (who are currently having a sale to celebrate Pride month) this day last year.

After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.

But no amount of training or advice from Dan and his lovers can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve- wracking live sex shows—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.

Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.

Excerpt

“Oh,” my mother said when I told her the news, her neutral response spoken through lips twisted with unconcealed distaste. “Well done.” My father mumbled agreement. Clearly, both were still distressed that I was taking part in the competition at all, and despite their words, they were disappointed I hadn’t been kicked out.

Not that they had been one hundred percent behind Dan, but their complaints then had been more about his dragging them into the media spotlight. Which they were used to by now, really, so that wasn’t so much an issue. With me, it boiled down to my being a woman. My poor Mum. She had triumphed in her acceptance of Dan being gay, and had even at times shown a reluctant pride in seeing him on television, but I baffled her. In her mind, my bisexuality was a phase, my aromanticism was just a fancy way of saying I hadn’t met the right man, and my determination to follow in my brother’s footsteps was pure perversity to spite her.

“I don’t know why you feel you need to do this,” my mum said, not for the first time. I think I must have heard it at least once every week since I had started my training in earnest. “You’re such a smart girl. You should get yourself a normal job, find a nice young man, get married.” Thus proving that she never listened to a word I said.

Dan grinned at my scowl. “Yeah, Sis. You know what, we should post a video of you on YouTube, standing in front of a blackboard and writing fancy equations. Then you turn round, look at the camera, and say, ‘I like it hard!’”

I chuckled at this. “Do you think I could make a career in naked accountancy? ‘All figures exposed — except the real ones.’ How’s that for a slogan?”

Mum glared at both of us. “This isn’t a laughing matter! No one will ever take you seriously if you do this. And no man will ever love you. They’ll see you as a slut to be used and discarded.”

Yes, my mum called me a slut. While pretending not to, but still. Sighing, I looked at Dan. “Let’s go. This girl needs to train hard if she’s ever going to be as big a slut as you.”

September 2016 Veiled Haiku @AlinaMeridon

The Veil

Henry David Thoreau, a poet and philosopher whose writings I wish I were better acquainted with, once said, “It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes.” It certainly conjures up some interesting images, but I suspect the point he was making was that if clothing were simple, primarily functional and generally stripped of its layers of meaning, then we would necessarily have to judge people by who they are rather than what they wear.

Clothing is full of meaning. Clothing is seldom ‘just clothing’. Clothing is a cultural statement indicating power, wealth, identity and intention. It is a language, one of many spoken across the world and throughout recorded history, each with its local dialects. Cultural misunderstandings are easy and all too frequent: someone might make the statement, “I am a confident, independent woman and open – perhaps – to sexual advances from the right someone,” only for someone else to see them and understand instead, “I am a woman of no intrinsic worth and may be treated entirely without respect.”

Defenders of the veil (in its many forms) often argue that it’s ‘just clothing’ and people should be allowed to wear what they like. If people genuinely were allowed to wear whatever they liked, then there wouldn’t be such an outcry at public nudity. In truth there are rules upon rules of what is permissible. Some are enshrined in law, some are simply convention and fashion, some are tokens of cultural identity.

Arguments in support of the veil are so often presented in the guise of feminism (‘the liberation is in the choice’) or religious freedom that to speak out against the veil is perilous indeed. Intelligent people with legitimate concerns are reluctant to speak out for fear of an organised backlash from a religious mafia.

I am a feminist and I find the sight of a woman concealed head-to-foot, save perhaps for a glimpse of eyes, highly distressing. Does, I wonder, the woman have any real choice? Is she happy to be isolated from the outside world, or utterly miserable? Is she content to be the property of a man? Added to that is the offensive implication that men are unable to control their desires, or that it is the responsibility of a woman to conceal herself from the uncontrollable desires of men.

If you genuinely believe people should be allowed to wear what they want, then you should fight for the right for all people to wear what they like, and to be safe and treated with respect no matter what. In communities where the veil is the norm, a woman who chooses not to wear the veil cannot be assured of either safety or respect. Sadly, neither can a woman who does choose to wear the veil be assured of either.

