On Monday, two new works of historical fiction by members of the Macaronis will be available for your perusal…

Eleventh Hour by  Elin GregoryCOVER IDEAS 3

Borrowed from the Secret Intelligence Service cipher department to assist Briers Allerdale – a field agent returning to 1920s London with news of a dangerous anarchist plot – Miles Siward moves into a ‘couples only’ boarding house, posing as Allerdale’s ‘wife’. Miles relishes the opportunity to allow his alter ego, Millie, to spread her wings but if Miles wants the other agent’s respect he can never betray how much he enjoys being Millie nor how attractive he finds Allerdale.

Pursuing a ruthless enemy who wants to throw Europe back into the horrors of the Great War, Briers and Miles are helped and hindered by nosy landladies, water board officials, suave gentlemen representing foreign powers and their own increasing attraction to each other.

Will they catch their quarry? Will they find love? Could they hope for both?

The clock is ticking.

~~~

Under Leaden Skies by Sandra LindseyULS-200x300

Love. Loss. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Honour. Duty. Family.

In 1939, the arrival of war prompted ‘Teddy’ Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty – Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine – their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.

After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy’s life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?

~~~

We’ll be popping back here soon to tell you interesting tidbits of information we found in our research, and other historical delights!

Sea WolvesI’ve just finished reading Sea Wolves by Tim Clayton with a view to rewriting my WWII submarine story ‘Under the Radar’ for possible submission.

This book had the capacity to have me in tears–the sheer loss of human life in the submarine service was staggering–but it didn’t.  And it wasn’t that the book didn’t focus on the human face of the service. There were human stories mixed in with the development of the submarine and the progression of the war and how the Powers That Be viewed the use of submarines in the war effort. Tales of their life at play as well as time spent on duty, of falling in love, and, in most cases, of how they died.

The origins of the submarine service, and, to a degree, the chapters on the pre-war service were fine as background information to the main event. The problem for me, and I think the reason that I didn’t connect with the book on an emotional level, was that once war was declared the author chose to focus on the different areas and campaigns. Chapters on the invasion of Norway, the submarine base at Malta, Japan taking over the Pacific, the development of midget subs.

The same names cropped up again and again as they moved from one submarine to another or were promoted—quickly, ensuring relatively young officers in a service that many didn’t want to volunteer for—and transferred to another campaign. I’d say eighty to ninety percent of the names mentioned died or were on board a sub that ended up being missing in action. And yet I could not cry for them. I recognised the names, recalled other submarines they had served on, people they had served with, even on occasions the women they had courted or married. And yet I could not cry for them.  I felt the despair of such vast losses, the futility of some of the campaigns (midget subs may have well have been titled suicide missions), their realisation of time running out, could often tell which report would be each participants last. And yet I could not cry for them.

I can’t deny that I cry easily. So why couldn’t I cry here?

Because the author would not let me. There was no continuity to each participant’s story. The information was probably all there, but in most cases it was spread over so many chapters that it left me feeling disconnected from the human aspect of their tale, and ultimately their death. The characters in this book—and believe me there were many interesting characters in the submarine service—were nothing but pawns in a document that detailed the campaigns and what happened to damn near every ship. In the end, despite the final chapter and his acknowledgements, I felt that the author treated the personnel of the submarine service no better than the Powers That Be, as a means to an end.

As a documentation of the development of submarines, of how it felt to be on board in wartime, and the changing view of the PTB this book could not be faulted. If you want to know what happened to most subs in the service, again this book is probably for you.

However as a celebration of the characters and mavericks that made up this service, as a thank you to them for putting their life on the line every time they stepped on board (even in peace time or friendly waters) this book was sorely lacking.

If you want to check out Sea Wolves or see what other folks thought of it, here’s the link on Goodreads.

 

Pals 

We met first day at school.

Play time he knocked me down, so I knocked him down.

Both got the cane.

Best buttys ever since, through thick and thin.

Scrumping apples, knocking on doors and running off, climbing the wall to see the match for free, always together.

Because where Billy went I ‘ad to follow.

 

Shared our first cigarette, both of us puking up afterwards, back of the chapel.

‘ad our first working day at the same factory, the same time.

Our first pint at the Working Men’s. Together.

Our first kisses, with those awful Probyn sisters, down the Tanky Woods.

Whatever Billy did, I tagged along, and he didn’t mind.

 

We signed up, pals in the Pals’ Regiment, me hoping I wouldn’t get rejected if he was accepted.

