Spec Shelf: Nicole Brinkley Takes You Inside Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston!

Excited to introduce a brand new monthly feature on LGBTQReads today called Spec Shelf, where Nicole Brinkley of the former Queership blog chats with authors about their queer SFF titles! Take it away, Nicole!


Welcome to Spec Shelf, the little corner of LGBTQ Reads where I talk to authors about their queer science-fiction and fantasy books. Today, we’re peeking into Ashley Poston’s Heart of Iron, one of my favorite books to release so far this year.

Described as “Anastasia in space,” Heart of Iron follows a ragtag group aboard the spaceship the Dossier: Ana, found floating in space as a child; Di, the glitching android found with her; Jax, the pilot from an unknown planet; and Robb, a royal who needs their help.

Together, they’re crossing the galaxy to try to find a spaceship that might not exist—Robb to find his long-lost father and Ana to save Di from his glitches. Ashley’s writing reads like a movie script, as fast-paced and clear as your favorite sci-fi flick. And much like your favorite sci-fi flick, there is undoubtedly a character you will fall in love with. Favorites as a whole seem to be Jax and Di, but the character that earned my heart? The indomitable Captain Siege, pirate leader of the Dossier.

Learn a little bit about Captain Siege and her wife Talle in the excerpt below—and keep reading for an interview between Ashley and me, where we chat about Heart of Iron, asexual representation, queer pirate girls and Hogwarts houses.


At the head of the table, beside the captain, Talle—short and thin, with black hair in a pixie cut and hands so steady she could slit a throat clean while navigating the skyways of Nevaeh—sliced a piece of bread in half with one of the dozen knives from her belt, and buttered it. Siege leaned forward and ate it out of her hand. “Sunshine! That was mine.”

“Ours,” Siege replied, kissing her, and played her hand— three twos. No one called Wicked against the captain. No one ever did. Except Talle.

Talle and Siege had been married longer than Ana had been part of the Dossier. She always wondered how they’d met, but it was a secret—like Siege’s last name.

Di once said that it seemed surprising that two people who were so opposite could fall in love, but he didn’t see that while Siege was the flame, Talle was the shadow. One could not exist without the other.

Ana wished she could explain it. She wondered, often, if he would feel the same about her if he was programmed to have emotions.


Now here’s the interview!

Nicole: Let’s skip the whole shebang about “what is your book about” and “tell me about your characters” and dive straight into the fun stuff.

Ashley: Ugh, do I have to?

Nicole: You knew what you signed up for.


Nicole: If you touch my favorite can-opener robot E0S, I’ll never forgive you.

Ashley: I can live with that.

Nicole: There are many incredible characters in Heart of Iron—though our resident tiny robot is likely my favorite—and many incredible character dynamics. Watching relationships shift and grow as the book goes on was one of my favorite bits, especially between Jax and Robb. I know Jax wasn’t even supposed to be a POV character, originally. What was creating their dynamic like?

Ashley: I love character interactions. I think I love writing it because of fanfiction, to be honest. Character studies and all. And I knew going into Heart of Iron, a good chunk of the story would be unremarkable (it’s a “lost royal” trope—we all know how those go), so I wanted to make the characters the story, not the trope itself. And to do that I wanted to make engaging characters. Robb was one of those characters who was an antagonist in one draft, and then a martyr in the next, but he never quite fit very well in any of those roles. He didn’t really come into himself until he met this snarky starship pilot, and then I kind of realized—oh, he’s not any of those things. He’d been screaming at me for so long that I kind of tuned him out, and then when I finally let him go he became this multifaceted character who had lost his father, and who was unsure of his future, and who wanted to do good, but he always seemed to do it wrong.

Nicole: I feel like a lot of modern media—even with all of the steps we’ve made in positive queer representation—still tend to box queer characters into this corner if being That One Thing and not a multifaceted character, especially when written by straight authors. It’s one of the things I love about reading queer SFF—and, of course, fanfiction, which fixes many of the limitations of traditional media.

Ashley: That is really true—and even as a queer woman myself I started to box my characters into one archetype or another. I think, to be honest, it’s a lazy way to earn cookie points. You can have queer rep! But they’re only ONE thing! And it’s fine. I mean, it’s fine. But there came a point in writing Heart of Iron where it wasn’t fine anymore for me. I’ve been writing this book for six years, and during those six years I grew as a person and came into myself, and you can see that through the drafts. Also, I have to add that while I’m a queer woman, I don’t assume to know the trials and tribulations of gay male characters. I had sensitivity readers on Robb and Jax, and their story isn’t about their gayness. That isn’t my story to write. They’re characters who are gay in Heart of Iron—and definitely not the only ones—but their story isn’t about their gayness.

Nicole: And the world of Heart of Iron isn’t one that fixates on their gayness, either. It’s populated by queer characters. Which brings me to my non-robotic favorite character. You know her. You love her. Captain Siege.

