Why I Wrote the Nameless Series, a Guest Post by Matthew

Today on the site, please welcome Matthew Rossi, author of the Nameless series. As I’m sure so many writers and readers of LGBTQIAP+ lit are familiar with, putting and/or seeing your sexuality on the page can be both a cathartic and terrifying process, and it also is, for many of us, a necessary one. To that end, I love this post about taking that plunge and the surprises me find along the way. And now, without further ado: Matthew!

***

There are a lot of reasons to write. When I started working on Nameless, I was trying to deal with a lot of issues in my life – my going blind, the dark place politics seemed to be going, my personal identity crisis – and the cast of characters in the books evolved out of that. In some ways I’ve grown up extremely privileged. I’m white, cis (more or less) and I can pass for straight.

But I’m not straight.

It’s taken me a very long time to realize that about myself. It’s taken even longer to get anything like comfortable with it. In fact, I’m still not. And one of the reasons for that is there simply aren’t a ton of bisexuals who are anything like I am in the fiction I grew up reading. When bisexuals exist, they’re often portrayed as utterly indiscriminate, people who flirt with anything that moves, and of course the old canard that bisexuality is simply a lie, that it’s gay men and straight women experimenting only or that it’s people who can’t commit. None of this was helpful to me growing up, and it wasn’t until much, much later that I understood that I wasn’t closeted or in denial – I was simply attracted to a range of humans that included men and women. (Since discovering non-binary and genderqueer people, I’ve realized even those categories are flexible for me.)

Writing Nameless, I wanted to depict bisexual characters who weren’t forced into the ‘will have sex with anything’ box or the ‘really gay/straight’ box or any other box. I also didn’t want to erase sex positivity just because the characters weren’t completely defined by their sexuality. Being bisexual doesn’t mean I’m constantly wandering around having sex with anyone that moves, but neither does it mean I don’t enjoy sexual contact (and just plain contact) with people. I’ve been married for eleven years to a wonderful woman (also bisexual) and I’m fortunate to have met her and have her in my life.

So when I started working on the book, the first thing I did was make sure there would be a variety of relationships – Thea and Thomas, the main characters, are a bisexual woman and a man who could best be described as genderfluid, in a very literal sense. He can and does change between a man and a woman several times in the series, starting in the second book, Heartless. Their relationship is frankly sexual, but it doesn’t erase who Thea was with before Thomas, nor what she finds attractive now. Their sexuality is part of who they are, not all of it.

The character of Bishop is a bisexual man in a relationship with Thea’s cousin Joe, who is gay (not bisexual) and the two of them were helpful to me in taking conversations I’d had with friends on the topic of whether or not bisexuality was real and helping me work through them. I’ve had friends insist that it isn’t, that I’m just gay and in denial, and it hampered me. Bishop helped me finally reject that idea once and for all – he knows who he is, who he has loved in the past and who he loves now, and he is nether settling now nor was then. One of the most pernicious myths I find when trying to come to terms with it all is this idea that you’re only bisexual if you’re in a same sex relationship. That doesn’t even make sense to me. There’s a reason it’s bisexuality, after all. Gender doesn’t even boil down into two easily defined options anyway, so this idea that I have to be with X or Y to be a ‘real’ bisexual has always felt destructive to me. I didn’t create Bishop to explore these issues, I just ended up having to explore them because Bishop loves Joe.

Thea’s cousin Seri is a different case because when I started writing the books, she was dating a long term boyfriend named David, and in the course of the first novel she met a woman named Evvie and it became obvious to me quickly that Evvie was so impressed by Seri that there was an attraction there. I decided to get out of my own way as writer, abandon my original outline and see where the two of them ended up, and they’ve since settled into a relationship that has its ups and downs and faults, and in many ways is less intense and committed than either Thomas and Thea or Joe and Bishop. And in a large part that’s because sometimes, people are complicated and just because you love someone, and are sexual with someone, that doesn’t spackle over the personality conflicts. Seri is extremely strong willed and Evvie has baggage and them being committed to each other takes effort and work, because that’s the cast for a lot of us whatever we are.

Writing these characters has let me look under the hood of my own thoughts, although that’s not and never was the goal. Mostly, I wrote a book with a cast that’s mostly bisexual or gay because that’s what I wanted to see. The books are about magic and monsters and epic, over the top action but anyone can be the hero, even people who are just people, and I wanted there to be a bi woman, a gay man and a woman who doesn’t know for sure what she is right at the forefront of all that.

But the character I’ve been most consistently surprised by is Bry.

Bry wasn’t even supposed to exist. Nameless had a trio of antagonists working for the main villain, two brothers named Morgan and Jimmy. Their younger brother Byron had been warped by the main villain into a monstrosity, a 9 foot tall mockery of a human being. Said monster was supposed to die in a confrontation with Thomas on Thanksgiving while Thea fought a Hound of Tindalos and saved the rest of her family. And absolutely nothing happened the way I wanted it to.