Trained together, trying to outdo each other at drill, or spit and polish.

Stood in the same holding trench at Mametz, me behind him, the only one who could see behind his jokes and his games and spot the fear.

Said to him, “I’m here, Billy, it’ll be alright,” meaning, “I love you, butty, as a man loves a maid,” only I couldn’t have told him.

 

Woke up in hospital, half my leg shot away.

Couldn’t find out if Billy ‘ad gone where I couldn’t follow yet.

Next morning, he’s there at the bedside, arm and head bandaged up.

“I was wondering where you’d got to, you silly sod,” he said, meaning, “I love you Harry, but I can’t say it here.”

Only I didn’t find out that was what he meant until later, after; “Seeing as we’re two cripples, the sort a maid would never look at, just as well we’ve got each other isn’t it?” and, “Neither of us could look after ourselves so we’d best look after each other.”

Pals.

 

 

WWI hero Sam Hines is used to wearing a face that isn’t his own. When he’s not in the trenches, he’s the most popular female impersonator on the front, but a mysterious note from an anonymous admirer leaves him worried. Everyone realizes—eventually—that Sam’s not a woman, but has somebody also worked out that he also prefers his lovers to be male?

When Sam meets—and falls for—fellow officer Johnny Browne after the war, he wonders whether he could be the man who wrote the note. If so, is he the answer to Sam’s dreams or just another predatory blackmailer, ready to profit from a love that dare not speak its name?

Excerpt:

Sam couldn’t resist unfolding the note; he’d had these sorts of things before and they were always good for a laugh. The invitations would range from the innocent to the knowingly experienced, although nobody ever suggested something entirely obscene—Miss Madeleine gave an air of always being above such things. This would probably be the usual Might I buy you a drink? I know this little estaminet…

It wasn’t.

“I’m awfully glad you’re not a girl. J.”

Sam read it again, not trusting the evidence of his eyes, but they’d been right the first time. J? Which of the officers had that been? Jimmy, Jeffrey, Jonathan…Sam had forgotten their names already, even if he’d been told them.

But when had the note been written? After he’d taken his wig off and burst the little lieutenant’s bubble, he supposed, although if he had no memory of the thing being lodged in its hiding place, he equally had no recollection of somebody scribbling the thing—there’d been very little time for it, anyway. And how much more courage would it have taken to do such a thing in plain sight? It wasn’t the sort of note which could be easily explained away if discovered.

He closed his eyes, trying better to picture the scene. There’d been Corry, whom he’d known since he was a lad. Not him. Not his writing, anyway. And the ginger-haired officer hadn’t been anywhere near those pots. So it had to be the quiet, dark-haired chap or the tow-headed one. He wouldn’t have said no to either of those if they’d met in a certain bar in London. Decent-looking lads, a bit of life about them, and clearly with some spark of interest that was more than platonic. But which of them had written it? And how to find out?

Awfully Glad.

Awfully Glad final cover small

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Nearly everyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the homosexual experience in America is familiar with Stonewall, not just as a NYC dive-bar, but also as the flashpoint in the struggle for Gay Rights. But the “riots”, as they’ve come to be called, didn’t so much spontaneously combust as explode after the participant’s suffering had reached the end of a long simmering fuse.

Post-World-War-2 America was gripped with fear. The reaction was in sharp contrast to that felt after the first world war. Then, waves of isolationism soothed the country’s lingering regrets about mixing in what many considered “European Affairs” (where that left Japan, China, Australia and the Middle East, one can only wonder, though the as yet lingering colonialist condescension toward Africa explains why not much is ever made of their involvement). WW2, on the other hand, saw America fostering her own imperial ambitions, not least in the schismed states that were the former Germany, but also, and at a greater ultimate price, in Southeast Asia.

The main boogey man was of course the Communist. This was partly a reaction to New Deal socialism, but also the Soviet Union had proved in the war a world power to be reckoned with. A secondary threat were homosexuals. The two were linked (almost inexorably so) not so much rationally, but as a result of their insidiousness and their perceived threat to the American way of life.

 photo stonewall-means-fight-back.jpg

Yet, concerning the so-called Commie and Pervert Purges, John Loughery writes in The Other Side of Silence: Men’s Lives & Gay Identities – A Twentieth-Century History:

“[T]wo facts do stand out that never seem to find their way into histories of the Cold War or books about America in the 1950s. …[T]he number of men and women dismissed for sexual reasons far exceeds—by any estimates—the number dismissed for real or alleged involvement with the Communist Party…[And] for the first time, the federal government had addressed itself to the place of the homosexual in American society and concurred with those who argued that gay men and lesbians were not like other people and should not be trusted.”

