Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Forest Demands its Due by Kosoko Jackson

Today on the site I’m delighted to reveal the cover of Kosoko Jackson’s The Forest Demands its Due, a paranormal thriller releasing October 3rd from Quill Tree, an imprint of The Publisher That Needs To Come to the Table and Talk to Its Union Already. For more on the HCP Union and how you can help support its efforts, click here. I also encourage you to use the Bookshop preorder link below, which directly supports the Strike fund. And now, the story:

Regent Academy has a long and storied history in the small, sleepy town of Winslow, Vermont. But so does the vast, dense forest that surrounds its campus. While the prestigious school is known for molding teens into world leaders, its history is far more nefarious—and far more entangled with the forest—than anyone could begin to suspect.

Seventeen-year-old Douglas Jones wants nothing to do with Regent’s king-making; he’s just trying to forget his past and survive his present. But then a student is killed and, by the next day, no one remembers him ever exiting, except for Douglas and the groundskeeper’s son, Everett Everley. As Douglas begins to research what he finds to be a centuries-long curse in the town, he and Everett awaken a horror hidden within the forest. And to save the town, and the school, the forest wants more blood as payment. The question is, will Douglas and Everett be able to pay the debt?

Critically acclaimed author Kosoko Jackson explores how power can—and will—corrupt absolutely and how cycles of violence are perpetuated throughout history in this high-octane, page-turning dark academia mystery of murder and magic.

And here’s the chilling cover, illustrated by Joel Tippie!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Kosoko Jackson is a digital marketer during the day and an author of books that champion queer Black male characters during his free time. When not writing novels that champion holistic representation of black queer men across genres, he can be found obsessing over movies, drinking his (umpteenth) London Fog, or spending far too much time on Twitter. He lives in The New York Metro area with his Golden Retriever, Artemis. YESTERDAY IS HISTORY was his debut young adult novel, published by SourcebooksFire in 2021.

January 2023 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Hana Lee’s debut MAGEBIKE COURIER, a cross-cultural fantasy pitched as Mad Max: Fury Road with magic and sapphic romance, about a messenger between star-crossed royals who finds herself embroiled in a high-speed chase across the perilous desert wastelands when the princess she works for decides to escape an unwanted betrothal, to Amara Hoshijo at Saga Press, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2024, by Paul Lucas at Janklow & Nesbit (world English).

Author of THE MAGIC BETWEEN Stephanie Hoyt’s PROVE IT, the first in a New Adult romance series pitched as The Mighty Ducks’s queer adventures in the NHL, in which a poorly timed comment during a joint interview leaves the relationship between the first and second overall picks a point of interest long after the draft is over, to Elizabeth Coldwell at NineStar, for publication in spring 2024.

Johanna van Veen‘s MY DARLING DREADFUL THING, a sapphic Gothic novel pitched as THINGS IN JARS meets THE DEATH OF JANE LAWRENCE, about a young woman who has a spirit companion only she can see; but as she’s undeniably drawn to an enigmatic young widow, a gruesome death puts both her innocence and her sanity in question, to Jenna Jankowski at Sourcebooks, in a very nice deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring of 2024, by Kristina Perez at Zeno Agency (world English).

Author of WE ARE WATCHING ELIZA BRIGHT A.E. Osworth‘s AWAKENED, in which a 30-something gay witch wakes up one morning with magic powers and subsequently charms their way through love, loss, drag brunches, and the gig economy while battling an evil AI along with their newly adopted chaotic trans coven, to Seema Mahanian at Grand Central, by Ryan Harbage at Fischer-Harbage Agency (world).

Queer librarian Arden Brax’s debut THE LILY OF ENARAH, a sapphic science fiction novel in which an adopted daughter of the viceroy quickly learns that duty comes before all when she is forced to make an enemy of the girl she loves in order to save her people, to Cate Pearce at Hansen, for publication in May 2024.

Miniaturist and fantasy author Mary Lynne Gibbs’s THE PRINCESS AND THE THIEF, pitched as a sapphic Rapunzel retelling in which a cursed elvish princess escapes her sheltered home to seek the help of the empress and reluctantly enlists a rogue thief to aid in her quest, but fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, and maybe true love stand in their way, to Cate Pearce at Hansen, for publication in July 2024.

Author of EVERYBODY (ELSE) IS PERFECT Gabrielle Korn’s THE SHUTOUTS, the sequel to the forthcoming YOURS FOR THE TAKING, a queer dystopian novel about the people excluded from a global climate change relief program, their struggle to survive, and their search for truth that reveals an interconnectedness larger than all of them, to Hannah O’Grady at St. Martin’s, by Nicki Richesin at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner (world).

New School MFA graduate Alana Saab’s PLEASE STOP TRYING TO LEAVE ME, in which, while god is sending her signs through Instagram and Spotify telling her to break up with her girlfriend, a 27-year-old meets a new therapist for one reason: she really needs to write again, to Ellie Pritchett at Vintage, for publication in summer 2024, by Mina Hamedi at Janklow & Nesbit (NA).

Author of ASK A QUEER CHICK Lindsay King-Miller‘s THE Z WORD, a debut queer horror novel about a zombie outbreak at a small-town Pride festival, in which a scrappy found-family band of queers must confront corporate pinkwashing, political manipulation, and shambling monsters who want to eat them, to Jess Zimmerman at Quirk Books, for publication in spring 2024, by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency (world).

NBCC award finalist, Dylan Thomas Prize, Lambda Literary Award, National Book Award 5 Under 35 recipient, and author of LOT and MEMORIAL Bryan Washington‘s FAMILY MEAL, about two queer best friends who reconnect after an estrangement and a shocking loss, to Laura Perciasepe at Riverhead, by Danielle Bukowski at Sterling Lord Literistic.

Lambda Award-winning author Julia Watts‘s LOVESICK BLOSSOMS, set in 1953, in which two married women struggle to come to terms with their deepening love for each other in a small college town in Kentucky, against a backdrop of racism, sexism, and complete rejection of same-sex liaisons, to Kat Georges at Three Rooms Press, in a nice deal, for publication in October 2023 (world English).

WHY AREN’T YOU SMILING, GUTTER BOYS, and I MARRIED AN EARTHLING, and Lambda Award finalist for the memoir DISASTERAMA Alvin Orloff‘s VULGARIAN RHAPSODY, a tour of San Francisco’s fabled queer bohemia in the waning days of the 20th century, as the city’s budget bon vivants work to save their eccentric lifestyles in the face of tech gentrification, to Peter Carlaftes at Three Rooms Press, in a nice deal, for publication in October 2023 (world English).

Metalsmith and queer horror author Sofia Ajram’s BURY YOUR GAYS: AN ANTHOLOGY OF TRAGIC QUEER HORROR, to Max Booth III at Ghoulish Books, for publication in April 2024 (world English).

Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction

Rainie Oet’s MONSTER SEEK, about two children playing hide-and-seek during a thunderstorm, exploring gender identity, the love between siblings, and the meaning of monstrosity, illustrated by Deb JJ Lee, to Susan Dobinick at Astra Young Readers, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall 2026, by Abigail Frank at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates for the author, and by Edward Maxwell at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates for the illustrator (world).

Author-illustrator of GENDER QUEER Maia Kobabe and Lucky Srikumar’s SAACHI’S STORIES, a coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about an aspiring author who struggles to navigate changing social dynamics and her evolving identity, as her friends start coupling up and everybody else seems to fit neatly into a boy/girl binary, to David Levithan at Graphix, in a good deal, at auction, for publication in spring 2025, by Emily Mitchell at Wernick & Pratt Agency (world).

Melanie Gillman’s RECLUSIVIA, a graphic novel about a nonbinary kid going to an art summer program where things take a turn for the strange and haunted, to Whitney Leopard at Random House Graphic, for publication in summer 2025, by Jen Linnan at Linnan Literary Management (world).

Young Adult Fiction

NYT-bestseller Rachael Lippincott’s PRIDE & PREJUDICE & PITTSBURGH, pitched as Freaky Friday meets Bridgerton, about a girl sent back in time who meets an unexpected love interest in the 19th century, to Alexa Pastor at Simon & Schuster Children’s, in a significant deal, for publication in fall 2023, by Emily van Beek at Folio Literary Management (world).

Freddie Kolsch’s debut NOW, CONJURERS, in which the partially devoured body of a high school quarterback is discovered in a local cemetery, and his bereaved boyfriend and close-knit coven of queer misfits are plunged into an occult murder investigation that leads to a wish-granting demon lurking beneath their town, to Laura Schreiber at Union Square Kids, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2024, by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency (NA).

Author of I THINK I LOVE YOU Auriane Desombre’s I LOVE YOU S’MORE, a queer rom-com in which a teen has her heart broken after her high school sweetheart-turned-celebrity cheats on her, and she soon finds herself swept up in a fun and new swoony romance at summer camp with another camp counselor, to Kelsey Horton at Delacorte, in an exclusive submission, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2024, by Penny Moore at Aevitas Creative Management (world).

Author of MAJOR DETOURS and SO YOU WANNA BE A POP STAR? Zachary Sergi’s THIS PACT IS NOT OURS, a queer YA horror in which four college-bound best friends return to the idyllic campsite their families have visited every summer, only to discover they are cursed by an ancestral pact that threatens to tear their friendships–and the world—apart, pitched as WE WERE LIARS meets Stranger Things, to Joshua Dean Perry at Tiny Ghost Press, for publication in October 2023, by Moe Ferrara at BookEnds (world English).

Debut author Jamie D’Amato‘s THE GOOD VAMPIRE’S GUIDE TO BLOOD AND BOYFRIENDS, a rom-com in which the last thing a boy expects after surviving serious depression is to wake up a vampire; now he has to navigate not only college but bloodthirsty instincts, vampire clans who may not be as “good” as they claim, and feelings for the cute boy who is helping him keep his secret, to Vicki Lame and Vanessa Aguirre at Wednesday Books, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in winter 2025, by John Cusick at Folio Jr. (NA).

Non-Fiction

Annenberg Innovation Lab Fellow, writer, oral historian, and founder and director of Country Queers Rae Garringer’s COUNTRY QUEERS: THE STORY OF A DIY RURAL QUEER ORAL HISTORY PROJECT, part memoir of a project, part activation of a trove of over 90 oral histories, part collection of photographs of rural queer people, places, and ephemera made/found along the way, revealing the joys, challenges, and nuances of rural queer life, to Katy O’Donnell at Haymarket, with Dao Tran editing (world).

LGBTQ+ advocate and former professional hockey player Harrison Browne and investigative journalist Rachel Browne‘s LET THEM PLAY, centering trans and nonbinary voices to debunk myths around the increasingly volatile debate about the participation of gender-diverse athletes while advocating for the inclusion of trans athletes across all levels of sport, to Joanna Green at Beacon Press, by Carly Watters at P.S. Literary Agency (NA).

