Jess Mahler’s Upcoming Books 5/13/19: #AmWriting

I realized that since re-starting this blog, I never shared what-all my active writing projects are. It’s probably time and past-time I do that.

At the moment I have 2 projects I am working on regularly and 3 more that I consider ‘active/backburner’. That is — I am keeping them in mind and will work on them when and as the mood strikes. They’re simmering, basically.

I have many many many projects that are ‘in holding’. They are projects that I reached of point of saying ‘no, this isn’t working;’ but think there is enough potential there that I might pick them up again in the future — or might not. (Probably not, if I’m being honest. But maybe.)

Polyamory on Purpose Books

Polyam and Kink

As I’ve talked about elsewhere, my next PoP book will be Polyam and Kink. It’s currently one of the two projects I work on regularly. I don’t actually know what the current word count is — I’m using this manuscript to experiment with eMacs and orgmode. I have to say, I really like eMacs for straight writing, but org mode is giving me headaches on the regular.

Because the writing is scattered across several dozen text docs all linked together through orgmode, figuring out the word count before I’m ready to pull it all together is going to be an absolute pain.

Abuse in Polyamory

Had a blog post about this last month, but tentatively planning for the next PoP book to be Abuse in Polyamory. At the moment, this is more the seed of an idea than an active project. I’ll probably start writing it when I get to the painful part of editing Polyam and Kink.

Jess Mahler’s Fiction

Planting Life in a Dying City

I need to work on this title. I want the final title to be something like this, but not sure if this is too long or not. *shrug*.

Anyway. I’m just past 29,000 words on this one.

I’ve thought of putting one of those progress tracking widgets on the sidebar, but I never remember to update them. So you’ll need to make do with blog posts like this every month or two.

Planting Life in a Dying City is a story of a group of individuals who come together to build a family in a bronze age society where if you don’t have a family, you are nothing. My blogs about generational families and nalbinding were referring to this manuscript. I’ve also got a Quora answer about the magic system that this world will have.

Space Werewolf

I don’t have a title for this one yet. It’s (as the working title suggests) a sci-fi novel with werewolves. (No, not science-fantasy. I’ve got a science-based explanation for having werewolves. It’s no less realistic than FTL drives. 😛 )

I’m pretty sure I haven’t blogged about this at all or discussed the details with anyone other than close friends and family. The two main characters are a werewolf who was is an undercover operative for the (Underground) Railroad and a human/ship entity who botches the werewolf’s op by ‘rescuing’ her.

This one is at around 19,000 words and has been backburnered since last fall. I expect it’ll move to fully active project soon.

Arranged Polyamory

What if, instead of dating and trying to find people to build relationships with, three lonely and lost strangers decided to make a commitment to each other and see what they can build?

At about 6,000 words, I’ve barely started on this one. I’m using it as an experiment in kishōtenketsu style narrative. One thing I’ve struggled with in my romance (and aromance) stories is lack of conflict. Conflict being central to Western-style story telling, but if you have two characters who are constantly in conflict and in a relationship, usually what you have is rather toxic… and I’m realizing that this could be a whole blog post on it’s own, so maybe next week.

Anyway, kishōtenketsu is a narrative style that doesn’t require conflict. So it seemed like a good idea to give it a try.

Thinking and plotting in a completely different manner from what you learned growing up is hard. Hence the very slow burn on this novel.

Historical Space Romance

I admit it, I got lazy.

This was going to be a historical romance set shortly after the Norman Conquest of England. But I didn’t have the spoons to do the research necessary to make it reasonably accurate, and wasn’t willing to not make an attempt to be accurate if I was doing historical.

So I cheated, and it’s now one of those ‘sci-fi’ romances that are set on a colonized world where people lost a lot of tech knowledge and are scraping by and I’m handwaving the ridiculousness of having cultures so similar to Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman because fiction.

The basic idea here was ‘You know all those historical romances where the woman is forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t know/doesn’t like and over the course of the novel becomes a dutiful, submissive medieval wife to her warrior-husband? Yeah, I’m gender-bending that shit.’

It turns out that in Anglo-Saxon England women could do a LOT of things that Norman women weren’t allowed to do. And when the Normans took over they put an end to little things like women holding land in their own right or being their father’s heirs (assuming there was no male heir, of course.)