Tom wouldn’t kill Byron. Instead he managed to undo what had been done, and the child inside the monster was free for the first time in years. But that wasn’t the biggest surprise. The biggest surprise was that Byron wasn’t Byron. The little boy wasn’t a boy. The scene where that came out was absolutely a shock to me – I was writing a scene where Joe and Bishop were watching Byron and the child, still relearning how to talk, explained in halting terms who she was. How her wicked grandmother (the villain of the book, and in her way a victim too) had simply refused to accept that Bry was a girl and not a boy, and had used magic to punish her for not being what she actually was all along.

Since then Bry’s grown a bit (she’s fourteen as of Faceless, the last novel in the series) and learned magic herself, which she’s used to heal others and even aggressively in fighting off monsters and protecting her family of cousins. Bry’s journey and transition isn’t typical (the same magic Thomas uses to switch genders was originally created for Bry to transition) but she’s aware of that, and is still dealing with who she can trust and what she really wants out of life. And writing both Tom and Bry helped me deal with my own dysphoria and dysmorphia (I still identify as cis, but I have issues I struggle with) and what it means to be accepted for what you are.

I hope that the characters help other people – that getting to see a bi woman or a trans girl kicking monsters in their tentacles can help someone who is in that same questioning place I was. But the fact is, I didn’t write them so that their representation would help someone else. I wrote them so that their representation of bisexuality, gender and identity would help me. When I was growing up, I needed to see these kinds of characters and I never did. Everyone was straight, by default. If a man ended up with a woman, he was straight. If he ended up with a man, he was gay. The idea that you could be something else – an identity that was different than either, with its own challenges and consequences – never even occurred to me until I was in my thirties.

I don’t want that for anyone. I hope as more and more writers realize they can deviate from the script, people growing up will see themselves in more characters. I don’t know if my books will help with that, but I would dearly love to discover they have. If I’ve even partially succeeded in representing people, I have many others who took time to talk to me about their lives. Where I’ve failed, I’ve done so hoping to do better.

Buy the books:

Nameless * Heartless * Faceless

***

Matthew Rossi writes things. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and has lived in Boston, London (the one in England), Chicago, Washington DC, Blacksburg VA, San Francisco, Seattle and now Edmonton, Alberta. He lives with his wife Julian, their three cats, their manic little puppy and more reptiles than could easily be listed. His first book, Things That Never Were, was published by Monkeybrain Books in 2003. He’s since written two collections of essays (Bottled Demon, At Last Atlantis) and three novels – Nameless, Heartless and Faceless.

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On Being Out in the Trump Era: a Guest Post by Alysia Constantine

When I was writing the first draft of my novel Olympia Knife, the 2016 U.S. Presidential election was looming. I, like most folks (with the possible exception of election hackers and those who hired them) did not know what the outcome would be. I finished that first draft in September 2016, well before the November 9 morning on which I burst into tears in front of a fellow professor. (I’m not normally a public weeper, but I’d stayed up late watching election results, and was exhausted and devastated.)

I sent the draft of the novel to the publisher for editing, and, after months and months of daily hacking away at it, I gratefully took the reprieve. When it came time to edit, I had to read the manuscript for the first time I’d read it since sending it off, the first time since the election, and I’d forgotten much of it. Luckily, I’ve got the memory of a goldfish, so I could read with a clean slate and murder, as they say, my darlings.

Olympia Knife is the story of a turn-of-the-century travelling circus filled with cultural outsiders who, one by one, disappear. The queer woman at its center and the woman she loves must fight to stay solid (literally) as everyone around them vanishes under some insidious and pervasive force. Reading it anew, I was struck by how easily the novel can be understood as an allegory about being Other in the Trump era. I mean, Otherness was totally on my mind as I wrote, but Trump certainly was not, unless I was, for some reason, musing over Celebrity Apprentice, or thinking about orange things. As I finished work on the initial draft of the manuscript, the specter of Trump loomed, and one saw a distinct rise in America of what looked like Fascism and more anti-LGBTQ and racist violence because of his supporters, and that necessarily made its way into the manuscript. Now that he’s been installed into office, reading the book in this light is a more urgent reading.

LGBTQ folks like me in much of the US have gotten somewhat comfortable. I’m not saying it’s easy for everyone, but I am saying that it’s easier now for many of us than it was, say, in the 1980s. One has the option to be out in many places, one can have straight friends and be accepted into straight communities. When I attended college in the late 1980s, I hid in any closet I could find. Now as a professor, I’ve offered classes in queer theory that rapidly fill beyond capacity every time. Many of my students have been openly queer, and I’ve been able to be candid about my own queerness without being ascribed some nefarious motive.

Things have changed in most of America, to say the least. It’s easier for many of us to find love, get legally married, have children and settle happily into a gayborhood where we are not outcast, and thus it’s also easy to forget all the other folks (in the US and beyond) who are gay or bi or trans or otherwise Other who are still under dire threat because of that very Otherness.

