Fave Five: Sapphic Plus-Size Protagonists

Shhhh it’s really six. Tell no one.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

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Exclusive Cover Reveal: Edge of Nowhere by Felicia Davin

Today on the site we’ve got a brand-new cover reveal! Edge of Nowhere by Felicia Davin is an m/m sci-fi romance with bi and gay leading men and several queer women and a non-binary ace character in the supporting cast. It releases on July 31, 2018, and here are the details!
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Kit Jackson has two talents in life. He can navigate the void known as the Nowhere to teleport himself across long distances and he can keep his mouth shut. These talents have earned him a reputation as a discreet, reliable Nowhere runner—he’ll smuggle anything for the right price—and that’s how Kit likes it. Morals don’t earn money, and neither do friends. When the private research firm Quint Services makes Kit an astounding offer for a mystery delivery, he says yes.

The parcel turns out to be an unconscious man, and even for Kit, that raises questions. When something monstrous attacks them in the Nowhere and throws them into an unknown wilderness, Kit and this stranger, a man named Emil, have to rely on each other. Kit just wants to make his delivery and get paid, but he finds himself increasingly entangled in Quint Services’ dangerous research—and his own attraction to Emil.

Emil Singh left his career in the Orbit Force to work at Quint Services Facility 17, a base hidden in an asteroid, to prepare a team to cross the Nowhere into other worlds. It’s the chance of a lifetime and he can’t wait to explore the universe. But then Emil witnesses a terrible accident in a Facility 17 lab and gets sent to Earth for questioning. Something isn’t right, but before Emil can investigate, he and the Nowhere runner hired to transport him are knocked off course. Is the monster that attacks them a creation of Quint Services? What else is the corporation hiding? He has to get back to Facility 17 to protect his team and he needs Kit’s help. Can he trust the cynical young smuggler?

Aaaand here’s the beautiful cover, by the fabulous Natasha Snow!

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Felicia Davin is the author of the queer fantasy trilogy The Gardener’s Hand, which stars two bi women and a genderfluid man. Her short fiction has been featured in Lightspeed, Nature, and Heiresses of Russ 2016: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their cat. When not writing and reading fiction, she teaches and translates French. She loves linguistics, singing, and baking. She is bisexual, but not ambidextrous.
Find her at feliciadavin.com or on Twitter @FeliciaDavin.

How Gender Stereotyping Inspired Teddy’s Favorite Toy: a Guest Post by Christian Trimmer

If you’re somehow involved in the kidlit publishing world, you’ve almost definitely heard of Christian Trimmer, Editorial Director of Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. But he’s also an author, most recently of the picture book Teddy’s Favorite Toy, about a little boy whose favorite toy is a doll. He’s here today to talk about the personal experience that inspired the book and the growing conversation about gender nonconformity.

But first, here’s the book, which released in February and is illustrated by Madeline Valentine:

A mom goes to great lengths to rescue her son’s favorite doll in this delightful tribute to treasured toys—and mothers.

Teddy has a lot of cool toys. But his very favorite doll has the best manners, the sickest fighting skills, and a fierce sense of style.

Then one morning, something truly awful happens. And there’s only one woman fierce enough to save the day. Can Teddy’s mom reunite Teddy with his favorite toy?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

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I have a vivid memory from my childhood. I’m five years old, lying in my parents’ bed alone. It’s close to bedtime; my mother is somewhere in the apartment, and my father has yet to return home from work. I am sucking my thumb, an activity that my mom has strictly forbidden but that I just cannot keep from doing (again, I’m five). Suddenly, my dad is in the doorframe of the room, and I instinctively pop my thumb out of my mouth. I know my dad doesn’t really care about the thumb-sucking, but if he tells my mom, I will be yelled at. He gently walks over and kneels in front of me, and as if he knows what I’m thinking, he says, “Let’s make a deal. I won’t say anything about you sucking your thumb as long as you cut out all the girl stuff.”

