Exclusive Cover Reveal: Three Kisses by London Setterby

What do you get when you take three adorable stories and put them together as an ebook for the first time? In this case, Three Kisses by London Setterby, which releases on March 26th! Here are the details on the three stories that make up the collection:

About That (Almost) Kiss (m/m)

Since his ex dumped him, Alec Chase has spent his nights sleeping on friends’ couches, wandering his urban college campus, or standing around at dreary parties. That was how he ran into smart, sexy JP Wu last weekend. But JP, a brilliant graphic novelist, is way too good for Alec. As for JP trying to kiss him—well, that was only because he was drunk…right?

A Kiss in Costume (winner of a 2016 Watty Award) (f/f)

This Halloween, Maggie Juárez just wants to nerd out on the finer points of costume design in her hand-made Regency ballgown and try to ignore her painful, awkward crush on beautiful ice-queen Samantha Winters. But Sam is impossible to ignore, especially when she shows up to a party dressed—perfectly—as Mr. Darcy. She can’t be trying to attract Maggie’s attention…can she? 

A Kiss At Christmas (trans m/cis f)

Reid Schechter has always had a crush on his childhood best friend, vivacious cosplay enthusiast Layla Peters. Instead of growing apart at their separate colleges, they seem to have more in common than ever. And visiting Layla in person for the first time after starting his hormone therapy and undergoing top surgery should be weird, but it just feels normal. Still, as much as he daydreams about asking her out, Layla is practically a natural phenomenon. There’s no way she could have feelings for a curmudgeon like him…is there?

And here’s the cover, designed by the author!

Kindle: https://amzn.to/2TCkGCW
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2T5BM6V
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2TFM2b6
Nook: http://bit.ly/2UCKdsb

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London Setterby writes modern-day Gothics and fantasy romances. As L. Setterby, she also writes gritty, suspenseful contemporary romances. Under both names, she writes across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. London lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and toddler. She is usually covered in cracker crumbs.

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TBRainbow Alert: Historical Fiction

Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles (Published)

Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes, the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, holds a bitter grudge against his wealthy father. The Duke intends to give his Duchess a priceless diamond parure on their wedding anniversary—so Alec hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it.

The Duke’s remote castle is a difficult target, and Alec needs a way to get the thieves in. Soldier-turned-criminal Jerry Crozier has the answer: he’ll pose as a Society gentleman and become Alec’s new best friend.

But Jerry is a dangerous man: controlling, remote, and devastating. He effortlessly teases out the lonely young nobleman’s most secret desires, and soon he’s got Alec in his bed—and the palm of his hand.

Or maybe not. Because as the plot thickens, betrayals, secrets, new loves, and old evils come to light. Now the jewel thief and the aristocrat must keep up the pretence, find their way through a maze of privilege and deceit, and confront the truth of what’s between them…all without getting caught.

Buy it: Amazon | Books2Read

How to Talk to Nice English Girls by Gretchen Evans (Published)

In the aftermath of The Great War, everything is changing. But not for Marian Fielding.

Marian’s life is quiet and predictable in the solitude of the English countryside, where she plans to remain and care for her parents.

But Marian’s world is turned upside down when she meets brash, confident Katherine Fuller. Katherine arrives at the Fieldings’ estate for the wedding of Marian’s sister and immediately shakes things up. Instead of keeping an eye on the ill-mannered American girl and keeping her out of trouble, Marian finds herself magnetically drawn to Katherine’s vivacious nature, and they are swept into a whirlwind romance that will change both of their lives.

But will Katherine’s unconventional behavior ruin their chance at happiness? Can Marian leave her old life behind? Will two women from different worlds find a way to be together against all odds and expectations?

Buy it: Amazon

Smoke & Mirrors by Vesper St. Clair (Published)

Frank knows plenty about being haunted, after his brother was killed on his watch. But he has no patience for mediums. Especially not ones with silver tongues and piercing blue eyes like the Illusive Kasimir. Frank can’t understand why his boss, the head of the Brunetti crime family, is all too happy to waste his money and time trying to speak with the dead.

Until a devastating attack at one of Kasimir’s séances leaves the Brunettis in shambles, and Kasimir and Frank on the run.

Frank needs to hunt down whoever ordered the hit on his boss. What he doesn’t need is another doomed love affair with someone he can’t trust—like the con artist Kasimir. But if he’s going to save the Brunetti family—and his own broken heart—he’ll need to exorcise more than just his ghosts.

Buy it: Amazon

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan (March 26th)

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew.

Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of five and sixty, crashes into her life. The Terrible Nephew is living in her rooming house, and Violetta wants him gone.

Mrs. Martin isn’t about to start giving damns, not even for someone as intriguing as Miss Violetta. But she hatches another plan—to make her nephew sorry, to make Miss Violetta smile, and to have the finest adventure of all time.

If she makes Terrible Men angry and wins the hand of a lovely lady in the process? Those are just added bonuses.

Buy it: Amazon | iBooks

A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian (April 9th)

One reluctant heir

If anyone else had asked for his help publishing a naughty novel, Ash would have had the sense to say no. But he’s never been able to deny Verity Plum. Now he has his hands full illustrating a book and trying his damnedest not to fall in love with his best friend. The last thing he needs is to discover he’s a duke’s lost heir. Without a family or a proper education, he’s had to fight for his place in the world, and the idea of it—and Verity—being taken away from him chills him to the bone.

One radical bookseller

All Verity wants is to keep her brother out of prison, her business afloat, and her hands off Ash. Lately it seems she’s not getting anything she wants. She knows from bitter experience that she isn’t cut out for romance, but the more time she spends with Ash, the more she wonders if maybe she’s been wrong about herself.

One disaster waiting to happen

Ash has a month before his identity is exposed, and he plans to spend it with Verity. As they explore their long-buried passion, it becomes harder for Ash to face the music. Can Verity accept who Ash must become or will he turn away the only woman he’s ever loved?

Buy it: Amazon

The Lady and Her Secret Lover by Jenn LeBlanc (May 7th)

Much to her father’s dismay Lady Louisa Adele Kathryn Present is quite solidly on the shelf. She shows no interest in finding a husband after three long seasons of, well, not particulalry trying.

She begins this season anew, somewhat jaded and uninterested in yet another season and the annoyance she’ll certainly face from her family when she remains with them, yet again.

But a single glance from one of the new set has her reeling— straight back into a potted palm.

Maitland Alice Elliot-Rigsby has trained to be the wife of a duchess.
Or perhaps a Viscount, an Earl at the very least. She has only her training — and a rather healthy dowry — to recommend her.
So when she catches the eye of a viscounts daughter her own mother is thrilled.

Louisa hasn’t ever trusted anyone the way she trusts Maitland and it frightens her, but how will they survive a world in which the both of them must marry?

Buy it: Amazon

Everything Grows by Aimee Herman (May 7th)

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Fifteen-year-old Eleanor Fromme just chopped off all of her hair. How else should she cope after hearing that her bully, James, has taken his own life? When Eleanor’s English teacher suggests students write a letter to a person who would never read it to get their feelings out, Eleanor chooses James.

With each letter she writes, Eleanor discovers more about herself, even while trying to make sense of his death. And, with the help of a unique cast of characters, Eleanor not only learns what it means to be inside a body that does not quite match what she feels on the inside, but also comes to terms with her own mother’s mental illness.