Being out used to mean accepting a duty to work, to educate and agitate, fighting to stick around and helping others do likewise. People wrote and demonstrated and risked their very lives in order simply to live them. I’m not romanticizing; I’m not saying that’s a great state of affairs, but I am saying many of us have gotten comfortable enough that it’s easy to forget that we must still work, and that there are others (in the US and outside of it) who have no choice but to fight because otherwise they will die.

Olympia Knife now takes on new relevance for me in the US’s current Trump era. The novel is about a time when Othered folks—the queers, the outsiders—are being insidiously disappeared (made irrelevant, made powerless, made invisible, made gone), and the force that’s doing it is so pervasive it’s hard to predict or protect against it.

In the US, after all the apparent political gains of the last decade, we’re forced again to fight just to stay, to make our own families and cling to relevance, so that we are not disappeared, and we can’t even clearly see the monster against which we’re fighting. There is the imminence of a horrible thing—a more horrible thing than has already come—all the deaths of queer folk (both individual and massacre), the riots at certain political rallies, beatings by cops, denial of our rights to public space and safety, the swell of neo-fascism—this is all ramping up to something, and I, for one, am scared. I feel more powerless than I ever have (and I vividly remember the Reagan years).

Olympia Knife is a rallying cry, then, to all us queers and POC, crips and resisters and Others of all types: we must stick together, and we must resist. Making our own enclaves is no longer enough, because the awful thing that wants us gone is seeping in and getting us, even in our own spaces. We must fight fiercely and tirelessly simply to persist.

BIO

Alysia Constantine is a novelist and former literary and cultural studies professor. Her second novel, Olympia Knife, is a magical-realist adventure that takes place in a turn-of-the- century travelling circus and traces the struggles of Olympia and her lover Diamond in the face of the disappearance of one circus performer after another. You can find more at http://www.alysiaconstantine.com.

Exclusive Excerpt from Walking on Water by Matthew J. Metzger

Today on the site, we’ve got an exclusive excerpt from Matthew J. Metzger‘s upcoming Fantasy Romance, Walking On Water, which releases on November 13! Here’s some info on the book, which contains both bisexual and transgender represenation:

When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

Buy it

And now, the excerpt!

***

In the smoke and sunlight, both ricocheting off each other in a blinding darkness, heaving the battered Vogel around the enemy’s bow and up her pockmarked port side was a dangerous game. They collided once, the guns bouncing inwards. A boy fell, screaming, into the void between the two ships, and the sound cut off with a sharp crunch as the wooden hulls kissed once more. Janez slid towards the broken railings and caught at the ropes to steady himself.

And braced.

The almighty crash as they collided once more coincided with a terrible howl from the enemy guns. Two simply exploded, the gunpowder and ball caught between wood and metal, and the smell of burning flesh, the cry of death, rose over the chaos like a reminder. Janez flinched, even in his newfound deafness, like a newly launched loblolly boy without the faintest idea of sailing. Focus!

“Now!”

His sword swept down; the hooks flung outwards and clattered into the torn deck and shattered railings, some catching and some not. The heave of ship to ship was immense—in his bones and under his feet, Janez could feel an answering pull. The Ente had seized her from the other side. The rush of men to cut the ropes was confused.

They had her. They could have her.

“Board!”

The soldiers swarmed. Musket fire answered, and Janez leapt the gap with a roar that came from some primal place deep inside, fuelled not by king and country, but by brotherhood. His sword crashed with that of some faceless, nameless man fuelled likely by the urge to protect his own family, yet Janez fiercely did not care. They meant to sink him. And he would not be sunk!

But even with the Ente and her men, this was no sure thing. The guns boomed and rocked below them, the enemy frigate determined to sink her captors while their men ravaged her decks, and Janez ploughed amongst the guns, slashing at their masters.

Something caught.

One of the Ente’s guns roared, and a ball ploughed through the railing past him. Janez howled as a splinter—two inches thick and seven long—was driven into his thigh. He wrenched it free with a gasp, and bitterly ground down the urge to fall. That meant death. They would cut him down, and Alarik would never forgive him.

The caught thing was around his boot.

And too late, he realised.

As the great gun slipped, strangely silent, through the ragged maw gouged into the ship’s side, its rope coiled around Janez’s ankle and dragged him with it.

For a moment, he simply hung.

Hung in the smoke between two great walls.

He could hear—very faintly, through a distant memory, and very long ago—a woman’s humming. It sounded like Mother’s, yet he knew it to be Sofia. Sofia, humming to his newborn nephew. The only heir left to Alarik’s throne.

Janez sent up a brief prayer, a brief apology, some desperate hope that his childhood priests and tutors had been right, and he had some soul that could ascend and wait to meet his family again, for some reunion, for some forgiveness.

He had not even kissed little Ingrid goodbye.

