Fave Five: Gay Christian MCs in YA

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown 

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis 

Coming Out Catholic by Alex Dunkin

Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen 

The God Box by Alex Sanchez

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The Colorful Catalog of…Matthew J. Metzger!

Hello and welcome to The Colorful Catalog, a brand-new feature on LGBTQ Reads that focuses on authors who’ve got at least five published LGBTQIAP+ books (including novellas) and gives you an overview of everything they’ve got, as provided by the authors themselves! Hopefully you can find at least one book that screams “I NEED THAT!” from any given catalog, and from there, if you love it, ta da! Instant access to info on where to go next.

I’m psyched to kick this off with the fantastic Matthew J. Metzger, whose Spy Stuff will hopefully have arrived at my door by the time this posts, and whose newest release, What It Looks Like, just released on Saturday! But I’ll let him tell you more about that, and everything else!

*****

Hi, I’m new here.

Only I’m not.

Sort of.

I signed my first publishing contract in 2012. Since then, there’s been over ten novels, a smattering of short stories, and three publishing houses. I write contemporary queer romance, both adult and young adult, and the pile of incomplete manuscripts and unwritten ideas is taller than me.

(Admittedly, I’m five foot three, so that’s not actually that tall, but still.)

Every one of these books is different. Wildly different. And I didn’t quite realise that until I found myself with a new boyfriend (don’t ask) who wanted to know where he ought to start with the backlist.

“Uh,” I said. “Well. I suppose that depends what you’re in the mood for.”

It really does.

Genre wise, I’m a one-trick pony. Adult or young adult, contemporary romance, queer. That’s it. Those are my areas. But within that? Within that, I’ve nearly got a book for every emotion.

28365577He decided he wanted something that had a bit of a ‘fuck you!’ attitude to jerks. The Italian Word for Kisses, I told him. Two boys dealing with a homophobic new kid at school, and in a real working class Sheffield fashion: punch him in the face until he gets the idea and leaves you alone.

But then, if you want a more threatening bad guy, and something to keep your chest locked up tight until the very end, then Thicker Than Bone will have you wanting to murder Tony yourself, just to bail the heroes out. Tony has swastikas tattooed on his hands…and his younger brother’s boyfriend is an Iraqi. Tension is an understatement.

And then there’s the emotional stuff. Most of my work doesn’t have bad guys. Private was deliberately written without one. Shane’s terrified to come out to his military family, but it’s not actually anybody’s fault. It’s just the culture he’s been raised with, and it’s assumptions and jumping to conclusions on both sides that fuel the issue.

What It Looks Like follows a similar pattern, but in reverse. Instead of everyone doing everything right and it still not quite working, What It Looks Like is an entire cast handling a situation wrong. Nobody in this book is what they seem, and so it makes perfect sense for Eli’s parents to disapprove of his new relationship with Rob. Especially as Eli’s parents are police officers, and Rob is a fresh-out-of-prison drug dealer with a history of violence. Are they going about it the wrong way? Yes. But so are both Eli and Rob themselves. Everyone’s to blame here, as opposed to no one. (Helena summed it up better than I can.)

The height of the emotional novels are the Vivaldi in the Dark books. Darren suffers from serious depression throughout the seven years covered by the trilogy, and even I struggle to re-read the second book. This is an exploration of life with a heckuva nasty illness, and it’s painful. Although one of my earlier projects, this one still haunts me.

29775399Spy Stuff crosses the bridge between heavy emotion, and light-hearted fun. Most of the book is the simple first-relationship wobbles that everybody goes through…with an added layer of complexity, as one of the boys involved is transgender, unbeknownst to his new boyfriend. (This was actually where my boyfriend found me, as we’re both trans ourselves. He also hasn’t stopped flailing about this book yet.)

Then there’s the other side of that angst-humour bridge. The Suicidal Peanut. Oh, this book. It’s my guilty pleasure. One of my favourites, even though it’s nothing more than an experiment in writing voice, and an adorkable hero. It’s not complicated. It’s not packed with feels. It’s not a must-be-told story. It’s just a dorky kid with a big crush. It’s a laugh. Mindless, even. But God, I love it.

But what every one of them has in common is some link back to me. Some part of them is part of me. From the streets Tav and Luca roam in The Italian Word for Kisses having been my own streets for five years, to Eli’s bitter regard of his family’s inability to accept his gender identity in What It Looks Like, all of these books come back to me in one way or another.

But in far more ways than a simple queer author = queer books formula.

*****

Matthew J. Metzger is an asexual, transgender author of queer contemporary romance. Dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles, he combines a punishing writing schedule with a gruelling day job and, as a result, has no discernible life beyond the gym, his overweight cat, and his first-name-terms relationship with the local pizza delivery guy. He can be hunted down mainly on Facebook and Twitter, or at his website.

Cover Reveal: The Melody of You and Me by Maria Hollis

Today on the site, please welcome Maria Hollis, to unveil the cover of her upcoming pansexual NA novella, The Melody of You and Me! The Melody of You and Me is Hollis’s first LGBT+ New Adult Novella, a love story about two girls, a bookstore, and how music connects people in different ways. Here’s the blurb:

After dropping out of university and breaking up with her girlfriend of three years, Chris Morrison’s life is now a mind-numbing mess. She doubts that working at the small neighborhood bookstore is going to change that. The rest of her time is spent mostly playing guitar and ignoring the many messages her mother keeps sending her about going back to college.
But one day, an adorable and charming new bookseller waltzes her way into Chris’s life. Josie Navarro is sweet, flirty, and she always has a new book in her hands. The two girls start a fast friendship that, for Chris, holds the promise of something more. But is she reading too much into this or is it possible that Josie feels the same way?
And here’s the cover!
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Links:
Bio:
M. Hollis could never decide what to do with her life. From the time she was a child, she has changed her ideas for a career hundreds of times. After writing in hidden notebooks during classes and daydreaming during every spare moment of her day, she decided to fully dedicate herself to her stories. When she isn’t scrolling around her social media accounts or reading lots of femslash fanfiction, you’ll find her crying about female characters and baking cookies.

Fave Five: LGBTQ Muslim MCs

A Love That Disturbs by Medeia Sharif (Contemporary YA)

Due Diligence by Anna Zabo (Contemporary Romance)

Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam (Adult Contemporary)

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Contemporary YA)

Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis (Historical YA)

Bonus: And I Darken by Kiersten White (Historical YA) – Gay MC converts to Islam mid-book

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Around the Blogosqueer: #BiYABooks

Welcome back to Around the Blogosqueer, where we take a closer look at a delightfully rainbow-y corner of the internet! Today we’re checking out #BiYABooks, a Twitter chat about YA books with bisexual main characters, run by three YA authors!

#BiYABooks grew out of an IRL discussion between authors Mackenzi Lee (@TheMackenziLee) and Rebecca Wells (@rebeccawriting) about the lamentable lack of young adult books featuring bisexual main characters. When they took this discussion to Twitter late last year, they got a ton of great responses pointing them toward bi representation in books. It was phenomenal to see what they had been missing, but it did make them think that maybe part of the problem was that while these books did exist, not enough people were hearing about them! So Mackenzi and Rebecca invited author Ashley Herring Blake (@ashleyhblake) to team up and started #BiYABooks as a way to showcase, examine, and celebrate that bisexual representation.

When selecting books to discuss for the chat, Mackenzi, Rebecca, and Ashley try to pick a variety, including contemporary, speculative, and historical. They also try to select books that feature bisexual main characters of all genders, color, varying religions, and abilities. They are hopeful that intersectional books will increase in number and availability and that, before too long, bisexual teens will have a much easier time finding themselves between the pages of a book.

So what books have they done so far?

And what’s up next?

Over You by Amy Reed

16074995Max would follow Sadie anywhere, so when Sadie decides to ditch her problems and escape to Nebraska for the summer, it’s only natural for Max to go along. Max is Sadie’s confidante, her protector, and her best friend. This summer will be all about them. This summer will be perfect.

And then they meet Dylan. Dylan is dark, dangerous, and intoxicating, and he awakens something in Max that she never knew existed. No matter how much she wants to, she can’t back away from him.

But Sadie has her own intensity, and has never allowed Max to become close with anyone else. Max doesn’t know who she is without Sadie, but she’d better start learning. Because if she doesn’t make a decision about Dylan, about Sadie, about herself it’s going to be made for her.

Tune in at 9 p.m EST on August 23rd to discuss!

And finally, get to know the authors behind the chat!

Rebecca Wells is an overly enthusiastic book peddler (otherwise known as a manager at an independent bookstore) specializing in children’s literature. When not shouting on the internet about her newest favorites, she writes (mostly) YA (mostly) fantasy books, which are represented by the fabulous Rebecca Podos at Rees Literary. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Simmons College and has too many books on her nightstand.

Mackenzi Lee is a reader, writer, bookseller, unapologetic fangirl, and fast talker. She holds a BA in history and an MFA from Simmons College in writing for children and young adults. Her young adult historical fantasy novel, This Monstrous Thing, which won the PEN-New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award, is out now from HarperCollins. Her second book, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, a historical adventure novel about boys in love, will be released in 2017. She loves Diet Coke, sweater weather, and Star Wars.

Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and watching Buffy over and over again on Netflix with her friends. Her young adult contemporary novel, Suffer Love, is out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her second book, How to Make a Wish, another contemporary about a bisexual girl in the throes of a toxic relationship with her mother all the while falling in love with another girl, will release in 2017. Girl Made of Stars, a book about a girl whose twin brother is accused of rape, will release in 2018.

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TBRainbow Alert #4

For those of you who feel like you’ve already read every LGBTQIAP+ book in existence, not to worry – there’s plenty still to come! Every TBRainbow Alert will have a mix of five LGBTQIAP+ titles to make sure are on your radar, along with three reasons why you should know them. If you missed the earlier alerts, you can check out those titles here. And now, the final TBRainbow Alert for 2016!

Title: Cherry (August 16)
Author: Lindsey Rosin
Genre/Category: Contemporary YA
Rainbow details: one of four MCs is bi
Why put it on your radar?
1. It really is a YA version of American Pie for girls
2. The friendships and honestly and awkwardness and all of that is so killer
3. This is the kind of book that has only just started getting queer POVs (see Tumbling by Caela Carter, Winning by Lara Deloza) and it’s so, so great. The romance is adorable and it has multiple on-page sex scenes between girls and even that elusive discussion about what constitutes sex between girls.

Title: Keeping Her Secret (August 23)
Author: Sarah Nicolas
Genre/Category: Contemporary YA Romance
Rainbow details: f/f
Why put it on your radar?
1. Contemporary f/f YA Romance! Sorry, is that not an auto-add for you somehow?
2. This seems like a book with kissing. I am a fan of such things.
3. You can read a delightful excerpt from it here!

Title: Bad Boy (December 6)
Author: Elliot Wake
Genre/Category: Contemporary
Rainbow details: trans male MC
Why put it on your radar?
1. Trans lit by trans authors is super rare and desperately needed, even more so by trans guys
2. Contains characters from author’s earlier works, so if you’ve been looking to see what they’re up to…
3. Wake has a solid track record of having books with the only rep of their kind on brick-and-mortar shelves.

Title: Overexposed (September 20)
Author: Megan Erickson
Genre/Category: Contemporary NA Romance
Rainbow details: m/m, LI is demisexual
Why put it on your radar?
1. Demisexuality on the page! Demisexuality on the page!
2. I love this series of Erickson’s, so it’s all instabuy to me.
3. Appalachian Trail setting and recurrence of a familiar character from Out of Frame

Title: Interborough (October 24)
Author: Santino Hassell
Genre/Category: Contemporary Romance
Rainbow details: m/m, one MC is bi
Why put it on your radar?
1. Contains the same characters as Sunset Park, which ordinarily wouldn’t be my thing, except…I’ve read Sunset Park. Yes. I will take another book of them, thanks. (And of course, if that is your kind of thing, this is a dream come true.)
2. I love this series of Hassell’s, so it’s all instabuy to me. (And yes, if that looks familiar above, you may be not at all surprised to learn their coauthored series is also instabuy to me. #sorrynotsorry)
3. On-page rep in m/m romance other than Gay is tough to find, so I love this series in particular for having bisexual Raymond, among others.

Goodbye, Bad Bi: The Lose-Lose Situation of Bisexual YA, a Guest Post by Casey Lawrence

You may recall Casey Lawrence from her recent cover reveal for Order in the Court. Now she’s back to talk about the tricky business of writing bisexual YA. Without further ado, Casey Lawrence!

Young Adult literature is often characterized by discovery, by firsts. First crush, first kiss, first loss, first love. YA is a genre that helps generations of teens find their place in this world and discover who they are in it. For this reason, it is extremely important that YA novels reflect their demographic; most of the readers in dire need of that help are young members LGBTQ+ community.

For young queer teens, the world can be a scary place. YA books can be an escape, but also a mirror: for many queer teens, their first taste of what it might be like to actually be queer comes from the media’s representation of queerness.

LGBTQ+ YA is a growing market. More and more authors are taking the leap to publish stories with diverse characters. My own book series, The Survivor’s Club, has a bisexual teenage protagonist. Today I’m going to outline a major problem I’ve encountered with writing a bisexual character: it’s a lose-lose situation.

Because YA usually has some kind of romantic element to it, authors writing bisexual characters need to make a choice: who does your bisexual character “end up” with? (Since I write bi girls, I’m going to use bi girls as examples, but the same goes for bi boys.) If your bi girl ends up with a boy, your character gets accused of being “basically straight,” “bad [queer] representation,” or “reinforcement of compulsory heterosexuality.” If your bi girl ends up with a girl, she ends up having to be representation for all wlw (women who love women). She’s “basically a lesbian.” Either way, the character’s bisexuality is somehow “negated” by their relationship status. Sure, in Chapter One she’s a Bi Girl, but by the end she’s Basically Gay or Basically Straight—in either case, thinking this way is Bisexual Erasure.

Bi characters in m/f relationships are “bad representation” because they’re basically straight.

Who one is in a relationship with does not define one’s sexuality. A bisexual woman married to a man is not straight. A bisexual man who has only dated men is not gay. In both cases, these people are bisexual—both in real life, and on paper.

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately about how having a bi character enter an m/f relationship somehow invalidates their queerness. Bi women suddenly must have their wlw cards revoked because they love men, which makes about as much sense as saying a person can’t enjoy both chocolate and vanilla ice cream. For bisexual women in particular, this idea reinforces the patriarchal idea that men can fundamentally change a woman’s identity.

Here’s a conversation I recently had:

Them: You mostly date men, right?

Me: Yeah, so?

Them: So you’re mostly straight, then.

Me: I’m bisexual.

Them: Oh I know, but I mean, you’re not 50/50. You’re more on the straight side. More straight than gay.

Bisexuality is not the condition of being half-gay and half-straight. A bisexual person is entirely bisexual, not fractions of other things. When a bi person of one gender dates a person of another gender, their sexuality doesn’t change, in the same way that being single doesn’t make a person asexual until they start their next relationship. The number of relationships one’s had with different genders do not fill in a pie chart that somehow can determine the percentage of their queerness—they’re bisexual, completely, irrespective of their relationship status.

But heterosexual relationships already act as representation for bi people in m/f relationships, don’t they?

Nope. Bisexual people in relationships with people of a different gender can have a very different dynamic with their partner than a heterosexual couple. They face different challenges, one of which may be being told that they’re basically straight because of who their partner is. A lot of real bi girls do end up with guys and they deserve better than to be told that relationships that look like theirs are the “disappointing” option, or “not real queer representation.” It’s not fair that they aren’t allowed to have representation of how to conduct their lives in different-gender relationships because of how those relationships are perceived.

These assumptions have real world consequences. People say things like “Bisexuals in het relationships don’t belong at Pride.” This is equivalent to parents accepting their bisexual children only as long as they date the opposite sex. Why is the latter abhorrent but the first tolerable in the LGBTQ+ community? Accepting someone as long as they act like you is not okay. Conditional acceptance is never okay. This is true of the LGBTQ+ community as well as outside of it. Both of those statements are example of biphobia. They make it seem as if a bisexual person can “choose” to be gay or straight—rather than being bisexual, which is a sexuality in and of itself.

Can’t you just let your bi character have both an m/f AND an f/f relationship over the course of a book/series?

Sure I could. But that leads to a whole ‘nother conundrum: which relationship gets the HEA (happily ever after)? No matter which order I choose, there are going to be complaints. This is where the lose-lose situation comes into effect:

If my bi girl dates another girl only to later date a boy, I run the risk of implying that her bi-ness was just a phase or an experiment. I’ll get all those accusations about bad representation outlined above; my bi girl can’t end up with a boy, because then readers will think she’s straight (no matter how many times she tells the world she’s bisexual).

If my bi girl dates a boy first and then dates a girl, it reinforces the idea that bisexuality is a “stepping stone” identity on the way to declaring oneself a True Homosexual. This is more prevalent in m/m stories, but holds true for female characters as well. Bisexuality is considered by some people a way of keeping one foot in the closet.

Why does that happen?

There’s something called the One Drop rule when it comes to m/m romance: one m/m attraction or relationship is enough to call a male character gay, despite having been in m/f relationships in the past. One drop in an ocean is enough for that male character to be considered queer, negating an entire history of attraction. For bisexual female characters (and real bisexual women!), the opposite is true. Often, any evidence of opposite-sex inclinations is cause for exclusion from wlw spaces.

Bisexual men are assumed to be gay and performing bisexuality in order to cling to heteropatriarchy’s idea of masculinity, while bisexual women are assumed to be straight and performing bisexuality for heterosexual male attention. Thus bisexual women are in the unique situation of being “too gay” or heterosexual spaces, but “too straight” for queer ones, creating a need for bisexual women’s spaces, whereas bisexual men are, for the most part, welcomed into gay spaces with open arms—assuming they consider to “perform” their queerness. The same holds true with literature.

Romantic or sexual relationships with men are seen as bad representation for wlw because it appears to adhere to the patriarchy, or compulsory heterosexuality. One reasons why gay men do not feel betrayal toward bisexuals in “het” relationships to the same degree or in the same way as lesbians do is that to them, bisexual women in relationships with men are choosing to adhere to the heteropatriarchy, despite the capacity not to.

Can’t you just write a bisexual character in a polyamorous relationship then? Why does she have to choose?

Ah, now wouldn’t that just be the perfect solution! Many bisexual people are also poly. But the thing is, most bisexual people aren’t. Writing bisexual characters as poly  unfortunately enforces the stereotypes that bisexual people are greedy, can’t be satisfied by one person, are promiscuous, more likely to cheat… the list goes on. If everyone wrote bisexual characters into poly relationships, bisexual monogamists (of which there are many) would be left completely without representation or a voice.

Bisexuality and polyamory are different things. The first is a sexuality—to whom one is attracted—and the second is a relationship style—how one performs their sexuality in the context of a relationship. A person or character can be both bi and poly, but not everyone who is bi is also poly, just like everyone who is a pianist is not also left handed. I’m sure there are left handed pianists, as one certainly doesn’t negate the other, but one does not necessarily mean the other. They are completely separate.

So while I’d be excited to read (or write) a bisexual/poly romance, that’s not going to work with every character, just like it wouldn’t work for every bisexual person.

So why can’t you just write your characters as individuals making personal choices? Why do they have to represent all bisexual people?

And there’s the real reason for the lose-lose situation: since there are so few bisexual characters, every bi character that makes it to the published page is suddenly expected to be representation for all bi people. Gay people want bisexual representation that is “queer enough” to fit onto the existing LGBTQ+ shelf at the library, straight people want to see bi people that look like them or someone they could date / have dated, and bi people—well, we all just want to see ourselves on the page. With so few examples, it’s no wonder that no one is satisfied. There aren’t enough bi characters to go around.

What’s the solution, then? Is it hopeless?

Hopeless? No! Of course not. The only thing to do is to keep writing bisexual characters. Bi characters who end up falling for someone of the same sex. Bi characters who get their HEA with a member of the opposite sex. Bi characters who love nonbinary characters. Bi characters who are also trans. Bi characters who date trans characters. Bi characters who are in polyamorous relationships with people of different genders. Poly bi characters who date multiple people of one gender. Bi characters who end up heartbroken. Bi characters who end up alone, but happy. And, most of all, bisexual characters who proudly say “I’m bisexual,” no matter who their partner(s) is.

The only thing we need less of is stereotypes. If we create enough unique bisexual characters and stories, hopefully we can beat this lose-lose system. Each and every bisexual person is different, with different preferences and experiences. Why should bisexual characters be any different?

Casey Lawrence is a 21-year-old Canadian university student completing an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature. She is a published author of LGBT Young Adult fiction through Harmony Ink Press and has been actively involved in LGBT activism in her community since she co-founded the Gay-Straight Alliance at her high school. Her first novel Out of Order is available through all major online book retailers and its sequel, Order in the Court is currently available for preorder.

Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Cover Reveal: The Powers of Callaire by Saruuh Kelsey!

Today on the site, please welcome Saruuh Kelsey, revealing the cover of her upcoming f/f romance (starring a homoromantic asexual character), The Powers of Callaire! Here’s the summary:

Yasmin’s girlfriend is dead, but she will stop at nothing to bring Fray back. Even if that means going to the Otherland and making a bargain with the Ruler of All Souls. If Yasmin finds Pluto’s lost power, they’ll return Fray’s soul to her body.

Yasmin’s search takes her, and two of her friends, from Bucharest to France to Wales, and exposes a horrifying secret with Venus, Yasmin’s mother, at the heart of it. With a murderous, fiery god and the incarnation of death in her way, Yasmin will have to compromise her morals and harness the Legendary power in her veins. If she fails, Fray’s soul will be lost forever.

Aaaaand here’s the beautiful cover!

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The Powers of Callaire is available for pre-order here, and this week the first two books are free!

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SARUUH KELSEY lives in Yorkshire, in a house halfway between the countryside and the city with an absurd amount of books and craft supplies. She’s the author of The Legend Mirror and Lux Guardians series. Find her online at saruuhkelsey.co.uk or follow her on twitter at @saruuhkelsey.

Fave Five: LGBTQ YA with East Asian Female MCs

Huntress by Malinda Lo (B, Chinese)

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (L, Korean)

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace (B, Chinese)

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (L, Chinese)

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith (B, Japanese)

Bonus: out in 2017 – It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (L, Japanese)

Double bonus: graphic novel – Skim by Mariko Tamaki (Q, Japanese)

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Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!

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