Set against a 1993-era backdrop of grunge rock and riot grrrl bands, EVERYTHING GROWS depicts Eleanor’s extraordinary journey to solve the mystery within her and feel complete. Along the way, she loses and gains friends, rebuilds relationships with her family, and develops a system of support to help figure out the language of her queer identity.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (June 4th)

Cover copy to come!

Buy it: Amazon

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (June 4th)

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

An Impossible Distance to Fall by Miriam McNamara (July 2nd)

It’s 1930, and Birdie William’s life has crashed along with the stock market. Her father’s bank has failed, and worse, he’s disappeared along with his Jenny biplane.

When Birdie sees a leaflet for a barnstorming circus with a picture of Dad’s plane on it, she goes to Coney Island in search of answers.

The barnstorming circus has lady pilots, daredevil stuntmen, fire-spinners, and wing walkers, and Birdie is instantly enchanted―especially with a girl pilot named June. Birdie doesn’t find her father, but after stumbling across clues that suggest he’s gone to Chicago, she figures she’ll hitch a ride with the traveling circus doing what she does best: putting on a convincing act and insisting on being star of the show.

But the overconfidence that made her belle of the ball during her enchanted youth turns out to be far too reckless without the safety net of her charmed childhood, and a couple of impulsive missteps sends her and her newfound community spinning into freefall.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Spellbound by Allie Therin (July 29th)

1925
New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon (August 6th)

In this tender-hearted debut, set against the tumultuous backdrop of life in 1973, when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, two boys defy all the odds and fall in love.

When he’s not being bullied or in therapy for anxiety, sixteen-year-old Jonathan lives with his alcoholic dad in the suburbs of St. Louis. Still coping with the death of his mother, his elaborate imagination keeps him afloat and is a balm against vicious school bullies. But everything changes when a Native American boy named Web joins his English class three weeks before the school year ends.

After being partnered for an English project, Jonathan realizes Web is different from his classmates: he’s confident, stands up to Jonathan’s bullies, and calms Jonathan’s severe anxiety. Then one day Web kisses him, and throws Jonathan into a tailspin. It’s 1973 and being gay is considered a mental illness. Eventually he tells Web they can’t be together.

But when things get bad at home Jonathan must decide if he wants to stand up to his dad, and his therapist, and be true to himself.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon

I am so freakin’ excited to be revealing this cover on the site today, and it’s not hard to see why. LOOK AT THAT MAJESTY. (But wait, not yet! First let me to tell you that this is a cover reveal for a historical YA called Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon, which releases on August 6, 2019 from Putnam/PRH, and to read on for the blurb and an excerpt!)

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.

And now, a drum roll for the gorgeous cover, designed by Krisitie Radwilowicz with artwork by Tomasz Mro…

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Killer, right?? But wait, there’s more! Here’s an excerpt!

When I reach the summit of the crying cliff, I grab a few poofs of PeterPaulandMary and glide over to Web.

Because his eyes have built-in night vision or something, he’s clearly been settled here for seven years waiting for me. Sprawled out on the mossy patch, arms folded behind his head, he’s lost somewhere in the sky. The three-quarter moon shines a perfect white glow on “our spot.”

I flop down next to him, follow his gaze, and KAPOW.

Whoa.

Above us, someone’s plugged in the Lite-Brite, I swear. I’m tingling. More than that, I am the Lite-Brite. And all the plastic pegs inside me zing to life.

I can’t help it. I start giggling. “Whoa.”

“I know, man,” he says, turning to me. “Whoa.”

We lie side by side. The only other sound I hear: our synchronistic breathing.

“Don’t you wish we could go up there?” I ask after a while. “And look back down on all this and laugh?”

“We can in our mind.”

“Like the moon,” I say.

“Like the moon . . .”

I fold my hands under my head, smiling. “You know, Carl Sagan says we’re all made of star stuff. Everything is made of it. When stars die they fall into our atmosphere and turn into these chemical compounds that become things. Sometimes they become people.”

“Far out.”

“I know. I hope one day we’ll all see each other without these stupid labels and instead see each other for who we really are. Starfolk.”

“Yeah,” he says. “One day . . .”

“Yeah . . .”

We’re staring. We’re swimming. We’re lost.

“Your turn,” I say.

“My turn what?” he asks.

“It’s your turn. Last time we were up here, I was the one to answer a question. Now it’s your turn.”

“Oh, so this is a continuous game that, what, goes on for our lifetimes?”

“Maybe.”

“Okay then. Fire away.”

I nestle my cheek in the earth, facing him. “Why do you get so angry?”

“Oh.”

“I mean seriously? Sometimes I’m just waiting for your skin to turn green and your muscles to rip through your clothes and you’re going to start eating people like they’re little gummy bears.”

He laughs. “Yeah. It’s a problem.”

“So?”

His face hides nothing. You can see the wheels cranking, the mind gears spinning. Either he’s about to punch me in my face or—

“You really wanna know?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s kind of a long story . . .”

“Okay.”

His chest grows into a balloon, like he’s taking a deep breath for both of us. “Once upon a time—”

“Wait. For real?”

“What?”

“Once upon a time?”

“Yeah, man. What, are there rules on how to tell a story now?”

We laugh.

“Okay then, go,” I say.

“Once upon a time,” he starts again, slowly. “There was a little boy. And this little boy loved his father very much.” His eyes glaze over, disappear in the night. “After his mother died, the father taught this little boy everything he knew. They had dreams. To drive across the country and eat a different slice of pie from every diner they could find. To be the first American Indians in space. Together, the father and son were indestructible. They were invincible.” The stars explode in his eyes. His voice drifts away.

“Then one night, driving in the middle of pitch-black nothing, two red and blue flashes appear in the sky. Carole King sings on the radio. A white cop beams a light through the window. The little boy’s father is dragged out of the car.” He yells, punching the wind with his words. “Crunching. Beating. Screaming. ‘Shut the fuck up, Injun, go back to your land!’ ‘This is my land!’ ‘Don’t you talk back to us!’” Pools of sweat drip from his forehead. “More screaming. Crunching. Beating. The little boy crawls in the back seat, curls up, cries. The cops drive away. A huge dust cloud blows all around the father and son. The little boy opens the back door. He looks down. His father lies in a river of blood. His eyes, dilated. The little boy’s superhero was dead.”

It wasn’t sweat dripping from his face.

I want to reach out, but I’m paralyzed.

“From that day on, the little boy vowed to avenge his father’s death. To make the white man pay. And one day—” He wipes his face with his shirt and looks at me. Starburst heat radiates from his body, slapping my face. I don’t move. I don’t blink. I honestly don’t know what to do.

“I win,” he says, and chuckles.

The world skips back to life: Crickets chirp, soft curly moss sticks to our cheeks, the waterfall cascades below us.

“She’s crying,” I whisper.

“Yeah . . .”

Something’s happening. My heart starts fluttering; my stomach starts tingling. Before I can figure out why, he leans in,

and kisses me.

***

Once again, those preorder links are:
Amazon | B&N |
IndieBound

***

Photo Credit: David Zaugh

James Brandon produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is Co-Director of the documentary film based on their journey: Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s Co-Founder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington PostBelieve Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health MagazineZiggy, Stardust, and Me is his first novel.

How Fandom Changed My Life: A Guest Post by The Sun And Moon Beneath The Stars Author K. Parr

Fandom is a huge gateway for a lot of authors, and it’s one that holds a special place in queer reader hearts for providing which literature never used to and may still not. Certainly it was a life changer for K. Parr, the author of today’s guest post, and she’s here to tell us why. (And yes, there’s info on her book, The Sun and the Moon Beneath the Stars, at the end!)

