I’m so thrilled to be revealing a truly gorgeous cover and excerpt on the site today for The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, a contemporary fantasy releasing from Tor on March 17, 2020! Here’s the story:
At forty, Linus Baker lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of gifted children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management, he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children and their elusive but charming caretaker, Arthur, live. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
And here’s the cover, with art by Chris Sickels/Red Nose Studio (@rednosestudio) and designed by Peter Lutjen!
But wait, there’s more! We’ve even got an excerpt—here’s the first chapter of The House in the Cerulean Sea!
“Oh dear,” Linus Baker said, wiping the sweat from his brow. “This is most unusual.”
That was an understatement. He watched in rapt wonder as an eleven-year-old girl named Daisy levitated blocks of wood high above her head. The blocks spun in slow, concentric circles. Daisy frowned in concentration, the tip of her tongue stuck out between her teeth. It went on for a good minute before the blocks slowly lowered to the floor. Her level of control was astounding.
“I see,” Linus said, furiously scribbling on his pad of paper. They were in the master’s office, a tidy room with government-issued brown carpet and old furniture. The walls were lined with terrible paintings of lemurs in various poses. The master had showed them off proudly, telling Linus painting was her passion, and that if she hadn’t become the master of this specific orphanage, she’d be traveling with a circus as a lemur trainer or even have opened up a gallery to share her artwork with the world. Linus believed the world was better off with the paintings staying in this room, but he kept the thought to himself. He wasn’t there to engage in amateur art criticism. “And how often do you—er, you know? Make things float?”
The master of the orphanage, a squat woman with frizzy hair, stepped forward. “Oh, not often at all,” she said quickly. She wrung her hands, eyes darting back and forth. “Perhaps once or twice . . . a year?”
“A month,” the woman amended. “Silly me. I don’t know why I said a year. Slip of the tongue. Yes, once or twice a month. You know how it is. The older the children get, the more they . . . do things.”
“Is that right?” Linus asked Daisy.
“Oh yes,” Daisy said. “Once or twice a month, and no more.” She smiled beatifically at him, and Linus wondered if she’d been coached on her answers before his arrival. It wouldn’t be the first time it’d happened, and he doubted it’d be the last.
“Of course,” Linus said. They waited as his pen continued to scratch along the paper. He could feel their gazes on him, but he kept his focus on his words. Accuracy demanded attention. He was nothing but thorough, and his visit to this particular orphanage had been enlightening, to say the least. He needed to jot down as many details as he could to complete his final report once he returned to the office.
The master fussed over Daisy, pulling her unruly black hair back, fixing it in place with plastic butterfly clips. Daisy was staring forlornly at her blocks on the floor as if she wished they were levitating once more, her bushy eyebrows twitching.
“Do you have control over it?” Linus asked.
Before Daisy could open her mouth, the master said, “Of course she does. We’d never allow her to—”
Linus held up his hand. “I would appreciate, madam, if I could hear from Daisy herself. While I have no doubt you have her best interests in mind, I find that children such as Daisy here tend to be more . . . forthright.”
The master looked to speak again until Linus arched an eyebrow. She sighed as she nodded, taking a step back from Daisy.
After scribbling a final note, Linus capped his pen and set it and the pad of paper back in his briefcase. He stood from his chair and crouched down before Daisy, knees groaning in protest.
Daisy gnawed on her bottom lip, eyes wide. “Daisy? Do you have control over it?”
She nodded slowly. “I think so? I haven’t hurt anyone since I was brought here.” Her mouth twisted down. “Not until Marcus. I don’t like hurting people.”
He could almost believe that. “No one said you did. But sometimes, we can’t always control the . . . gifts we’re given. And it’s not necessarily the fault of those with said gifts.”
That didn’t seem to make her feel better. “Then whose fault is it?”
Linus blinked. “Well, I suppose there are all sorts of factors. Modern research suggests extreme emotional states can trigger instances such as yours. Sadness. Anger. Even happiness. Perhaps you were so happy, you accidentally threw a chair at your friend Marcus?” It was the reason he’d been sent here in the first place. Marcus had been seen in hospital in order to have his tail looked after. It’d been bent at an odd angle, and the hospital had reported it directly to the Department in Charge of Magical Youth as they were required to do. The report triggered an investigation, which was why Linus had been assigned to this particular orphanage.