***

Matthew J. Metzger is an asexual, transgender author dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles. He writes queer characters living all manner of lives, but especially likes to write the stories from the pub, the beautiful game, and the terraces where he lives and works today. Although mainly a contemporary romance writer, Matthew has recently been found straying out of his zone and playing in other genres’ sandboxes.

When not writing, Matthew is usually at his day job, working out, or asleep. He is owned by an enormous black cat, so should generally be approached with either extreme caution, or treats.

He can be primarily found on Twitter and Facebook or over at his website, and is always happy to hear from readers.

New Releases: November 2017

 Olympia Knife, by Alysia Constantine (2nd)

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

Buy it: Amazon * Interlude

Citywide by Santino Hassell (13th)

This is a novella collection in the Five Boroughs series

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

Buy it: Riptide

Walking on Water by Matthew J. Metzger (13th)

WalkingonWater-f500When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

Add to your TBR

Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler (14th)

When magic returned to the world, it could have saved humanity, but greed and thirst for power caused mankind’s downfall instead. Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.

But they are losing.

Tenn is a Hunter, resigned to fight even though hope is nearly lost. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he’s become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind.

If Tenn fails to play his part, it could cost him his friends, his life…and the entire world.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer (14th)

Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it.

This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.

Buy it: Indiebound | Barnes&Noble | BAM | Amazon

Beulah Land, by Nancy Stewart (16th)

Seventeen-year-old Vi Sinclair’s roots run deep in the Missouri Ozarks, where, in some areas, it can still be plenty dangerous to be a girl who likes girls. Her greatest wish is to become a veterinarian like her boss, Claire Campbell. Fitting in at school wouldn’t be so bad, either. Only one obstacle stands in the way: She may not live long enough to see her wishes fulfilled.

With help from her only friend, Junior, Vi unravels a mystery that puts her in conflict with a vicious tormentor, a dog fight syndicate, and her own mother. Vi’s experience galvanizes her strength and veracity as she overcomes the paradox of mountain life, in which, even today, customs and mores seem timeless, and where a person can wake up dead simply because of being who she is.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Finally Writing a Boy Like Me: a Guest Post by Devin Harnois

Today on the site, please welcome Devin Harnois, author of Rainbow Islands! Is that not the most utterly delightfully queer book title you have heard? Oh, and behold the cover and blurb…

In the Christian Republic, homosexual people are given two choices—a camp to “fix” them, or exile to the distant islands populated by lesbians and gay men.

Sixteen-year-old Jason chooses exile and expects a hardscrabble life but instead finds a thriving, supportive community. While exploring his identity as a transgender boy he also discovers adventure: kraken attacks, naval battles, a flying island built by asexual people, and a daring escape involving glow-in-the-dark paint. He also has a desperate crush on Sky, a spirited buccaneer girl, but fear keeps him from expressing his feelings.

When Jason and his companions discover the Republicans are planning a war of extermination, they rally the people of the Rainbow Islands to fight back.

Shy, bookish Jason will have to find his inner courage or everything and everyone he loves will be lost forever.

*happy sigh* Here’s the link to get it: Amazon

And now, a post from Devin!

*****

After I began transition I sometimes felt a little guilty about not writing trans characters. There were so few trans stories, even fewer written by trans people. At the same time, I didn’t want to push myself into it just because I felt like I “should”.

The main characters in my novels are cis men, or a cis man and cis woman in my m/f romances. Growing up I always identified with cis male characters, because that was my fantasy: to be a cis man. When I was younger I didn’t have the words or even the understanding of what transgender was, I only knew a desperate desire to be a boy. I wrote a few poems and abandoned a handful of vague story starts that touched on my dysphoria and being trans, but otherwise I inhabited the fantasy, the escape, of being cis.

Then I saw a Tumblr post and the long string of replies that built an amazing story, a queer YA dystopian adventure with people fighting back against oppression. You can find it here: http://bequilles.tumblr.com/post/133505733119/lynati-lectorel-hazel-the-space-ace. And I thought—what if this story starred a trans boy? He’d get sent to the lesbian island, of course, because the oppressive government wouldn’t understand trans people.

That was how Rainbow Islands was born. For once I wanted to write trans male character. It finally felt right.

I wrote the first draft in November of 2016. Yes, during that election. The fear and anger lit a fire under me and through a haze of caffeine and anxiety, I somehow finished. Even under normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been easy to write. It touches on some dark stuff and some very personal stuff. Add to that our current political climate where trans people and other queer folk are being demonized. While writing some scenes I had to stop and walk away because they hit so close to home.

But Rainbow Islands also full of joy, about finding yourself, finding your people and holding onto that with everything you’ve got. It’s a story of queer triumph over oppression.

Jason, the main character, isn’t exactly me, but he’s sort of a love letter to my younger self. He’s the kind of character I desperately needed growing up and never saw. A boy like me, with a body like mine, and he gets to be the hero. He gets the hot pirate girl.