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Fandom culture has been a huge part of my life since high school, when a friend first showed me sites for fanfiction and fan art, and I became hooked. We co-wrote a fanfic together—a mash-up of our favorite things held together by a tenuous plot and far too many in-jokes—and engaged in shipping, a.k.a. obsessing over character romances from our favorite books, shows, Anime, and more.

When I look back at my early fandoms, I can’t help but notice a common thread despite the various mediums: heteronormative relationships. From Harry Potter, I loved Ron/Hermione. From Fruits Basket, I loved Kyo/Tohru. From The Office, I loved Jim/Pam. Jokes about the hobbits being gay in Lord of the Rings made me uncomfortable, and I steered clear of slash pairings even though my friend insisted that Remus/Sirius from Harry Potter were a wonderful couple off-page.

I had a sheltered upbringing, with very little exposure to non-heteronormative relationships. There were none in my school, and the few in my family were among distant relations. I distinctly remember watching Brokeback Mountain with my parents, and they told me to cover my eyes during the gay sex scene. I obeyed, and recall hearing my father say, “That’s just wrong.” I was fifteen.

I don’t think I ever considered LGBT relationships to be a bad thing, only that they were different, apart from me, not my concern. Here’s where fandom changed my mind.

Post-college, I was a person with a wider perspective. Even though I moved back into my parent’s house, I didn’t shy away from trying new things. A college friend recommended I watch Supernatural because of the relationship between two men—a monster hunter and an angel. Intrigued, I binged the show but found myself disappointed that the relationship she mentioned was only in subtext and I had to actively look for it, though I didn’t quite know how.

So I got a Tumblr to help me gain some insight. Oh, Tumblr. You charming repository of art and stories and gifs and analysis, pf fandom love and hate and inspiration and extreme weirdness. I followed Supernatural blogs dedicated to my favorite ship—Dean and Castiel, or Destiel—and from there discovered a new site for fanfiction that didn’t censor explicit content. (I love you, Archive of Our Own!)

I read hundreds of novel’s worth of Destiel fanfiction. I liked countless posts of Destiel art. I reblogged Destiel gifs, and marveled at how fans interpreted the Destiel subtext of each episode. I read gay porn. I watched gay porn. And it was like a light bulb switched on in my brain.

Queer stories were awesome! Because, while I read Destiel stories, other characters had their own relationships in the background, and I quickly moved on from basic iterations of boy meets boy. I learned about BDSM, polyamory, ABO, and transgender issues, and I gained knowledge of tropes I later realized were romance tropes. I’d become a queer romance reader—and a queer romance writer, as I composed over 600,000 words of gay fanfiction.

For years after that, I struggled to read real books instead of fanfiction. I couldn’t seem to find the queer content I wanted. Only recently did I discover the world of LGBT publishing and become one of its authors, once I converted the lessons from my queer fanfiction into original work! I can’t even imagine writing heteronormative pairings ever again.

While I still don’t know how to label myself, I acknowledge my origins and feel comforted that fandom will be there for me with exactly what I want, when I want it (hello hurt/comfort!). Whether it’s fanfiction depicting LGBT characters and romances, online communities like Tumblr that highlight new queer media to explore, or even a support network for folks like me also questioning their sexualities, I have a home. There will always be something to obsess over, and wonderful fans—and fandoms—to lift me up.

***

The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars

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After being orphaned and forced to work as a palace slave, fifteen-year-old Rasha decides to end her life, but when she plunges a knife into her chest, she doesn’t die. Instead, a strange, icy power possesses her. The last time it took over, someone got hurt, and Rasha can’t let that happen again.

But she’s got bigger problems. Her twin brother is alive, yet held captive by Solaris, a powerful sorcerer. When Rasha runs into Adriana, the selfish princess she once served, they discover Solaris is a common enemy since he destroyed the palace and kidnapped Adriana’s parents.

Together, Rasha and Adriana set out on a rescue mission. Personalities clash and tempers flare, but other feelings surface as well, feelings neither girl could have predicted.

And with the help of a ragtag group of companions, they might just be able to succeed on their quest…until an ancient evil emerges to wreak vengeance on their world.

After being orphaned and forced to work as a palace slave, fifteen-year-old Rasha decides to end her life, but when she plunges a knife into her chest, she doesn’t die. Instead, a strange, icy power possesses her. The last time it took over, someone got hurt, and Rasha can’t let that happen again.

But she’s got bigger problems. Her twin brother is alive, yet held captive by Solaris, a powerful sorcerer. When Rasha runs into Adriana, the selfish princess she once served, they discover Solaris is a common enemy since he destroyed the palace and kidnapped Adriana’s parents.

Together, Rasha and Adriana set out on a rescue mission. Personalities clash and tempers flare, but other feelings surface as well, feelings neither girl could have predicted.

And with the help of a ragtag group of companions, they might just be able to succeed on their quest…until an ancient evil emerges to wreak vengeance on their world.

Buy now: Ninestar Press

K is a writer of multiple genres, including young adult, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and humor, all of which star LGBT characters. She received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2017. In her spare time, K reads and writes fanfiction, keeps up with way too many TV shows, and dances wildly in her apartment. She currently works as a teen librarian in Rhode Island.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Mourning Dove by R.R. Campbell

Today on the site, we’re welcome the cover reveal of R.R. Campbell’s Mourning Dove, the second book in the sci-fi EMPATHY series, releasing on April 29, 2019, from Ninestar Press! Come check it out:

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In the aftermath of the calamitous Human/Etech research study, Chandra and Kyra struggle to reclaim the life they shared in a pre-EMPATHY world, while Ty, armed with knowledge of EMPATHY’s programming language, seeks revenge on the Halmans for the harm that’s befallen his friends.

As a North American Union investigation into the happenings on the compound looms, a grief-stricken Peter works to resurrect the memory of his mother from a harvested nanochip, and Heather scrambles to keep her family—and their company—together. Alistair, having abandoned the family business, plots to save his hide and that of his wife while she strives to stay one step ahead of a husband she has no reason to trust.

Far to the north amid civil unrest, a recently retired Rénald Dupont investigates the disappearance of his friend and former colleague, Meredith, despite grave threats from an increasingly skittish North American Union government.

As old and new foes emerge, spouse is further pit against spouse, brother against sister, and governments against their people. In the end, all must choose between attempts to reclaim the past or surrender to the inevitable, an intractable world of their own creation.

Mourning Dove is an evocative, sweeping symphony of love, revenge, and desperation in cacophonous times. It is the second installment in r. r. campbell’s epic EMPATHY sci-fi saga.

And now the cover, designed by Natasha Snow! 

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Mourning Dove is out April 29, 2019 from Ninestar Press

Pre-order now! (Use code PREORDER for 30% off at checkout)

Haven’t read book one in the series, Imminent Dawn? You can learn more about it below!

43196570Art-school dropout Chandra would do anything to apologize for her role in her wife’s coma—including enroll in the first round of human trials for an internet-access brain implant.

At first, the secretive research compound is paradise, the perfect place to distract Chandra from her grief. But as she soon learns, the facility is more prison than resort, with its doctors, support staff, and her fellow patients all bent on hatching plots of their own, no matter how invested they might seem in helping her communicate with her wife.