“Yes,” Daisy said. “That’s exactly it. Marcus made me so happy when he stole my colored pencils that I accidentally threw a chair at him.”
“I see,” Linus said. “Did you apologize?”
She looked down at her blocks again, shuffling her feet. “Yes. And he said he wasn’t mad. He even sharpened my pencils for me before he gave them back. He’s better at it than I am.”
“What a thoughtful thing to do,” Linus said. He thought about reaching out and patting her on the shoulder, but it wasn’t proper. “And I know you didn’t mean him any harm, not really. Perhaps in the future, we will stop and think before we let our emotions get the better of us. How does that sound?”
She nodded furiously. “Oh yes. I promise to stop and think before I throw any more chairs with nothing but the power of my mind.”
Linus sighed. “I don’t think that’s quite what I—”
A bell ran from somewhere deep in the old house.
“Biscuits,” Daisy breathed before running toward the door.
“Only one,” the master called after her. “You don’t want to spoil your supper!”
“I won’t!” Daisy shouted back before slamming the door behind her. Linus could hear the little pitter-patter of her footsteps as she raced down the hall toward the kitchen.
“She will,” the master muttered, slumping down in her chair behind her desk. “She always does.”
“I believe she’s earned it,” Linus said.
She rubbed a hand over her face before eyeing him warily. “Well, that’s it, then. You’ve interviewed all the children. You’ve inspected the house. You’ve seen that Marcus is doing well. And while there was the . . . incident with the chair, Daisy obviously means no harm.”
He believed she was right. Marcus had seemed more interested in having Linus sign his tail cast rather than getting Daisy into any trouble. Linus had balked, telling him it wasn’t his place. Marcus was disappointed, but bounced back almost immediately. Linus marveled—as he sometimes did—how resilient they all were in the face of everything. “Quite.”
“I don’t suppose you’ll tell me what you’re going to write in your report—”
Linus bristled. “Absolutely not. You will be provided with a copy once I’ve filed it, as you know. The contents will be made clear to you then, and not a moment before.”
“Of course,” the master said hastily. “I didn’t mean to suggest that you—”
“I’m glad you see it my way,” Linus said. “And I know DICOMY will certainly be appreciative as well.” He busied himself with this briefcase, rearranging the contents until he was satisfied. He closed it and snapped the locks in place. “Now, unless there is anything else, I’ll take my leave and bid you—”
“The children like you.”
“I like them,” he said. “I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t.”
“That’s not always how it is with others like you.” She cleared her throat. “Or, rather, the other caseworkers.”
He looked at the door longingly. He’d been so close to making his escape. Clutching his briefcase in front of him like a shield, he turned back around.
The master rose from her chair and walked around the desk. He took a step back, mostly out of habit. She didn’t come any closer, instead, leaning back against her desk. “We’ve had . . . others,” she said.
“Have you? That’s to be expected, of course, but—”
“They don’t see the children,” she said. “Not for who they are, only for what they’re capable of.”
“They should be given a chance, as all children should. What hope would they have to be adopted if they’re treated as something to be feared?”
The master snorted. “Adopted.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Something I said?”
She shook her head. “No, forgive me. You’re refreshing, in your own way. Your optimism is contagious.”
“I am positively a ray of sunshine,” Linus said flatly. “Now, if there’s nothing else, I can show myself—”
“How is it you can do what you do?” she asked. She blanched as if she couldn’t believe what she’d said.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Work for DICOMY.”
Sweat trickled down the back of his neck into the collar of his shirt. It was awfully warm in the office. For the first time in a long time, he wished he were outside in the rain. “And what’s wrong with DICOMY?”
She hesitated. “I mean no offense.”
“I should hope not.”
“It’s just that . . .” She stood from her desk, arms still folded. “Don’t you wonder?”
“Never,” Linus said promptly. Then, “About what?”
“What happens to a place like this after you file your final report. What becomes of the children.”
“Unless I’m called to return, I expect they continue to live as bright and happy children until they become bright and happy adults.”
“Who are still regulated by the government because of who they are.”