Ashley: THE CAPTAIN’S IN THE HOUSSSEEE. I love Captain Siege. And her wife.

Nicole: And her wife Talle! They both play hugely important roles in Heart of Iron, both as Ana’s family unit and as rational heads in a time where all of our POV characters are under extreme emotional duress. How much can you talk about them without completely spoiling your (just-announced!) second book?

Ashley: Well, I can definitely say they’ve seen their fair share of OH MY GODDESS THE WORLD IS ENDING moments, so nothing really surprises them anymore. There will be a lot more about Siege and Talle’s past, how they met, and how that factors into some of the bigger revelations in Heart of Iron.

Nicole: I love nothing more than queer pirate girls.

Ashley: Me, too. I love stories with kickass queer female role models for the main characters. I think that’s important—especially in YA where parents are either dead, MIA, or just not written on the page.

Nicole: That age-old trope—in both anime and YA—really open up the opportunity for teens to explore. It’s much easier without formal adult supervision around. Though Siege does try to reign Ana’s overzealous nature in where she can.

Ashley: Note: she tries. Ana’s like a bottle rocket—she’s going to fly off somewhere, it’s just a matter of where, and there’s no stopping her. I did an event the other day where I had to sort Ana into a Hogwarts House, and I instantly said Gryffindor, but then a friend shouted Slytherin and I was like… OH. She kind of embodies both? She turns, really, from one to the other.

Nicole: Her loyalty to Di could be argued as either a Gryffindor or Slytherin trait—though I think she reveals her true colors as to which House she would belong to as Heart of Iron comes to a close.

Ashley: Yeah, she goes full Hufflepuff—JUST KIDDING. Di’s the only Hufflepuff. Bless him.

Nicole: You mentioned at your launch party that Di is the character you found easiest to write, and I know you put a bit of yourself in Ana as well, though it’s not officially canon in Heart of Iron, in terms of your own queer identity.

Ashley: Well, if we’re talking about things not “officially being canon” then neither Siege nor Talle nor Robb nor Jax are “canon” because they don’t officially state, “HEY, I’M GAY!”

Nicole: Though I would love to see a rainbow flag flown outside the spaceship.

Ashley: HA! Jax would be in charge of the glitter because he’d just like to ruin everyone else’s day. But yeah, the terms for gay/straight/ace don’t exist in the world of Heart of Iron, because there was never a need to put a word to it. I wanted to imagine a world where that was never an issue, where religious reasons didn’t dictate whether you could marry or love someone of the same sex. I guess that’s wish fulfillment on my end, but I think that’s why I love fiction. You can always write the what-ifs, and impossible things are no longer really that impossible.

Nicole: I think that, when using labels in speculative fiction, it can become complicated. You don’t want sexualities to be erased, which is one of my biggest fears when it comes to aces in fantasy—it’s so easy to ignore a character coded as ace as a “shy straight person,” whatever that means—but that wish fulfillment can be incredibly satisfying and allow further headcanons to be developed, especially when you’re like me and think romantic identity is just a series of question marks because gender and sexuality have no impact on who I fall for.

Ashley: Exactly, and one thing I had to wrestle with in writing Heart of Iron. If you don’t say it, or explicitly talk about it, does it exist in speculative fiction? And then there is author intention vs. execution, and I think this is a good place to segue back to Ana’s identity. I, for the most part, fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum. And I wrote Ana to fall somewhere on there, too. (“But Ashley!” someone is bound to say—and this isn’t a spoiler—“There’s kissing!” to which I want to remind everyone that just because you identify as asexual doesn’t mean you are banned from kissing people.)

Nicole: I’m on the ace spectrum and I love kissing and cuddling.

Ashley: Same! I love kissing, and I love holding hands, and being close to someone, and Ana does that a lot. And for me, that was the only way I knew how to put a little of myself into Ana. How I could show her sexuality like I did for Robb and Jax, Siege and Talle. For me, at least, just to see a character love someone so deeply, without some of the more sexual attractions, was important. That was really, really important to me.

Nicole: All of these relationships—Ana and Di, Jax and Robb, Siege and Talle, me and resident can-opener robot E0S—shape the world of Heart of Iron. What fictional relationships shaped your own writing? Oh, yes. We’re talking ships.

Ashley: THERE ARE A LOT OF SHIPS. I am from the land of fandom and fanfics. I love characters with interesting dynamics—I think they make the strongest OTPs, to be honest. And most of my strongest OTPs are not sexually-charged in nature, but come from a place of snarky quips and electric conversation. (Oh hi baby queer Ash, here’s your clue.) Artemis Fowl and Holly Short, for instance, and Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. I also really love some non-canon OTPs, too. Yuugi and Yami Yuugi from Yu-Gi-Oh!; Hermione and her own ambition, because we know she wouldn’t settle; Rei and Makoto in Sailor Moon

Nicole: Oh, Artemis and Holly! One of our first bonding moments as friends was our mutual love of those two—and you and I have similar preferences with romantic non-sexually-charged ships. Let’s wrap this interview up before we write an entire essay: is there anything else you want folks to know about Heart of Iron?