The “girl stuff.” He means me putting on my mom’s skirts and lipstick and sticking tennis balls in my shirt. He’s talking about my play preferences, particularly my favorite toy, a Wonder Woman doll inspired by the TV series starring Lynda Carter, a doll I just happen to have tucked in beside me. I instantly feel shame, and I give him a nod of ascent. Yes, Dad, I will try to behave less like a girl. (If I have a cornerstone memory, this might be it.) I remember coming home from kindergarten soon thereafter to find her gone, my mom informing me that she had thrown the doll away because one of its legs had broken off. In my mind, I scream, “But I don’t care about the leg—I still love her!”

Though I try to keep my promise to my dad, I fail. But I learn to keep my preferences hidden. I only play with Wonder Woman when I’m alone. I look forward to playdates away from my home, particularly with Muriel, who is French and has all of the Strawberry Shortcake dolls and is happy to share them with a boy. When I play superheroes with the other kids in the neighborhood, I whisper my chosen character—Wonder Woman, naturally—to my brother and him alone. As I get older, I start to collect more gender-appropriate toys: the Masters of the Universe and Thundercats. Teela and Cheetara are my favorites, but it is easy enough to keep that hidden among their all-dude colleagues.

Still, I’m not behaving the way a boy should. I’m teased at school. I try to be what they want me to be and fail again, and the layers of shame are getting deeper. I’m given mixed messages from my mom: “Don’t let their teasing bother you, they’re just jealous. But you better not be gay.” I am gay, and I don’t talk about it in front of her for years to make sure she feels comfortable. That approach—put others comfort before your own—becomes second nature in most of my relationships, personal and professional. It is exhausting.

I just wanted to play with a doll!

Years later, I write a picture book called Teddy’s Favorite Toy about a kid and his favorite doll and their awesome adventures. His mother doesn’t care that he loves this doll—she celebrates it. As I’m working on the manuscript, Target announces that it will stop labeling toys for boys and girls. On the day we announce the deal, Mattel runs a Barbie commercial featuring a boy for the first time. The outrage that accompanies both events is muted by the overwhelming support.

There’s a growing conversation about gender nonconformity. (That’s what I was doing back in the early 1980s—gender nonconforming. I much prefer that expression to “sissy.”) Earlier this year, the New York Times published an article called “Breaking Gender Stereotypes in the Toy Box,” which concluded, “Children are actively seeking clues about what their gender identities mean; toys and play should give them space, not narrow their choices.” Last summer, the Times published an article about “How to Raise a Feminist Son,” which included this very valuable lesson: Let him be himself. Though progress has been made in breaking down gender stereotypes for children, the barriers remain strong, particularly for boys. Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology and gender studies, in a CNN article titled “Why Girls Can Be Boyish but Boys Can’t Be Girlish,” noted, “Women have changed what it means to be a woman and embrace a much larger human canvas. Men are still painting on half the canvas.”

Though I was raised in an era that shunned and shamed its effeminate boys, I found a way to move past traditional ideas of masculinity, to use more of the canvas. Therapy absolutely helped, as did an intelligent, open-minded circle of friends. Living in New York City made everything seem possible—I highly recommend it. Being gay, the ultimate affront to traditional masculinity, revealed to me the limitations put on straight men in terms of the careers they are “allowed” to pursue and the way they approach relationships. I highly recommend it.

I have friends with small children, and it’s amazing to see how gentle and encouraging they are with them. I hope that for every child—that they get to be themselves and experience the world without limits. I wrote Teddy’s Favorite Toy  for all the little kids who maybe like things they’re not supposed to. I wrote it for the parents who allow their kids to explore the world unfettered. Most of all, I wrote it for five-year-old me, who was made to feel ashamed for loving a doll.

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Christian Trimmer is a children’s book editor and writer. He is the author of Simon’s New BedMimi and Shu in I’ll Race You!Teddy’s Favorite Toy, and Snow Pony and the Seven Miniature Ponies. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his partner. Learn more about him, his books, and lots of other things at ChristianTrimmer.com.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown!

Please excuse me while I go full fangirl, but if you’ve spent any time asking for recs on the LGBTQReads Tumblr, you know that Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit falls out of my mouth about twelve times a day. So how psyched am I to be revealing the cover of Jaye Robin Brown‘s next f/f YA, The Meaning of Birds, which releases on April 16, 2019?? (Very. Is that not obvious? I’m sorry, I thought it was obvious.) Here’s the story behind the story:

Before:
Ever since her father’s death, Jessica has struggled with the anger building inside her. And being one of the only out teens in school hadn’t helped matters. But come sophomore year, all that changes when effervescent Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent as an artist. Suddenly the future is a blank canvas, filled with possibilities.