Author of the Pacific Northwest Book Award winner and an NPR Best Book of the Year RED PAINT Sasha LaPointe‘s THUNDER SONG, a meditation on what it means to be a proudly queer, indigenous woman in America today, suffused with the power of community and music to heal and inspire and drawing connections between the personal and the communal, the spiritual and the physical, the mundane and the miraculous, again to Harry Kirchner at Counterpoint, for publication in spring 2024, by Duvall Osteen at Aragi Inc. (NA).

Managing editor at The Experiment Zachary Pace‘s I SING TO USE THE WAITING, an inquiry into the nature of the queer voice through the lens of female singers—such as Cat Power, Rihanna, and Whitney Houston—who have informed the author’s identity, to Eric Obenauf at Two Dollar Radio, in a nice deal, for publication in spring 2024 (world).

Santiago-based travel writer Mark Johanson‘s MARS ON EARTH, about a gay expat searching the otherworldly Atacama Desert of northern Chile for a deeper understanding of the forces that have shaped both his relationship to his partner and to his adoptive homeland, to Don Gorman at Rocky Mountain Books, for publication in fall 2024, by Max Sinsheimer at Sinsheimer Literary (world English).

Clinical psychologist and therapist Dr. Jonathan Mathias Lassiter‘s HOW I KNOW WHITE PEOPLE ARE CRAZY, a memoir of growing up poor, gay, and Black, navigating the systemically racist field of psychology, sharing lessons about how anti-Blackness harms mental health and the connection between mental and political liberation, to Alison Dalafave at Hachette Go, at auction, for publication in February 2025, by Cecilia Lyra at P.S. Literary Agency (world).

Whiting Award winner and winner of the 2022 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction for 100 BOYFRIENDS Brontez Purnell’s TEN BRIDGES I’VE BURNT, a memoir in verse, tracing Purnell’s life from Alabama to Oakland and everywhere in between; and an untitled novel, about a family of feuding Black psychics living in 1970s Alabama, again to Jackson Howard at MCD/FSG, in a two-book deal, by Julia Masnik at Watkins Loomis (world).

Fave Five: LGBTQ Cli-Fi Novels

Eleutheria by Allegra Hyde

Depart, Depart! by Sim Kern

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Bonus: These are all Adult, but in YA, check out Want and Ruse by Cindy Pon.

New Release Spotlight: Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni

It doesn’t come out until the last day of the month, but I can’t wait until then to shout about Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni, a bisexual f/f romance steeped in Armenian culture and crackling with chemistry. I loved witty Nar and passionate Erebuni, and, as a non-Armenian, learning lots, too. Hope you love it as much as I did!

When Nar’s non-Armenian boyfriend gets down on one knee and proposes to her in front of a room full of drunk San Francisco tech boys, she realizes it’s time to find someone who shares her idea of romance.

Enter her mother: armed with plenty of mom-guilt and a spreadsheet of Facebook-stalked Armenian men, she convinces Nar to attend Explore Armenia, a month-long series of events in the city. But it’s not the mom-approved playboy doctor or wealthy engineer who catches her eye—it’s Erebuni, a woman as equally immersed in the witchy arts as she is in preserving Armenian identity. Suddenly, with Erebuni as her wingwoman, the events feel like far less of a chore, and much more of an adventure. Who knew cooking up kuftes together could be so . . . sexy?

Erebuni helps Nar see the beauty of their shared culture and makes her feel understood in a way she never has before. But there’s one teeny problem: Nar’s not exactly out as bisexual. The clock is ticking on Nar’s double life, though—the closing event banquet is coming up, and her entire extended family will be there, along with Erebuni. Her worlds will inevitably collide, but Nar is determined to be brave, determined to claim her happiness: proudly Armenian, proudly bisexual, and proudly herself for the first time in her life.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

TBRainbow Alert: 2023 MG and YA Starring QTBIPoC

This post contains titles published by HarperCollins. Please note that the HarperCollins Union has been on strike since 11/10/22 to get a fair contract for their workers, and this site very much supports that effort. Visit the HarperCollins Union linktree to learn how you can support their fight for a fair contract: linktr.ee/hcpunion.

Middle Grade

Cameron Battle and the Escape Trials by Jamar J. Perry (January 31st)

This is the sequel to Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms

After his first adventure as the Descendant, Cameron can’t sit through seventh grade classes. Especially when his mother is still trapped in Chidani and his father is still missing. But he encounters a particularly nasty bully in his new school, and it doesn’t take long for Cameron and his trusty friends Zion and Aliyah to realize that the troubles of Chidani won’t stay away for long.

With the Book to guide them, Cameron and his crew end up transported to Chidani sooner than anticipated–and the gods and goddesses they encounter don’t intend to make Cameron’s journey easy. Can he finally outwit and outlast the villainous god set on destroying their worlds?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Continue reading TBRainbow Alert: 2023 MG and YA Starring QTBIPoC

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Evolving Truth of Ever-Stronger Will by Maya MacGregor

Today on the site, we’re revealing the cover of The Evolving Truth of Ever-Stronger Will by Maya MacGregor, which releases July 18, 2023 from Astra Books for Young Readers! Here’s the story:

Will, an agender teen, struggles with the haunting aftermath of parental abuse as they forge a new life and love in this novel that is perfect for fans of If These Wings Could Fly and Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

Will is a 17-year-old on the cusp of freedom: freedom from providing and caring for their abusive, addicted mother, freedom from their small town with an even smaller mindset, and the freedom from having to hide who they truly are. When their drug dealer mother dies months before their 18th birthday, Will is granted their freedom earlier than expected. But their mother’s last words haunt Will: She cursed them with her dying breath, claiming her death was their fault. Soon their mother’s drug-dealing past threatens Will’s new shiny future, leaving Will scrambling to find their beloved former foster mother Raz before Child Protective Services or local drug dealers find them first. But how do you reconnect with family and embark on a new love when you’re convinced you destroy everything you touch?

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Barbara Grzeslo with art by Jem Milton!

Cover features a portrait. One half of the character's face is swallowed by flowers and leaves. The visible side of their face reveals curly brown hair, a single blue eye, a nose, and lips. Background behind the portrait is a purple gradient. The author's name, Maya MacGregor, is set at the top of the cover, with the title "The Evolving Truth of Ever-Stronger Will" displayed in white font beneath it.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

(c) Max Crawford

Maya MacGregor is a writer, singer, and artist. Maya sings and writes in Gàidhlig and in English. You can find their bilingual work on tor.com, in Steall magazine (summer 2020), and Uncanny magazine, with poetry in Poets’ Republic and elsewhere. The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester, which earned three starred reviews and was a 2022 Kirkus Best Book, was their debut young adult novel.

New Releases: January 2023

Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell by Tobias Madden (3rd)

Seventeen-year-old gaymer Noah Mitchell only has one friend left: the wonderful, funny, strictly online-only MagePants69. After years playing RPGs together, they know everything about each other, except anything that would give away their real life identities. And Noah is certain that if they could just meet in person, they would be soulmates. Noah would do anything to make this happen―including finally leaving his gaming chair to join a community theater show that he’s only mostly sure MagePants69 is performing in. Noah has never done anything like theater―he can’t sing, he can’t dance, and he’s never willingly watched a musical―but he’ll have to go all in to have a chance at love.

With Noah’s mum performing in the lead role, and former friends waiting in the wings to sabotage his reputation, his plan to make MagePants69 fall in love with him might be a little more difficult than originally anticipated.

And the longer Noah waits to come clean, the more tangled his web of lies becomes. By opening night, he will have to decide if telling the truth is worth closing the curtain on his one shot at true love.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Nick and Charlie by Alice Oseman (3rd)

This is the first US publication of the UK novella.

Nick and CharlieAbsence makes the heart grow fonder… right?

Everyone knows that Nick and Charlie love their nearly inseparable life together. But soon Nick will be leaving for university, and Charlie, a year younger, will be left behind. Everyone’s asking if they’re staying together, which is a stupid question… or at least that’s what Nick and Charlie assume at first.

As the time to say goodbye gets inevitably closer, both Nick and Charlie start to question whether their love is strong enough to survive being apart. Charlie is sure he’s holding Nick back… and Nick can’t tell what Charlie’s thinking.

Things spiral from there.

Everyone knows that first loves rarely last forever. What will it take for Nick and Charlie to defy the odds?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert (3rd)

61356545Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.

Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption–yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)

These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.

Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past. And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The New Life by Tom Crewe (3rd)

61273326In the summer of 1894, John Addington and Henry Ellis begin writing a book arguing that what they call “inversion,” or homosexuality, is a natural, harmless variation of human sexuality. Though they have never met, John and Henry both live in London with their wives, Catherine and Edith, and in each marriage there is a third party: John has a lover, a working class man named Frank, and Edith spends almost as much time with her friend Angelica as she does with Henry. John and Catherine have three grown daughters and a long, settled marriage, over the course of which Catherine has tried to accept her husband’s sexuality and her own role in life; Henry and Edith’s marriage is intended to be a revolution in itself, an intellectual partnership that dismantles the traditional understanding of what matrimony means.

Shortly before the book is to be published, Oscar Wilde is arrested. John and Henry must decide whether to go on, risking social ostracism and imprisonment, or to give up the project for their own safety and the safety of the people they love. Is this the right moment to advance their cause? Is publishing bravery or foolishness? And what price is too high to pay for a new way of living?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

A Tale of Two Princes by Eric Geron (10th)

58543755Edward Dinnissen, Crown Prince of Canada, loves getting the royal treatment at his exclusive Manhattan private school and living in a fancy mansion on Park Avenue. But despite living a royal life of luxury, Edward is unsure how to tell his parents, his expectant country, and his adoring fans that he’s gay.

Billy Boone couldn’t be happier: he loves small-town life and his family’s Montana ranch, and his boyfriend is the cutest guy at Little Timber High. But this out-and-proud cowboy is finally admitting to himself that he feels destined for more . . .

When Edward and Billy meet by chance in New York City and discover that they are long-lost twins, their lives are forever changed. Will the twin princes—“twinces”— be able to take on high school, coming out, and coronations together? Or will this royal reunion quickly become a royal disaster?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Friday I’m in Love by Camryn Garrett (10th)

Mahalia Harris wants.

She wants a big Sweet Sixteen like her best friend, Naomi.
She wants the super-cute new girl Siobhan to like her back.
She wants a break from worrying—about money, snide remarks from white classmates, pitying looks from church ladies . . . all of it.

Then inspiration strikes: It’s too late for a Sweet Sixteen, but what if she had a coming-out party? A singing, dancing, rainbow-cake-eating celebration of queerness on her own terms.