Ashley: Ha! Hmmm, well, let’s see. Heart of Iron is a story about a lost royal princess—yes, that’s true. There’s no disguising that, really (ha!). I never went into Heart of Iron hoping to rewrite the trope. Some people will like it, and some people won’t, and that’s with anything you read, you know? I guess what I’m saying is, I wrote Heart of Iron to explore the characters within the story—Ana and Di and Robb and Jax—and how they interact. I wanted to tell a story of characters coming together, of their complex relationships, of being the good you wish to see in the world, and of being frightened to be that good sometimes. I wanted to write a story about home—about the people that make it, and the people you have to leave behind to find it, and I hope you find your home, too, in the Iron Kingdom.

Heart of Iron is available now. Buy the book from Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Book Depository. To learn more about the book, visit Ashley’s website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.


Nicole Brinkley has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is an independent bookseller and blogger found most often at YA Interrobang and the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog. Like what she does? Follow her on Twitter or Instagram and support her on Patreon.


Under the Gaydar: Hide and Gay Seek

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This terribly titled edition is dedicated to books with gay and bi male characters, and I really am sorry for the horrible pun. And yes, some of these books are well known as queer, but part of the point of this series is to help people find books they can safely bring home. So, stock up!


Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley – an agoraphobic boy is befriended by a girl he doesn’t realize is using him as a psych project to pad her college applications…and he’s also crushing on her boyfriend.

Proxy by Alex London – probably the best-known queer YA sci-fi duology of all time, for good reason! But there’s nothing in the blurb that suggests Syd and Knox have anything more than a business relationship…

Satellite by Nick Lake – A teen boy who was born in space makes his first trip to Earth and finds himself questioning his sexuality while he’s at it!

And I Darken by Kiersten White – This trilogy may be best known for the ruthless and hetero Lada, but her brother Radu very much has his own POV. And while the blurb tells the truth of him making a close friend in Mehmed, the text makes it rainbow clear that those are not Radu’s only feelings by a long shot.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera – I know for most of us, just the name “Adam Silvera” on a cover is a dead giveaway, but the cover reads like a friendship story, and it definitely is that too. (Just, you know, between a bi guy and a gay guy who totally fall for each other.)

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro – Not only is this excellent debut about a gay Black boy who’s forced to become even more political after a tragedy under the gaydar, but it is so, so inclusive in its secondary cast, it will make your heart explode in all the ways.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert – This is a beautiful contemporary about an artistic Asian boy named Danny whose friend group is recovering from the loss of their own and just happens to be in love with his best friend.

Coda by Emma Trevayne – This Dystopian sci-fi with a bi MC does refer to romance in the blurb, but it’s only to the one Anthem currently has with a girl. There’s no mention of the ex-boyfriend who’s still very much in his life, for better or for worse.







Guest Recs From Erin Ptah: Sci-Fi Webcomics With Same-Sex Couples

Welcome back to Erin Ptah this #WebcomicWednesday, bringing us Sci-Fi webcomics with same-sex couples!


More webcomic recs, because you can never have too many.

I was trying to come up with an all-m/m list, but had trouble grouping my favorites into sets of 5 that had any coherent sub-theme. So instead, here’s a mix of m/m and f/f, in a genre I could sit around reccing all day.

(As usual, if there’s a theme or topic you want to see in a future reclist, just ask! And feel free to leave your own recs in the comments.)

Today’s theme: Sci-fi webcomics with same-sex couples!


(1) Buying Time by Casey J

When Vinnie Smalls, a lonesome welder working for the Hyperion City Core, finds he has a crush on a fellow co-worker, he must break away from his usual loner lifestyle and dive headfirst into the inner workings of the Daily Leisure Credit system.

Cyberpunk romance, complete. In a futuristic city where everything is monitored and social interactions are automatically billed, Vinnie would love to get a music career going, but finds himself working extra shifts because otherwise he literally can’t afford to talk to his crush. (Gavin would love to pick up the cost more often, but that just makes Vinnie feel even more awkward.)

Self-consciousness aside, the romance is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated, with most of the conflict coming from the worldbuilding around them. Great integrated use of Flash animation that highlights the sci-fi setting (blinking lights! glowing neon!) without being distracting.

NSFW sex scenes in the later chapters.


(2) Sylvania by Kristin Kemper

Sylvania is a story about three sisters who are members of an ancient clan of tree witches. As they learn to use the magical powers they were born with, they’ll each embark on their own path from the deepest heart of the forest into unknown adventures far beyond its borders.