So many trans narratives are about the struggle and the misery. I wanted to show the other side of that, acceptance and happiness. Jason’s life isn’t perfect—he still deals with dysphoria and there’s a war looming, but he’s surrounded by people who support him. A whole society built by queer people, where being transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, or a myriad of other identities is just normal. It’s the opposite of the world Jason came from, where people tried to force him to be something he’s not.

My hope is that trans boys find this book and recognize themselves in it. That they see boys like them can be heroes too, not just victims or lessons for cis people. We deserve the kinds of stories that center us and lift us up, that show us a world where we get happy endings.

And a hot pirate girlfriend.

*****

Devin Harnois writes YA and Romance of the fantastical sort. Somehow his books keep getting more queer. When he isn’t writing he spends too much time on Twitter and plays a lot of Dragon Age. Follow him on Twitter @devinharnois.

Backlist Book of the Month: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Published in 2010, Horner’s debut was one of the first f/f romances in modern YA, and I’m going to admit right now that that totally scared me off of reading it for years. Let’s just say, with some notable exceptions, early queer YA was…not excellent. But man, as soon as I read this I was really mad for cheating myself, because this is a book I would’ve been recommending for sure during all those in-between years. Road trip and theater elements plus a best friend/romance confusion element plus an enemies-to-lovers romance, all in an alternating timeline story? I MEAN. Anyway, don’t make the same mistake I did, especially now that it’s out of print! (But not hard to find used and discounted!)

For months, Cass Meyer has heard her best friend Julia, a wannabe Broadway composer, whispering about a top-secret project. Then Julia is killed in a sudden car accident, and while Cass is still reeling from her death, Julia’s boyfriend and her other drama friends make it their mission to bring to fruition the nearly-completed secret project: a musical about an orphaned ninja princess entitled Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad.

Cass isn’t one of the drama people. She doesn’t feel at home with Julia’s drama friends, and she doesn’t see a place for her in the play. Things only get worse when she finds out that Heather Galloway, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school, has been cast as the ninja princess.

Cass can’t take a summer of swallowing her pride and painting sets, so she decides to follow her original plan for a cross-country road trip with Julia. Even if she has a touring bicycle instead of a driver’s license, and even if Julia’s ashes are coming along in Tupperware.

Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad is a story about friendship. About love. About traveling a thousand miles just to find yourself. About making peace with the past, and making sense of it. And it’s a story about the bloodiest high school musical one quiet suburb has ever seen.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * AbeBooks

Exclusive Excerpt from City of Betrayal by Claudie Arseneault

Today on the site, we have an exclusive excerpt from Claudie Arseneault’s upcoming fantasy, City of Betrayal, releasing on October 22nd! If you’re not already in the know, this is the second book in the series; if you like what you see but haven’t read the first, you can grab it here on sale for only $2.99!

Please note that the blurb contains spoilers for book 1, so if you’re new to the series, you can skip right on past to the excerpt!

*****

The whole city is searching for Hasryan.
 
Lord Allastam wants to take bloody, ruthless revenge for the murder of his wife. Inspector Sora Sharpe wants to bring him to justice for his crimes against the city. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return.
 
While the city’s eyes are turned to these two, no one is willing to help Lord Diel Dathirii free Isandor from the influence of the Myrian Enclave and their vengeful leader, Avenazar. High Priest Varden Daramond could help Diel, except Varden has been imprisoned. Lord Dathirii’s only hope of rescuing Varden is Arathiel. An alliance with him, however, would invoke the wrath of the Golden Table… and Lord Allastam himself.
 
With enemies gathering around him, Diel is left without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres and must place his fate in Lower City residents. But little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.

Buy it: Major RetailersDirect from Author (Gumroad) | Paperbacks   

*****

And now, the excerpt!

*****

Diel’s happy humming always lightened Jaeger’s heart. It didn’t follow any known song, but simply filled their morning routine with joy, hovering in the air as they dressed. Listening to him, Jaeger could almost forget that their position in the city’s politics had worsened, not improved. But Arathiel had agreed to their dangerous plan and would soon join them, and Diel’s attempt to save Branwen’s friend would see the light, come what may.

This, however, did not completely explain why Diel seemed to float. Jaeger smiled and slipped behind his love as the other elf buttoned his doublet. He ran his fingers along the collar and folded it expertly, looking at the other through the mirror. A hundred thirty years ago, Diel had developed strong feelings for Arathiel, who had been House Brasten’s weapons master. Nothing had come out of it—Arathiel had barely noticed Diel, instead spending his time with Kellian—but it didn’t surprise Jaeger that this attraction had carried through decades.

Jaeger couldn’t resist this chance to tease. Diel’s crush on Arathiel had led to their first in-depth discussion of polyamory, and Jaeger knew the morning’s joy came from more than finally having a viable solution to their predicament. “I can’t remember the last time I made you sing like this.”

For a brief instant, Diel froze, then he threw his head back and laughed. “You’re not jealous. I know you better than that, and you know me better, too.”

