Once upon a time, this site hosted a cover reveal for Erica Cameron‘s Island of Exiles. Today, we’re excited to have an exclusive brief but enticing excerpt of its sequel, Sea of Strangers, out December 5th!
The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.
Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive, and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.
“She’s good, but you’re better.” I kiss the pad of his thumb and grin as his expression shifts from amusement to arousal. “She’d be more than happy to give you the same thing if I brought you along.”
He smirks. “Is that so?”
“She’s more than a little interested in you, too. Or maybe us.” I lightly bite the tip of his thumb. “But somehow I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon.”
“I don’t know. I mean, where would we find the time?” Tessen jokes, but then his expression turns rueful. “It’s not an unappealing offer, but I told you—touch can be overpowering. And that’s with one. Two would be…”
“You could just watch,” I say with a shrug. And then start chuckling when his eyes go wide and he stops breathing for a beat.
Erica Cameron is the author of books for young adults including the Ryogan Chronicles, the Assassins duology, and The Dream War Saga. She also co-authored the Laguna Tides novels with Lani Woodland. An advocate for asexuality and emotional abuse awareness, Erica has also worked with teens at a residential rehabilitation facility in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale.
“Queer ecofeminist speculative fiction adventure.” If that sounds like your jam, read up on Peach Bottom, a series story by Jackie Snax that’s just that!
There’s a nuclear power plant in Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania.
It’s a small town. A bar, a church, a few trailers. A boiling cauldron, brimming with radiation. That kind of town.
Peach Bottom (the story) is a speculative fiction piece, which means a lot of things, but mostly: there is some great, incredible threat. That threat started with the power plant. It started with something solid.
What I came to realize the more I wrote, however, is that the threat of the power plant was redundant.
The realm of speculative fiction is dominated by men. Zombies and atom bombs and straight white males galore! It seems that folks like us never survive long enough to make it into the story. The villains are all fantastical – incredible and far off, removed from our reality. Because in speculative fiction, there must be a Threat.
To so many who have been published and remembered in the genre – that threat had to be imagined.
My heroes include a nonbinary queer mama, her gay daughter, and a trans lesbian activist. None are white, rich, or neurotypical. They all live on this great, drowning Earth, too. I don’t have to imagine a threat.
We’re already facing our villains. Our great and numerous threats – global climate change, institutionalized racism, transphobia, homophobia. The impossible climb out of poverty and debt. We already have too many things to beat. So, how would we win? How would we survive?
Beyond all that, I just wanna know, too – how would we be, in the future? So few stories have let us survive. How would we live, in a world drowned out by rising tides? How would we thrive, after war, famine, violence? What would our world be like? What would we be like?
More than the threat, speculative fiction is about surviving. It’s about overcoming.
Jackie Snax was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They traveled far, but always came home to their beloved city of red brick and startling honesty. Currently, they live in a crumbling ex work house with their pup daughter, artist bud, and cat roommate.
A couple of months ago on the site, we had a guest post by author Taylor Brooke on mental illness in her debut, Fortitude Smashed. Today, LGBTQReads is privileged to exclusively reveal the cover to its sequel, Curved Horizon, which releases on March 8! Here’s the info:
In the sequel to Fortitude Smashed, navigating the ins and outs of love is hard enough as strangers, but now Daisy and Chelsea must find a way to transform their friendship into something more. Meanwhile, Shannon and Aiden’s year-long relationship is put to the test when a horrific accident puts Shannon’s life at risk.
And here’s the cover!
Doesn’t that look gorgeous next to the cover for Fortitude Smashed??
But wait, there’s more! Voila: an excerpt!
Shannon reached out, opening his beach-tanned hand on the table as an invitation. “Let’s see it; come on.”
Chelsea tried her best glare, but Shannon wasn’t fazed. He’d seen it too many times to take it seriously. She heaved a deep sigh and slapped her right hand in his. He yanked her wrist, and his fingers closed over her knuckles as if he were admiring a ring.
“You’ve got two days left,” he said matter-of-factly. “Nervous already?”
“Of course I am.” She pulled her hand away and reached for a sugar-rimmed martini glass filled with raspberry vodka. “I’ve been terrified of this since I was a little girl, but at least then I had a plan. Now I have no clue what’s going to happen.”
“What’s going to happen is what’s supposed to happen,” Shannon said.
The server returned with their appetizers.