Sci-fi/fantasy, ongoing. The official summary totally buries the lede, which is that it’s about witches getting recruited to help terraform Mars.

Earth has several different witch clans, including tree-witches, bird-witches, and fish-witches. There’s an existing Mars colony, but it’s populated mostly by star-witches and non-magical scientists, none of whom have the skillsets necessary for full-on terraforming. The recruitment effort gets complicated by a romance between Juniper, one of the tree-witch sisters, and a star-witch born on Mars.

Lovely soft textured art style, with special attention paid to natural details and magical special effects. It’s (deliberately?) more suited to the forest and undersea settings of the early chapters than high-tech spaceships and cities, so I’m looking forward to what it does with the Mars terrain.


(3) O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti

Alastair Sterling was the inventor who sparked the robot revolution. And because of his sudden death, he didn’t see any of it. That is, until he wakes up 16 years later in a robot body that matches his old one exactly.

Sci-fi romance/drama, ongoing. Explores the future through Al’s new eyes, while using flashbacks to reveal the early development of robotics and his relationship with his partner, Brendan. Al’s unexpected death left a lot of unresolved conflicts (notably, how Brendan wanted to come out and Al didn’t), which makes everything extra-fraught when the apparently-perfect robot duplicate seeks him out.

During the intervening years Brendan has made his own attempts to build a replacement-Al, which is why he already has a robot with a similar personality…who thinks like a teenager and identifies as a girl. She treats Brendan as a father and Al as a kind of legendary hero come to life, which only makes his situation weirder.

Slow and deliberate pace — it’s been running for 6 years and we still don’t know who brought Al back, or why — but it reads like it was planned that way, not like it’s been dragged-out. Nice use of limited palette to distinguish the different time periods and put emphasis where the artist wants it.


(4) Trying Human by Emy Bitner

New York City secretary Rose catches the interest of Hue, an empathetic Grey, and his funny friend, Quazky, a Reptoid alien from a neighboring mothership. Using a device, the trying human circuit, the two friends infiltrate Rose’s life and the human world.

Sci-fi drama, ongoing. Classic Men-in-Black-and-aliens mythos, complete with flashbacks to Area-51-type shenanigans in the ’40s. Rose has a human sometimes-boyfriend and keeps getting her memories wiped, but her bond with Hue keeps reasserting itself.

While Rose and Hue are developing their ambiguously-romantic friendship (insert your own “greyromantic” puns here), Longus, a Reptoid who’s been living in disguise on Earth, ends up moving much faster with a cute young human named Don. Which is lucky for Don, because if Longus hadn’t come to the rescue he would’ve been mugged, and if Longus’ interest had been slightly different he would’ve been eaten.


(5) Relativity by Beck Kramer

In the near future, Irina Novak sets off on the first manned lightspeed flight, with unexpected consequences to herself and her marriage.

Sci-fi drama, on unscheduled indefinite hiatus. It’s short, so I can’t go into much detail without spoiling all the plot that’s happened so far. Suffice to say it has time dilation, authority figures with common sense, married lesbians with an increasingly complicated relationship, and beautiful detailed realistic drawings of spacecraft.

If you like serious sci-fi and don’t mind cliffhangers, give it a look.

Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (with same-sex pairings and Sufficiently Advanced Technology) and Leif & Thorn (m/m-centric, mostly fantasy, but there’s a Space AU). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

New Releases: March 2018

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (6th)

34499228In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.

Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst (6th)


Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.

Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (6th)

35604722When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (6th)

29736467Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Boomerang by Helene Dunbar (6th)

Michael Sterling disappeared from his Maine town five years ago. Everyone assumed he was kidnapped. Everyone was wrong.

Now, at seventeen, he’s Sean Woodhouse. And he’s come “home,” to the last place he wants to be, to claim the small inheritance his grandparents promised him when he graduated high school, all so he can save Trip, the boy he developed an intense and complicated relationship with while he was away.

Sean has changed, but so has his old town and everyone in it. And knowing who he is and where he belongs is more confusing than ever. As his careful plans begin to crumble, so does everything he’s believed about his idyllic other life.

Told in gorgeous prose, Boomerang is an honest, authentic exploration of coming to terms with who you are, what you want, and how vast the distance can be between the two.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Parnassus * Book Depository

Curved Horizon by Taylor Brooke (8th)


In the sequel to Fortitude Smashed, navigating the ins and outs of love is hard enough as strangers, but now Daisy and Chelsea must find a way to transform their friendship into something more. Meanwhile, Shannon and Aiden’s year-long relationship is put to the test when a horrific accident puts Shannon’s life at risk.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Kim Reaper: Grim Beginnings by Sarah Graley (13th)

35941643The first collection of Kim Reaper comics, contains issues 1-4! 

Part-Time Grim Reaper. Full-Time Cutie!

Like most university students, Kim works a part-time job to make ends meet. Unlike most university students, Kim’s job is pretty cool: she’s a grim reaper, tasked with guiding souls into the afterlife.