“I do.” Jaeger ran his hand over Diel’s shoulder, leaning in closer. How often had Diel fallen in love with another through the decades? His heart shifted that way, expanding to greet the latest amazing person he’d met but never letting go of Jaeger. They had no secrets from one another, and when Diel wished for something more serious, he was the first to know. Jaeger often pushed him to act on it—faced with his love’s unaltered felicity, Jaeger could find no jealousy in himself. The occasional third angle to their relationship enriched his life, too. Even though Jaeger didn’t fall for most of them, he enjoyed the shifts in their dynamic and the special intimacy he often developed with them. Jaeger pulled the golden hair back a little to land a short kiss behind Diel’s ear. “I assume you’ll want to tell Branwen the good news.”

“Absolutely. I thought we might share breakfast.”

Diel examined himself once more in the glass, squaring his shoulders and taking a deep breath. The last few days had been hard on him, but the bags under his eyes had shrunk overnight. He glanced at the window, where the first sunlight filtered through white curtains. “It’s a bit early, but Aunt Camilla taught me all I need to know about strong teas. If you could go get Branwen? I’ll call someone to help me set the table.”

The request surprised Jaeger. Diel usually invited his niece and nephew himself while his steward readied everything. Could Diel manage the preparations? Jaeger bit his lip and withheld the question. An informal breakfast with Branwen didn’t require elaborate protocols, and while Diel might not know all the household servants by name, he didn’t need Jaeger to interact with them or get their help. Still, it bothered him that Diel had decided to reverse the roles, until he realized that at this hour, Branwen would be sound asleep and unwilling to wake.

“I see you are once again leaving me with the arduous task. Should I find armour? Alert Kellian we might have an incident on our hands?”

Diel pressed his lips together, trying his hardest not to laugh. After a playful shove to Jaeger’s shoulder, he schooled his expression and conjured some poor defence for his niece. “She’s not so terrible. Use the promise of good news as your shield and you’ll be fine.”

Jaeger grinned and saluted. “There are causes worth dying for,” he said before taking his leave.

Diel’s laugh followed him through the office and into the corridor, and Jaeger marvelled at how relaxed he was. He missed their brief banter—it vanished when Diel became anxious, and the Myrians spread his patience thin. Perhaps it was selfish of him, but the obvious impact this war had on Jaeger’s domestic life pushed him even more to stop Avenazar quickly and put an end to the stress and loss affecting the family. Jaeger wasn’t sure how they would see this through without the help of other Houses, but he trusted Diel to find a solution, even if it led them down less desirable pathways.

*****

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Quebec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The start of her most recent series, City of Strife, came out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!

Science in Fantasy Worlds: a Guest Post by Ginn Hale

Today on the site, author Ginn Hale is back to talk about science in fantasy worlds in honor of her newest release, The Long Past and Other Stories, which is sort of a mashup of Alt-history, steampunk, and weird west. Here’s a little more info on the book and where you can buy it:

 1858 –Warring mages open up a vast inland sea that splits the United States in two. With the floodwaters come creatures from a long distant past. What seems like the End Times forges a new era of heroes and heroines who challenge tradition, law, and even death as they transform the old west into a new world.

In the heart of dinosaur country a laconic trapper and a veteran mage risk treason to undertake a secret mission.

A brilliant magician and her beautiful assistant light up stages with the latest automaton, but the secrets both of them are hiding test their trust in each other and pit them against one of the most powerful men in the world.

At the wild edge of the Inland Sea, amidst crocodiles and triceratops, an impoverished young man and a Pinkerton Detective must join forces to outmaneuver a corrupt judge and his gunmen.

Buy it: Amazon * Smashwords

And here’s the post!

On the surface all this scientific information in fantasy novels would seem like a contradiction.  We fantasy authors make our livings spinning tales of magic; one might expect that we’d be more invested in the mystic and supernatural. But science in our real world does something very similar to magic in most fantasy realms. It lays bare the ways systems function while also illuminating the wonders of them. Both magic and science present wisdom as a kind of power.

Most fantasy books that feature magic will have the dictates of magic serve the same roles that physics or chemistry play in our world. For example, in the real world solar energy drives our winds and weather. But in a fantasy world perhaps the weather is powered by a colony of huge dragons that churning up the sky.  Magic might have to be employed to discover their nests, high in the clouds and perhaps it will prove the key to calming the creatures, before they destroy any island nations.

This can get tricky when an author introduces real world science into a magical fantasy story, but it doesn’t have to be.

I suggest that if a world really was magical then the science of that world would discover as much. Scientist in a magical world would want to test and describe the parameters and limits of magic. So, when I needed to explain the mysterious ‘white hell’, in Lord of the White Hell, I was able to use the character of Kiram, a young engineer, to study the characteristics of the magical force and the young man who possessed it—Javier.