Making matters worse, a dark wave of uncertainty crashes down on the compound, forcing Chandra to become an unlikely but pivotal player in conspiracies stretching from the highest levels of the North American Union government to the lowest dredges of its shadowy hacking collectives.

To save herself and her wife, Chandra and her newfound friends from the study will have to overcome the scheming of a ruthless tech magnate, the naïveté of an advancement-hungry administrative assistant, and the relentless pursuits of an investigative journalist, all of whom are determined to outpace the others in their own quests to resurrect lost love, cover their tracks, and uncover the truth.

A twistedly delightful clockwork of intrigue and suspense, EMPATHY: Imminent Dawn is an electrifying sci-fi debut from author r. r. campbell.

Buy links for Imminent Dawn (EMPATHY #1): Amazon | Barnes & Noble | NineStar Press | Kobo | Smashwords
 
 

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Want to request an ARC or participate in the Mourning Dove blog tour? Click here!
 
Preorder link for Mourning Dove  (Use code PREORDER at checkout for 30% off!)
 
Find the author on: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

The Power of Found Families in Queer Speculative Fiction: a Guest Post by Empire of Light Author Alex Harrow

You may remember Alex Harrow from their awesome recent cover reveal on LGBTQReads, and today they’re back with one of our favorite topics: found families! In this case, they’re specifically talking about found families in queer spec fic, so I’ll step aside and let Alex take it away, but not before noting that info for their new book, Empire of Light, is at the bottom of the post, so check it out!

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Found families top the list of my favorite tropes ever to write. Probably because to me, like many queer authors and readers, found families will always have a special place in my heart. We all create our own found families for a variety of reasons: whether it’s because we’re far away from our biological family, both physically and/or emotionally, or simply because most of us have that tendency to meet others we just click with and decide, “Yes, you’re my people.”

Found families almost always form by accident instead of by blood and that’s what make them so powerful: there’s choice involved here. That conscious (or maybe in some ways unconscious) choice toward connection and community.

Found families are the ones we’ll happily set the world on fire for or just show up with ice cream and rosé at ungodly hours of the morning. They’re the ones that will totally send an extraction team to get you out of a bad date and might not bother getting out of their PJs to hang out with you.

In fiction, especially queer fiction, just as in life, found families are very much the backbone of queer people. They might be cobbled-together, they might be messy, but that just makes us love them even more, because no one exists in a vacuum.

Which is the second reason why I love found families so much: they’re an excellent remedy for tokenism, because when was the last time you’ve ever seen a queer person in isolation? Yeah, I can’t remember either. Even if you are writing a coming out story, I find it very hard to believe that your main character would be the only one. And let’s not forget that creating found families around our characters give so many opportunities to create characters all across different spectrums of identity, sexuality, and so many intersections thereof. There is so much potential in found families, why not use it?

Speaking of, found families aren’t always clear cut, nor should they be: they can be as messy as any other family and friend groups because everyone is different. So, yes, found families can be excellent character motivation, along with backup and community, but they can also be fantastic sources for conflict. How many of us always get along with our friends and family members? Relationships are in constant flux, and this is such a great way to explore change and growth in them. Just because characters stick together and would go through fire for each other doesn’t necessarily mean they always have to like each other, after all.

As both a reader and an author, I’ve always admired writers who manage to weave complex found families together because they allow readers to identify with so many more characters than just their main characters. Found families can and do absolutely become the backbone of stories, just as they become a backbone of our own lives. But in order to do so, they have to be complex, multi-layered, and yes, often messy, because if everything is smooth sailing, where’s the story and conflict in that?

Finally, let’s not underestimate the ways in which found families create homes, both for characters and for readers, because to many of us, that’s exactly what they are. Found families create a microcosm of belonging and an environment for characters to just be themselves and to so many of us, that feeling right there, is everything. It makes all the other stuff absolutely worth it. That’s why I dedicated Empire of Light to found families everywhere: because of all these reasons and more.

Empire of Light

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As Aris slips away from Damian and his control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on. Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one minute and kiss him the next.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

Buy Links:

Alex Harrow is a genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual author of queer science fiction and fantasy. Alex’ pronouns are they/them. When not writing queerness with a chance of explosions, Alex is a high school English teacher, waging epic battles against comma splices, misused apostrophes, and anyone under the delusion that the singular ‘they’ is grammatically incorrect.

A German immigrant, Alex has always been drawn to language and stories. They began to write when they realized that the best guarantee to see more books with queer characters was to create them. Alex cares deeply about social justice and wants to see diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ protagonists, in more than the stereotypical coming out story.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexHarrowSFF or visit their website at alexharrow.com.

New Releases: March 2019

The Fever King by Victoria Lee (1st)

The Fever King (Feverwake, #1)In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Last 8 by Laura Pohl (5th)

The Last 8 (The Last 8, #1)A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave 

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott (5th)

After the EclipseA stunning psychological thriller about loss, sisterhood, and the evil that men do, for readers of Ruth Ware and S.K. Tremeyne

Two solar eclipses. Two missing girls.

Sixteen years ago a little girl was abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse while her older sister Cassie was supposed to be watching her. She was never seen again. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big eclipse, Cassie – who has returned to her home town to care for her ailing grandmother – suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister: that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen (5th)

40274696A transgender reporter’s narrative tour through the surprisingly vibrant queer communities sprouting up in red states, offering a vision of a stronger, more humane America.

Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she’s a senior Daily Beast reporter happily married to another woman. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn’t changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called “flyover country” rather than moving to the liberal coasts.

In Real Queer America, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: “Something gay every day.” Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more.

Capturing profound cultural shifts underway in unexpected places and revealing a national network of chosen family fighting for a better world, Real Queer America is a treasure trove of uplifting stories and a much-needed source of hope and inspiration in these divided times.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield (5th)

39332603This is the second book in the Alice Payne series

After abducting Arthur of Brittany from his own time in 1203, thereby creating the mystery that partly prompted the visit in the first place, Alice and her team discover that they have inadvertently brought the smallpox virus back to 1780 with them.

Searching for a future vaccine, Prudence finds that the various factions in the future time war intend to use the crisis to their own advantage.

Can the team prevent an international pandemic across time, and put history back on its tracks? At least until the next battle in the time war…

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino (5th)


By day, Mary Ballard is lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, wealthy and accomplished belle of New York City high society. Mary loves Charlotte with an obsessive passion that goes beyond a servant’s devotion, but Charlotte would never trust Mary again if she knew the truth about her devoted servant’s past. Because Mary’s fate is linked to that of her mistress, one of the most sought-after debutantes in New York, Mary’s future seems secure—if she can keep her own secrets…

But on her nights off, Mary sheds her persona as prim and proper lady’s maid to reveal her true self—Irish exile Maire O’Farren—and finds release from her frustration in New York’s gritty underworld—in the arms of a prostitute and as drinking companion to a decidedly motley crew consisting of a barkeeper and members of a dangerous secret society.

Meanwhile, Charlotte has a secret of her own—she’s having an affair with a stable groom, unaware that her lover is actually Mary’s own brother. When the truth of both women’s double lives begins to unravel, Mary is left to face the consequences. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother and loyalty to Charlotte, between society’s respect and true freedom, Mary finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Proud ed. by Juno Dawson (7th)

A stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Compiled by Juno Dawson, author of THIS BOOK IS GAY and CLEAN.

A celebration of LGBTQ+ talent, PROUD is a thought-provoking, funny, emotional read.