Like most university students, Becka has a super intense crush. Unlike most university students, Becka’s crush is on a beautiful gothic angel that frequents the underworld. Of course, she doesn’t know that.

Unaware of the ghoulish drama she’s about to step into, Becka finally gathers up the courage to ask Kim on a date! But when she falls into a ghostly portal and interrupts Kim at her job, she sets off a chain of events that will pit the two of them against angry cat-dads, vengeful zombies, and perhaps even the underworld itself. But if they work together, they just might make it… and maybe even get a smooch in the bargain.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones (13th)

35737829Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she’s too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves—his friend, David.
Things go from bad to worse as Shane’s dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together.

With deep insight into the life of Indigenous people on the reserve, this book masterfully portrays how a community looks to the past for guidance and comfort while fearing a future of poverty and shame. Shane’s rocky road to finding himself takes many twists and turns, but ultimately ends with him on a path that doesn’t always offer easy answers, but one that leaves the reader optimistic about his fate.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Book Depository

The Right Thing to Do at the Time by Dov Zeller (15th)

If Jane Austen and Sholem Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof) schemed in an elevator, this just might be their pitch. Ari is Elizabeth and Itche is Jane–and this Jewish, queer, New York City retelling of Pride and Prejudice is for everyone.

Ari Wexler, a trans guy in his late 20s, is barely scraping by. His family life is a mess, he feels like a failure when it comes to love, and his job at a music library is on the rocks. His relationship with Itche Mattes, his doting best friend, helps him get through the days. Then a famous actress comes to town and sweeps Itche off his feet, leaving her dreadful sidekick to step on Ari’s toes.

As Ari’s despair grows, a fascinating music project falls into his lap, and he s faced with a choice: to remain within his comfort zone, however small and stifling, or to take a risk that could bring meaning and joy to his life.

Buy it: Amazon

The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (27th)


Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she’s ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.

Writer Vanessa Montoya-O’Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she’ll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.

Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn’t mean it’s her passion. Since her parents’ divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.

When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (27th)


Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Cinnamon Blade: Knife In Shining Armor by Shira Glassman!

Always lovely to have Shira Glassman on the site, especially when she’s sharing exciting new book stuff! Today it’s a cover reveal for Cinnamon Blade: Knife in Shining Armor, a spicy f/f romance starring a bi Jewish superheroine, releasing May 7!


Here’s the story:

Every time Cinnamon Blade, crime fighter making up for a bad past, rescues the sweet and nerdy Soledad Castillo from bad guys, the two women’s chemistry grows stronger. Now that she’s finally asked Soledad out, sparks fly — but is a normal date even possible in a city threatened by aliens and vampires on a regular basis?

Preorder it now!

And here’s the gorgeous cover, with art by Jane Dominguez!


Here’s a little more from Glassman:

In 2017 I wrote a fluffy contemporary f/f romance about knitting, art, and healing. Those of you who read Knit One, Girl Two might remember that Clara and Danielle bond, among other things, over a femslash ship on a superhero show I made up for the story. One of them mentions being into the “bad girl/good girl vibe” between reformed cat burglar/present-day superhero Cinnamon Blade and the nerdy sweetheart she’s rescued in multiple episodes. In another scene, Danielle draws some fan art and uses it to flirt with Clara.

Well, dammit if I didn’t want to write that ‘ship myself by the time I was done working on K1G2! (And then I shocked myself by writing it longer than the original story that inspired it.)

I have always been into ladies rescuing ladies, and this time I’ve focused on a knight/damsel dynamic for the romance itself.

Cinnamon Blade is sassy, edgy, and outrageous — but when she does care, she cares deeply. She cares for her best friend, Captain Werewolf, with whom she spent her childhood hiding from Hebrew school on the synagogue roof. She cares for justice, doing her best to make up for her questionable years as a jewel and art thief without compromising her sense of style. And she cares for Soledad Castillo, who stole her heart with wide, adoring eyes and babbling conversation about the linguistic origins of words.

This book is about half ladies being cute and sexy with each other and half superheroes fighting various Beasties. I hope all of this intrigues you enough to come along for the ride!


IMG_20170410_210426635~2Shira Glassman is a bisexual Jewish violinist passionately inspired by German and French opera and Agatha Christie novels. She lives in north central Florida, where the alligators are mostly harmless because they’re too lazy to be bothered.

Around the Blogosqueer: Queer Black Sites, Books, and Posts

On this final day of Black History Month of 2018, here are some books, sites, and posts to read, enjoy, promote, support, review, and share:


Sistahs on the ShelfSotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!

WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!

Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.

The Brown Bookshelf – this is a site dedicated to Black kidlit; here are the posts that come up if you search LGBT.

