Please help us welcome author Angel Martinez to TNA today, on the tour for her newest release, Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists. I not only love the title of the book but also love the topic of Angel’s post, so enjoy.
Despite so many of the no good, horrible, very bad things that happened in 2016 (heretofore known as Sucky McSuckington Year), we have to acknowledge that much of the world has already changed and no one, no matter how bigoted, can actually close the box again once change opened the lid and drew breath. One of the smaller, but still gratifying, things that have changed is the increase in queer friendly conventions and book fairs. Conventions and fairs are where like-minded people gather to celebrate the things they love and being able to find not only safe but also welcoming spaces for this is an enormous step forward for pop culture and book culture.
Because of this increase, I attended perhaps far more events than I should have last year. (It’s a lot of fun but it’s also time-consuming and exhausting.) Not that I regret a single darn moment. One thing that really struck me at this events? How many people approached the table and asked if we had any books for sale with asexual protagonists. I knew that readers have been asking for more diversity in their main characters these days, in all categories, but the frequency of this one specific request stood out.
Is the increase in interest because asexuality is a new thing? No. Of course not. People on the ace spectrum have always been there, just as every sexuality has, but it’s more recently that we’ve begun to discuss sexualities other than homosexuality and heterosexuality openly and accurately. Asexual people my age were made to feel (and often still are made to feel) broken and dysfunctional. Something was clearly wrong with you if you didn’t like sex or didn’t like it in the same way others did, or something terrible must be in your past to make you that way. Harmful terms such as “frigid” and the pathologization of asexuality as “Hypoactive Sexual Desire Syndrome (HSDS),” as well as a conflation of celibacy with asexuality have all contributed to ace people being unable to have open dialogues about asexuality and gather real, healthy information. Even though the term asexual was first used in the last half of the 19th century, many asexual people will tell you that until recently they didn’t have a word for their sexuality outside of pathology. Not enough resources existed. Not enough people talked about it. Certainly, it has been a challenge to find positive examples of asexual protagonists in fiction.
The point is that asexuality is not new, but asexual people, through greater openness and availability of good information, now have a way to define who they are and recognize that they are not alone. They feel more empowered to say yes, this is me, I am whole, I am healthy, and that is why we’ve seen an increase in requests for ace main characters (the same can be said of many other parts of the rainbow, too – this is a good thing.)
With Lautaro Torres in Uncommonly Tidy Poltergeists, I wanted to tell that story, of an asexual person who knows who he is and has reached the point where he’s comfortable with that knowledge. While Taro’s life has difficulties and challenges, trying to figure out his sexuality is not one of them any longer and while he has imperfections, he is, not at all by chance, not a “broken” character in any sense.
I’m not sure the same can be said of Jack. 😉
About the Book
A poltergeist haunts Taro, dogging his international travels. It washes glasses, puts dishes away, and even dusts. At least he hopes it’s a cleaning-obsessed poltergeist and not his own anxieties burbling over into neat freak fits he doesn’t remember. When his property manager suggests he call paranormal expert, Jack Montrose, Taro’s skeptical but desperate enough to try even a ghost hunter.
Jack’s arrival crushes Taro’s hopes of a dashing Van Helsing-style hero. Instead of an invincible hunter, he gets Ichabod Crane. As the paranormal puzzles multiply and Jack begins to suggest the entity might not be a ghostly one, Taro adds a budding friendship with Jack to his pile of anxieties. It’s a race to see whether Taro’s poltergeist or his relationship with the obviously-not-ace Jack will reach maximum strangeness first.
Eight clean glasses. Taro took them out of the cabinet in the dining room and held each one up to the light. Clean. All of them.
“I know I didn’t …” he trailed off as he hurried back to the kitchen. Bad habit, talking to himself.
He’d come in after midnight on a delayed flight too tired to think about unpacking, drank a glass of water, left the glass on the counter—water ring and all—and went to bed. Now, the glass had been cleaned and put away and the counter wiped down. Taro checked the doors and windows in case he’d had a neat-freak burglar break in, but the house was locked tight.
“Sleepwalking. Everything’s been so weird, I’ve started sleepwalking.”
Already he was rethinking touring his new properties a week at a time. He needed to extend his stay in each place. As soon as he felt settled, his self-imposed schedule moved him on to the next house or condo or villa. A week had seemed so long when he’d made the plans in New York. With travel, time changes, and adjusting to a new place every Sunday, it was all much more grueling than he could have imagined.