Contributors: Steve Antony, Dean Atta, Kate Alizadeh, Fox Benwell, Alex Bertie, Caroline Bird, Fatti Burke, Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Frank Duffy, Simon James Green, Leo Greenfield, Saffa Khan, Karen Lawler, David Levithan, Priyanka Meenakshi, Alice Oseman, Michael Lee Richardson, David Roberts, Cynthia So, Kay Staples, Jessica Vallance, Kristen Van Dam and Kameron White.

Buy it: Amazon UK | Waterstones | Book Depository

Besotted by Melissa Duclos (12th)

Besotted is the ballad of Sasha and Liz, American expats in Shanghai. Both have moved abroad to escape—Sasha from her father’s disapproval, Liz from the predictability of her hometown. When they move in together, Sasha falls in love, but the sudden attention from a charming architect threatens the relationship. Meanwhile, Liz struggles to be both a good girlfriend to Sasha and a good friend to Sam, her Shanghainese language partner who needs more from her than grammar lessons. For fans of Prague by Arthur Phillips and The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, Besotted is an expat novel that explores what it means to love someone while running away from yourself.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Summer of Dead Birds by Ali Liebegott (12th)

In a chronicle of mourning and survival, Ali Liebegott wallows in loneliness and overassigns meaning to everyday circumstance, clinging to an aging dog and obsessing over dead birds. But these unpretentious vignettes are laced with compassion, as she learns to balance the sting of death with the tender strangeness of life.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

 

Squad by Mariah MacCarthy (12th)

SquadThis darkly comic debut novel by an award-winning playwright is like Mean Girls meets Heathers with a splash of Bring it On.

Jenna Watson is a cheerleader. But it’s not some Hollywood crap. Cheerleaders are not every guy’s fantasy; they are not the “popular girls” or the “mean girls” of Marsen High School. They’re too busy for that. They’re literally just some human females trying to live their lives and do a perfect toe touch. But that all changed after Raejean stopped talking to Jenna and started hanging out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna stopped getting invited out with the rest of the squad and she couldn’t tell if it was on purpose or if it was all in her head.

At times heartbreaking, at others hilarious, Squad follows Jenna through her attempts to get revenge on Raejean and invent a new post-cheer life for herself through LARPING (live action role-playing) and a relationship with a trans guy that feels like love—but isn’t. In the, end Jenna discovers that who she is is not defined by which squad she’s in.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable (12th)

Mads is pretty happy with her life. She goes to church with her family, and minor league baseball games with her dad. She goofs off with her best friend Cat, and has thus far managed to avoid getting kissed by Adam, the boy next door. It’s everything she hoped high school would be… until all of a sudden, it’s not.

Her dad is hiding something big—so big it could tear her family apart. And that’s just the beginning of her problems: Mads is starting to figure out that she doesn’t want to kiss Adam… because the only person she wants to kiss is Cat.

Kiss Number 8, a graphic novel from writer Colleen AF Venable and illustrator Ellen T. Crenshaw, is a layered, funny, sharp-edged story of teen sexuality and family secrets.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Widening Gyre by Michael R. Johnston (14th)

Eight hundred years ago, the Zhen Empire discovered a broken human colony ship drifting in the fringes of their space. The Zhen gave the humans a place to live and folded them into their Empire as a client state. But it hasn’t been easy. Not all Zhen were eager to welcome another species into their Empire, and humans have faced persecution. For hundreds of years, human languages and history were outlawed subjects, as the Zhen tried to mold humans into their image. Earth and the cultures it nourished for millennia are forgotten, little more than legends.

One of the first humans to be allowed to serve in the Zhen military, Tajen Hunt became a war hero at the Battle of Elkari, the only human to be named an official Hero of the Empire. He was given command of a task force, and sent to do the Empire’s bidding in their war with the enigmatic Tabrans. But when he failed in a crucial mission, causing the deaths of millions of people, he resigned in disgrace and faded into life on the fringes as a lone independent pilot.

When Tajen discovers his brother, Daav, has been killed by agents of the Empire, he, his niece, and their newly-hired crew set out to finish his brother’s quest: to find Earth, the legendary homeworld of humanity. What they discover will shatter 800 years of peace in the Empire, and start a war that could be the end of the human race.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Flame Tree Publishing

The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum (19th)

The Weight of the StarsRyann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . .

In K. Ancrum’s signature poetic style, this slow-burn romance will have you savoring every page.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Video Games Have Always Been Queer by Bonnie Ruberg (19th)

While popular discussions about queerness in video games often focus on big-name, mainstream games that feature LGBTQ characters, like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, Bonnie Ruberg pushes the concept of queerness in games beyond a matter of representation, exploring how video games can be played, interpreted, and designed queerly, whether or not they include overtly LGBTQ content. Video Games Have Always Been Queer argues that the medium of video games itself can—and should—be read queerly. 

In the first book dedicated to bridging game studies and queer theory, Ruberg resists the common, reductive narrative that games are only now becoming more diverse. Revealing what reading D. A. Miller can bring to the popular 2007 video game Portal, or what Eve Sedgwick offers Pong, Ruberg models the ways game worlds offer players the opportunity to explore queer experience, affect, and desire. As players attempt to ‘pass’ in Octodad or explore the pleasure of failure in Burnout: Revenge, Ruberg asserts that, even within a dominant gaming culture that has proved to be openly hostile to those perceived as different, queer people have always belonged in video games—because video games have, in fact, always been queer.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore (19th)

Divine justice is written in blood.

Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.

Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.

Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale (19th)

Small Town HeartsRule #1 – Never fall for a summer boy. 

Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.

And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Anyone But You by Chelsea M. Cameron (19th)

Things are going great for Sutton Kay, or at least they were. Her yoga studio is doing well, she’s living with her best friend, and she just got two kittens named Mocha and Cappuccino. Sure, she doesn’t have a girlfriend, but her life is full and busy.

Then her building is sold and the new landlord turns out to be the woman putting in a gym downstairs who doesn’t seem to understand the concepts “courtesy” and “don’t be rude to your tenants.” Sutton can’t get a read on Tuesday Grímsdóttir, but she can appreciate her muscles. Seriously, Tuesday is ripped. Not that that has anything to do with anything since she’s too surly to have a conversation with, and won’t stop pissing Sutton off.

Sutton’s life gets interesting after she dares Tuesday to make it through one yoga class, and then Tuesday gives Sutton the same dare. Soon enough they’re spending time working out together and when the sweat starts flowing, the sparks start flying. How is it possible to be so attracted to a person you can barely stand?

But when someone from Tuesday’s past shows up and Sutton sees a whole new side of Tuesday, will she change her mind about her grumpy landlord? Can she?

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Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (19th)

In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.

Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra.

Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T’kira Madden (19th)

Acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden’s raw and redemptive debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where she found cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hiding in plain sight.

As a child, Madden lived a life of extravagance, from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoe-brand name. But under the surface was a wild instability. The only child of parents continually battling drug and alcohol addictions, Madden confronted her environment alone. Facing a culture of assault and objectification, she found lifelines in the desperately loving friendships of fatherless girls.

With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai’i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It’s a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (26th)

Once & Future (Once & Future, #1)I’ve been chased my whole life. As an illegal immigrant in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | Books of Wonder (signed preorder)

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve (26th)

Out of SalemWhen genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed their parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett (26th)

With Miranda in Milan, debut author Katharine Duckett reimagines the consequences of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, casting Miranda into a Milanese pit of vipers and building a queer love story that lifts off the page in whirlwinds of feeling.