The idea lights a fire beneath her, and soon Mahalia is scrimping and saving, taking on extra hours at her afterschool job, trying on dresses, and awkwardly flirting with Siobhan, all in preparation for the coming out of her dreams. But it’s not long before she’s buried in a mountain of bills, unfinished schoolwork, and enough drama to make her English lit teacher blush. With all the responsibility on her shoulders, will Mahalia’s party be over before it’s even begun?

A novel about finding yourself, falling in love, and celebrating what makes you you.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai (10th)

60833941As a waterweaver, Nehal can move and shape any water to her will, but she’s limited by her lack of formal education. She desires nothing more than to attend the newly opened Weaving Academy, take complete control of her powers, and pursue a glorious future on the battlefield with the first all-female military regiment. But her family cannot afford to let her go—crushed under her father’s gambling debt, Nehal is forcibly married into a wealthy merchant family. Her new spouse, Nico, is indifferent and distant and in love with another woman, a bookseller named Giorgina.

Giorgina has her own secret, however: she is an earthweaver with dangerously uncontrollable powers. She has no money and no prospects. Her only solace comes from her activities with the Daughters of Izdihar, a radical women’s rights group at the forefront of a movement with a simple goal: to attain recognition for women to have a say in their own lives. They live very different lives and come from very different means, yet Nehal and Giorgina have more in common than they think. The cause—and Nico—brings them into each other’s orbit, drawn in by the group’s enigmatic leader, Malak Mamdouh, and the urge to do what is right.

But their problems may seem small in the broader context of their world, as tensions are rising with a neighboring nation that desires an end to weaving and weavers. As Nehal and Giorgina fight for their rights, the threat of war looms in the background, and the two women find themselves struggling to earn—and keep—a lasting freedom.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Brighter than the Moon by David Valdes (10th)

Shy foster kid Jonas and self-assured vlogger Shani met online, and so far, that’s where their relationship has stayed, sharing memes and baring their souls from behind their screens. Shani is eager to finally meet up, but Jonas isn’t so sure–he’s not confident Shani will like the real him . . . if he’s even sure who that is.

Jonas knows he’s trapped himself in a lie with Shani–and wants to dig himself out. But Shani, who’s been burned before, may not give him a chance: she talks her best friend Ash into playing spy and finding out the truth. When Ash falls for Jonas, too, he keeps that news from Shani, and soon they’re all keeping secrets. Will it matter that their hearts are in the right place? Coming clean will require them to figure out who they really are, which is no easy task when all the pieces of your identity go beyond easy boxes and labels.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Back in a Spell by Lana Harper (10th)

60846802Even though she won’t deny her love for pretty (and pricey) things, Nineve Blackmoore is almost painfully down-to-earth and sensible by Blackmoore standards. But after a year of nursing a broken heart inflicted by the fiancée who all but ditched her at the altar, the powerful witch is sick of feeling low and is ready to try something drastically different: a dating app.

At her best friend’s urging, Nina goes on a date with Morty Gutierrez, the nonbinary, offbeat soul of spontaneity and co-owner of the Shamrock Cauldron. Their date goes about as well as can be expected of most online dates—awkward and terrible. To make matters worse, once Morty discovers Nina’s last name, he’s far from a fan; it turns out that the Blackmoores have been bullishly trying to buy the Shamrock out from under Morty and his family.

But when Morty begins developing magical powers—something that usually only happens to committed romantic partners once they officially join a founding family—at the same time that Nina’s own magic surges beyond her control, Nina must manage Morty’s rude awakening to the hidden magical world, uncover its cause, and face the intensity of their own burgeoning connection. But what happens when that connection is tied to Nina’s power surge, a power she’s finding nearly as addictive as Morty’s presence in her life?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Love and Lattes by Karis Walsh (10th)

Bonnie James has built her life around her passions—cats, coffee, and community. She rejected her family’s narrow visions of success and instead chose the non-lucrative, fur-filled life of a cat café owner. So what if her decision means she works way too much to have time for true love? She has plenty of friends and cats to keep her company.

Wedding planner Taryn Ritter has a knack for making impossible dreams come true. She might not understand the appeal of getting married in a cat café, but if that’s what her clients want, then she’ll make it happen. She’s not about to let the reluctant café owner stand in her way, so she makes Bonnie an offer she can’t refuse—give her the venue for one day and she’ll find a way to get more cats adopted into happy homes.

When Bonnie and Taryn join forces to help a bunch of shelter cats find their forever homes, they just might discover forever for themselves as well.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

As You Walk on By by Julian Winters (17th)

Seventeen-year-old Theo Wright has it all figured out. His plan (well, more like his dad’s plan) is a foolproof strategy that involves exceling at his magnet school, getting scouted by college recruiters, and going to Duke on athletic scholarship. But for now, all Theo wants is a perfect prom night. After his best friend Jay dares Theo to prompose to his crush at Chloe Campbell’s party, Theo’s ready to throw caution to the wind and take his chances.

But when the promposal goes epically wrong, Theo seeks refuge in an empty bedroom while the party rages on downstairs. Having an existential crisis about who he really is with and without his so-called best friend wasn’t on tonight’s agenda. Though, as the night goes on, Theo finds he’s not as alone as he thinks when, one by one, new classmates join him to avoid who they’re supposed be outside the bedroom door. Among them, a familiar acquaintance, a quiet outsider, an old friend, and a new flame . . .

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I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Marisa Crane (17th)

In a United States not so unlike our own, the Department of Balance has adopted a radical new form of law enforcement: rather than incarceration, wrongdoers are given a second (and sometimes, third, fourth, and fifth) shadow as a reminder of their crime—and a warning to those they encounter. Within the Department, corruption and prejudice run rampant, giving rise to an underclass of so-called Shadesters who are disenfranchised, publicly shamed, and deprived of civil rights protections.

Kris is a Shadester and a new mother to a baby born with a second shadow of her own. Grieving the loss of her wife and thoroughly unprepared for the reality of raising a child alone, Kris teeters on the edge of collapse, fumbling in a daze of alcohol, shame, and self-loathing. Yet as the kid grows, Kris finds her footing, raising a child whose irrepressible spark cannot be dampened by the harsh realities of the world. She can’t forget her wife, but with time, she can make a new life for herself and the kid, supported by a community of fellow misfits who defy the Department to lift one another up in solidarity and hope.

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The Words That Remain by Stênio Gardel, trans. by Bruna Dantas Lobato (17th)

The Words that RemainA letter has beckoned to Raimundo since he received it decades ago from his youthful passion, handsome Cicero. But having grown up in an impoverished area of Brazil where the demands of manual labor thwarted his becoming literate, Raimundo has long been unable to read. As young men, he and Cicero fell in love, only to have Raimundo’s father brutally beat his son when he discovered their affair. Even after Raimundo succeeds in making a life for himself in the big city, he continues to be haunted by this secret missive full of longing from the distant past. Now, as an elderly man, he at last acquires a true education and the ability to access the letter. Exploring Brazil’s little-known hinterland as well its urban haunts, this is a sweeping novel of repression, violence, and shame, along with their flip side: survival, endurance, and the ultimate triumph of an unforgettable figure on society’s margins. The Words That Remain explores the universal power of the written word and language, and how they affect all our relationships.

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Another Dimension of Us by Mike Albo (17th)

60880792In 1986, Tommy Gaye is in love with his best friend, budding teen poet Renaldo Calabasas. But at the height of the AIDS crisis and amidst the homophobia running rampant across America, Tommy can never share his feelings. Then, one terrible night, Renaldo is struck by lightning. And he emerges from the storm a very different boy.

In 2044, Heron High student Pris Devrees jolts awake after having a strange nightmare about a boy named Tommy and a house in the neighborhood the locals affectionally call “The Murder House.” When she ventures to the house to better understand her vivid dreams, she happens upon an old self-help book that she soon realizes is a guide to trans-dimensional travel.

As bodies and minds merge across the astral plane, Pris, Tommy, and their friends race to save Renaldo from a dangerous demon, while uncovering potent realities about love, sexuality, and friendship.

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I Am Ace: Advice on Living Your Best Asexual Life by Cody Daingle-Orions (19th)

I Am AceHow do I know if I’m actually sexual?

How do I come out as asexual?

What kinds of relationship can I have as an ace person?
If you are looking for answers to these questions, Cody is here to help. Within these pages lie all the advice you need as a questioning ace teen.

Tackling everything from what asexuality is, the asexual spectrum and tips on coming out, to intimacy, relationships, acephobia and finding joy, this guide will help you better understand your asexual identity alongside deeply relatable anecdotes drawn from Cody’s personal experience.

Whether you are ace, demi, gray-ace or not sure yet, this book will give you the courage and confidence to embrace your authentic self and live your best ace life.

Buy it: Waterstones | Book Depository

Bisexual Men Exist by Vaneet Mehta (19th)

Bisexual Men Exist“You’re just being greedy.”
“Are you sure you’re not gay?”
“Pick a side.”

Being a bisexual man isn’t easy – something Vaneet Mehta knows all too well. After spending more than a decade figuring out his identity, Vaneet’s coming out was met with questioning, ridicule and erasure. This experience inspired Vaneet to create the viral #BisexualMenExist campaign, combatting the hate and scepticism m-spec (multi-gender attracted spectrum) men encounter, and helping others who felt similarly alone and trapped.

This powerful book is an extension of that fight. Navigating a range of topics, including coming out, dating, relationships and health, Vaneet shares his own lived experience as well as personal stories from others in the community to help validate and uplift other bisexual men. Discussing the treatment of m-spec men in LGBTQ+ places, breaking down stereotypes and highlighting the importance of representation and education, this empowering book is a rallying call for m-spec men everywhere.

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The Queering by Brooke Skipstone (19th)

63037805. sy475 Trapped between a homicidal brother and a homophobic podcaster eager to reveal her lesbian romance novels, a seventy-year-old grandmother seeks help in Clear, Alaska.

Suffocating in a loveless marriage and lonely existence, Taylor MacKenzie lives only through her writing, using the pen name Brooke Skipstone, her best friend in college and lover before her death in 1974.

Afraid of being murdered before anyone in her family or community knows her life story, Taylor writes an autobiography about her time with Brooke and shares it with those closest to her, hoping for understanding and acceptance.

Accused of promoting the queering and debasement of America by a local podcaster, Taylor embroils the conservative community in controversy but fights back with the help of a new, surprising friend.

Can she endure the attacks from haters and gaslighters? Can she champion the queering she represents?

And will she survive?

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6 Times We Almost Kissed (And One We Did) by Tess Sharpe (24th)

61030513Penny and Tate have always clashed. Unfortunately, their mothers are lifelong best friends, so the girls’ bickering has carried them through playdates, tragedy, and more than one rom-com marathon with the Moms. When Penny’s mother decides to become a living donor to Tate’s mom, ending her wait for a liver transplant, things go from clashing to cataclysmic. Because in order to help their families recover physically, emotionally, and financially, the Moms combine their households the summer before senior year.