After:
In the midst of senior year, Jess’s perfect world is erased in an instant when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from another devastating loss, Jess falls back into her old ways. She gets into fights. She pushes away her family and friends. And she trashes her plans for art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.
 
Desperate to escape her grief, Jess finds solace in her gritty work-study program, letting her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Jess may never draw again, but if she can find room in her heart to heal, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself.

And here’s the most excellent cover, designed by Jessie Gang with illustrations by Elliana Esquivel!

The Meaning of Birds releases from Harper on April 16, 2019!

Jaye Robin Brownor JRo to her friends, has been many things in her life–jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher–but is now living the full-time writer life. She currently lives in New England but is taking her partner, dog, and horses back south to a house in the woods where she hopes to live happily ever after. She is the author of NO PLACE TO FALL, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, and the forthcoming, THE MEANING OF BIRDS which releases 4/16/19.

Better Know an Author: Brandon L.G. Taylor

If you’re in even the remotest vicinity of queer book Twitter or literary Twitter or any of the good corners of Twitter, really, this month’s author needs no introduction, but I’m gonna give him one anyway.

Brandon L.G. Taylor is one of those literary citizens who makes you feel like you’re getting a little smarter every time you ingest a single one of his mindgrapes. (You know, I realized that sounded gross as soon as I typed it out, but I’m leaving it.) You can find his incredible essays and short fiction all over the internet, but lucky us, there’s so much more to come (thanks to a two-book deal and the fact that he’s a staff writer at Literary Hub anan Associate Editor at Electric Lit, all while studying at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and by the way, he also Sciences) and I’m here to ask about alllll of it. Join us!

Q: I’m so excited to pick your brain on things that I barely know where to begin, but oh, I know a good place: YOUR UPCOMING NOVEL. What can you tell us about it?

A: I have been looking forward to this Q&A for a long time! I’m so thrilled to finally get a chance to do it. As for my novel, it’s called Real Life, and it’s about a queer black PhD student in the Midwest who finds himself grappling with the difficulties of relationships and also with what it means to live a real life. I really wanted to write a campus novel because I love them so much, but I also wanted to address the fact that as a genre, that kind of novel tends to exclude black people and queer people.

Q: You’re so well known for your short stories and essays, I have to admit that seeing you sell a full-length novel was the most delightful surprise. How did you find the experience of writing a novel as compared to shorter forms?

A: I was worried that people would feel like I had played a trick on them given all the slander I’ve made about novels over the years. But I’m so glad that wasn’t the case. Writing Real Life was not too different from writing the stories. I was very strict with myself because I can be lazy and unmotivated. So I was in butt-in-the-chair every day for about five weeks. It’s different, of course, in all the ways that writing a longer form is different from a short form. You have more room for character development and the kinds of details you can use are different. Also, the construction of scenes is different. But I think anyone who has read my stories will definitely not be too surprised by the novel in terms of voice or interest or anything like that. It definitely felt to me like I was writing the sort of novel that only I could write, and also the only kind of novel that I was capable of writing. So expect lots of sweaters and great décor!

Q: Speaking of your short-form work, is there a short story of yours you wish got more eyes on it? An essay? Please share any and all!

A: I think maybe like five people read this essay when it came out, but it’s one I love so so much. It’s an essay about masculinity, wounded art men, and queer desire. I was really trying to grapple with a lot of my own complicity in toxic masculinity which all along I thought I had been subverting.

Q: You put a magnificent amount of yourself on the page, which is something even the most privileged of people struggle with, let alone those most frequently silenced by the margins. Does it get less scary with time? Has the reception to your work surprised you? What’s the best thing you’ve heard in response to it?