After the tempest, after the reunion, after her father drowned his books, Miranda was meant to enter a brave new world. Naples awaited her, and Ferdinand, and a throne. Instead she finds herself in Milan, in her father’s castle, surrounded by hostile servants who treat her like a ghost. Whispers cling to her like spiderwebs, whispers that carry her dead mother’s name. And though he promised to give away his power, Milan is once again contorting around Prospero’s dark arts.

With only Dorothea, her sole companion and confidant to aid her, Miranda must cut through the mystery and find the truth about her father, her mother, and herself.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Fiction, Platonic Relationships, and Common Bonds: an Aromantic Roundtable

Aromantic Awareness Week may be over for 2019, but that doesn’t mean your Aromantic Awareness (or enjoyment of Aromantic fiction) has to be! I’m psyched to welcome to the site today an aromantic roundtable headed by Claudie Arseneault, author of books including City of Strife and Baker Thief and the brains/work behind the incredible Aro Ace Database. Claudie is also one of the editors of Common Bonds, a crowdfunded aromantic spec fic anthology, you definitely don’t wanna miss!

And now, I’ll let Claudie and her roundtable take it away…

Common Bonds is an anthology of speculative fiction with aromantic characters and platonic relationships at its heart. Finding this sort of fiction is a desire I’ve often seen other aromantic people express, and I absolutely share it. There’s an entire genre dedicated to romance, but when it comes to the other forms of bonding like friendships, you often have to rely on your detective skills to find stories centering them. So I teamed up with other awesome editors (C.T. Callahan, B. R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver) and we decided to make this a reality.

I obviously have a lot of things to say on the topic, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity to say them, but I wanted to pass the mic to other aromantic bookish people not directly involved in the anthology and hear their thoughts on aromanticism, fiction, and platonic relationships. Turns out they had a lot to say, too, and it was awesome! So here we go.

Claudie : Hello and welcome to this aromantic roundtable! Before we get to the meaty discussions, please introduce yourselves a little!

Fadwa: Hi, everyone! My name’s Fadwa (she/her) and I’m a bisexual grayromantic Moroccan Muslim girl. It’s a mouthful haha. I’m a 22 years old perpetually exhausted medical student.

Lynn: Hello! I’m Lynn (she/they) and I’m a demiromantic demisexual author who is very bad at humour. (I was going for something humorous and failed.) Like Fadwa, I’m perpetually exhausted, though not a medical student. I was literature through and through. Also I ramble. You have been warned.

Rosiee: *Waves* I’m Rosiee (she/her), an aromantic grayasexual author, and I’m proposing we all take a nap.

Claudie: Proposition accepted, Rosiee. Let’s start with something fun. What are your favourite platonic relationships in fiction? Do you have any specific examples in mind? Why did those resonate?

Lynn : It’s cheating to say “Anything Cal-from-Isandor-related”, isn’t it? Honestly, these are my fave relationships just because Cal is a cinnamon roll darling. More so, he gets to be a cinnamon roll darling who learns he does not have to sacrifice his happiness for his friends. Like… The first time I saw a platonic relationship in fiction was in M.C.A. Hogarth’s Mindtouch and I love those books very much and I will love Vasiht’h forever, but the further along the setting goes, the more Vasiht’h seems to sacrifice everything he wants to the happiness of his partner and just… Well, with Cal’s narrative we actually have the opposite to some extent because Cal is in a friendship that is abusive, and one of the things he has to learn is that he matters too. I mean, he knows that, but he has some trouble applying it to his friendships. And that resonated a lot with me.

Claudie: Your cheating is accepted, even if it’s a bit awkward that you immediately jumped to my writing. ^^;

Rosiee: I had to think about this question for a whole day, to be honest. I kept trying to narrow my search parameters and think of platonic relationships that weren’t sibling relationships. But the thing is, sibling relationships are some of my favorites. I tend to gravitate toward relationships that I know from the get-go won’t turn romantic, and sibling relationships generally have the smallest chance of turning. Relationships like Anna and Elsa from Frozen, Katara and Sokka from Avatar the Last Airbender, Lada and Radu from And I Darken have always called to me. Maybe it’s because I never had any siblings, myself, but there’s just so much to explore within familial relationships like that, especially when the characters are growing as individuals.

Fadwa: Like Rosiee, I had to give this one a lot of thought looking for platonic relationships other than siblings because sibling dynamics have always been my favorites too see explored in media. In my case, it’s because I have a little sister I’m very close with and love to see my experiences with her mirrored. And even when the dynamic isn’t the same as the one I have with her, I love to see how different those relationships can be from one pair of siblings to another. I actually love Katara and Sokka’s relationship, it’s just so spot on, they get on each others’ nerves but at the end of the day love each other and would do anything for each others happiness and safety.

Rosiee:  I’ve also always had a soft spot for platonic relationships–and really, all types of relationships–that stem from a place of mutual respect. There’s really nothing that keeps my attention more than two nerds recognizing a pieces of themselves in each other and then working together to achieve great things. For example, Zuko and Aang from Avatar the last Airbender come together after a looooong time fighting, and their understanding of each other’s strengths is touching, and ultimately results in powerful friendship! The relationship between Luna Lovegood and Harry Potter, while not without its problems, also shows two people who have experienced great pain in life recognizing it in each other, and feeling less alone. I always felt that relationship was a lot stronger than anyone gave it credit for.

Fadwa: I also have a soft spot for people who bond over similar experiences (generally traumatic) and help each other through them, whether they live said experiences together or meet after the fact. I loved Rin and Kitay from The Poppy War, who become friends very quickly after realizing that both are the outliers at the academy and are each others’ emotional support through their brutal training at the academy and later on a brutal war.

Lynn: Ooooh, yeeees. Rin and Kitay were wonderful! I like how you both picked up on sibling relationships in fiction. I guess I’m the opposite of Rosiee in that. Not that I don’t love familial relationships – I do – but I don’t feel like I was ever drawn to siblings specifically. For me it’s largely cousins. There’s a real difference in relationships between the characters in the Famous Five by Enid Blyton when it comes to the sibling relationships and the cousin ones. I was drawn to those books so much when I was a child and, yeah, the lack of romance was probably a real factor in it.

Claudie: Something really prevalent in both of your answers (Cal learning that he matters too, mutual respect, bonding through similar trauma) is that sense of people treating each other as equals. Any thoughts on platonic relationships that have an inherent power differential, such as mentor/student and parent/child? Do those tend to work less for you, or do they need something different to capture your heart?

Rosiee: Mentor/student relationships can be so powerful and really touching. Jumping off Avatar again, the relationship between Zuko and his uncle, Iroh, always shines for me. Obviously there’s a familial relationship there as well, but the mentorship itself takes on such an important role in Zuko’s personal growth—it’s as much about learning to use his bending power as it is about learning to be a person. Other examples that come to mind are Harry Potter and Remus Lupin, who share so much in terms of grief and history, and Sallot Leon from Mask of Shadows and the other members of the Left Hand–especially in the second book. Sal’s relationships with the other members of the Left Hand are particularly fascinating from the perspective of age, since Sal is much younger than the rest of them, but they all have a shared responsibility.