2016-18 Books


Young Adult


Adult (Speculative)

Books You Can Add on Goodreads

Young Adult

Not yet on Goodreads, but take note:

(Electric Literature editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and Iowa Writer’s Workshop fellow Brandon Taylor’s REAL LIFE, a novel of unexpected intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, and a story collection, to Cal Morgan and Riverhead, in a pre-empt, by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore and Company.)


Where is the Queer Black Male Voice in YA Lit?

Black History Month Roundtable via Autostraddle

Have more to share? Add them in the comments!


Exclusive Cover Reveal: A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra!

Today on the site, we’ve got a brand-new cover reveal! A Tiny Piece of Something Greater is Sierra’s newest gay contemporary romance, which releases from Interlude Press on May 17, 2018, involving scuba diving, mental illness, and a secret past. Check out the official description:

Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.

And now, check out the cover, designed by C.B. Messer!

Here’s where you can buy the book:

Interlude Press: store.interludepress.com

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781945053603

Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews.

judesierra.com, @judesierra

Channeling My Inner Kurt Cobain – Writing and Depression: A Guest Post By Ellyn Oaksmith

Please welcome Ellyn Oaksmith to LGBTQReads today to discuss her new book, Chasing Nirvana (which happens to center my favorite band of all time) and depression. (TW: suicide mentions.)

51ndlN7YseLA girl, a band, a dream.

Fran Worthy is just another girl trying to make it through senior year in Aberdeen, Washington. But it’s 1993 and Fran is gay. Her comfortably off the radar life turns vividly public when a student nominates Fran for prom queen. When confronted by angry parents, Fran refuses to back down, promising to deliver her hometown heroes in hopes of winning prom queen votes.

Fran heads out on a 24-hour road trip to Daly City California with four friends, including her crush, who may or may not be gay. Their plan? To sneak backstage and ask Kurt Cobain and Nirvana to come home and play prom.

 No problem, unless something goes wrong.

Chasing Nirvana is out now! Buy a copy at Amazon and check out the book trailer on YouTube


Deep into the writing of Chasing Nirvana, a book about a young gay girl who tries to get Nirvana to play at her prom, my more than slightly puzzled mom asked me a question. How I could write about a gay girl from the poverty stricken flats of Aberdeen, Washington? A girl who is bullied, despised and harassed for being gay. Unlike Fran Worthy, my main character, I come from a loving, tight knit family that is very progressive. My 80-year-old parents march in protests and have socialized for decades with openly gay friends. Perhaps the underlying questions was how could I, a woman given abundant love and support all my life, channel the inner emotional life of someone given so little?

At the time I brushed off the question. “I’m a writer, it’s what I do. I live other lives.” And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered. What was driving me to write this story? What was the shared emotional core? In the first draft the story was told entirely from the main character’s point of view. The problem was that for much of the story, she’s concussed, which made the story too bleak. Fran’s concussion made her feel isolated, confused, tired and overwrought. That’s when it hit me. I had unwittingly written about my own struggles with depression. Sure, it’s deeply buried in a fast moving plot with a road trip quest to meet Nirvana but the more I thought about it, the more I uncovered my own links to my main character and her savior: Kurt Cobain.

On the surface the comparison is laughable: a suburban mother of two comparing herself to the rock god Kurt Cobain. (Insert eye rolls from my two teens.) But everyone consists of layers of all the different lives we’ve led. At one point I was a screenwriter in Hollywood. I’d visit studios, pitching stories to neurotic, narcissistic, over-privileged producers and their sycophantic assistants, struggling through the entire ordeal under the shadow of depression. Writing stories is what kept me sane. If I could create, I could live in an alternate world. A world with happily ever afters. Where people grow and learn from their adventures and mistakes. The imaginary world upon which I built my career didn’t include a sink hole of blackness that followed me like a monster, waiting to swallow me whole. What does a depressed person write? Comedies. Naturally.

Kurt Cobain was about 13 when he saw a body hanging from a tree outside the Aberdeen grade school. He and a classmate stared at the corpse for a half hour before school officials sent them packing. Several members of his family killed themselves and at 14, Cobain told a school friend that he would become a rich and famous rock star then kill himself in a blaze of glory like Jimi Hendrix. Neither kid realized that Hendrix’ death wasn’t suicide.

It’s hard to say when exactly Kurt became depressed. Aberdeen wasn’t an easy place for a sensitive young man fixated on art instead of sports or more manly pursuits. Kurt developed a taste for booze, finding a morbidly obese man to buy him and his friends malt liquor in exchange for pushing the man’s wheelchair to the store. In high school Kurt began writing songs that would become the basis for Nirvana’s first albums. Kurt channeled his anger, frustration, sadness and disillusionment into lyrics that were filled with longing, alienation and irony. My experience with depression and writing has been that writing, like depression, has a cyclical rhythm. When a great idea hits, life is a blast of high octane sunshine fueling manic energy and productivity.  When the story (or song) is written, consumed by the public and the world moves on, it feels like the end of a passionate relationship. I want to wallow in sadness. Wear pajamas all day, eat ice cream, drink bourbon and eat potato chips for dinner. Kurt had far worse predilections.