A: I think because of some of the trauma in my past, I have a very difficult time with secrecy or withholding things. I don’t like to feel like I’m holding things back or like I’m being elusive. I like to just get things out up front and just say them and put them on the page. I think in many ways my honesty in writing is a coping mechanism because if I write it down and if I’m honest, then no one can tell me that I wasn’t honest? Or that something didn’t happen. So I’ve always tried to be really honest and really truthful, even if that means saying that I don’t know something or remember it or understand why something happened. And I think people respond to that. Because of the nature of my work, it would be a little irresponsible to give details about things people have shared with me in private in response to my work. But someone recently wrote me and said that reading an essay of mine in passing had given them the courage they needed to confront someone they hadn’t previously been able to. And that was just incredible. You know. Having that kind of effect on someone, giving them space to do something they felt the need to do. That to me is the best thing. I’m always trying to hold space for myself and by extension, for others.

Q: YA is where I’m most knowledgeable, so I’m particularly grateful that you’re generous with your literary fiction recs. What are some of your favorite titles you’d really love to see more people reading and discussing?

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A: I’d love if more people read Donald Windham’s Two People, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, Darryl Pinckney’s Black Deutschland, Nick White’s How to Survive a Summer and his collection Sweet and Low, No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal, and honestly a book that I think everybody needs to be reading right this very moment is Alexander Chee’s Edinburgh.

Q: You’ve spoken about being from the South, and you’re currently living in the Midwest. How would you say your personal settings inform your work? 

A: This is such a fantastic question. I’ve been thinking about it a lot more in the last few months especially. I always struggle to write about the South. It’s really such a difficult place to capture. I’m especially aware of all the different ways people speak there, and as a writer, I feel this tremendous burden to try to capture the breadth of the sonic landscape. It’s just really hard for me because I’m from there and yet have always felt like an outsider so I’m aware of all of the false moves I make when trying to write about the South. And I’m not a born Midwesterner, so I don’t feel comfortable writing about them, but the landscape is so familiar to me now and I don’t have quite the same baggage as with the South. So what I’ve ended up doing is writing about Southern people who find themselves displaced to the Midwest. That to me feels like the one experience I know the most about. It’s always the perspective of the outsider, in a way. And so what I find is that in my work, my characters have a kind of visceral awareness of their surroundings—nature is so important in the South, and also humor and darkness—and yet they’re amongst all of these strange people and their strange Midwestern customs.

Q: I love when your Curious Cat answers pop up on my Twitter timeline. What’s your favorite question you’ve ever gotten over there?

A: Curious Cat is so much fun. It’s WILD. I don’t know if I have a favorite question, but my favorite genre of question is any time someone asks me to dreamcast a Jane Austen adaptation. Because WHAT A TREASURE. There’s one I’ve been sitting for like 6 months about dream casting an adaptation of Middlemarch, and every time I think I’m ready to answer that one, I realize I’m not. It’s quite stressful.

Q: You’re currently a student at Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which I suspect is a great dream of many writers. For those of us who’ve never done any sort of residency, what’s a typical day like?

A: Iowa is…yes, a dream come true, and also kind of boring? Which I know is a tremendous privilege. Essentially, I wake up at noon, drink some coffee, browse Twitter, and then write for a few hours. We don’t have a lot of demands on our time, which is nice. We go to Workshop every Tuesday. And some students have seminars to attend, but really, it’s just hours and hours of you and your own ideas and trying to not bore yourself half to death with your own bad writing. It’s kind of like year-round summer camp. The workshops are sometimes good and sometimes bad, but it’s been a year of really thinking very deeply about what I want to do in my art and how I want to…push it forward or not. It’s a lot of me time. Which isn’t always great.

Q: Swinging back to your book deal, in addition to the novel, you’ve also got a book of short stories coming. What can you share about it? Will it be all new work we’ve never seen before, or are some old favorites creeping in?

A: It’s called Filthy Animals. There will definitely be some old favorites. Expect stories about ballet and open relationships and math nerds and mental illness and caregiving and desire. There are no straight people in any of the stories. And what I hope is that readers feel like they’re finally getting stories about people they’ve always wanted to read about. There are fat queer bodies in the stories. There are black and brown queer people in the stories. They are the center of the stories, not just side characters. I tried to write a book that felt unapologetically interested in the interior lives of people who often aren’t allowed to rise above the level of mere backdrop. And as an artist, I was trying to lay claim to material that is often not seen as the rightful material of black and queer writers. But, at the end of the day, I just wanted to write really elegant stories about the kinds of people I know and love and am curious about.