So Penny and Tate make a pact: They’ll play nice. Be the drama-free daughters their mothers need through this scary and hopeful time. There’s only one little hitch in their plan: Penny and Tate keep almost kissing.

It’s just this confusing thing that keeps happening. You know, from time to time. For basically their entire teenaged existence.

They’ve never talked about it. They’ve always ignored it in the aftermath. But now they’re living across the hall from each other. And some things—like their kisses—can’t be almosts forever.

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The Minus-One Club by Kekla Magoon (24th)

60316977Fifteen-year-old Kermit Sanders knows grief and its all-encompassing shadows. After losing his beloved older sister in a tragic car accident, nothing quite punctures through the feelings of loss. Everywhere Kermit goes, he is reminded of her.

But then Kermit finds a mysterious invitation in his locker, signed anonymously with “-1.” He has no idea what he’s in for, but he shows up to find out. Dubbed the “Minus-One Club,” a group of his schoolmates has banded together as a form of moral support. The members have just one thing in common—they have all suffered the tragic loss of someone they loved.

The usual dividing lines between high school classes and cliques don’t apply inside the Minus-One Club, and Kermit’s secret crush, the handsome and happy-go-lucky Matt (and only out gay student at school), is also a part of the group. Slowly, Matt’s positive headstrong approach to life helps relieve Kermit of his constant despair.

But as Kermit grows closer to Matt, the light of his new life begins to show the cracks beneath the surface. When Matt puts himself in danger by avoiding his feelings, Kermit must find the strength to not only lift himself back up but to help the rest of the group from falling apart.

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After Sappho by Shelby Wynn Schwartz (24th)

The first thing we did was change our names. We were going to be Sappho,” so begins this intrepid debut novel, centuries after the Greek poet penned her lyric verse. Ignited by the same muse, a myriad of women break from their small, predetermined lives for seemingly disparate paths: in 1892, Rina Faccio trades her needlepoint for a pen; in 1902, Romaine Brooks sails for Capri with nothing but her clotted paintbrushes; and in 1923, Virginia Woolf writes: “I want to make life fuller and fuller.”

Writing in cascading vignettes, Selby Wynn Schwartz spins an invigorating tale of women whose narratives converge and splinter as they forge queer identities and claim the right to their own lives. A luminous meditation on creativity, education, and identity, After Sappho announces a writer as ingenious as the trailblazers of our past.

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This Unlikely Soil by Andrea Routley (24th)

This Unlikely SoilIn This Unlikely Soil, prize-winning writer Andrea Routley delivers stories of queer women navigating love and life against the lush, isolated backdrop of Canada’s West Coast.

A dog that bites, a bear suffering from a hemorrhoid, an aggressive willow tree, berried-up Dungeness crabs and erotic mussels… The dense West-Coast landscape of This Unlikely Soil echoes the fraught search for connection of the rural-dwelling queer characters in this quintet of novellas. Finalist for the Malahat Review Novella Prize, this sophomore collection from Lambda Literary Award-finalist Andrea Routley explores the queer state of wandering, violence, and loss with surprising humour and compassion.

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The Black Queen by Jumata Emill (31st)

The Black QueenNova Albright, the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High, is dead. Murdered the night of her coronation, her body found the next morning in the old slave cemetery she spent her weekends rehabilitating.

Tinsley McArthur was supposed to be queen. Not only is she beautiful, wealthy, and white, it’s her legacy—her grandmother, her mother, and even her sister wore the crown before her. Everyone in Lovett knows Tinsley would do anything to carry on the McArthur tradition.

No one is more certain of that than Duchess Simmons, Nova’s best friend. Duchess’s father is the first Black police captain in Lovett. For Duchess, Nova’s crown was more than just a win for Nova. It was a win for all the Black kids. Now her best friend is dead, and her father won’t fact the fact that the main suspect is right in front of him. Duchess is convinced that Tinsley killed Nova—and that Tinsley is privileged enough to think she can get away with it. But Duchess’s father seems to be doing what he always does: fall behind the blue line. Which means that the white girl is going to walk.

Duchess is determined to prove Tinsley’s guilt. And to do that, she’ll have to get close to her.

But Tinsley has an agenda, too.

Everyone loved Nova. And sometimes, love is exactly what gets you killed.

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Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni (31st)

When Nar’s non-Armenian boyfriend gets down on one knee and proposes to her in front of a room full of drunk San Francisco tech boys, she realizes it’s time to find someone who shares her idea of romance.

Enter her mother: armed with plenty of mom-guilt and a spreadsheet of Facebook-stalked Armenian men, she convinces Nar to attend Explore Armenia, a month-long series of events in the city. But it’s not the mom-approved playboy doctor or wealthy engineer who catches her eye—it’s Erebuni, a woman as equally immersed in the witchy arts as she is in preserving Armenian identity. Suddenly, with Erebuni as her wingwoman, the events feel like far less of a chore, and much more of an adventure. Who knew cooking up kuftes together could be so . . . sexy?

Erebuni helps Nar see the beauty of their shared culture and makes her feel understood in a way she never has before. But there’s one teeny problem: Nar’s not exactly out as bisexual. The clock is ticking on Nar’s double life, though—the closing event banquet is coming up, and her entire extended family will be there, along with Erebuni. Her worlds will inevitably collide, but Nar is determined to be brave, determined to claim her happiness: proudly Armenian, proudly bisexual, and proudly herself for the first time in her life.

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Cameron Battle and the Escape Trials by Jamar J. Perry (31st)

This is the sequel to Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms

After his first adventure as the Descendant, Cameron can’t sit through seventh grade classes. Especially when his mother is still trapped in Chidani and his father is still missing. But he encounters a particularly nasty bully in his new school, and it doesn’t take long for Cameron and his trusty friends Zion and Aliyah to realize that the troubles of Chidani won’t stay away for long.

With the Book to guide them, Cameron and his crew end up transported to Chidani sooner than anticipated–and the gods and goddesses they encounter don’t intend to make Cameron’s journey easy. Can he finally outwit and outlast the villainous god set on destroying their worlds?

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Black on Black by Daniel Black (31st)

Black on Black“There are stories that must be told.”

Acclaimed novelist and scholar Daniel Black has spent a career writing into the unspoken, fleshing out, through storytelling, pain that can’t be described.

Now, in his debut essay collection, Black gives voice to the experiences of those who often find themselves on the margins. Tackling topics ranging from police brutality to the AIDS crisis to the role of HBCUs to queer representation in the Black church, Black on Black celebrates the resilience, fortitude and survival of Black people in a land where their body is always on display.

As Daniel Black reminds us, while hope may be slow in coming, it always arrives, and when it does, it delivers beyond the imagination. Propulsive, intimate and achingly relevant, Black on Black is cultural criticism at its openhearted best.

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Then Everything Happens at Once by M-E Girard (31st)

Sixteen-year-old Baylee has never been kissed, but she wants to do way more than that. She’s had a huge crush on her gorgeous best friend and neighbor, Freddie, for years, but since she doesn’t look like the type he normally dates, the judgmental voice in her head tells her he’ll never see her as more than a friend.

Then Baylee meets Alex online and she starts to fall for this sweet, funny barista who likes her just as she is. But when Freddie makes a move on Baylee and a virus shuts the world down, Baylee will find herself torn as everything starts happening at once and she navigates the messy waters of love and desire. It helps that she’s observed her friends’ relationship drama, so she knows exactly what mistakes not to make . . . right?

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Behind the Scenes by Karelia Stetz-Waters (31st)

61030710Business consultant Rose Josten might not have officially reached “pug lady” middle age, but she’s already got the pugs—along with their little Gucci coats and trash-lovin’ appetites. Still, life is good, with her work, her sisters, and a secret hobby creating incredibly tactile (if surprisingly sexy) mindfulness videos. So why does it feel like it’s not quite enough? Which is exactly when Ash Stewart enters camera left, and Rose’s world suddenly goes full technicolor . . .

Ash never looks at anyone. Not since her ex ripped her heart from her chest in Spielberg-esque style, crushing Ash’s reputation, dreams, and career in one brutal blow. But Rose is altogether different. She’s curvy, beautiful, and just so damn put together. And her business expertise might be Ash’s best bet for getting her last film—and her last chance—financed. Now if they can just keep their attraction under wraps, Ash’s lost dream could finally come true. But are they creating the perfect pitch . . . or setting the stage for disaster?

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Exclusive Cover Reveal: Lion’s Legacy by L.C. Rosen

Whether you know him as Lev A.C. Rosen (Lavender House!) or L.C. Rosen (Camp!), if you’ve been reading the site a while you know he writes some of my all-time favorite queer lit, so I’m thrilled to have him on the site today to reveal the cover of his upcoming gay YA Indiana Jones-esque adventure, Lion’s Legacy, releasing May 2, 2023 from Union Square Books! Here’s the story:

Seventeen-year-old Tennessee Russo’s life is imploding. His boyfriend has been cheating on him, and all his friends know about it. Worse, they expect him to just accept his ex’s new relationship and make nice. So when his father, a famous archeologist and reality show celebrity whom he hasn’t seen in two years, shows up unexpectedly and offers to take him on an adventure, Tennessee only has a few choices:

1. Stay, mope, regret it forever.
2. Go, try to reconcile with Dad, become his sidekick again.
3. Go, but make it his adventure, and Dad will be the sidekick.

The object of his father’s latest quest, the Rings of the Sacred Band of Thebes, is too enticing to say no to, so he heads to Greece. Finding artifacts related to the troop of ancient Greek soldiers, composed of 150 gay couples, means navigating ruins, deciphering ancient mysteries, and maybe meeting a cute boy while doing it.

But will his dad let Tennessee do the right thing with the rings if they find them? And what is the right thing? Who does queer history belong to? Against the backdrop of a sunlit Greek summer, author L.C. Rosen masterfully weaves together adventure, romance, and magic in a celebration of the power of claiming your queer legacy.

And here’s the magical cover, designed by Marcie Lawrence with art by Colin Verdi!

Behold, a note from the author!

I’m so proud to present the cover of Lion’s Legacy, my upcoming queer archeological adventure YA! The art is by Colin Verdi, who also did the art for my historical noir, Lavender House. He’s so incredibly talented and I was honored to have him do another cover. I love the rainbow sheen on the metal of the shield especially – though I feel I should mention that there is no shield in the book! That was a choice by cover designer Marcie Lawrence, who felt that the hero, Tennessee, holding an ancient shield would be the best image to convey the idea of antiquity and adventure, even if the book itself is about searching for ancient rings, which are prominently displayed on the shield. But accuracy aside, I think it’s such a striking image, and I love how Colin made Tennessee look so active and powerful. I’m so proud of this book, and excited for everyone to get to read it!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! Below is an excerpt from Lion’s Legacy, giving you your very first glimpse into the life of Tennessee Russo…

The skeletons stare at me from across the moat, waiting. If you’d asked me, even two days ago, if I believed that reanimated skeletons, their joints tied together with ribbon, were possible, I would have said no. Even with everything I’ve seen—the pit traps and rolling boulders, the ancient mechanisms that somehow still functioned, the scepter that controlled fire—I would have drawn the line there. But now I have to say, I’m a believer. You sort of have to believe in a thing after it

spends hours trying to kill you.