Lynn: Hmmm… You know, I don’t think I do? But then I think most mentor/student relationships end up with the mentor dead, so… Yeah. (I like my relationships to survive the end of at least the first book. T_T)

Rosiee: One last example, which I’m actually uncertain about, is the teacher/student relationship between Numair and Daine in Tamora Pierce’s Immortals quartet. I found this relationship really interesting and touching for the first few books, but it does take a romantic turn that I hadn’t expected. I’m still very iffy on how much this impacts my feelings about that relationship. The mentor/student relationship, especially when one of them is a teen, should be a promise of a platonic relationship. When they end up turning romantic or sexual, it feels like a betrayal of that promise.

Claudie: I’m with you on that one, Rosiee. There are some mentor relationships I’d really like to see submitted to an always-platonic reader contract. One of the reasons Common Bonds has a platonic focus was the ubiquity of romance within queer lit circles, through call for submissions, lists by romantic pairings, etc., and how little space it left for aromantic people and for the stories surrounding other types of relationships. Can you share your experiences navigating those spaces, both positive and negative? Are there things you’d love to see more of?

Fadwa: I am huge romance reader and fan, which means that for a long time, even if some romances in books didn’t sit well with me, I didn’t really know why or have any negative experiences with the lack of platonic relationships. Then, a couple years back, I came out to myself as aromantic, and that’s when I started truly realizing why certain romances irked me. Sometimes I just did not feel like reading at all, because I knew I was going to be confronted with a romance I did not care for. And my biggest issue is with *forced* romance, meaning romance with no kind of chemistry whatsoever, and that’s there just to fill some kind of quota. I realized that the reason I consume romance books so much is because at least then I am making the conscious choice to read about romantic relationships and that they weren’t just thrown without having a point in the story, because a lot of the time, reading outside of the romance genre, I like the characters that are pushed together a lot better in strictly platonic relationships.

Claudie: Loving characters better in strictly in platonic relationships is the story of my life, honestly.

Lynn: I admit the prevalence of romance wasn’t something I paid much attention to until I started learning more about aromanticism and realised this could be questioned or challenged. Once you notice it you start to see how prevalent those romantic relationships are even, at times, in shows that are explicitly touted as being about friendship.

I’d want to see more awareness of aromanticism in general. Where do we go to tell our stories? The way queer publishers handle it makes it sound like there’s no room for us. There’s always the pressure to add romance. It may not always be the publisher itself, but the general sense of society. Like editors expect it because the audience expects it, which then means the audience expects it because editors do and tada! A vicious cycle has been created and it ends up shutting aros out.

Rosiee: I agree with everything Lynn said–it’s really disheartening and feels exclusionary to see those calls for submissions. Even when they don’t specify a pairing type, if it’s a call for queer submissions or “LGBT+” submissions, I often wonder if the “A” is included in that plus sign. Even organizations like Lambda Literary, who are supposed to be advocates for the community, don’t put the “A” in their acronym.

It’s the same with calls for submission, or even MSWL tweets from agents. It’s the reason why it took me nearly a dozen revisions of my debut to finally put the words “aromantic” and “asexual” on the page. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it until I was given express permission from my editor, who was absolutely wonderful about it. I think gatekeepers honestly don’t realize how much power they have to shape who submits to them. Self-rejection gets easier and easier the longer the world rejects you, and that’s tough to combat sometimes.

Fadwa: There’s also the micro-agressions that are so prevalent and normalized in books. They range from the classic “Just friends” or “More than friends” that I can mostly just ignore to the “What normal person has never experienced romantic attraction” that make me put the book down and never look back. Sometimes navigating media as an aro person can feel like a battlefield and it forces you to “grow a thick skin”. We shouldn’t have to grow a thick skin, we shouldn’t accommodate to things than can be potentially hurtful to us. Publishing and media as a whole should make a greater effort to create a safe space that we can navigate without that fear at the back of our minds of being dehumanized.

Lynn: Oh goodness yes the microaggressions. I honestly find that they bother me more the more I learn, especially when some of the classic ones you mentioned are so easily avoided with the only meaning lost being “friendship is a lesser type of relationship” which… firstly, no, it isn’t. Secondly, why wouldn’t you want to learn how to be more accurate with your language?

Fadwa: And exactly, those sentences not being there never changes anything to the story itself which makes them easily removable so why not just… listen to us for once and remove them?

Claudie: So, beyond publishers and authors making an effort to watch their language, are there any other steps you’d like to see taken? Resources you’d love to have? I’ve had a few publishers change their call for subs to explicitly include deep, meaningful relationships beyond romance in their calls after I pointed out the problem for aro people, but that’s only one element.

Rosiee: Publishers changing the way they describe their calls for submissions is a great step, but it’s very common to see gatekeepers–editors, agents etc.–use exclusive language in their calls for submission, even when they’re attempting to be inclusive. I’ve seen agents and editors call for subs by singling out m/m or f/f as if those two designations encompass all queer experiences. I’d like to see more gatekeepers make an effort to educate themselves about the identities they want to boost.

Lynn: Those are some really good points, Rosiee. I think there’s still a ton of awareness that needs to be raised in general. It’s easy to try to be inclusive of the most visible groups, but that just leaves the less-visible ones in the dust.

Rosiee: It isn’t allyship unless it uplifts us all. I actually recently saw this happen with an agent during a Q&A session. The agent was asked about writing f/f as a non-queer person and–trigger warning for aphobia and bi/panphobia here–the agent said that unless the author has had sex with a woman, she cannot write f/f. The agent’s statement was acephobic to begin with, but it also erases so many other experiences and identities that do not require actions to be valid, since sexuality is about feelings and attraction, not about actions.

Fadwa: That…was kind of jarring to read so thank you for the TW!  at the end of the day, we’re all bound to mess up sometimes, you can’t get it right from the first try but things like this are just… a given. This is basically 101 allyship and at this point we should be past that, we should have the basics nailed down and be working towards how to be better and make publishing (and other industries) a safe space for everyone. So it’s kind of disheartening when we’re still working on the very basics of allyship. Take as an example Valentine’s Day. Being on social media was hard, because everything was so amatonormative and aggressively romance centric. There was so much emphasis on having a romantic partner and the fact that your life is lacking and that “you shouldn’t despair” if you don’t have one. Every other tweet was erasing or invalidating aro people. I wish more people were aware of the fact that there is more to love than romantic love.

Rosiee: That’s a really good point, Fadwa! Valentine’s Day is such a tough day because of the romance centric language used basically everywhere. I also saw a fair bit of arophobia disguised as ace-inclusion.

Claudie: Valentine’s Day is always such a mess. I’m glad we have Aromantic Awareness Week right after to wash some of the aftertaste away.  Do you think your aromanticism impacts the way you develop platonic relationships? How so? In your priorities, the ways you choose to engage or not?

Lynn: Probably? I think it’s more that society’s view impacts it, though. You know that whole thing about how men and women can’t be ‘just friends’? That’s been really strong with some of the friendships I’ve had and I have moments where I’m just not sure if people will misinterpret the fact that I’m a touch-oriented cuddly person. That does not mean I’m into someone romantically (or sexually). It just means I like hugs and show affection through hugs. I can end up with anxiety because I don’t know how people interpret my actions and I worry about them thinking I’ve somehow tried to lead them on. And it sucks when you can’t tell people you love them platonically because the moment they reach ‘love’, they’re already misinterpreting your meaning and nothing else matters. Or possibly that’s just some people getting hung up on failing to understand aromanticism, but it still hurts.