Q: Where do you feel like queer lit could still strongly use growth? What would you like to see that you haven’t yet? 

A: I think that queer lit could stand to be more interested in the lives of black people and fat people and fat black people. I think that queer lit could be more interested in our lives outside of desirability, if that makes sense. So much of the current discourse is around proving queer worth by virtue of our being desired by normative gazes. And I just think, yes, that is an important narrative to tell, but also, there is more to our lives than just desire and sex. There are more problems. And ultimately, our relationships to one another are so complicated and nuanced, and I really think that queer lit could stand to grow in order to accommodate that complexity. It feels like literary queer novels are novels of malaise and sadness or tremendous violence and more genre novels are novels of speculative futures and evolving body discourse. But I wonder if we aren’t missing the everyday mundane lives of queer people. It feels like there’s more work to be done there, in a mode that isn’t just stately and suburban. So, I guess, my answer to this question is that I think queer lit could become a bit more boring. I’d love to read more novels about fat black queer museum docents in cardigans who do not want to be touched and have meaningful relationships with their best friends. I don’t want to see that kind of story replace current queer narratives. I’d just like to see the range of options expand. There’s room for everyone.

Q: What’s the first queer rep you saw or read that really resonated with you? 

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A: The first queer rep I saw that really resonated with me that I can recall is probably Call Me by Your Name. I read that novel back in 2007 as a recent high school graduate who was just starting to identify as gay, like, in a real, concerted way. It blew me away. It gave me a reason to think that being gay, whatever that meant, could also mean being a person in the world. I hadn’t thought of that before.

Q: What upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

A: Alexia Arthurs has a short story collection called How to Love a Jamaican which I am very stoked about. David Chariandy’s new novel Brother is also on my list. It’s sure to be beautiful. History of Violence by Édouard Louis, which comes out quite soon. And most of all, Ben Marcus has a new collection of stories called Notes from the Fog this fall which is definitely going to be good and weird.

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brandonljtaylorBrandon Taylor is the associate editor of Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Literary Hub. His writing has received fellowships from Lambda Literary, Kimbilio Fiction, and the Tin House Summer Writer’s workshop.  He currently lives in Iowa City, where he is a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction. His debut novel is forthcoming from Riverhead Books.

Neither Author-Illustrator Airlie Anderson on Creating a Genderfluid Picture Book: a Guest Post

Please welcome author-illustrator Airlie Anderson to the site today to discuss how her picture book, Neither, which has a genderfluid main character, came to be!

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NeitherGrowing up, my sisters and I were lucky enough to have picture books all around us. We each had our own little bookshelf with our favorites stacked inside, and sometimes we got them signed at our local bookshop. (I think I was around eleven when Chris Van Allsburg signed my copies of The Polar Express and Jumanji. I told him I wanted to be an author-illustrator, and he told me I could do it, and to keep at it. I was starstruck.) Our parents never took our picture books away or told us they were “too young” as we got older, and I still haven’t stopped reading or collecting them. I’ve been a picture book reader my whole life, and I’ve been scribbling pictures and stories for just as long.

A few years ago, I had a dream about a multi-hued character with several different animal qualities. When I woke up I thought, “that’s a book idea and it’ll be called Neither.” I don’t usually envision a cover or a title before the book is even written, but that’s what happened with this story. I drew a lot of little Neither doodles and words in my sketchbook in a coffee shop to keep the idea going, then sat down in my studio to really work on it. One day I started scribbling in the early afternoon, and when I looked up again, it was dark outside. It was a “flow” experience, a rare one in which I got totally lost. I love those. They can’t be forced or brought on artificially.

It wasn’t until months later, when I thought back on the dream about the multi-hued character, the sketching that came after, and all the other influences that crossed my path while writing Neither, that I realized something important: around the time I had the initial dream, I had been teaching art classes to an inspiring group of middle schoolers. One of them had been identifying as female, and over the course of the next year, transitioned to identifying as male. The idea of questioning something as ingrained in our society as gender made me think of my characters and story in a new light. My student’s fluidity opened my mind to many different modes of representation and expression.