“Dad . . . the bridge is getting lower,” I say, trying not to sound too panicked, and failing. We’re currently on a man-made square of an island. On one side, across the water, is the rest of the lost temple we’ve come through to get there—and the skeletons. They make strange hollow clanking noises as they bang together, teeth chattering, their hands reaching out for me. I have a gash on my shoulder where one got too close. They can tear us apart. The ribbons waver along with their movements, making them blurry, as if they’re covered in rags. They don’t go in the water, though. The water dissolves their ribbons, and the skeletons fall apart.

We came out here via a big wooden bridge that drops down from a device in the ceiling. It lowers for a few minutes, then rises for a few minutes, back and forth, like a pendulum. And right now, it’s not swinging in our direction: it’s lowering. We just made it across last time it came down, but the skeletons were far enough behind they didn’t make it. But this time there’s nothing stopping them.

“Dad . . . ,” I say again. I turn around, focusing the camera I’m holding to film him instead of the skeletons. He’s kneeling in front of an altar, a brightly colored lacquer box on top of it.

The box has a puzzle wheel for a lock—a complex image broken into different rings he needs to rotate into place to make the image line up and open the box. But he doesn’t know what the picture is supposed to be.

“Almost, Tenny . . .,” Dad says, carefully turning one of the rings into place. “Almost . . .”

There’s a small click, and he pulls the top of the box open. Inside, laid in an indentation, is a katana. It gleams in the dim light of the torches. It has a white enamel sheath and an intricate hilt, but we don’t have time to admire it as the bridge has now reached arm height and the skeletons are clamoring onto it and toward us.

“We have to go,” I say to Dad.

Dad looks behind us and sees the skeletons and nods. He grabs the katana and unsheathes it, tossing me the scabbard. “Let’s hope the legends are true,” he says. On the side of the small island opposite the bridge are stairs that lead down into the water. We don’t know how deep the water is, but it’s nearly black, and if there’s a shore on the other side, we can’t see it.

Dad runs down the stairs and holds the katana in front of him, then cuts into the water with a few quick strokes. There’s no splashing, though. Instead, the blade carves, like a knife into soft wood. The water freezes like cut glass where the katana has sliced it. Pieces of it go flying and hover in the air, crystals rotating. And in front of us, a small valley through the water. It’s clear, but too dark to see to the bottom. It must go very far down. Dad has made a path in the water.

Carefully, he puts a foot on it.

Behind us, the bridge falls into place. I hear the hollow beats of

the skeletons’ footsteps charging us.

“Come on,” Dad says, now stepping fully onto the path he’s carved through the water. It holds him. It shouldn’t be possible, but then, neither should the skeletons. I run forward and step onto the water with him. It feels like walking on Jell-O that bounces under my boots. Dad

slices through the water again, carving us a path farther and farther forward, away from the skeletons. I film it all, then turn around to film our pursuers. They’ve stopped at the water’s edge. They don’t know if they can use the path. Neither do I. But I don’t want to find out.

“Faster,” I hiss.

We keep walking forward as Dad carves the water. Around us, the room is made of old brick, covered in moss, low enough to see the ceiling but with the walls far enough out they’re hidden in darkness. Carefully, I reach into the water on either side of us, the parts Dad hasn’t carved. Still liquid. Still deep. And freezing cold.

I look behind us. A skeleton is mimicking me, carefully placing its hand on the carved water. It doesn’t go through. It doesn’t dissolve the little ribbons holding its bones together. “Dad,” I say.

The skeleton steps onto the path. It holds him.

“Dad, they can walk on it, too. Faster!”

Dad glances back and sees the skeletons on the water. He starts carving faster. The strange, crystalized bits of water fly out as he keeps running forward. We don’t know where we’re going, but we know what we have to get away from.

Dad keeps slicing and I stay close, sometimes turning back to check how near to us the skeletons are. Closer every time. This could be it. Our last adventure.

“Dad!” I scream.

“I see land,” Dad says, and points. In the distance is another stone shore, stairs leading out of the water onto an island like the one we were on. He starts carving faster, heading toward it. Behind us, the hollow clanking of bones is closer.

“We need to jump,” I say.

“What?” Dad says.

“We’ll swim. They can’t follow.”

“Tenny, how can I swim with this katana? It’ll cut the water up. You know physics well enough to tell me what’ll happen?”

He knows I don’t. I’m a high school freshman. I haven’t even had physics yet. “Then carve faster!”

“I am!”

The skeletons are quicker, though. I look behind us. They’re a swarm of bone and ribbon nearly on us. But then I hear something. The sound is growing quiet. I tilt, looking behind the pursuing skeletons. There should be dozens of them, but there are only ten now. Enough to tear us apart, but where did the others . . . behind them, the path is gone. Water again. Okay, that’s something. We have options now:

  1. Hope Dad carves fast enough that we reach the end and can climb up those stairs, then push the skeletons back into the water. Hope they don’t kill us before or during that particular battle.
  2. Swim to shore. Sword might cut the water, Dad might sink lower on one side, lower and lower as he keeps swimming, cutting, until he’s at the bottom and the water above him turns liquid again.
  3. Turn and fight the skeletons now. Not my favorite.
  4. Something that uses the best of everything.

I shrug my backpack off, put the camera around my neck, and dive into the water.

“Tenny!” Dad shouts. “What are you doing?”

“Keep carving!”

Dad keeps slicing into the water as I swim. I can hear the skeletons rushing closer and closer to him. Shore isn’t far now, though. I’m a good swimmer, I made sure of that after that water trap in the Mayan temple. I reach the stairs and turn around. The skeletons are practically on top of Dad.

“Throw the katana!” I shout.

“What? We’ll lose it!”

“Throw it! At the water! Then dive in!”

Dad looks behind him as a skeleton grabs at him and pulls his backpack off. He shrugs out of it before it can pull him back. Then, his face grim, he throws the katana at me and dives into the water in one motion. The katana spirals through the air like a comet, coming closer, closer . . . Finally, it lands in the water near me, the blade hardening the water as it hits, the hilt clinking as it reaches the surface. It stays. I reach forward and pull it out, like King Arthur.

Dad is swimming for me, and the skeletons are standing confused on their little crystal island. I film it as the carved water gradually turns back to liquid, and the skeletons silently fall into it.

Dad walks up the stairs, sighing, drenched. He cocks an eyebrow at me.

“If you knew the katana would hold in the water like that and not sink, why’d you dive in first?” he asks. “I could have thrown it and we could have dived in together.”

“So I could film it,” I say.

Dad grins, then starts laughing. He puts his arm around me and hugs me close. “I love you, Tenny,” he says. “You’re a genius.”

I laugh. “I love you too, Dad.”

Relief floods over me. We have the katana. We are out of immediate danger. We did it! We found the legendary Misumune katana, the water-carver. We navigated a lost temple filled with traps, riddles, and supernatural monsters. And we had a damn good time doing it. I keep laughing, and so does Dad. I know it’s a release for both of us, all the anxiety flying out of us in the sound of joy. He keeps hugging me. I keep hugging him.

“We gotta find a way out of here, though,” Dad says.

“I just hope there are no more skeletons,” I say. “That’s all I want.”

“Same here, Tenny.” He takes the flashlight that hangs from his belt and shines it forward. “Hopefully this isn’t long. Our rations were in my bag.”

“And the extra flash drives were in mine,” I say. “We only have, like, an hour of time to film left.”

“Camera okay?” Dad asks.

“Yeah,” I say, holding it up. It’s small, waterproof, shockproof. Good quality. There were a few more in my backpack just in case, but this one seems to have held up.

“Lose any footage?” he asks.

I check my jacket pocket. The memory card is still there, enclosed in a watertight plastic case.

“Nope,” I say.

“Okay, then let’s see where this leads.”

He shines his flashlight ahead of us. The stone platform we’re on narrows into a hallway leading forward. Only one way. We march ahead.

It’s a short walk, only twenty minutes, and no traps or skeletons on the way. We’re wet, and shivering, but I don’t mind it because I can feel we’ve reached the end. We found the sword. We just need to follow this path to the exit. But at the end of the tunnel, the hallway is blocked by a waterfall. A waterfall with an odd smell.

Dad stops before walking through it, holding out a hand to block me. “Acidic,” he says. “We walk through that, our skin melts off.”

“Great,” I say.

“It is,” Dad says, holding up the katana with a grin.

I smile and lift the camera. Dad poses, showing off, before slicing a door through the waterfall. The water—greenish now, I see—solidifies under the sword’s touch, creating an arc of solid water. Dad kicks it down and it shatters like glass. In front of us is a way out.

“Quick, before it goes liquid again,” I say. We rush through the open space and find ourselves in a large circular chamber, the walls carved with beautiful patterns. Above us is a slatted roof that lets in fresh air and moonlight. I look back at the waterfall, which comes out of a slit in the wall. Where the water was carved it just stops, the flowing water curving around it into the rest of the liquid parts. The waterfall ends at the floor and then seeps into two metal drains on either side. It’s beautiful. I make sure to get a slow shot of it. Then I turn around and get the whole room. The producers are going to love this.

At the far end of the room is a ladder, bolted to the wall, leading to freedom.

“We could have just come in this way?” I ask.

“Well, we would have had to get through that acid bath somehow,” Dad says. “I guess with modern technology, we could have . . . but what would be the fun in that?”

He turns and winks at me—well, at the camera—then heads for the ladder. We climb. It’s pretty high, and at the top is a grate. But, of course, it’s locked. There’s a wide opening, too large for a key, in the wall. I carefully film, clinging to the ladder.

“I know this one,” Dad says. He takes the katana and inserts it hilt first into the opening.

There’s a click, and the grate above us pops open.

And then we’re out. We climb up and into fresh air. The breeze smells so much better than the stale air of the temple below us. I look out over the tiny island we’re on. It’s so small it doesn’t have a name, barely five miles in any direction. No one has lived here in centuries.

No one wants it, either. It’s mostly rock and some wild sheep. It’s miles west of Nemuro, just outside Japan’s borders. International waters. Dad had liked that for some reason.

“Let’s go find Toma,” Dad says. “I feel like we’re south of where we went in.”

“That feels right,” I say.