Heroin isn’t a subject in my book. The Kurt I wanted to capture was funny, charming, quirky and quite possibly, in 1993, burnt out by fame. But not so badly that he couldn’t spend a few moments with a fan and recognize a fellow artist. Someone who, like him, was just trying to make it day by day by channeling the pain of living into something beautiful: creation. A song that’s never been sung. A book that’s never been written and in my main characters case: a photograph that captures a seminal moment in rock history.

Chasing NirvanaEllyn Oaksmith is the USA Today bestselling author of four books including the Kindle bestseller Chasing Nirvana. She lives in Seattle with her family. ​ Luckily, she’s waterproof.

Website * Goodreads * Twitter * Facebook 

Exclusive Excerpt: Greetings From Janeland

Today on the site we’ve got an excerpt from Greetings From Janeland, the sequel to Dear John, I Love Jane, a collection of essays from women writing about leaving men for other women. Check it out:

9781627782340In an increasingly common phenomenon, women who once identified as straight are leaving men for women?and they have fascinating stories to tell.

In this sequel to Lambda Literary Finalist Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women, writers who come from a diverse array of perspectives open up and bare their souls. Essays on subjects such as repercussions, both bad and good; exes, both furious and supportive; bewildered and loyal family and friends; mind-blowing sexual and emotional awakenings; falling in the deepest of love; and finding a sense of community fill the pages of this anthology. One story is as different from the next as one person is from another.

With a foreword by former Editor-in-Chief of AfterEllen and Trish Bendix, and essays by acclaimed writers including BK Loren, Louise A. Blum, and Leah Lax, relax, sit back and take a journey into Janeland–a very special place where women search for, discover, and live their own personal truths.

B&N * Amazon * Kobo * iTunes * Google Play


Excerpt from “The Dealer’s Gift”

by Louise A. Blum

I said good-bye in a coffee shop on an appropriately bitter Iowa December night. He took my hands and held them in his own, warmed them with his breath. It was the kind of detail he’d been good at: the small comfort gestures—the cut flower, the rolled joint, the proffered mug of coffee, black. It felt so good to break it off, a clean, solid break, the kind that renders the bone twice as strong as it was before. He kissed my hands, and then, with a single phrase he determined the course of the rest of my life. If you don’t want me, he told me, softly, then you must be a lesbian. His breath on my palms chilled my skin. His reasoning was, to him, readily apparent: I’d have to be a lesbian not to want a guy as “sensitive” as him.

I left him there, sauntered out into the starlit sky. I tried to laugh it off, but the black Midwestern winter wind stole the sound from my throat before it could leave my lips. I walked home alone in the pale light of a distant constellation, fighting the chill that settled in my bones, his words seeding themselves deep within my brain, where they lingered like a curse. Then you must be a lesbian.  Somewhere deep inside, I had the nagging desire to prove him wrong. But if I had learned anything from that relationship, it was that I would rather be single for the rest of my life than settle for less than I deserved.


candace head shot (1)

Candace Walsh is the author of Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity, a New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards winner and the editor of Dear John, I Love Jane, and Ask Me About My Divorce. Her writing has appeared in numerous national and local publications, including Newsday, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Mademoiselle, New York magazine, and New Mexico Magazine. Her essays have been published in the anthologies Here Come the Brides!, Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, Blended, and Spent, and she is currently editor in chief of El Palacio Magazine. She lives in Santa Fe with her wife Laura André, their two children, and two dogs.


Barbara Straus Lodge is an essayist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Motherlode blog and the “LA Affairs” section of the Los Angeles Times. An essay under her pseudonym, Leigh Stuart, was published in the anthology Dear John, I Love Jane. Her work has also appeared in Parabola MagazineThe RumpusLiterary Mama and a variety of anthologies.

Valentine’s Day Reads for Under $5!

You know what’s awesome about capital-R Romance? (And capital-E Erotica?) You don’t need a Valentine’s date to enjoy ’em! Here’s a shopping list of some great Valentine’s Day reads all over the map in terms of length, genre, and rep, and all under five bucksno reservations, champagne, or chocolate hearts required.

(Trans rep has been noted with a T, for those specifically looking!)


Catalysts by Kris Ripper (m/m/m, contemporary)

Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price (m/m, paranormal)

Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins (m/m, contemporary NA)

Queerly Loving, vol. 1, ed. by G. Benson and  Astrid Ohletz (anthology)


Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant (m/f, T, paranormal)

Team Phison by Chace Verity (m/m, contemporary)

My Heart is Ready by Chace Verity (f/f, fantasy)

A Night at the Mall by M. Hollis (f/f, contemporary)

In Memoriam by Nathan Burgoine (m/m, contemporary)

Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver (f/f, fantasy)

Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau (f/f, sci-fi)

A Special Delivery by Laura Bilo (m/m, contemporary, holiday)

Mothmen by Kaelan Rhywiol (m/m/f, paranormal BDSM)

After Midnight by Santino Hassell (m/m, sci-fi)

The Disastrous Debut of Agatha Tremain by Stephanie Burgis (f/f, fantasy)

The Cuffs, Collars, and Love series by Christa Tomlinson (m/m, price is per book)



Sparks Fly by Llinos Catheryn Thomas (f/f, sci-fi)

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown (f/f, contemporary YA)

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (f/f, contemporary)

Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans (m/nb, contemporary)

The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian (m/m, historical)

Deep Deception by Cathy Pegau (f/f, sci-fi)

Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb (m/m, T, fabulist YA)



How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (f/f, contemporary YA)

A Matter of Disagreement by e.e. Ottoman (m/m, steampunk, T)

Roller Girl by Vanessa North (f/f, contemporary, T)

In Her Court by Tamsen Parker (f/f, contemporary)

The Good Listener by Delilah Fisher (m/f/f, contemporary erotica short)

Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley (f/f, contemporary YA)

HeartOn by Amy Jo Cousins (m/m, contemporary)

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (f/f, contemporary YA)

So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon (m/f, contemporary)

Fleur de Nuit by Cat Montmorency (f/f, contemporary)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver (f/f/f, SFF, T)

Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown (f/f, contemporary)

Forget Her Not by Elle Spencer (f/f, contemporary)

Shatterproof by Xen Sanders (m/m, paranormal)

Defying Convention by Cecil Wilde (m/nb, contemporary)

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall (m/m, contemporary YA)

Lipstick Stain by Cheyenne King (f/f, contemporary erotica short)

Cloaked in Shadow by Ben Alderson (m/m, fantasy YA)

No Rulebook For Love by Laura Bailo (m/m, T, contemporary)



Of All the Girls by Michele L. Rivera (f/f, contemporary)

The Doctor’s Discretion by e.e. Ottoman (m/m,  historical, T)

Start Here: Short Stories of First Encounters ed. by Ronald S. Lim and Brigitte Bautista (anthology)

Coffee Boy by Austin Chant (m/m, T, contemporary NA)

Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler (f/f, contemporary NA)

True Letters From a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan (m/m, contemporary YA)

Secret Heart by Danielle Dreger (f/f, contemporary YA)

Think of England by K.J. Charles (m/m, historical)

Villains Don’t Date Heroes by Mia Archer (f/f, sci-fi)

Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker (m/m, contemporary)

Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker (f/f, contemporary)

Daring Fate by Megan Erickson (m/m, paranormal)

Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas (f/f, contemporary YA)

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis (m/m, contemporary YA/NA)

A&B by JC Lillis (f/f, contemporary YA/NA)

Just Business by Anna Zabo (m/m, contemporary)

The Final Rose by Eliza Lentzki (f/f, contemporary)

Overexposed by Megan Erickson (m/m, contemporary NA)

Wild by Hannah Moskowitz (m/f, contemporary YA)

3 by Hannah Moskowitz (f/m/f, contemporary YA)

Darkling by Brooklyn Ray (m/m, T, fantasy)



The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer (f/f, contemporary NA)

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (f/f, contemporary YA)

Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger (m/m, contemporary YA, T)

What it Looks Like by Matthew J. Metzger (m/m, contemporary, T)



Style by Chelsea Cameron (f/f, contemporary YA)

Chord by Chelsea Cameron (f/f, contemporary NA)

Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn (f/f, fantasy, T)

Strong Signal, Fast Connection, Hard Wired, and Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell (m/m, contemporary)

The Butch and the Beautiful by Kris Ripper (f/f, contemporary)

The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper (m/f, contemporary, T)

Heart of the Steal by Avon Gale and Roan Parrish (m/m, contemporary)

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon (f/f, contemporary NA)

Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo (m/m/f, contemporary)

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale (f/f, contemporary)

Hold Me by Courtney Milan (m/f, contemporary NA, T)

Illegal Contact and Down By Contact by Santino Hassell (m/m, contemporary)

Rum Spring by Yolanda Wallace (f/f, contemporary)

Queerly Loving: Volume One ed. by G. Benson and Astrid Ohletz (anthology)

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw (f/f, paranormal)

Takeover by Anna Zabo (m/m, contemporary)

Documenting Light by e.e. Ottoman (m/nb, contemporary)

Casting Lacey by Elle Spencer (f/f, contemporary)

Far From Home by Lorelie Brown (f/f, contemporary)

An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale (f/f, YA contemporary)

Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances by Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole, and Rose Lerner (has f/f and m/m stories, historical)

The Violet Hill series by Chelsea Cameron (3 f/f stories)


Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!