This one is sitting at right around 10,000 words, written in short bursts as inspiration hits. I’m struggling a bit with this one because i don’t have a general plot arc laid out, beyond what I mentioned above. I’m pretty much purely pantsing is, which is NOT my usual and a challenge. (But obviously not as much of a challenge as kishōtenketsu since I only started it a few months ago and already have this much!)

I’ve shared a few snippets from this one in Jess’ Pack if you want to check them out.

What About That Lovely Compersion? It’s Not Just for Polya People

Note: This is an updated version of the article first appearing on Postmodern Woman.

Whenever we hear about compersion it’s in a romantic polya context. It’s a feeling of joy that one partner gets when one of their partners is happy, usually because they’ve met someone new. To romantic polya folks compersion is held up as the opposite of jealousy. It’s something to strive for. It’s proof that you’ve beaten the green-eyed monster (even if you still feel it from time to time).

But what about those of us who have no jealousy with which to compare the feeling? Or, hell, what about instances where we feel joy over someone else’s success, even in nonromantic contexts? What about when we cheer for our favorite sports teams and celebrate them winning?

I think we naturally feel compersion in a variety of situations. But people are only applauded for it and only notice it when they feel it in a romantic or polyamorous context.

But what if American Ninja Warrior was the standard for how we treated one another?

If you’re not familiar with American Ninja Warrior, it’s the only competition I’ve seen where literally everyone-competitors, announces, and audience-support every single person going out there and doing their best. That is true competition right there. It’s never about the other players; it’s all about you doing your ultimate.

We naturally want our children, our teams, our companies, and our friends to do well. We’re supportive of them, we cheer them on, and we celebrate with them when they get what they want, when they meet their goals, or when they win. We even do this with fictional characters.

Yet when it comes to romantic relationships and transitional polyamory from the dominant culture, for some reason all of that goes flying out the window. Romantic people are even encouraged to be jealous of one another. It becomes a competition in the destructive sense of the word and everyone is set apart from day one.

People view their partners with suspicion and newcomers with envy. They’ve learned in many ways to view their partners (or their time or love) as their property to some extent. And naturally when that’s taken away they despise it. They want to do all they can to prevent it. Jealousy tells them they’re losing something that’s rightfully theirs.

So polya people work at it. Over and over. Some people give up and return to a monogamous life. Some polya people learn to work around it. Jealousy becomes this ugly never-healing sore that just kind of weeps in the background sometimes. Polya people work on stripping it of its power. When they think they’ve succeeded, when they can feel somewhat joyful about a new love or something, they get excited about feeling compersion.

But it seems like it’s mostly a case of them unlearning the typical cultural messages surrounding how our relationships should look. Why is it easier for friends and parents to feel compersion rather than romantic lovers?

A huge part of it is simply amatonormativity – the pressure and belief that long-term romantic pair-bonding with accompanying trips up that relationship escalator are the norm and are appropriate and desirable for everyone. Not even non-monogamy gets much of a pass from the effects of amatonormativity; often ideas from the underlying culture spill over.

That’s why those who seem to overcome this programming get so excited about compersion.

Even still, the feeling isn’t exclusive to polyamory and for aromantic people or long-term multilinkers it’s not some elusive goal. It comes more easily or organically in nonfamilial intimate linkings because it’s an extension of what we already feel in our other relationships. For some multilinkers or people who value friendships over romance it might be easier for us to tap into our sense of compersion and extend it to all areas 0f our lives.

Compersion isn’t something exceptional. It’s not the sole invention or experience of polyamorous people. Instead I think it’s that those romantic polya people from the dominant culture might find it more difficult to express it in polyamorous relationships. All of us have certain contexts we develop for our relationships. Built into that context are a host of expectations and norms.

It’s considered normal to feel great when your husband gets a raise but not when he gets a new girlfriend.

Maybe the key to compersion isn’t so much defeating or conquering jealousy. I don’t even believe it is the opposite of jealousy. Maybe it’s simply a matter of learning to be more friendly. Of looking at your partner with those lenses you’re able to extend to everyone else. Maybe it’s simply a matter of unlearning those divisive competitive lessons. Why is it easier for you to be happy for your friend or your child but not your lover? Is the root something you simply acquired from culture that triggers your jealousy instead of your compersion?

Either way, however you arrive at it just remember: you’ve felt compersion before!

It’s more familiar than you think it is. It simply hasn’t gone by that name outside of a romantic polya context because people tend to take it for granted.

I recommend you take it from American Ninja Warrior. It is possible and it’s not as hard as people might make it seem. They’re definitely on to something.

Remember, I’m cheering you on!