The focus on the homosexual over the Communist grew as firebrand senators such as Joe McCarthy lost relevance, and prevailed well into the late sixties.

 photo annual reminded.jpg

It was amidst this aura of repression and fear that various homophile groups joined together for the Annual Reminder. (While the modern usage of the word gay has arguably been around since the turn of the last century, in the fifties and sixties, to be “pro-gay-rights” was usually known as being “homophile”.) The brain child of activist Craig Rodwell, following smaller pickets outside New York’s Whitehall and the United Nations Plaza, the picket’s title referenced the fact the public needed to be reminded that not all US citizens enjoyed equal rights. Under the auspices of the East Coast Homophile Organizations (ECHO), the event brought together gay rights champions from all across the spectrum. Frank Kameny, a former Army astronomer dismissed due to his homosexuality, is remembered today for legally challenging his dismissal, perhaps the first to do so. Clark Polak founded Drum magazine. Barbara Gittings, a founder of the NY chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (which official disavowed the picket), also edited DOB’s publication, The Ladder. Kay Tobin Lahusen is recognized as the first openly gay American woman photojournalist. And Rodwell himself went on to establish the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop.

 photo 220px-Barbara_Gittings_1965.jpg Barbara Gittings on the picket line in 1966.

The Annual Reminder focused on ending the legal exclusion of homosexuals in the workplace (especially in government jobs), but lasted only five years. In June of 1969 just a week before the final Annual Reminder, the police infamously raided that dive-bar I mentioned. Subsequent to those events, the pickets were considered almost quaint.

Modern hindsight also tends to underestimate the value of the pickets. They are often derided as arguments for assimilation over acceptance or identity. For example, the 1995 semi-musical film Stonewall all but dismisses the pickets as ineffectual. But even as someone who’s early manhood was steeped in the in-your-face civil disobedience of Act-Up, I can’t help but admire these brave men and women, who really risked far more than I ever did.

 photo annual reminded.jpg

In 2005, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission commemorated the Annual Reminders
with a state historical marker at 6th and Chestnut Streets. On July 4, 2015, to celebrate the picket’s 50th anniversary, a recreation of the first Annual Reminder was staged.

bloghoplogo.jpg Jon Wilson is the author of Cheap as Beasts, a current finalist for the Lambda Literary Award Best Gay Mystery of 2015. He’s also written a follow-up volume, Every Unworthy Thing, as well as two westerns. He lives and works in Northern California.

 

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Recently, while researching for a planned novel set during WW2, I was reading the memoir ‘Troubled Waters’ by Margaret Cornish, about her wartime experience on the inland waterways. I’d been reading quite a few books like this as initial prep for this story, and one thing which had stuck out thus far was that, if the somewhat isolated community of boaters were at all aware of the existence of LGBTQ+ people, it was certainly not something they would discuss or record as part of their history. In Troubled Waters, however, I almost jumped for joy when I came across the following, which occurs shortly after Jo joins the author and skipper Daphne aboard the training boats:

When I returned to the boats, I could hear Jo in the cabin of Cleopatra and I almost turned back into the pub. But money was short and it was cold and I was tired. I entered noisily. Jo was lying along the side-bed with her head on Daphne’s lap. I felt embarrassed; Daphne looked embarrassed, but Jo remained imperturbable and stayed where she was. […] Was Jo a lesbian? Were they both lesbians? I wondered as I drifted into sleep.

The reason I jumped for joy was not only finding reference (at last!) to the existence of LGBTQ+ people in this time period, but also that it suggests I should be ok using the word “lesbian” in my own story. As my editor could tell you, I have terrible trouble with weeding out anachronisms…

narrowboat-cabin-sm

Looking down into a narrowboat cabin: the side-bed is the bench you can see on the right

A few pages later, however, I wasn’t feeling quite so joyful. In the midst of a series of increasingly disturbing events where Jo’s moods swing wildly from one extreme to another, and her behaviour becomes more erratic, the author (Margaret) sustains an injury to her leg while manoeuvring the boats through a lock. The injury effectively confines her to the cabin where she cannot escape Jo, and on one occasion during a pause while they wait for their cargo to be offloaded, Margaret remains on the boats to write letters while the others go off into town for a few hours. Jo returns earlier than expected.