Rosiee: Oof. That’s rough, Lynn. There’s so much communication that can happen through touch, and that anxiety is something I’ve definitely felt before. It’s so hard to know how someone else is reading your actions. I’ve also had a very opposite experience with regard to showing affection, since I’m not generally a very touchy person. I used to be a competitive swing dancer, and that community enforces an extremely allo culture, but also a very touch-centric culture (often conflating physical touch with physical attraction and gosh I could talk about that for paaages). People used to get offended or weirded out if I didn’t want to hug them after we had a fun dance or if I didn’t want to join the big cuddle pile, or didn’t want to go back to someone’s room alone with them for a “drink”. This has often resulted in some… not great insults used against me, and a general impression that I’m not fun. On the contrary, I’m actually a very friendly and outgoing person.

Fadwa: I saw a lot of myself in what Rosiee said, I am naturally a very outgoing and flirty person and not gonna lie, I enjoy flirting but I have been numbered a tease because with that comes the expectation of something either romantic or sexual, whereas to me, nothing means that I want something non-platonic unless I state that’s what I want. I detest the “mixed signals” culture because why would you interpret my words as more than what they are when they mean nothing more than what I actually say. This all has made for some pretty unpleasant, and sometimes traumatizing experiences that turned me into a person who always keeps people at arms’ length out of fear and anxiety that people would get the wrong impression, which goes against my nature of being an outgoing person. I especially love sarcasm and teasing people but that’s like the number one thing that always gets taken the wrong way. I’m always hyper aware of what I say and what I do and go out of my way to tone down my personality, because I’d rather that than live in constant anxiety.

Rosiee: I also find that a lot of people enter into conversations or try to get to know me with a romantic or sexual agenda, and that’s really difficult for me to navigate. I enjoy flirting sometimes, and since I am outgoing, I worry that can be misread. This means I often don’t engage with people, or I’ll sometimes bring up my identities in conversation as a buffer. I want to get better about asserting my boundaries without those qualifications, though, and I hope I can get more comfortable saying what I want and don’t want without feeling like I have to out myself to strangers.

Lynn: Those are both such rough experiences to deal with. I think it’s incredibly telling that I’m neither very flirty nor very outgoing and I still see a lot of myself in what you’re both saying. I actually spend a lot of time online curbing my tendency to sarcasm and personality for the same reason.

Claudie: It seems that it’s not so much how you form relationships that leads to tension or unfortunate experiences, but other people’s expectations of the relationship. That’s part of what I wanted to discuss, after a fashion? I’ve seen a lot of heterosexual colleagues decide whether to spend time with someone based on whether there was potential for a romantic and/or sexual relationship there. I always find it super jarring and demeaning.

Rosiee : Ohhhh yes, Claudie! That’s happened to me and it’s awful! The whole “friendzone” nonsense of people choosing to spend time only on romantic interests is really disheartening, and I’ve lost a lot of so-called friends after they discover I’m not interested in that kind of relationship with them.

Lynn: I’m so sorry you’ve had that happen to you, Rosiee. I think for me it’s why I seem drawn to friendships with people who generally aren’t attracted to people like me? That takes some of the pressure off because we’re both clear on where the relationship can go.

Claudie: The world is an alloromantic mess™. More seriously, and in an hopefully more uplifting topic, what are some real-life platonic relationships that were/are major for you? How do you think fiction could do a better job reflecting those? Or is it doing well?

Lynn: I’d like more friendship break-up stories. Sometimes those are bad and we have very little, if any, tools on how to deal with that compared with romantic break-ups. Fiction could do a much better job reflecting platonic relationships if it just… let them be as powerful and impactful as romantic ones. Ideally, I’d like it to happen without the relationship being likened to that of siblings too. We could do with more sibling relationships in fiction too, but not all platonic relationships are like that and I’d love to see fiction reflect a range of relationship types.

Fadwa: THANK YOU! Not all platonic relationships have to be likened to siblings. It’s not either romance or siblings, there’s such a wide variety of platonic relationships that just *are* and don’t need to be either.

Rosiee: THIS!!! We often treat anyone who isn’t related as potential romantic partners in fiction, and that’s just… not how it works. Friendships are so valuable, and so so powerful, and… I don’t know about the rest of you, but most of my good friends aren’t related to me.

Fadwa: Also, YES to more friendship break-ups!! I went through some very painful ones in my life, and I always felt like my pain was an overreaction because in all the media I consumed (and I consumed a lot), they were never given importance and romantic break-ups were just “the worst kind” whereas in my experience, friendship break-ups can hurt just as much, and more in some cases.

One relationship that has been major and somewhat pivotal in my life is my relationship with my best friend of nine years now. We were inseparable in high school, now life and school have taken us our separate ways -physically- but we’re still as close. There’s one thing to know about me, I’m touch-averse because of trauma, a lot less now than when i was in High school, but when I say that this friendship has been pivotal for me, it’s because this person is the one person I was okay touching me unsolicited for the longest time and we were very tactile at school, always hugging or holding hands or just having our arms around each other and not once has that relationship crossed into romantic or sexual territory and yet a lot of people sexualized it, asking us if we were secretly together, just because we were very affectionate towards each other and didn’t see a point in hiding it. And this is something I want to see more more: normalized affectionate touch in platonic relationships.

Claudie: The sexualization is awful, Fadwa. I get this with my best friend, too. He’s gay, but since we’re a man and a woman hanging out together and obviously very close, we keep getting called a couple.

Rosiee: I would love to see fiction reflect more relationships that aren’t treated like possible romances. There’s so much “shipping” that happens in fiction, where everyone is a possible love-interest, but I would love to see strong friendship-interests as well. And, similarly to Lynn, I’d love to see more friendship break-up stories… and then I’d love to see stories that also tackle repairing a broken friendship. In fiction, we see so many friendships that are just easy and require no work or effort, and those are often eclipsed by new romantic relationships.

One of the most impactful platonic relationships in my life is with a man, and what made this relationship so powerful was a combination of two things: 1. It was clear from the start, in no uncertain terms, that our relationship would never turn sexual or romantic because we had very different worldviews that would never be compatible in a relationship, and 2. We started our relationship off with what I thought was an irreconcilable disagreement, and then worked very hard to repair the wounds from that argument.

Claudie: Thank you so much everyone. This has been an amazing in-depth discussion, and I’m glad you joined us for it. If you haven’t done so at the start, please give us any social media, blogs, book buying links and etc. so we can link back to you properly!

Lynn: Ah, the age-old linking practice. XD [waves] I have a Patreon where I discuss academic papers about asexuality – send me your papers on aromanticism because I will pounce on them so fast lightning looks slow! – and my own writing, which features predominantly ace and aro characters.

Rosiee: Everyone should check out Lynn’s very good novel in verse, THE ICE PRINCESS’S FAIR ILLUSION! I loved it 😉 You can find me over on twitter @rosieethor or check out my work on rosieethor.com. If you like science fantasy featuring an aro/ace protagonist (and some sapphic lady romance too) you can pre-order my debut TARNISHED ARE THE STARS

Fadwa: I blog over on Word Wonders where I advocate for all things diversity in publishing, and am very active on my twitter and bookish instagram.

Claudie: Thank you everyone. And thanks to everyone who read through the roundtable, too! If you find yourself wishing to have more platonic fiction with aromantic characters, don’t forget to back our awesome kickstarter for Common Bonds!

Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!