Linus felt backed into a corner. He wasn’t prepared for this. “I don’t work for the Department in Charge of Magical Adults. If you have any concerns in that regard, I suggest you bring it up with DICOMA. I’m focused solely on the well-being of children, nothing more.”
The master smiled sadly. “They never stay as children, Mr. Baker. They always grow up eventually.”
“And they do so using the tools that one such as yourself provides for them should they find themselves aging out of the orphanage without having been adopted.” He took another backward step toward the door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to catch the bus. It’s a rather long trip home, and I don’t want to miss it. Thank you for your hospitality. And again, once the report is filed, you will be sent a copy for your own records. Do let us know if you have any questions.”
“Actually, I do have another—”
“Submit it in writing,” Linus called, already through the door. “I look forward to it.” He shut it behind him, the latch clicking in place. He took a deep breath before exhaling slowly. “Now you’ve gone and done it, old boy. She’ll send you hundreds of questions.”
“I can still hear you,” the master said through the door.
Linus startled before hurrying down the hall.
He was about to leave through the front door when he paused at a bright burst of laughter coming from the kitchen. Against his better judgment, he tiptoed toward the sound. He passed by posters nailed to the walls, the same messages that hung in all the DICOMY-sanctioned orphanages he’d been to. They showed smiling children below such legends as we’re happiest when we listen to those in charge and a quiet child is a healthy child and who needs magic when you have your imagination?
He stuck his head in the kitchen doorway.
There, sitting at a large wooden table, was a group of children.
There was a boy with blue feathers growing from his arms.
There was a girl who cackled like a witch; it was fitting seeing as how that’s what her file said she was.
There was an older girl who could sing so seductively, it brought ships crashing onto the shore. Linus had balked when he’d read that in her report.
There was a selkie, a young boy with a fur pelt resting on his shoulders.
And Daisy and Marcus, of course. Sitting side by side, Daisy exclaiming over his tail cast through a mouthful of biscuit. Marcus grinned at her, his face a field of rusty freckles, tail resting on the table. Linus watched as he asked her if she would draw him another picture on his cast with one of her colored pencils. She agreed immediately. “A flower,” she said. “Or a bug with sharp teeth and stinger.”
“Ooh,” Marcus breathed. “The bug. You have to do the bug.”
Linus left them be, satisfied with what he’d seen.
He made his way to the door once more. He sighed when he realized he’d forgotten his umbrella once again. “Of all the—”
He opened the door and stepped out into the rain to begin the long journey home.
Excerpt used with permission from Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, (c) 2019 TJ Klune.
TJ Klune is an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His debut novel, Bear, Otter, and the Kid, was chosen by Amazon as one of their Top 10 LGBTQ Books published in 2011. Other novels have won him the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance and the 2016 the Gold Medal from the Florida Publisher’s Association. Visit him online at TJKluneBooks.com, on Twitter at @tjklune or on Instagram as @tjklunebooks.
When Jackson Bird was twenty-five, he came out as transgender to his friends, family, and anyone in the world with an internet connection. Assigned female at birth and having been raised a girl, he often wondered if he should have been born a boy. Jackson didn’t share this thought with anyone because he didn’t think he could share it with anyone. Growing up in Texas in the 1990s, he had no transgender role models. He barely remembers meeting anyone who was openly gay, let alone being taught that transgender people existed outside of punchlines.
Today, Jackson is a writer, YouTuber, and LGBTQ+ advocate living openly and happily as a transgender man. So how did he get here? In this remarkable, educational, and uplifting memoir, Jackson chronicles the ups and downs of growing up gender confused. Illuminated by journal entries spanning childhood to adolescence to today, he candidly recalls the challenges he faced while trying to sort out his gender and sexuality, and worrying about how to interact with the world. With warmth and wit, Jackson also recounts how he navigated the many obstacles and quirks of his transition––like figuring out how to have a chest binder delivered to his NYU dorm room and having an emotional breakdown at a Harry Potter fan convention. From his first shot of testosterone to his eventual top surgery, Jackson lets you in on every part of his journey—taking the time to explain trans terminology and little-known facts about gender and identity along the way. Through his captivating prose, Bird not only sheds light on the many facets of a transgender life, but also demonstrates the power and beauty in being yourself, even when you’re not sure who “yourself” is.