Chelsea stabbed a tiny, deep-fried squid with her fork and dunked it in a vat of spicy marinara. “I thought you were my future for so long, Shannon.” She spoke around a cheek stuffed full of calamari. “I was young and stupid, and I had this fantasy that you’d come back for me. It was immature,” she said pointedly, chewing and swallowing. “I’m not sayin’ all this to make you feel bad; I know I was wrong. I wasted years of my life waitin’ on someone who didn’t exist to come sweep me off my feet. I put that imaginary person to your face, because you’re the only one I ever saw myself with.”
Shannon looked genuinely hurt. His lips pulled down and his brow furrowed. “I’m sorry, Chels, but what happened, happened. How was this imaginary person different from me?” His voice wavered. “I mean—do you still have an idea of your future, because, trust me, the Clock doesn’t care. Fate gives you what you need, not what you think you want.”
“And you needed Aiden?” Chelsea muttered, hoping she didn’t come across as cold as her voice sounded.
“Still do,” Shannon snapped. His irritation showed in the click of his teeth.
“Can we not fight,” Chelsea groaned. She smashed her hands over her face and sighed again, drawing in the longest breath she could before letting it out. “I was young, honey. I had this idea of me and you: me being a doctor in Milford and you taking over as sheriff at the station. It was just an idea. I was already scared over this,” she waved her right hand at him, “when you flew home last year for New Years. Aiden just… when I saw the way you looked at him, it made every fantasy I’d ever given the time a day into a rude awakening.”
After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup artist, Taylor Brooke turned her imagination back to her true love—books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she’s traveling, hiking or reading. She writes Queer books for teens and adults. She is the author of Fortitude Smashed (Interlude Press, 2017) and is represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch Literary Services. Follow her on Twitter at @taysalion.
As is our American Thanksgiving tradition on this site, I asked Twitter and Tumblr what queer books they’re thankful for, and here are a bunch of the responses! (Apologies in advance that I can never figure out how to get rid of the freaking parent tweet. I tried, I swear.)
Malinda Lo’s ASH, which was the first fantasy I read with a queer female protagonist. I wouldn’t have written OF FIRE AND STARS if I hadn’t read ASH first.
Top Ten by @katiecotugno because it's the first bi character I really saw myself in. Under the Lights by @MissDahlELama and Georgia Peaches by @JayeRobinBrown because the world needs more f/f fluff and it makes me happy.
Dali by E.M. Hamill, (third gender MC!) Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller (genderfluid MC), Ashby Holler series by Jamie Zakian, (amazing genderqueer bi rep) King of Bourbon Street by Thea de Salle (Accurate kink, bi guy MC, inexp Dom), many more.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal. The Geography Club (1st book I read with a bi girl). The Abyss Surrounds Us (1st book I read with a queer Asian-American girl). Down Among the Sticks and Bones (related to Jack's gender presentation). Two Boys Kissing.
Super thankful for Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt (which gave us @PhyllisNagy’s @CarolMovie); Ann Allen Shockley’s Loving Her (power of living your truth); Sarah Water’s Night Watch (glorious butch char); and Jackie Kay’s Trumpet (Black trans MC published in ‘98!)
@JayeRobinBrown ‘s book Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit and @themackenzilee ‘s Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue are two of my favorite new reads this year and also among my top favorite 10 books of all time.
I am eternally grateful LGBT books exist in the first place. I'll Give You The Sun by @jandynelson was the first I ever read or found that had a gay MC, and I was so floored that there were real, tangible books that felt like they were for me. (Noah and Brian forever!)
That said, some books I am also absolutely grateful for that deserve everyone's love: Whatever by @skoosie Been Here All Along by @iamsandyhall And I am permanently altered by History Is All You Left Me by @AdamSilvera
Queer lit by great authors for zero dollars in easily devourable slices? Totally accessible whether you’ve got funds and/or a credit card or not? Helllll yes. Please enjoy the authors providing the goods for free, and consider checking out what else they’ve got where applicable!
Alison Evans, author of Long Macchiatos and Monsters, Ida, and more (scroll down for links and brief descriptions)
Brandon Taylor, Assistant Editor at Electric Lit, as posted on Catapult
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.
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.
Greetings! Are you in a desperate search for a completely delightful romance between a genderqueer main character and a trans guy love interest, both of whom have limb-related disabilities? Would you like to alternately smile your face off and clutch your heart for an hour or two? Well then, lemme introduce you to your next backlist read!
Jalen, lover of B-grade sci-fi movies, meets the far-too-handsome P in a cafe while deciding whether or not to skip uni again. When P invites them along to a double feature of Robot Monster and Cat Women of the Moon, Jalen can hardly believe that hot boys like bad sci-fi, too. But as their relationship progresses, Jalen realizes P leaves him wondering if they’re on the same page about what dating means, and if that’s what they’re doing.
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.
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.