In The Long Past & Other Stories the character of Grover isn’t a scientist, but he’s practical and a problem solver so when he’s confronted with a magically caused rift in time—as well as flood waters and dinosaurs from the cretaceous era—he applies logic and reasoning to work out what needs doing.  But the presence of science isn’t just felt in problem solving it’s also a powerful embodiment of human curiosity and wonder. Endowing characters and cultures with scientific values can actually enrich the magical qualities of a story.

Consider flight. It seems almost magical to witness a hummingbird zip through my garden. But when I discover that they are beating their wings 40 times a second, the truly astounding nature of theses animals begins to sink in. They move their wings so fast, so furiously and at just the perfect angles to generate tiny tornadoes, which they extend into the air around them and use like additional wing lengths. They’re like miniature storm-gods riding cyclones of their own creation!  All the while their hearts are pounding 1,200 beats per minute.

Understanding just those few facts transforms my idea of these small shimmering creatures and fills me with wonder.  And of course that is exactly what I want my readers to feel when they enter the fantastical realms of my books.

*****

Award-winning author Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and their ancient, evil cat. She spends the rainy days admiring local fungi. The stormy nights, she spends writing science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring LGBT protagonists. (Attempts to convince the cat to be less evil have been largely abandoned.)

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: (Un)Masked rerelease by Anyta Sunday and Andy Gallo

Today on the site, we’re celebrating the re-release of (Un)Masked by Anyta Sunday and Andy Gallo, a gay paranormal NA romance, which was previously published by Dreamspinner Press but now has new editing and a new cover! Here’s the blurb:

Walker has two wishes: to perform the play of his dreams alongside his best friend at Wellington’s Tory Street Theatre, and to meet that special someone. Someone he’d go to the ends of the earth for. Someone who might only exist in fairy tales.

When Jay meets accordion busker Lethe Cross, it’s like living a dream come true. Lethe’s music captivates Jay, and he resolves to meet the man who plays so beautifully. But then he discovers Lethe’s life is more like a nightmare. The phrase “down on his luck” can’t begin to cover it. Determined to help, Jay does some snooping for answers—and winds up on the wrong end of a centuries-old curse. The good news is there’s a way to break it. The bad news is it might cost Jay his life.

Aaaand here’s the cover!

Buy it

But wait, there’s more! Check out this (long!) exclusive excerpt!

From the sidewalk, I spied Lethe cutting strokes through the rippling water. The gray glow of morning made it look as if he swam through satin waves. A cool breeze reminded me just how cold those satin waves would be. I zipped up my jacket, dropped the bag with my towel in it, and perched on the concrete wall.

His arms arched over his head in firm strokes, his head twisting for air on every third stroke. He stood up suddenly, whipping the water from his hair and running a hand through it. He searched the length of the beach several times before he caught sight of me.

He beckoned me over. Each move of his hands pulled me toward him.

“You’re here,” he said.

“Gristle just about killed me for waking him up so early. You always up at this time?”

“The beach is deserted now.” He glanced toward the sea, worrying his bottom lip. “Who’s Gristle?”

Flatmate,” I blurted a little too quickly. “My best mate.”

His shoulders loosened and he looked at me. “Did you come to swim or watch?”

I stripped down to my swimming trunks and tiptoed into the sea. “I should have stuck to watching.”

Lethe laughed and kicked water at me. “You would deprive your other senses of all this?”

I stared at the gently lapping water and not the rivulets of water dribbling down his bare chest. “This is quite the sensory feast.”

“Dive in before I pounce on you.”

“I’m not sure you understand how threats work, Lethe.”

“Who said it was a threat?”

My breath caught, and I waded toward his soft, beckoning smile.

When I reached him, Lethe kicked onto his back. His gaze flickered to me before landing on the clear sky above. His green eyes glittered. If one could see a soul, then his was deep, haunted yet determinedly hopeful.

It reminded me of Gristle at the zoo, living life to the fullest because he claimed death danced in his shadows.

I dove under the water, letting the shock of it numb a sudden shiver. I came up under him and tackled his waist.

Lethe twisted under water with me, bubbles bursting out of his smiling lips.

We messed about in the water for only a few more minutes before Lethe dragged us out. I’d grabbed my stuff and drifted to his towel.

Lethe scrubbed his face. “Haven’t done that for ages.” He smiled at me. “Thanks.”

I choked on my own thanks. I’d not had so much fun with anyone other than Gristle for, well, I couldn’t even remember when.

“Maybe we could do this again?” His voice wavered, and he vigorously rubbed at his hair.

“I am all about indulging in sensory feasts.”

Lethe grinned. “On the discussion of feasts. What about breakfast?” He gave me a once over, lingering at my scrawny waist. “You shouldn’t skip breakfast.”

I forced a laugh and hurriedly pulled on my top and pants. Grabbing my bag, I twisted the street. “See you, then.”

He clasped my shoulder and steered me back around. “I think it came out wrong.”

I raised a brow.

He looked at me, gaze flickering nervously from my eyes to my shoulder. “Will you have breakfast with me?”