Part memoir, part educational guide, Sorted is a frank, humorous narrative of growing up with some unintended baggage.
If you’re into Harry Potter, you might notice a subtle play on words in the title of my debut book Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place. Referencing the Hogwarts Sorting Hat was a purposeful nod to the series and community that has played such a huge role in my life––and in the lives of so many of us from the Potter Generation. But growing up, I never wanted people to know how big of a Harry Potter fan I really was. In middle school, I didn’t want to hear my classmates’ parroting their youth pastors and saying I would surely go to hell for reading books on witchcraft (which always baffled me because did that mean they actually believed in witchcraft?). In high school, when other students started attending the midnight Harry Potter movie releases as a social affair, I didn’t want them to know that I had been following every production detail of the film for years on fansites because it wasn’t cool to care that much. In college, when I had started volunteering for a Harry Potter-themed nonprofit and attending wizard rock shows on the weekends, everyone else had collectively decided it was time to move on. Harry Potter was for kids.
Sometime in between my fifth year of working professionally for the Harry Potter Alliance and penning a peer-reviewed case study of the organization, I mostly stopped caring what people thought. Harry Potter had played too big a role in my life to deny that huge part of me any longer. After years of insisting on having professional-sounding job titles like Communications Director so people would know that my day job wasn’t merely a fan club, I decided, eff it, and asked during a promotion to be called the Director of Wizard-Muggle Relations. It was 2017. The world was a dumpster fire and I had more important things to care about than people assuming my job wasn’t serious enough. I was ready to own the fact that my career had thus far consisted mostly of attending nerdy conventions and training fans to become leaders in their local communities.
But when I first set out to complete my memoir, I reverted to my adolescent ways and originally downplayed the influence of Harry Potter on my life. I didn’t mention first discovering the series as a nine year old or skipping class in sixth grade to go see the earliest showing in my town of the first movie. Wizard rock shows became punk shows. Harry Potter fan conferences were just conferences and my involvement with the Harry Potter Alliance was given my usual sanitized rebranding as merely a nonprofit focusing on civic engagement.
As the public announcement of my book got closer and closer, however, and I still hadn’t settled on a title that worked for the book, I found myself in a frantic brainstorming session with fellow guests and staff at the Granger Leadership Academy (GLA) in Philadelphia. GLA is the Harry Potter Alliance’s intergenerational leadership conference where Potter fans and more convene for a weekend of activist training, keynote talks, and lots of fandom-tinged girl power.
I camped out in the staff room where I recruited anyone who walked through the door to join my title brainstorm in between their other (more important) tasks. We threw out lots of titles like Written in Transition, Not Your Father’s Masculinity, Not Another Trans Memoir, and Hatching Him: The Jackson Bird Story (followed by its sequels Hard Boiled: My Life as an Influencer and Over Easy: How I Quit the Big City and Started a Farm).
I wrote down every single one of them, even the jokes, in my Notes app in case they could spark some inspiration later. At one point my friend Katie, possibly inspired by the magical vibes of the conference and the simultaneous conversation happening on the other side of the staff room about primary and secondary Hogwarts houses, recommended Sorted––a nod to both Hogwarts house sorting and being sorted into a gender. I chuckled and immediately vetoed it, not even adding it to the Notes doc. I was not going to make a corny Harry Potter joke the title of my debut book.
The conference ended and I took the bus back home to New York City with 131 possible titles and feeling no closer to making a decision than I had been before. As I sat on my sofa that night, tossing around various combinations of titles and subtitles, the word “sorted” came back to me. Away from the Hermione Granger-inspired environment I’d just been living in for the past three days, it didn’t seem so corny. In fact, as I realized the many different connotations of the word and started picturing cover design concepts, it seemed enticing. With an explanatory subtitle, it could be perfect.
I realized it would require some explanation though and if it were to really work it would need to be baked thematically throughout the book, which meant possibly adding in more stories about Harry Potter. Once again, I found myself confronted by my insecurities around being known as a Harry Potter fan.
There’s no shame in being a fan of Harry Potter, but I think I’d always been embarrassed by just how big a fan I really was. In high school, I listened to fan-made Harry Potter podcasts on the bus ride to school (back in the day when you had to manually download podcasts and burn them onto CDs to listen to portably if you didn’t have an iPod yet). In the evenings, I procrastinated on homework by reading fanfiction. I knew every bit of Harry Potter-related news several days before anyone else was talking about it because I religiously followed the fan sites that got exclusive press releases from Warner Bros. and Scholastic. I wasn’t just a casual fan. I lived and breathed Harry Potter.
A hug that went a beat too long in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie led me to Remus/Sirius fanfiction and the first stirrings of my queer sexuality. When my depression and gender dysphoria overtook my ability to make meaningful friendships in college, the online fan community stepped in to give me a social outlet and friends who didn’t care what I wore or if I sometimes put my foot in my mouth too much. As I entered real post-college adulthood, my older co-workers at the HPA modeled how to be responsible, creative, loving adults. And at twenty-five, when I knew I had to come out as transgender and begin transitioning, the Harry Potter fan community erupted in an outpouring of support––just like I always knew they would.
How could I not include all of that in a memoir about growing up and discovering myself? Harry Potter––the books, the fan-made creations, and the fans themselves––had been there every step of the way.
Maybe some people will still think its childish. Some will tell me to read another book. Surely others will simply continue to be uninterested in the Boy Who Lived and the community that’s been built around him, but similar critiques could be made about any other major aspects of mine or any other person’s life. I may have been loath to admit how inextricably tied I am to the Wizarding World in the past for fear it would make me uncool (as if that and not my deep knowledge of Elizabethan theater or increasing inability to understand pop culture as I age would be the primary thing to make me uncool), but I know now that I can’t deny it. Just as it’s impossible to tell what kind of person I might’ve been had I not been trans, I honestly don’t know who I’d be if a certain bespectacled boy wizard hadn’t entered my life twenty years ago. So, I guess what I’m saying is, your royalty check will be in the mail soon, Mrs. Rowling.
(JK! Books belong to their readers and fan creations are totally Fair Use, but thank you for writing the original series and inspiring us all for generations to come)
Jackson Bird is a YouTube creator and LGBTQ+ advocate dedicated to demystifying the transgender experience. His TED Talk “How to talk (and listen) to transgender people” has been viewed over a million times. Jackson is a recipient of the GLAAD Rising Star Digital Innovator Award and lives in New York City. You can follow him online @JackIsNotABird.
Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:
* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.
Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places.
Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.
For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.
Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.
A fun, witty, light-hearted romantic comedy―The Rosie Project, for teens
Seventeen-year-old Amalia Yaabez and Ezra Holtz couldn’t be more different. They’ve known (and avoided) each other their whole lives; she unable to stand his buttoned-up, arrogant, perfect disposition, and he unwilling to deal with her slacker, rule-breaking way of moving through the world.
When they are unhappily paired on an AP Psychology project, they come across an old psychological study that posits that anyone can fall in love with anyone, if you put them through the right scientific, psychological steps. They decide to put that theory to the test for their project, matching couples from different walks of high school life to see if science really can create love.
As they go through the whirlwind of the experiment, Ezra and Amalia realize that maybe it’s not just the couples they matched who are falling for each other . . .
I hate ice cream. Ever since my fiancée left me at the altar and skewered me in her bestseller “Embrace Your Inner Ice Cream Sandwich: Finding the Positive You in a World of Negativity,” I haven’t been able to stomach the stuff.
Unfortunately, my five-year-old niece is a budding foodie and her favorite place in the world is Ginger Scoops, a cutesy Asian ice cream shop. Since I’ve been looking after my niece a lot lately, I’ve spent too much time there, sipping black coffee, refusing to eat ice cream, and trying not to look at the owner, Chloe Jenkins. Chloe is obnoxiously cheerful, and I can’t stand her.
Naturally, I end up kissing her.