He also happened to be a creative sketcher, freely scribbling beautiful creatures and characters that made the rest of the class say “how did you do that!” with smiles on their faces (and sometimes their heads on desks, playfully flabbergasted). His ability with art was another inspiring piece of the puzzle—self-expression seemed to flow from him in a way that we should all hope to achieve. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, this student has a remarkable effect on the creation of Neither, who seemed to almost spontaneously generate in my mind. All I had to do was stand aside and let the character hatch.

It wasn’t the only thing that hatched during the making of this book, though. Right when my editor, designer, and I were getting into the heart of Neither, I gave birth to my first baby. I’d known the timing of these things would align, and we could have delayed the book process a bit, but I figured I would just power through. Art school had prepared me for everything, right? And when my husband and I first started to settle in at home with the baby, I thought, “Hey! I still feel like myself!” But in retrospect, I was swirling into a mysterious new world. A terrifyingly cute (there needs to be a word for this) being had come into our lives, and his newborn expressions and proportions somehow worked their way into the book. The new parent sleep deprivation haze removed a lot of my inhibitions, especially concerning the weirdness of the characters. There’s one spread that features the creatures of The Land of All, including a skateboarding narwhal wearing a scarf. I can tell you with confidence that this creature would never have popped into my head if I hadn’t been in a hallucinatory state of mind.

Once I finalized the pencil sketches for all the spreads, it was time for my favorite part of the process, the icing on the cake: painting! By that time, the baby was starting to have a regular(ish) sleeping pattern, so I knew I had a certain chunk of time to work on Neither each night. My chef husband would make snacks for me if I was still working when he got home from the restaurant. Much tea was consumed. (Tip: you’re not in the zone until you almost dip your brush in your tea.) I would set up my paints and palette, turn on NPR or my music, and enjoy the feeling of the paint gliding over the paper. The backgrounds of this book are simple but contain a lot of doodly details, which gave me a meditative feeling as I worked to create a world for the characters and for our readers. As author-illustrator James Marshall once said: “A picture book becomes a whole world if it’s done properly.”

In Neither, the world is “The Land of This and That,” a place where every creature fits squarely into one of two distinct teams: Yellow or blue. Bird or bunny. One or the other. But Neither is a green bird-bunny, or bunny-bird. A birdunny? A bunnird? It’s both. It’s neither. This book is about being in between, about not fitting into a typical category. When I wrote it, I hoped that it wouldn’t end up being tied to any single metaphor, but that each reader would interpret it in their own unique way. People have told me they think the story is about race, gender, social weirdness, or being an outsider. The thing they all agree on, however, is that it’s about inclusion and acceptance.

I try to make books for everyone, but particularly for very young readers, children who need a jumping-off place to start talking about being different, feeling awkward, finding a special spot in the world. Someday my son may experience exclusion or pressure to make a choice one way or the other, when it’s his in-betweenness that should be celebrated. My hope is that a little green bird-bunny’s in-betweenness will resonate with him and with others, and that they will each take comfort in knowing that The Land of All is out there.

Neither is available now!

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound 

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Airlie Anderson_Author PhotoAirlie Anderson is the author and illustrator of Cat’s Colors, Momo and Snap Are Not Friends, and numerous other books for children. She is also the recipient of the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, the Independent Publishers Book Award, and the Practical Preschool Award. She grew up in California, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and now lives in New Jersey.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst!

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst was one of the first traditionally published f/f YA fantasies, so there’s no question it’s made its mark in queer book world, especially with its heavy emphasis on romance and lightness and a Happily Ever After. But if you’ve been dying for even more Denna and Mare, you are so in luck: today we’re revealing the cover for the sequel, Of Ice and Shadows!

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Princesses Denna and Mare are in love and together at last—only to face a new set of dangers.

Mare just wants to settle down with the girl she loves, which would be easier if Denna weren’t gifted with forbidden and volatile fire magic. Denna must learn to control her powers, which means traveling in secret to the kingdom of Zumorda, where she can seek training without fear of persecution. Determined to help, Mare has agreed to serve as an ambassador as a cover for their journey.

But just after Mare and Denna arrive in Zumorda, an attack on a border town changes everything. Mare’s diplomatic mission is now urgent: She must quickly broker an alliance with the Zumordan queen to protect her homeland. However, the queen has no interest in allying with other kingdoms—it’s Denna’s untamed but powerful magic that catches her eye. The queen offers to teach Denna herself, and both girls know it would be dangerous to refuse.