Breakfast. Marburg. I am in Marburg, right? He checked his itinerary, went outside to look at the front of the house, and confirmed that, yes, he was indeed in his newly-purchased country house outside Marburg. Of his twelve properties, this wasn’t the biggest or the most unique, but the little fachwerk house had a quiet charm, tucked away behind ancient trees and nestled beside a softly chattering stream.
“This is a good place to get my head back together,” he told the robin singing in the bush by the door. Talking to a bird was not talking to yourself, right? He was guessing about the robin part too. Tiny guy with a red front, nothing like the big, attitudinal robins back home.
Frau Voss, the housekeeper, had left eggs and bread for him, and coffee beans, bless her. With a soft-boiled egg—boiled six minutes and twenty seconds precisely—a heavenly cup of dark coffee, a thick slice of fresh bread with honey, and his laptop, Taro settled on the patio in the back garden to regroup and plan.
His notes on Marburg had him scheduled to visit the castle and the old gardens that day, the next items in a long list of sightseeing since he’d left his home base in New York. He’d managed to keep to his schedule up until that morning. I’m just too damn tired today. My feet hurt, my back hurts, my everything hurts.
Maybe if he’d been twenty-five instead of nearing forty, he might have kept up the grueling schedule. From New York to Chicago to San Francisco, a week in each city had been fine. He’d been running on adrenaline and excitement. The first exhaustion crash had hit him in Hawaii after several airline delays and the long flight, but his house on the big island set back in the ohia trees had been the perfect place to recuperate. Slower pace, perfect weather, and he’d been ready to go again.
Then came Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Chandigarh, Paris and Barcelona, all with too much he wanted to see, too much to take in at once. Near the end of his first world tour, Taro knew he wasn’t doing so well. Sleep-washing of glassware was proof of that.
“No tourist stuff today,” he told the robin who had joined him in the backyard to partake of the ornate ceramic birdbath. “I’m going through my notes and napping. That’s the plan.”
His spot on the slate patio was comfortably warm. The neighborhood was blissfully quiet. Taro woke with a start when footsteps crunched on the gravel path at the side of the house. His coffee was cold, but at least he’d finished his egg.
“Yoo-hoo! Herr Torres, are you here?” A sturdy woman in sensible slacks and a button-down shirt strode around the corner, waving when she spotted him. “Guten morgen! I’m Helga Voss, your housekeeper. I was ringing at your doorbell, but you did not answer.”
Taro struggled up from his patio chair and held out a hand. “Frau Voss, I’m so sorry. Must’ve fallen asleep. Very nice to meet you.”
She nodded and shook his hand in a no-nonsense way. “You have been doing much traveling, I’ve heard. Maybe too much. I am here to see if everything is in order for you and to ask if you have a shopping list for me.”
“Yes. I left a few things for you, but I did not know what you like yet. Maybe I should have asked by email.” She shrugged. “I did not think of it.”
“I … Oh.” Taro struggled for words. People wanting to do things for him still made him uncomfortable. He had changed what he did for a living but not so much how he lived. “I think … Would it be all right if I come shopping with you? I’d like to get to know the area. Do the shopping myself when I’m here?”
Frau Voss stared at him. “So. You pay me to clean an empty house that does not need cleaning and look after a little garden that does not want much. You come for a week at a time and do not intend to let me do what I should. I feel as if I am stealing your money, Herr Torres.”
“No, no!” Taro waved one hand over the other. He supposed what she said made sense. A house that stayed shut up with no one living in it wouldn’t need much cleaning. “I don’t … I’m just used to doing things myself. I think … What I think I need is an ear and a guide right now. Someone to listen and help me plan and orient myself. Could we do that? Have some coffee with me and help me feel like a person again and not a butterfly?”
The frown didn’t ease, but she nodded, strode past him into the house, and soon returned with a heated carafe and a second cup. “So. Tell me what it is you do, Herr Torres.”
About the Author
While Angel Martinez is the erotic fiction pen name of a writer of several genres, she writes both kinds of queer fiction – Science Fiction and Fantasy. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware, (and full time inside the author’s head) Angel has one husband, one son, two cats, a changing variety of other furred and scaled companions, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.