* * *

I arrived earlier than the four previous mornings, in time to see Lethe wading into the sea. His muscles flexed with each step, and once he hit waist height, he dove under.

Dropping my bag and towel next to his, I followed after him. My body exploded in goose bumps as the first cold waves cuffed my ankles. Sand sank underfoot as the water dragged itself back in. I quickly dunked into the water and gasped from the cold.

Lethe caught sight of me and waved. I swam over. A hand glided over my back, and I jerked upright, treading water.

“Morning,” Lethe said, smiling, as he circled me. “What brings you here so early?”

You. “I wanted to repay the favor, so I made us breakfast this time. It’s more a picnic, but I wasn’t sure of your schedule. How long do you have?”

Lethe flipped onto his back. Water rippled around him, and I threaded my fingers through the tiny waves. “Have I told you the perks of working as a street musician? Other than the stellar pay?”

I laughed. “In that case, sign me up.”

Lethe splashed water on my face and pointed to the fountain. “Want to race?”

I kicked off, taking my advantage and swiftly made it to the fountain, not too far behind Lethe.

“You’re improving,” he said with a smile. “Another couple weeks, and you’ll be a match for me.” He ducked under the water, only to pop up on my other side. He sliced the top of the water with his hand so it sprayed in my face, then whacked my upper arm. “You’re it.”

I lunged after Lethe, managing to jump on his back halfway to shore. I dunked him under the water.

A rueful grin quirked his lips when he came up gasping for breath. Barely two steps away, Lethe leaped onto my back. His knees locked around my sides and hands pressed my head under water. He didn’t hold me under long, letting go with a little tap to my shoulder. Breathing out a bunch of bubbles into the water, I came up. Lethe remained jammed against my back, his chest expanding against me as he breathed.

When he loosened his grip, I twisted and faced him. Water dribbled down his hair, over his scar, plopping on his lips. I pulled my gaze away from his mouth and combed a hand through my wet hair, pushing the locks off my face. “Up for another race?”

He stared into my eyes and my heart exploded into a gallop. I imagined him leaning in, brushing his lips against mine with the murmured words I like you too, Jay.

I slammed my eyes shut and water stirred as Lethe backed up.

He stroked toward the fountain, and I followed, the ghost of his touch still curved against my back.

“You look hopeful.” Lethe stroked over to where I clung to a jutting edge in the fountain base. He latched a hand on the same edge and pulled himself closer.

Although salt water dominated my sense of smell, I detected a hint of something peppermint and spicy coming from Lethe’s hair.

Lethe tilted his head, watching me. “Really hopeful.”

I dipped my head forward and lightly pressed my lips against his. The taste of salt flowed into my mouth; he felt softer than I’d imagined.

It lasted less than a couple of seconds before I pulled away. “Really, really hopeful.”

His breath caught and he grabbed my arm and kicked a leg around mine. His mouth met mine again. Our lips parted, and a gentle tongue flicked against mine. A gasp left me, and Lethe’s lips curved into a smile.

I let go of the fountain, wrapping both arms around Lethe, and deepened the kiss. We sank under the water, limbs entangled, gripping at each other. Salt stung my eyes as I looked at Lethe underwater. His hair swirled upward around him and light glowed around him. We broke our kiss and stared at each other. A cloud of bubbles burst from Lethe’s mouth as he laughed, and it sounded like music.

We pushed our way back to the surface and both hauled in air. I sucked in a good third breath, and Lethe splashed water in my face. I spluttered and coughed. His merry laugh taunted me and I chased after him, dunking him under when I got a good hold.

“We’d better go in.” Lethe looked back toward the shore, a frown forming between his brows. “We’ve stayed out here too long.”

Grabbing our bags and towels, we dashed for the outdoor shower. Lethe hurriedly scrubbed seawater from his hair.

I stepped under the spray with him and tentatively touched his chin, lifting his head. Water beaded at the ends of his eyelashes and trailed over the tips of my fingers. “What’s going on?”

Lethe bit his bottom lip. “Nothing.”

“Nothing doesn’t hightail out of the water every morning.”

“Which eyebrow is my scar?”

I gently drew my thumb over the cut in his eyebrow and he sighed and leaned into me.

“What are you running from, Lethe?” I whispered into his ear.

***

Anyta is a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She loves to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love. Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

Anyta writes a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian and French.

Member of Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Anyta: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Andy Gallo’s stories capture how he wished he’d spent his formative years, instead of how it really happened. Unfortunately for his characters, they find themselves infused with some of Andy’s less noble qualities.

A hopeless romantic, Andy writes seated next to a hundred year old Smith Brothers typewriter he inherited from his grandfather. He also dreams of superheroes and wizards and sees no reason why two men with superpowers can’t fall in love just like everyone else. Although not all of his stories have a paranormal bent, a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good read in his mind.

Married and living his happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days rubbing elbows with other parents as they raise their daughter. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.

Connect with Andy:  Website | Facebook

Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!