We start walking. The ceiling of the room below us is underfoot, but it’s covered with grass and leaves. I would never have noticed the holes in it until we were on top of it. And besides, all the clues led to the entrance of the temple. No shame going in the front door, I guess, since we made it out. But it feels a little silly that we probably could have avoided the skeletons if only we’d done a full survey of the island when we landed this morning.

We walk for about twenty minutes before we spot Toma and his boat, right where we left them. Toma is sitting in a folding chair on the shore, his small yacht parked out in the deeper water, an inflatable motor raft next to him onshore. He has a fire going and a portable speaker out, smooth jazz playing from it. When he hears our footsteps, he looks up and grins when he sees us.

“You got wet,” he says.

“But we found it,” Dad says, holding the katana aloft.

Toma whistles. “I didn’t think it was actually real,” he says. He stands up and walks over to Dad, staring at the katana. I step forward and look too, filming it. I hadn’t really had a chance before, but now I can see it up close. The Misumune family crest is on the sheath, and the handle is carved bone or ivory, made to look like waves. It’s beautiful. Mrs. Misumune is going to be so happy when we give it to her. She’s this nice old lady whose ancestor owned the sword, and she helped us find it by letting us go through all her stuff while she brought us cookies and tea. She told us stories too, about her ancestor, and how supposedly he held off an entire flood that would have destroyed their village. Now we know how.

Though that part won’t make it onto TV. Dad always says no one would believe the magic we’ve found, and if they don’t believe the show, then they won’t believe the history. I mean, we leave some of it in—the cut waterfall will probably stay. Stuff that people might think is weird old mechanisms or tricks. People believe in that. Not so much the magic. He’ll probably say the skeletons were mechanical, and only show their shadows. He’s good at that, been doing it for years. He started out with just a little handheld camera and videos uploaded to YouTube, but his know-how propelled it bigger—now we’re on a streaming service with fancy network producers. Dad is careful about what he sends them, though. Always at the edge of believable. And he makes sure not to bring a crew along—they can’t be trusted. Plus, the unpolished handheld style is the show’s trademark.

“It sliced through water, too,” Dad says to Toma, rotating the blade in the light. “Just like the legends.”

Toma laughs. “No way,” he says.

“Tenny’s got the footage,” Dad says, walking past him to the raft. “We were chased by living skeletons.” That’s Dad testing, seeing what people will believe, what to put in the show, what to keep just for us.

Toma turns to me, his face skeptical.

“They weren’t very welcoming,” I say. Later, Dad will probably leak some of the real footage online, get people talking, theorizing. “Keep the truth illusive,” he says, “and people will watch to find it.” I don’t love that part, but I think he’s right about the magic being too unbelievable. Even if it is real, it never feels it. Like right now, I feel like I’m in on a joke. Skeletons held together with magic paper. It’s absurd. But the katana is real. Its history is real. And I want people to see that more than I care about whether they believe in magic skeletons.

We load the chair and boom box onto the raft and take it out to the yacht, where Dad and I shower off and change into the clean clothes we’d left there with our regular phones and wallets, while Toma pilots us back to Nemuro. I use a satellite uplink to set up my computer and upload all the footage from the camera into the cloud. Dad can cut stuff later and organize it to send to the producers. They have editors who will turn it into a good show.

And then I lie down. I’m so tired I can feel it in my bones . . . no, no, I don’t want to think about bones now. I just want to . . .

* * *

I wake up when Dad shakes me. We’re docked in Nemuro city. I rub my eyes as we step off the boat. The sun is just rising and the fish markets along the docks are all opening up, men bringing in their haul. It smells like the sea.

It’s not a big city, not by my native New Yorker standards, but it’s got the vibe that small coastal cities have. Big sky, ocean everywhere, people who look gruff but are actually friendly. We spent a day here before we left. There are some beautiful views and this cool arch sculpture.

But I’m glad to be going home. I miss New York. I miss Mom.

Dad pays and thanks Toma and then we start walking back to the hotel. As we walk, Dad takes out his phone and calls someone. Probably one of the producers.

“Yeah, we got it. Oh yeah, it’s a beauty. People are going to want to study this, draw it, absolutely worth a whole touring exhibition, like last time. Same deal, I go where it goes, talk about the find.”

I frown. It sounds like he’s talking to his broker. I’m never involved in this part of it, but I know Dad has a guy who reaches out to collectors and funders who will buy the stuff he finds for museums and helps set up exhibitions. Dad never talks to me about all that, it just sort of . . . happens? But this sword belongs to the Misumune family. We met them. They helped us find the temple by showing us some old scrolls and one gorgeous kimono that had a secret message in the pattern. We shouldn’t be selling it through a broker. We should be giving it back to them.

“Dad,” I say. He ignores me, keeps talking.

“Well, yeah, whoever is willing to pay the most,” he says into the phone, holding up a finger at me, telling me to wait.

It’s not like with the scepter we found in the treasure cave outside Paris. There was no family there. I mean . . . it should have stayed in France. And it did. The Louvre found an investor who bought it.

I stop walking. Dad keeps going.

I’ve never thought about it before. What we find. I’ve always just loved the adventures, the thrill, being with Dad. And yeah, it’s kind of fun being on TV. It’s not a big show, but it has fans. I get fan mail. Hate mail since I came out, too, but more fan mail.

But . . . the stuff we find. I stare at the katana. Dad has it slung over his shoulder. The Misumune family crest gleams on the sheath. The mask we found in the Mayan temple in Guatemala—our first adventure—where did that end up? I take out my phone and search. It’s in the Smithsonian, in DC. That isn’t right. It should be in Guatemala, shouldn’t it? It’s their mask, after all, their culture. Did they sell it to the Smithsonian? Is it on loan? I check the website, but there’s no information.

I look up. Dad is way ahead of me, still on the phone, and I hurry to catch up.

“That much?” Dad is saying. “Wow. Yeah, that’s a nice profit.”

“Dad,” I say. He holds up a finger again. “Dad!”

“Hold on.” Dad sighs into the phone. “Tenny, you’re fifteen, you ought to have better manners.”

“Why are you talking about selling the katana?” I ask. “You told Mrs. Misumune we’d bring it back.”

Dad raises his eyebrows. “Well, sure, back to the world. Back into the light. This way she can see it. I’m sure whomever ends up with it will want to talk to her, maybe borrow that kimono, have her talk—”

“But it’s hers,” I say. “It belongs to her family.”

Dad scrunches his eyes like he’s going to laugh. “Maybe hundreds of years ago, but you can’t expect me to give it back to her because she has, like, a few genes in common with the guy who originally wielded it.”

“But—” I say. Dad holds up his finger again and goes back to the phone.

Mrs. Misumune was nice. She was old but loved talking to us through the translator Dad had hired. Told us all the family stories. About her ancestor, but also about her grandkids’ art projects, too. About how her daughter had recently told her she was a lesbian and it had taken time, but family was important to her, and she’d learned about queer people, and now she marched in pride parades. She gave us tea and let us poke through her things. I took hours of footage with her, and she signed the release forms without asking for a thing, except that we bring back the sword. She said she wanted to see it. See her family legacy. And now we’re just . . .

“Okay, talk later,” Dad says into the phone, and hangs up.

“Dad, we promised.”

“Tenny, come on, she didn’t really think she was going to just bury this in the back of her closet like her old photos and kimono,” he says. “She just wanted to see it.”

“I don’t think that’s what she meant.”

“Tenny, listen, this is a museum piece.”

“Isn’t that her decision?” I ask. I can feel myself getting hot, like I do when I’m angry. Usually, it’s with Mom, though. I never fight with Dad. We’re too busy in temples, on adventures.

“And what about the mask we found in Guatemala?” I ask.

“What?” Dad asks, confused.

“The mask we found. Why is it in DC? It’s not American.”

“Well, no,” Dad says. He stops walking. We’re outside the hotel now. “But they paid the most through a patron who bought it to donate to them so they could put on a real exhibition. No museum in Guatemala was going to do that.”

“But it’s a Guatemalan artifact,” I say. “It’s part of their history.”

“It’s Mayan,” Dad says. “What is this even about?”

“We should give the katana to Mrs. Misumune,” I say, crossing my arms. “That’s the right thing to do. If she wants to donate it to a museum, it’s her choice. Or we should at least ask her.”

“Uh-uh, if the Japanese government finds out we brought it to Japan, there’ll be all kinds of legal holdups, UNESCO might get involved.”

“UNESCO are the good guys,” I say. I’m sure of that. I’ve visited plenty of heritage sites with Mom.

“There are no good guys or bad guys here,” Dad says, his voice rising. “I’m doing what’s best.”

“Best for who? You?” I’m shouting now. People on the street are politely trying not to stare.

“Best for history, Tenny. These objects need to be protected, put places people can see them. The people with the most money can do that.”

“But how can people get money if you keep stealing what should be theirs from them?”

Dad’s face goes cold as stone.

“Stealing?” he asks. “You think I’m stealing?”

“Well,” I say, swallowing. “If we go into another country and find some historically significant object and then just leave with it . . . or if we have something”—I gesture at the katana—“and we know who it belongs to but sell it to someone else . . .”

“It belongs to us now,” Dad says. “We just spent weeks looking for a temple—years if you count all the research I did before that—and then we went to it, made our way through traps and killer skeletons to bring it back. Who else could this possibly belong to? If Mrs. Misumune wanted her family sword back so badly, she should have gone and done that herself.”

“But, Dad,” I say. He’s really angry now. I’ve never seen him like this. I can feel myself starting to cry. “It’s . . . not right.”

Dad rolls his eyes. “I knew I shouldn’t have brought a child with me. If you don’t want to be a part of this, Tennessee, you can just find your own way home.”

And then he turns and walks away. I know I’m not supposed to go after him, so I don’t. Instead, I go into the hotel. I still have our keys. I walk up to my room and wait for him to come back. The sun goes up, then down. I keep waiting.

TWO YEARS LATER

ONE

What I love about Fridays is my first period is free, so I can come in late. And yes, that means sleeping in, which is nice, but better than that, it means when I walk to school, Greenwich Village is already awake. Most days it’s people in suits on their way to work, or other teenagers going to school like me, but everyone is still groggy, things are still getting set up.

But on Fridays, the city is fully awake by the time I walk to school. And one of the best things about New York is that you can vanish just by turning a corner. Walking to school, I’m not Tennessee Russo anymore. It’s the thing I’ve loved the most since I left Dad’s TV show two years ago. If anyone recognizes me, they don’t say anything. I’m just some kid.

Well, some queer kid. The pride button on my backpack at least labels me that much. Which I love too, because as I walk through the Village, I see other queer people and there’s like this link between us when we recognize each other. Two butches nod at me like we’re friends. A twink with a group of college kids, two of whom are fighting loudly, gives me an eye roll, and I know exactly what he means: straight people, oy. I’m glad to be gay, glad to be part of whatever weird little network I’m in, glad to have a family, even if I don’t know them.