‘Never get to see you on your own,’ she said closing the cabin doors behind her.

I panicked as she joined me on the side-bed and embraced me fiercely, trying to kiss me. She told me that, in fact, she was a man and that she loved me – had loved me since she had lifted me up on the lockside [..] I was horrified and not a little frightened. My arms were pinioned and my leg hurt.

This particular passage struck me and I put the book down at this point on my first read-through. I understood the fright felt by Margaret – she was injured, and therefore in a very vulnerable position, even more so when you’ve read more than just these small extracts and know that even before her injury, Margaret was not as physically imposing or strong as Jo; and Jo, as has been made clear several times by this point in the text, has a very forceful personality. The consequences when she doesn’t get her own way have been shown to be disproportionately dire.

But “horrified”? That one threw me out of my modern understanding and viewpoint. I had to think back, remind myself how little was known about trans issues even 10 years ago, when the Gender Recognition Act had been in place in the UK for a year, or 20 years ago, when I was a teenager struggling to understand sexuality and gender. On reflection, I shouldn’t be surprised at someone in a vulnerable situation being “horrified” by their understanding of gender possibly being turned upside down.

Of course, Jo may not have been trans at all. Even had she known the term, she may not have chosen it for herself. That is me, again, with my modern outlook, trying to understand this account of the past.

You’ll be glad to know, I’m sure, that whatever issues Jo is struggling with, Margaret manages to persuade her to brew up some tea and have a chat about things rather than get up close and personal, and in the text the author reflects

In those days, when the residue of Victorian prudery enveloped most of us, such revelations seemed incredible and my efforts to talk with Jo about her dilemma would now [1987] seem very inhibited and pretentious.

Often, in my daily life, I find myself in conversation with people who are either completely unaware of, or seem entirely resistant to understanding, issues which we in our community know all too well. It can seem such a long hard slog to get people to understand and accept the truths we tell them, and equality sometimes seems such a long way off.