As Denna’s powers grow stronger, Mare does her best to be the ambassador her kingdom needs. Her knowledge of Zumorda and its people grows, and so too do her suspicions about the queen’s intentions. With rising tensions and unexpected betrayals putting Mare and Denna in jeopardy and dangerous enemies emerging on all sides, can they protect their love and save their kingdoms?

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And now here’s the cover, designed by Michelle Taormina with art by Jacob Eisinger and guaranteed to look stunning next to the first book!

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Of Ice And Shadows will be released on March 5, 2019. Pre-order it today at B&N, IndieBound, or Amazon!

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Evrim Icoz Photography

Audrey Coulthurst writes YA books that tend to involve magic, horses, and kissing the wrong people. When she’s not dreaming up new stories, she can usually be found painting, singing, or on the back of a horse. She lives in Santa Monica, California. http://audreycoulthurst.com/

 

Guest Recs From Erin Ptah: Webcomics With Interspecies F/F Romance

It’s been a while since the last webcomic-rec roundup…mostly because I started to have trouble coming up with themes where I haven’t recced all my favorite examples already.

But Pride Month means promo posts all over Twitter and Tumblr, which means I’ve had a deluge of new recs to go through, and now you get to enjoy the results. Especially if you like robots, demons, aliens, and/or furries. This set is part fantasy, part sci-fi, and all wlw.

Today’s theme is: Webcomics with interspecies f/f romance!


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(1) Poppy O’Possum by I. Everett

Poppy O’Possum is a story about a mother named Poppy Odeletta Possum who lives on a world called Flora and wants nothing more than to retire to a comfortable homemaking life with her daughter, Lily. Unfortunately, living’s especially rough on Flora when you’re an opossum, and Poppy’s a regular trouble magnet. She’s moved to a little town in the Fenneclands called Eggton to try and start a new, low-profile life. This fails immediately.

Fantasy comedy-adventure, ongoing. It’s heartwarming. It’s funny. It also has some of the most engaging and complicated magical worldbuilding I’ve ever read, which gets revealed layer by layer. The main relevant part at first is that opossums are the only animals that nullify magic — which is very inconvenient when magic is the foundation of most of your tech, transportation, healthcare, and society in general.

So Poppy and her daughter are dealing with a lot of prejudice, suspicion, and avoidance. Fortunately, Poppy is ridiculously buff, strong, and durable. As long as she has ways to earn money by punching things, she’ll manage.

The rest of the cast is delightful too. There’s some cool exploration of fantasy-world disability, like the guard who uses a magical-construct prosthetic to replace a missing arm. LGBT+ characters keep popping up in the ensemble, including a fashion-designer Shiba Inu drag queen. And when one of Poppy’s friends suspects her of having a secret romance, it’s scandalous, but not because they’re both women — it’s all “b-but you’re an opossum and she’s the Queen.”

(The Queen is an adorable perky fennec magic chemist, and they are actually dating now, and I ship them like it’s my job.)


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(2) Starward Lovers by Miki B.

A piping hot f/f love story about longing and space aliens.

Sci-fi drama, ongoing. Cute shy butch falls for glamorous cool femme…who turns out to be a secret-agent alien fighter. Cute shy butch (Jen) gets drawn into hot space-warrior femme’s (Revonda’s) team of adventurers. (These two are human, but there are other human/alien pairings along the way.) Hot space-warrior appears stoic and closed-off, especially compared to her more gregarious teammates…but could she have more going on under the surface?

The art is slick and clean; the shading is deceptively minimalist, but used to great effect. Jen is cute and likeable, while Revonda’s style is clearly “lesbian femme” as distinct from “conventionally-attractive straight woman”, which is something a lot of artists (self included) have a hard time pulling off.

I should mention that this one sat in my “do I like it enough to rec?” pile for a long time. A few chapters later, it shot up to “rec this to everyone you possibly can.” Without spoiling anything specific, there were things in the writing that were off-putting when it wasn’t clear if they were intentional, and then it turned out yes, yes they were. So even if the early chapters don’t grab you, stick with it. There’s payoff.