I have Mom, sure, and I love her and she’s great, but it’s not the same. And Dad . . . well, when your dad walks away from you in Japan and you find your own way back to the hotel and then he doesn’t call for a day or answer his phone and you’re completely alone in a foreign country so you have to call your mom to buy you a plane ticket home and you still haven’t heard from him, and maybe he’s dead or maybe you’re dead to him and you don’t know until a month later when he

emails you with “Want to join me at the unveiling of this katana?”—after something like that, your dad doesn’t really count as family anymore. Especially when you haven’t spoken since then. Sure, there was the apology email when I didn’t respond to the invitation—“I know things got a little heated and you had to make your own way home, but that’s nothing compared to the ruins we’ve explored, right? I knew you’d be fine, but I’m sorry if you were worried”—but I didn’t respond to that, either. Even if I wanted to. Still want to. But I have this family now that’s better than Dad. This weird family of neighborhood queers I’ve never spoken to, and then at school, I have my friends, and David. David, whom I’ve dated for a year and a half. David, who saw me alone in the cafeteria and didn’t just stare and whisper, talking about me on TV, talking about how I came out on TV. He came over and said hi.  And he asked me out. And he gave me my first kiss a week later, tilting my chin up to his with just his finger. He introduced me to all his friends—the Good Upstanding Queers, they call themselves, because they all want to be lawyers and politicians and stuff, so they always behave themselves. As opposed to the other queer table in the lunchroom, who can sometimes be a bit much.

And a month ago David told me he loved me, and I said it back, and we had sex for the first time.

David and all his friends—our friends—they took me in when Dad abandoned me, when I hadn’t even been at school in a few years because of the show and didn’t know anyone. I could have been that freak ex–child star, but they made me part of their family. Way more than Dad is.

Which is why I’m glad to see David standing by my locker when I get to school. I smile and walk up to him. He’s so handsome—tall, sandy blond hair, bright blue eyes, wide shoulders, and a broad stomach, which I think is so hot. He’s wearing a polo and cardigan. It’s December, and the school never feels warm enough, so we have to layer up. And he always dresses like he’s an adult already, which I like. Nothing casual or lazy, he says. He helped me pick out my entire wardrobe.

But he’s not smiling when I smile at him. And when I go to give him a kiss, he pulls back. I can feel myself immediately break out in a sweat, and not just because I still have my peacoat on. Something is wrong.

“Ten,” he says in a heavy voice that tells me it’s about me, too. About us.

“David?” I ask.

“Can we talk?” Those aren’t good words, either. My brain tries to figure out what it could be. We’re breaking up because of something I did? I haven’t done anything, though. And he loves me, right? Maybe he’s sick. Dying.

I nod, and he pulls me into the bathroom down the hall.

“What is it?” I ask, and the words tremble a little, which I hate. I’ve faced off against the reanimated dead, but my boyfriend wanting to talk to me makes me so scared I can’t even get a word out right.

“So . . .” He swallows. “Two weeks ago, Brandon and I met up at his place for the science project we’re paired up on, you know? The bio thing?”

He pauses and I realize I’m supposed to respond, even though I don’t like this already. Brandon is another of the Good Upstanding Queers. He’s red-haired and pretty and wants to be a reporter. David is still looking at me, so I nod.

“Well . . . one thing led to another. And we kissed.”

There it is. There was one time my dad and I, in a treasure cave in France, had to run from a rolling boulder down this long hallway. Those words are like a boulder dropping and coming toward me. All I want to do is run. But he reaches out and grabs my wrist.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

I take a deep breath. I can forgive this. This is nothing, right? “Well, if it was just a kiss—”

“It wasn’t,” he interrupts. “It was at first, I mean. But then . . . it was more.”

“Oh.” The boulder is closer and closer.

“And . . . the thing is, Ten. I really like him. I think . . . I’m so sorry, but . . . I want to be with him. I have been with him. We’ve kind of been dating since then . . .”

And now the boulder has hit me. It never did in that temple. Dad saw an alcove and pulled me into it, and the huge rock rolled by us and we laughed with relief. It looked great on the show, too. But this is what it would have felt like to get hit by it, I know. This is what it’s like to be thoroughly crushed, every breath pushed out of you, every muscle popped, every bone shattered by more weight than you were

ever meant to handle.

“So . . . sorry,” he says. He lets go of my wrist. “I’m breaking up with you.”

I nod. “I got that.” I feel myself starting to cry but hold it back.

“Just . . . don’t make a big thing of it, okay. We should stay friends, right? We are friends. And you’re friends with Brandon, too. It’s just . . .a little shifting, right? We’re the Good Upstanding Queers. We’re not drama queens. We’re not going to make a big deal of it, right?”

I nod again, just so he’ll leave.

“Good. So, still friends. I’m glad you’re handling this so well . . .” He pauses, and I feel like I’m supposed to say something again, but this time I don’t. “Okay, well. See you at lunch.”

He leaves and I finally let myself cry for real. Just bawl for a moment, my face collapsing like a landslide. I take out my phone and text Daniela. She’s my best friend aside from David, another of the Good Upstanding Queers.

TEN

David dumped me

He cheated on me with Brandon and now he’s leaving me for him

I wait a minute. She’s probably still in class, but Daniela is an expert at under table texting.

DANIELA

Oh thank god he finally told you

It’s like being hit with a second boulder. You’d think there’d be nothing left to crush, but . . .

TEN

You knew?

DANIELA

We all did

I’m sorry Ten ❤

But it’s better this way

Now we can all just go back to normal

They all did? “All” must mean every one of our friends. Not the whole school, right? And no one told me. They all just . . . watched. Laughed, maybe?

TEN

Everyone knew?

DANIELA

Don’t worry about it

We all think it was tacky of David to cheat

But they’ll make a cute couple, and we’ll find you someone new

No drama, or people won’t take us seriously, right? That’s our motto 😘

I stare at the messages for a minute without responding. So many people want me to respond and all I can give them is silence. Normally I’m good at decisions. I see options in front of me like lists, and I can choose one quickly, and once I’m in, I’m in. But I don’t see options here. What options are there? Respond with “sure thing, no drama”? I’m supposed to what . . . just smile when David drapes his arm around Brandon at lunch the way he always did to me?

They’ve always been like this. They don’t want to be seen as bad gays—too dramatic, too slutty. The other queer table at the lunchroom is loud and messy. Everyone is always sleeping with everyone, they make out in hallways instead of just exchanging kisses. They dress loud. They are loud. Teachers don’t love them. But they love us. No drama from us.

Not even, apparently, when it’s warranted.

The bell rings. I rinse my face off and make my way to class. Thankfully, I don’t have classes with any of our Good Upstanding Queer friends today. I’m in the AP History class, a double period, which none of our friends is in. They thought that was so cool. That my wanting to be an archaeologist, like both my parents, was cool. They never asked about my dad, about the show, though they knew. Everyone was so nice. So classy. So polite. But I guess that’s not the same as being kind.

I manage not to cry, but I barely take anything in, either. We’re talking about ancient India and I want to say something about the century-old queer sculptures at Khajuraho that I learned about during my internship at the museum, but I can’t bring myself to raise my hand. Same in math class. And then it’s time for lunch.

I walk into the cafeteria and immediately realize it was a mistake. It’s like looking at a pool of water and thinking it’s not going to be that cold but then you dive in and it’s freezing. I can’t do this. I can’t just sit with everyone and pretend I’m cool, that it’s normal. I don’t want to be the one to cause drama. I know that’ll just make it worse. I know if I start something, make people choose sides, then they’ll all side with David, because I’ll be the one causing the drama, and that immediately makes me the loser. Even if this is all because of what he did. All because of his choices. But I don’t want to lose my friends.

So I walk in and grab a tray and some lunch, like I always do. Then I turn and start walking toward our usual table, also just like I always do. They’re all sitting there, talking, laughing—just like they always do.

Except David is next to Brandon. He has his arm around him, just like I knew he would. But I can do this, right? I can be the bigger person.

David looks up. Our eyes meet.

He smirks.

And suddenly, I realize, I have options.

  1. Turn around, walk out. David sees this and feels like he’s won, something, somehow. That he’s the mature one and I’m the one being a drama queen about this.
  2. Go sit down with them, act like nothing is wrong. Everyone will be happy, but David and Brandon will think what they’ve done is okay. That I’m okay with it. I’m not.
  3. Go make a scene at the table. No one will ever talk to me again. I still have half of junior and all of senior year to get through.
  4. Something totally unexpected.

I don’t smile, but I make it seem like I don’t even see them. I walk right past the table, then down the aisle two tables and sit down next to Gabe. He’s cute, with dark skin that’s almost blue where the light hits it. He’s also kind of the opposite of David, with a pink fro-hawk that’s

grown out a few inches, and pierced everything, including holes in his ears you can put a finger through. He’s wearing a tank top even though it’s December. The tank top has a naked man riding a gun on it.

“Um, hi,” Gabe says. The rest of the table turn to look at me. The Bad Queers. Some look confused. Some look happy I’ve joined them. They’re not actually bad. I’m kind of friends with some of them, or think I am? Wish I was more. When did I become such a snob? When did I accept that my table at lunch was “good” and this one was “bad” just because David said so?

“Hi,” I say, smiling at the table. Then I turn to Gabe. “Wanna make out?” I ask. I know the answer is yes. Gabe has been flirting with me for over a year. He knew I was with David, but that never seemed to bother him.

“Sure.” Gabe grins. “When?”

“Now,” I say. “David cheated on me. You don’t mind being used, do you?”

“Not at all,” Gabe says, lunging for my face.

It’s weird kissing someone who isn’t David. David’s kisses were always forceful, demanding, but Gabe’s kisses feel more searching. Curious. I guess that’s because we’ve never kissed before. His tongue darts softly between my lips and I open my mouth more, accepting. He wraps his arms around me then, holding me tight, one hand sliding down my lower back. I wrap my arms around him, too, and squeeze his ass. I can feel him grin when our mouths meet again. After what feels

like enough time, I pull back.

“Well, you definitely got his attention,” says Lexi, one of the other Bad Queers. “He’s staring bullets at you.”

I don’t turn and look. I can feel my heart go a little faster. I don’t care what David or Brandon thinks, but I hope Daniela and the rest of them aren’t going to make a thing of it. I hope I haven’t just gotten myself kicked out of the only queer community I really know.

Maybe option four was a bad choice. That’s the thing. I know my options—doesn’t mean I always pick the good one.

“You okay?” Gabe asks. He puts his hand on mine and it feels so much more intimate than what we just did. I pull my hand away and make myself smile.

“Absolutely. And thanks,” I say to Gabe, “for letting me use you.”

“Anytime,” Gabe says. “Maybe you’ll be around over break?”

“Maybe,” I say, giving him a look I hope is coy. At least he likes me. Someone does. I look around the table, and people are smiling at me, not glaring, not rolling their eyes, the way they would be at my usual table. Maybe I’m a Bad Queer, too.

Okay, probably not. I’m literally dressed in a blue blazer. But . . .

“Can I eat with all of you?” I ask.

“Sure,” Gabe says. The others nod. I take my lunch out and we all eat and talk, and sometimes Gabe runs his hand up and down my spine, which makes me shiver but in a good way. I don’t look back even once, but when lunch is over and I’m sitting down in English class, I glance at my phone. I have one new message from David:

DAVID

Real mature.

I delete it, block him, and smile.

***

Excerpted from Lion’s Legacy copyright © 2023 by L. C. Rosen. Lion’s Legacy arrives on shelves on May 2, 2023. You can place a pre-order now.

Lev Rosen writes books for people of all ages, most recently Lavender House, which the New York Times says “movingly explores the strain of trying to pass as straight at a time when living an authentic life could be deadly” and was a Best Book of the Year from Buzzfeed, Library Journal, Amazon, and Bookpage, amongst others. His prior novel, Camp, was a best book of the year from Forbes, Elle, and The Today Show, amongst others. His next book, Lion’s Legacy will be released in May, The Bell in the Fog in October and Emmett in November. He lives in NYC with his husband and a very small cat.  You can find him online at LevACRosen.com and @LevACRosen.

December 2022 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Neurodiverse and intersex author Phoenix Blackwood’s New Adult THE LOVE THAT BINDS US, a sequel to THE SECRETS THAT KILL, in which the protagonist is thrown out of her home when her mother discovers her relationship with her nonbinary transmasculine partner; when she moves in with him, she discovers that she is intersex and works to overcome past medical trauma, to Kisstopher Musick at Cinnabar Moth, in a nice deal, for publication in April 2023 (world English).

Hugo and Lambda award winning author and editor Bogi Takács’s POWER TO YIELD AND OTHER STORIES, 10 pieces spanning speculative genres from science fiction to the new weird, featuring chaotic interspecies cooperation, an AI child discovering Jewish mysticism, rental apartments that drink your blood, and a novella focusing on neurodivergent people trying to survive on a planetoid where thoughts shape reality, to Scott Gable at Broken Eye, in a nice deal, at auction, for publication in spring 2023 (world English).

Izzy Wasserstein’s THESE FRAGILE GRACES, THIS FUGITIVE HEART, a cyberpunk novella set in a future Kansas City devastated by fascism and climate change, in which a trans woman returns to the commune she abandoned to investigate the murder of her ex, and finds she must confront her own past if she hopes to save the people she loves, to Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications, with Jaymee Goh editing, by Dorian Maffei at Kimberley Cameron & Associates (world English).

Rona Jaffe Foundation Award recipient Temim Fruchter’s CITY OF LAUGHTER, part speculative queer family history and part folklore, tracing four generations of Jewish women who are bound by blood, half-hidden secrets, and the fantastical visitation of a shapeshifting stranger over the course of 100 years, set against a tapestry of real and invented Jewish mythology, to Amy Hundley at Grove/Atlantic, for publication in early 2024, by Stephanie Delman at Trellis Literary Management (world).

Soula Emmanuel‘s WILD GEESE, the story of an Irish trans woman living in Scandinavia who unexpectedly reconnects with her first love over the course of one fateful weekend, reigniting memories she thought she’d left behind, to Nick Whitney at Feminist Press, for publication in fall 2023, by Olivia Maidment at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency (NA).

Author of CALLING THE SHOTS Kelly Farmer‘s IT’S A FABULOUS LIFE, pitched as a sapphic retelling of the holiday movie classic, in which a realtor with big city dreams once again puts her plans on hold to help manage her small town’s winter festival and, with the aid of angelic drag queens, reconnects with her high school crush, to Holly Ingraham at Alcove Press, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2023, by Eva Scalzo at Speilburg Literary Agency (world).

World Fantasy Award finalist R.B. Lemberg‘s THE YOKE OF STARS, a Birdverse novella in which a rebel who has escaped a remote egalitarian community and a linguist who has left behind an abusive marriage negotiate an assassination contract, only to find how their lives intersect in unusual ways, involving sea serpent shape shifters, fallen stars, and a powerful magical family, to Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications, with Jaymee Goh editing, in an exclusive submission, by Mary C. Moore at Kimberley Cameron & Associates (world English).

K Arsenault Rivera‘s OATH OF FIRE, pitched as a sapphic Eros and Psyche retelling with a fairy court feel, to Leah Hultenschmidt at Grand Central, in an exclusive submission, in a two-book deal, for publication in early 2024, by Sara Megibow at kt literary (world).

Author of CHEF’S KISS TJ Alexander‘s EDEN’S END, a trans regency romance featuring a man of unusual make whose penchant for privacy is upended when he is given the dreadful task of finding a wife by the end of the London season if he wants to keep his estate—a situation further complicated by his intriguing new valet, who is harboring a secret of his own, to Anna Kaufman at Vintage, in a very nice deal, in an exclusive submission, for publication in 2025, by Larissa Melo Pienkowski at Jill Grinberg Literary Management (NA).

Children’s/MG Fiction

Young Adult Fiction

Author-illustrator Tai Manzano’s SING WITH ME, a contemporary YA graphic novel about queer first love pitched as Check, Please! meets Yuri on Ice, set in Mexico in the high-stakes world of competitive charreria, to Elizabeth Lazowski at Chronicle Children’s, for publication in 2025, by Tamara Kawar while at ICM/CAA (world).

Author of RIGHT WHERE I LEFT YOU and upcoming AS YOU WALK ON BY Julian Winters‘s PRINCE OF THE PALISADES, pitched as RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE meets Netflix’s Young Royals, where a roguish prince of Iles de la Reverie goes to America to clean up his image after a horribly public breakup goes viral, and ends up falling for a not-so-royal American boy who might be a fairy-tale romance come true—or another disaster in the making, to Dana Leydig at Viking Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2024, by Thao Le at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency (world English).

Author of THE SPY WHO RAISED ME and MOTH & WHISPER Ted Anderson‘s graphic novel THE MASKED PRINCESS, in which a high schooler cosplaying his childhood-favorite character at an anime con unwittingly becomes an overnight hero after helping a fellow cosplayer, and ends up exploring his gender and discovering new aspects of his identity amid the backdrop of fandom and sudden fame, illustrated by Ollie Roswell, to Samia Fakih at First Second, in an exclusive submission, for publication in 2025, by Jennifer Chen Tran while at Bradford Literary Agency for the author, and by Paloma Hernando at Einstein Literary Management for the illustrator (world).

Marisa Kanter‘s FINALLY FITZ, a queer rom-com in which a fashion influencer reeling from a breakup enlists her former best friend to pose as her boyfriend during a summer program in New York City to make her ex-girlfriend jealous, only to realize that the relationship she wants to repair might be the one she’s faking, to Alexa Pastor at Simon & Schuster Children’s, for publication in spring 2024, by Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary (world).

Non-Fiction

Professor of English and linguistics at Los Angeles City College Lane Igoudin’s A FAMILY, MAYBE: TWO DADS, TWO BABIES, AND THE COURT CASE THAT BROUGHT US TOGETHER, part gay memoir, part family drama, set against the LGBTQ+ civil rights struggle of the early 2000s, in which a Russian-Jewish immigrant and his African American partner battle the Los Angeles County foster and family court systems and a teenage birth mother to adopt two babies and build the family they’ve always dreamed of, to Alena Rivas and Kelly Zatlin at Ooligan Press, in a nice deal, for publication in February 2024 (world English).

Fermilab physicist Jessica Esquivel’s OUR QUEER UNIVERSE: DECONSTRUCTING DEFINITIONS, PRODUCING PARTICLE BEAMS, AND EXAMINING ENTANGLED IDENTITIES, describing the physics and engineering of a particle beam and using it as a metaphor for the author’s journey through academia as a Black, Mexican, neurodivergent queer woman who also happens to love the ethereal elegance of physics, to Jermey Matthews at MIT Press, for publication in fall 2025, by Jessica Papin at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (NA).

Contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and n+1, and a founding editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books Evan Kindley’s STILL IN THE PUBLISHED CITY, a group biography of the New York School of Poets, telling the intertwined stories of John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest, James Schuyler, and Amiri Baraka, the intersections of various artistic and cultural scenes, as well as reading their influential poetry in light of politics, race, sexuality, and a rapidly changing New York, to Daniel Halpern at Knopf, by Elias Altman at Massie & McQuilkin (NA).

Author of A MILLION QUIET REVOLUTIONS Robin Gow‘s A MUSEUM FOR THAT WHICH NO LONGER EXISTS, which explores the history of a Berlin institute burned during World War II that was one of the first to affirm trans and queer people, and reimagines in poetry a museum where these artifacts and people are kept safe from destruction, to Leah Angstman at Alternating Current, in a nice deal, for publication in November 2023 (world English).

Pastor, founder of Unfit Christian, and spiritual doula for Black, queer, and marginalized-gender people D. Danyelle Thomas‘s THE DAY GOD SAW ME AS BLACK, answering “What do I do with a Christian faith that feels less comfortable for me as I better understand myself, my gender, my sexuality, and what it means to be Black in America?” with essays exploring Black faith experiences through the lens of gender, race, sexuality, and class consciousness, interwoven with the author’s personal narrative of her faith journey and critical cultural analysis, to Tamela Gordon at Row House, for publication in August 2024 (world).

Museum of the Moving Image editorial director and author of FILMS OF ENDEARMENT Michael Koresky‘s SICK AND DIRTY, a 21st-century rethinking of Vito Russo’s THE CELLULOID CLOSET that celebrates the presence of queerness onscreen, behind the camera, and between the lines during the dark days of the Hollywood Production Code, and reclaims certain controversial, misunderstood films as neglected classics, to Ben Hyman at Bloomsbury, by Farley Chase at Chase Literary Agency (NA).

Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices fellow and Sewanee Writers’ Conference Tennessee Williams Scholar Thomas Dai‘s TAKE MY NAME BUT SAY IT SLOW, a memoir-in-essays exploring the intersection of place and identity through the lens of the author’s experience growing up queer and Asian American in the South, questioning the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what it means to be “in-between,” to Helen Thomaides at Norton, by Christopher Combemale at Sterling Lord Literistic (NA).

Authors in Conversation: Miranda Dubner and Fox North

Today on the site, please welcome Fox North, author of The Chaos Agents, which published this past October, and Miranda Dubner, author of The Spare, which released in April 2020, who are here to chat about taking queer historical subtext and making them straight-up text (no pun intended). More about the books at the bottom of the post, but let’s get to the conversation!

Miranda: Hello friend.

Continue reading Authors in Conversation: Miranda Dubner and Fox North

Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!