But then, on looking back, it is possible to see how far we’ve come.

~~~

As ever, there are some wonderful posts in the Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality. Do make sure you visit other people on the list here, as well as reading the posts we Macaronis have gathered here.

AceRaindropResearch into the history of asexuality is only just beginning to gain any traction. Which is fitting, because it’s only in the last decade, really, that there has been an awareness that asexuality exists at all – and that awareness is very far from being widespread outside the LGBTQ part of the internet. We are still very much an invisible orientation, and as such not much is known about our history.

Having said that, we do know that the Kinsey Reports – the hugely influential studies of human sexuality published in 1948 has a sliding scale of 0-6 to measure how heterosexual or homosexual someone was, and a seperate category X for those who are not attracted to anyone. That’s us. So clearly we’ve been around since the first serious investigation was going on.

In fact, according to this discussion in AVEN’s forums as early as 1896, budding sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, in his book Sappho und Sokrates says There are individuals who are without any sexual desire (“Anästhesia sexualis”)

He also says It is also not possible to artificially evoke the kind of drive, that is not existent or almost not noticeable. In case of a complete atrophy there is no way that it would spontaneously develop.

And that’s what I would like to talk about today. One of the places where we are almost certain to find reflections of ourselves is in medicine, as a problem to be cured. Acing History has a good summary of the pathologisation of asexuality under the terms of ‘frigidity’, ‘sexual anaesthesia’, and more recently ‘Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder’ (HSDD). This gives us a great place to start when it comes to trying to uncover our history, but it also segues into something of direct relevance today.

This year’s theme for the IDAHOT organisation is Mental Health and Well-Being. Normally I would talk in more vague terms about all of us under the (Queer, MOGAI, LGBTQI+) umbrella. All of us, after all, suffer ill effects to our mental and physical well being by being members of a minority in general, and particularly by being members of a minority that is opressed.

However, today I sat down to write my post immediately after having signed this petition:

Tell the FDA: Disinterest in Sex Shouldn’t Be Treated With A Pill

and I thought ‘well this is spot on theme for a blog hop concerned with the mental health and physical wellbeing of queer people, and it has the advantage of being something I can talk about from experience.’

I really encourage you to go to the petition and at least read the article that accompanies it. The long and the short of it is that – clearly not having the wisdom of Magnus Hirschfeld – they’re bringing in a pill that they claim can do something for disinterest in sex in women. So that they can claim that it’s not going to be used to try to ‘cure’ asexuals of their orientation, the FDA have specifically said that the pill should not be prescribed to people who are not distressed about their disinterest because they identify as asexual.

This is nice, of course. But let’s ask ourselves, how many of those women who are distressed at their lack of interest in sex are distressed because they’ve never heard of asexuality? How many of them even know that asexuality is an option?

While we continue to be an invisible orientation, it’s completely disingenuous to say ‘of course we won’t press this on the asexuals.’ Seriously. Ten years ago I’d have taken it myself because I didn’t know what I was. I didn’t know there was absolutely nothing wrong with being disinterested in sex.

I am livid to think that in my desperation to be ‘normal’ I might have grasped at the chance to take a drug that I had to take every day for the rest of my life, a drug with significant side effects and little apparent effectiveness. And I might have done that, not knowing there was nothing wrong with me at all except that I wasn’t straight.

I am livid to think that while there are people out there who don’t know asexuality exists, of course they’re going to be distressed about themselves. Of course they’re not going to protest that there’s something wrong about them being forced to have sex they don’t want, because people somehow think it’s a disease not to want it. And it won’t ‘cure’ them, because they don’t need to be cured, but it will be a direct threat to their physical and mental well being.

So please, sign the petition. This is a chance to make history instead of simply observing it. Please also let people know that asexuality is a real thing that has been around as long as research on sexuality has existed, and if you don’t want sex it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.

 

HAPHOBIAUMBRELLA2016

In honour of the hop, I will be donating to Gendered Intelligence, a great charity for young trans people in the UK. And I will be giving away a book of their choice from my back-catalogue to one commenter chosen at random. Thanks for reading!

~

Click here to be taken to the list of participants in the blog hop or use the links below.

Blog Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality.

1. B. A. Brock (BI TR GAY LES) 23. Amelia Bishop (MULTI) 45. Remmy Duchene (MM)
2. Jamie Fessenden 24. Moonbeams over Atlanta – Eloreen Moon (MM, REV, MULTI) 46. Sharita Lira writing as BLMorticia M/M
3. Rory Ni Coileain 25. Helena Stone (M/M ) 47. Barbara Winkes (LES)
4. Erica Pike (M/M) 26. AM Leibowitz (M/M, F/F, BI, TR, NB, REV) 48. Bronwyn Heeley (m/m)
5. Andrew Jericho (GAY) 27. L.D. Blakeley (M/M, BI) 49. L. J. LaBarthe
6. Tempeste O\’Riley (M/M (Bi) (NB) 28. Lila Leigh Hunter [M/M, BI] 50. VJ Summers (m/m, m/m/f)
7. The Macaronis [various] 29. Sharon Bidwell 51. Nikka Michaels (M/M)
8. Elin Gregory [mm] 30. Nicole Dennis (M/M, ACE, M/M/F) 52. Caraway Carter (LGBT)
9. Alexa MIlne 31. Lexi Ander 53. L M Somerton (M/M)
10. Nic Starr (M/M) 32. Barbara G.Tarn (M/M, ACE) 54. Taylor Law (GAY)
11. Evelise Archer (MM) 33. Kaje Harper M/M, TR, BI 55. Anastasia Vitsky (F/F, TR, BI)
12. Sue Brown 34. JMS Books LLC 56. Draven St. James (M/M)
13. Elizabeth Varlet (M/M, BI, NB) 35. JM Snyder 57. A.V. Sanders (GAY, ACE, NB)
14. Raven J. Spencer 36. Dean Pace-Frech 58. Lynley Wayne
15. Sharing Links and Wisdom (REV) 37. Kimber Vale 59. DP Denman (GAY)
16. Lisa Horan (REV/Multi) 38. Jacintha Topaz (BI, F/F, M/M, TR) 60. M.A. Church M/M
17. Archer Kay Leah (M/M, F/F, TR, NB, BI, ACE) 39. Prism Book Alliance® (MULTI) 61. Andrew J. Peters GAY
18. Alexis Duran (M/M) 40. Eva Lefoy (M/M, F/F, F/M/F, BI, MULTI) 62. Dianne Hartsock MM
19. Jules Dixon 41. Lou Sylvre (M/M) 63. M. LeAnne Phoenix M/M F/F
20. R.M. Olivia 42. Anne Barwell 64. Cherie Noel (M/M)
21. Heloise West (M/M) 43. Viki Lyn (M/M) 65. Chris McHart (M/M, Trans*)
22. Angel Martinez (M/M GAY BI TR) 44. Sean Michael
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