Refusing the Veil by Yasmin-Alibhai-Brown

I have been thinking much about the veil this past month, and stumbled across Refusing the Veil by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who writes with the clarity and the passion of one who sees a hard-won freedom slipping away.

Alexis 5-1-8

In August I started writing a sequel to Alexis 5-1-8 without a real sense of where to take it, but it occurred to me eventually that it would be far better to rewrite much of the new material and thread it into the original story. Alexis 5-1-8 is now sitting at 24,000 words, edging into novella territory.

I sent the new version off to yet-another-independent-publisher – three weeks ago, and have heard absolutely nothing so far. Not even a receipt. Sigh… Getting very tempted to just publish it myself.

Failed Again!

On a happier note, four of my haiku were accepted for the October edition of Failed Haiku.

Posts

Aidee Ladnier talks SciFi Romance; and an aromantic giveaway

Two very different topics in one brief blog post:

Cover of Elusive Radiance by Aidee Ladnier
  1. Aidee Ladnier has a guest post over on Alina Meridon this week: Why I Love Science Fiction Romance.
    “By consensus, most readers agree that the modern genre of science fiction was created by Mary Shelley. She wrote her oeuvre Frankenstein about a scientist creating life in his lab… and the world changed. Writers became dreamers, looking to the future, and inspiring real-life scientists to create it. But what I love most about science fiction is what it says about us, its creators.”
  2. Less Than Three Press is running a giveaway on goodreads for my new novelette, I Like It Hard. As ever with my writing, the reviews are mixed, but I’d like to share part of this review:
    “You may expect it to come across as crass or cheap. Maybe even dirty. But it doesn’t. The writing was flawless; the setting, the story and the main character – it was refreshing, different and an excellent portrayal of an independent, sexual woman who isn’t ashamed of how she feels or what she wants.”

I Like It Hard

My new novelette now has an official cover (very cool – many thanks to Natasha Snow), an official release date (8th June), and an official blurb:

After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.

But no amount of training, or advice from Dan and his lovers, can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve-wracking live sex show—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.

Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.

~ ~ ~ ooh! ~ ~ ~

This is not erotica. It is certainly explicit in places, and hopefully erotic in places, but the essence of I Like It Hard is two-fold:

  1. Television these days is full of reality TV of one sort or another, with lots of X Factor and other talent shows that have celebrity judges and audience voting; couple that with the easy availability of porn on the internet and the ever more unclear line between romance and erotica in all media, and is it such a stretch to imagine that one day contestants will be having sex on stage for public entertainment? It’s a completely daft idea, and by itself would not make for a terribly interesting story, but…
  2. I have for the past few years been writing stories and poetry with aromantic themes. The idea of romantic attraction is so thoroughly ingrained in cultural norms that the idea that someone does not experience it is baffling, even threatening. Falling in love makes us so vulnerable that of course we’re terrified by the idea that the person we love cannot reciprocate. People who seek sexual intimacy but reject romantic intimacy are seen as predators – and unfortunately there all too many sexual predators out there. But there are also allosexual aromantics who may desire sex as part of an emotionally intimate friendship.

These two ideas combine very nicely to provide a setting where sex without romance is the norm, and where therefore an allosexual aromantic person might thrive. It’s interesting to look back at my originally proposed blurb, which finished with:

Helen’s bisexuality makes her a slightly unusual contestant in a show that divides itself into the binaries of male-female and gay-straight, but for the first time in her life she is able to form relationships based on sex and friendship, without the minefield of romance that has so often made her life as an aromantic difficult.

Caveat: Of course, this should not be taken to imply that allosexual aromantic people are porn stars, or vice versa. People are not all the same. Allosexual aromantics are not all the same. Helen Arnold does not represent all allosexual aromantic people, any more than James Bond represents all men.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Innocent she seemed at first, her blushes red as wine
Fans adored her guileless ways and judged her quite divine
Once each week upon the stage, on TV too, she starred
Asked just what she thought of it, she said, “I like it hard!”