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(3) Kill 6 Billon Demons by Abaddon (Tom Parkinson-Morgan)

Sorority sister Allison Ruth must travel to Throne, the ancient city at the center of the multiverse, in an epic bid to save her boyfriend from the clutches of the seven evil kings that rule creation.

Fantasy drama, ongoing. When a supernatural event barges through Allison’s dorm room, her boyfriend gets kidnapped and she ends up in a hell-dimension with a world-conquering magic key stuck in her forehead. At first she spends a lot of time getting dragged around and expositioned at by nominally-helpful entities who don’t want the key ending up in the wrong hands.

The amount of detail in the art is breathtaking, both in the characters — even one-off background figures — and in the urban demonic landscapes. They’re full of levels and lights and eerie architecture…frequently incorporating the stony mountain-sized bodies of earlier beings. I don’t even want to think about how long a single page must take to draw.

Eventually our heroine decides to seize the unexpected new power and go save the boyfriend, largely because nobody else is gonna do it. Along the way she ends up with more-substantial feelings for one of her female allies — a group that includes a law-enforcement angel with gender issues and an ex-monster-crimelord demon who writes fanfiction. Bonus: the fact that Allison is a long-time Sailor Moon fan is a reocurring plot element.

Heads-up, this one includes graphic violence/injury. Along with most of the other content you’d expect from a strip about demons being demons.


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(4) Circuits and Veins by Jem Yoshioka

Androids and Humans, are we really so different? Navigating chronic illness, prejudice and a new relationship, two awkward dorks are trying to understand each other.

Sci-fi romance, ongoing. Aki is a virtual-reality pet designer, working from home in between flare-ups. Ai is an underemployed android, a model old enough to have experienced the AI rights revolution, who just moved in next door.

There’s some ongoing tension from Aki’s chronic pain and a recent breakup, and Ai’s body starting to show that it’s past its warranty date. But mostly it’s fluff, both women occupied with cute texting, pet-sitting, housewarming gifts, job shenanigans, and getting to know each other.


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(5) Patchwork and Lace by Sooz

An adventure/romance about a Lovecraftian Disney Princess mage and her flesh golem partner in monster hunting. It’s about ladies fightin monsters and havin dark pasts and general relationship stuff.

Fantasy adventure, ongoing. Sheol’s a golem with super-strength. Lilika’s a talented human magician with a frilly fashion sense. They travel the world, hunting monsters and adoring each other.

Most of the pages so far involve the first storyline, which wrapped up relatively recently. An entire cave temple was sealed off to protect the town from the results of a summoning gone bad, and our heroines are asked to safely retrieve the bodies. After all, it’s been long enough that no one is still alive in there…right?

(Heads-up for death, PTSD, and discussion of sexual assault.)

Sheol and Lilika refer to each other as “friends” in public — possibly in response to homophobia (we haven’t seen any other open same-sex couples), possibly because a golem being in a relationship with any human would seem weird and threatening to people who don’t know her. Either way, they save the romantic stuff for when nobody else is around.


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (including human/battle-monster f/f) and Leif & Thorn (no human/vampire f/f yet, but stick around). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

New Release Spotlight: When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri

Is there anything more exciting than when a major publisher puts out a queer book and people are actually going to be able to find it on bookshelves in stores?? My God, how sad that that is still so exciting, but let’s be real, it is. In When Katie Met Cassidy, Camille Perri’s sophomore novel, which releases on June 19, 2018, we get an extremely cute, low-angst lesbian romance between a woman who’d thought she was straight and an extremely dapper lifetime lesbian, who go from being professional adversaries to half-reluctant friends to, well. You should read it. Again and again and again.

Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. She’s engaged to charming art curator Paul Michael, has successfully made her way up the ladder at a multinational law firm and has a hold on apartments in Soho and the West Village. Suffice it to say, she has come a long way from her Kentucky upbringing.

But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romantic comedy that explores how, as a culture, while we may have come a long way in terms of gender equality, a woman’s capacity for an entitlement to sexual pleasure still remain entirely taboo. This novel tackles the question: Why, when it comes to female sexuality, are so few women figuring out what they want and then going out and doing it.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound