Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (B, Vietnamese-Chinese)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (T, Pakistani)
A Love That Disturbs by Medeia Sharif (L, Pakistani)
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Q, Indian)
Please welcome to the site today author Karelia Stetz-Waters, whose newest release, a Contemporary Romance entitled For Good (Book #2 in her Out in Portland series), just released on July 5th! Just before we get to her post, check out a little more info on the book:
In this too-small, dusty town, brand-new district attorney Kristen Brock knows she’ll never fit in. Still, the job will look great on her résumé—if she can just keep her head down and play by the rules. Because in a town run by a self-serving, powerful family, the last thing Kristen needs is trouble . . . but one kiss from the beautiful ex-rodeo queen Marydale Rae turns her world upside down. And Marydale is definitely trouble.
Marydale didn’t intend to hide her past from Kristen, but the prospect of a friend who doesn’t know she spent time in prison is too tempting to pass up. Add in the passionate night they share, and Marydale never wants Kristen to know the truth. But small towns don’t keep secrets, and the powerful Holten clan is determined to destroy anything and anyone who makes Marydale happy.
And now, Karelia, on Three Ways Socially Conscious Romance Can Change the World:
I see you Romeo…shaking that ass! Wait. That’s now how the line goes. My Shakespeare’s getting rusty now that I’ve plunged into the world of genre fiction. Romance, no less.
One of my academic colleagues told me she hoped I’d be able to get back to writing meaningful literature. “Karelia, you’re so talented…” she trailed off mournfully. I think it was a compliment. I didn’t bring up the nonlinear, staccato, trans-generational epic poem she’d been agonizing over [but not actually writing] for ten years. Why be mean?
I loved writing my first romance novel, a lesbian version of You’ve Got Mail in which I challenged myself to employ the old Harlequin Romance sex equation: a sex scene within the first fifty pages and then every seventy-five pages after that. And I got to do some crazy research for my most recent release, a kind of Orange Is the New Black: Parole Edition, about a paroled felon and a district attorney who fall in love. The result is a fast-paced, poolside read, that’s cheaper than a mocha Frappuccino and just as easy to consume.
I’m not ashamed.
My colleagues in the greater world of the academy have yet to recognize romance as a meaningful literary art form, but romance is the language of hope. And it sells. People read romance. And I believe a well-written, socially conscious romance (my wife coined the term “so-ro”) can do three powerful things to change the world.
SoRo Gives the LBGTQ+ Community a Vision of Happiness
I spoke on the plenary panel at the Gay Romance NW Conference last year. Someone posed the question: can romance novels have tragic endings? The consensus was no. “…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” That is the contract.
Romance imagines happiness. It paints a picture. It draws a map. With violence and prejudice still part of the LBGTQ+ community’s experience, we need those portraits. And, yes, of course, we need artists to bear witness to suffering and injustice, but we simultaneously need to surround ourselves with pictures of health and hope.
I recently watched Jane McGonigal’s TED talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World.” In it, she mentions one special trait possessed by gamers; they believe in epic wins, wins so great, so sweeping they change everything. True love is an epic win. Believe!
SoRo Breaks Down Gender Stereotypes
And I think romance, when done well, can do more than just comfort and uplift our community. LBGTQ+ romance is gaining a following among heterosexual readers. When I ask straight readers why, the answer is almost unanimous. They want to see love without gender roles.
I recently started a blog called “Ask the Girls: Lesbian Love for Straight Couples.” The premise is this: excepting the fact that it took me and my wife fifteen years to be legally married, our marriage is easier than our heterosexual friends’ marriages. My wife and I may have absorbed all the same gender stereotypes, but we don’t live by them. We can’t. Taking out the trash may be the man’s job, but if we wait around for a man to do it, we’ll be waiting a long time.
SoRo Teaches Compassion
Finally, let me step out of my role as blogger and back into my comfortable, everyday English-professor clothes. The quiz is closed book, closed notes, no Wikipedia:
Who were the Montagues and Capulets and why were they feuding?
You don’t remember, do you? With Juliet’s hair loose across her shoulders and Romeo’s voice rising up through the filtered moonlight, we don’t care. They could be Republicans and Democrats, Muslims and Christians, “East End boys and West End girls.” Love takes our differences and casts them in the gentle twilight travelers crave, that soft glow that erases what we’ve been taught to loathe and lets us view the world as it is, imperfect and beautiful.
When else are we more open to the beauty of the stranger than in romantic love? We love our family, our neighborhood, our children, but they are a kaleidoscope of ourselves. A lover is the other. And through love we come to see without criticism, to make the stranger’s plight our own.
While researching my latest release, For Good, I attended a poetry reading at a maximum security prison. I was ushered through several security checkpoints and into a bleak, all-purpose room. I assumed the incarcerated men would look like monsters. But they offered me cookies, and they read their poems. Most clutched their poems to their chests, reading with their eyes down and their voices flat, earnest, and nervous. They looked like my students. I couldn’t see their sins.
And I’m not about to say that I’d like them released in my neighborhood, but I did see a part of their story that was never in the newspaper. That vision inspired the way I wrote about Marydale Rae, the paroled felon in For Good. I hope that it will inspire my readers to pause, at least for one poolside moment, and consider the greater societal issues that underlie the book.
Romance has been called the backbone of the publishing industry. We have reach. We have market share. We can paint a picture of hope for our people. We can teach love that defies gender roles. And if we are careful with the way we portray the “other,” and avoid the stereotypes that have, admittedly, plagued this genre in its previous incarnations, romance can teach compassion for the stranger, for the wanderer who arrives at our door in tatters.
Isn’t that who we all are in that tremulous moment when we first feel love?
My wife recently dubbed my writing “so-ro,” short for romance with a social conscience. I guess that’s what I do. Whether I’m exploring the problems of gentrification or the evils of human trafficking, every book I write has a lesbian romance at its heart and a social issue in mind. They’re the kind of books that read like fun, lazy-Saturday page-turners and yet leave your unexpectedly enlightened. That’s two for the price of one and way more fun that keeping up with the news.
When I’m not writing, I’m being inspired by my amazing community college students and hanging out with my lovely wife and my charming spuglette (that’s a technical term for spaniel-pug mix). I’m a fan of snakes, corn mazes, popular science books on neurology, and any roadside attraction that purports to have the world’s largest ball of twine.
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I have to open this post with my utter shame that Roller Girl (releasing July 25, 2016) is my first Vanessa North novel, but it definitely won’t be my last. (Though that should confirm for you that despite being the third in a series, this book can totally be read on its own.) I just simply could not resist the lure of f/f centered around roller derby and featuring a trans protag. I mean, hi, I’m only human. Anyway, the book turned out to be super cute and also feature some quality dirty talk, which is approximately my favorite thing in Romance, and I’m dying to have more trans books follow in its fluffy footsteps. (And, PS, it also happens to have a starred review from Publishers Weekly.)
Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.
Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama”
Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.
Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.
With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.
Today on LGBTQ Reads, please welcome J. Leigh Bailey to reveal the cover of her new m/m YA with Harmony Ink, Do-Gooder, out September 15! Here’s the blurb:
No good deed goes unpunished, and for seventeen-year-old Isaiah Martin, that’s certainly the case. The gun he was caught with wasn’t even his, for God’s sake. He only had it to keep a friend from doing something stupid. No one wants to hear it, though, and Isaiah is banished—or so it seems to him—to live with his missionary father in politically conflicted Cameroon, Africa.
However, when he arrives, his father is so busy doing his good deeds that he sends Henry, the young, surprisingly hot do-gooder with a mysterious past, to pick up Isaiah and keep him out of trouble. Even while Isaiah is counting down the days until he can go home, he and Henry get caught in the political unrest of the region. Kidnapped by militant forces, the two have to work together to survive until they are rescued—unless they manage to find a way to save each other first.
Aaaaand here’s the cover!
Want more? Check out this excerpt!
I pried my eyes open, but I couldn’t make them focus. I caught a flash of red and a blurred form that must have been Henry. He knelt on the ground, using one arm pressed against the wall to hold him up. His hand slid and he slumped forward until he was on all fours, his body heaving.
Gagging, choking dry heaves. The kind that made it feel like your body tried to expel your intestines out your mouth. I could sympathize.
What was wrong?
“Hank?” My voice was wheezy, barely audible, but Henry heard. He whipped his head up. I still couldn’t focus—I think the jelly helmet covered my eyes again. One moment he hunched on the floor, the next he sat next to me, something red in his arms.
“What did you do?”
I was glad I couldn’t see better. The red blob that was my backpack was bad enough, but if I’d had to see the bag in detail, I’d have thrown up. Empty stomach or no.
I reached over and grabbed his hand. “Damn it, Hank. What did you do?”
He shrugged off my weak grip. “I did what I had to do.”
Ice water churned in my guts.
I closed my eyes and cried. Tears may not have poured from my eyes, but my soul registered the loss.
The stupid, self-sacrificing son of a bitch.
j. leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBTQ Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships, and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending. Find out more at www.jleighbailey.net or sign up for her (infrequent!) newsletter: http://bit.ly/2909wla.
Today on the site, please welcome Calista Lynne to talk about her upcoming book, We Awaken, which is one of very few YAs featuring asexual main characters. This is one of the number one recommendation requests I get, so I’m excited to help bring awareness to this one, coming July 14 from Harmony Ink! And now, here’s Calista to share about it.
I never intended anyone to know that I published a book; that’s why I chose a pseudonym with care and stuck with it.
So of course the majority of my friends and my entire family are well aware that there’s a novel coming out with the back of my head as the author pic. When my parents first found out they were beyond excited. I got free chinese food out of the announcement which was all well and good. When they found out the topic of my novel was asexuality, though, the concept was met with a bit of confusion.
There were the usual “what’s that” and “that’s sad” remarks made when I explained it and my father decided I would forever be an author of “alternative sexualities.” Except asexuality isn’t alternative or a fad. It’s literally just a sexuality in addition to all the rest. As a society we have no luck. Individuals are degraded both for having sex and for expressing no sexual desire whatsoever. A Catch- 22. People laugh at asexuality because they don’t understand it, and as someone who is in constant need of validation to the point of annoyance, I understand how frustrating it feels to be a sexuality many people do not even know exists.
One in every one hundred people is asexual, which is no small number. Compare that with the size of your graduating class and you’ll probably get the point. Plenty of people hit puberty yet neither gender does it for them. Now there are layers and variations in asexuality, one of them being demisexuality. That’s when specific individuals, regardless of gender, get the demisexual in question going. No matter how gray someone’s asexuality is they oftentimes feel broken. So much media is dedicated to sex and the pursuit of it that not having these urges seems inhuman.
With this novel I hope to widen asexual discourse even if it’s only slightly. Maybe one teenager out there will pick it up and realize they aren’t the only one who feels this way. Because the utter confusion sucks, plain and simple. Personally, I’m still lost in regards to my own sexuality, but through writing my characters finding theirs, mine has become slightly clearer.
Now let me tell you a bit about the book. It’s titled We Awaken and is being released on July 14 but is now available for pre-order. There are two female asexual protagonists, one of which is a creator of good dreams. The genre is cheesy, young adult fantasy with a dash of romance because I don’t see any fault in happy endings. Here’s how the back of the book describes itself:
Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.
But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.
Pre-order it here so that I can afford coffee: https://www.harmonyinkpress.com/books/we-awaken-by-calista-lynne-399-b
In the last month, I’ve been asked a lot for recs of happy LGBTQIAP+ books, and this is probably the #1 I’d found to my dismay that most people still hadn’t read. This book is hilarious and adorable, and it’s also thoughtful, and it’s also fun and joyful and angsty too. I don’t know how to make more people read this one, but I’m gonna keep pushing it until everyone does!
Eighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN.
A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?