But I’ve sworn off women after the fiasco with my ex-fiancée, and I’m convinced I’m no good at relationships. Still, with Chloe I’m tempted to do the impossible: give love and ice cream another chance…
For sixteen years, Nate was the perfect son—the product of a no-nonsense upbringing and deep spiritual faith. Then he met Cam, who pushed him to break rules, dream, and accept himself. Conflicted, Nate began to push back. With each push, the boys became more entangled in each others’ worlds…but they also spiraled closer to their breaking points. And now all of it has fallen apart after a fistfight-turned-near-fatal-incident—one that’s left Nate with a stab wound and Cam in jail.
Now Nate is being ordered to give a statement, under oath, that will send his best friend to prison. The problem is, the real story of what happened between them isn’t as simple as anyone thinks. With all eyes on him, Nate must make his confessions about what led up to that night with Cam…and in doing so, risk tearing both of their lives apart.
Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.
If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…
With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?
Carter’s fiancé is in love with someone else. Link has just been left at the altar. After bonding over mutual heartbreak at the would-be reception’s open bar, Link and Carter pass out in the honeymoon suite—and are mistaken for the happy newlywed couple the next morning. Reluctant to deal with the fallout from their breakups, they embark on an exciting week of fake honeymooning, during which Carter starts to have real feelings for Link. A genderqueer artist who lives life by their own rules, Link inspires Carter to build a new future. Against the eclectic and electric backdrop of New Orleans, Carter and Link have to decide if a second chance at love is in the cards, or if they’re only meant to be sidelined in someone else’s story.
The long-awaited sequel to Of Fire and Stars—in which Mare and Denna travel to a new and dangerous kingdom where Denna must be trained to tame her magic by a mysterious queen who is not all she seems. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce.
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?
If anyone else had asked for his help publishing a naughty novel, Ash would have had the sense to say no. But he’s never been able to deny Verity Plum. Now he has his hands full illustrating a book and trying his damnedest not to fall in love with his best friend. The last thing he needs is to discover he’s a duke’s lost heir. Without a family or a proper education, he’s had to fight for his place in the world, and the idea of it—and Verity—being taken away from him chills him to the bone.
One radical bookseller
All Verity wants is to keep her brother out of prison, her business afloat, and her hands off Ash. Lately it seems she’s not getting anything she wants. She knows from bitter experience that she isn’t cut out for romance, but the more time she spends with Ash, the more she wonders if maybe she’s been wrong about herself.
One disaster waiting to happen
Ash has a month before his identity is exposed, and he plans to spend it with Verity. As they explore their long-buried passion, it becomes harder for Ash to face the music. Can Verity accept who Ash must become or will he turn away the only woman he’s ever loved?
Content Warning: off page domestic violence, off page neglect of child, epileptic seizure
Senior Ariel Stone is the perfect college applicant: first chair violin, dedicated community volunteer, and expected valedictorian. He works hard – really hard – to make his life look effortless. A failed Calculus quiz is not part of that plan. Not when he’s number one. Not when his peers can smell weakness like a freshman’s body spray.
Figuring a few all-nighters will preserve his class rank, Ariel throws himself into studying. His friends will understand if he skips a few plans, and he can sleep when he graduates. Except Ariel’s grade continues to slide. Reluctantly, he gets a tutor. Amir and Ariel have never gotten along, but Amir excels in Calculus, and Ariel is out of options.
Ariel may not like Calc, but he might like Amir. Except adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push him past his limit.
With a touch, Lexi can sense how and when someone will die. Some say it’s a gift. But to Lexi it’s a curse—one that keeps her friendless and alone. All that changes when Lexi foresees the violent death of a young woman, Jane, outside a club. But Jane doesn’t go to the afterlife quietly. Her ghost remains behind, determined to hunt down her murderer, and she needs Lexi’s help. In life, Jane was everything Lexi is not—outgoing, happy, popular. But in death, all Jane wants is revenge. Lexi will do anything to help Jane, to make up for the fact that she didn’t—couldn’t—save Jane’s life, and to keep this beautiful ghost of a girl by her side for as long as possible.
When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.
A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.
There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .
Seventeen-year-old internet video star Fit is on a mission to become famous at all costs. She shares her life with her fans through countless videos (always sporting some elaborate tinfoil accessory), and they love her for it. If she goes viral, maybe she can get out of her small casino town and the cramped apartment she shares with her brother and grandpa. But there’s one thing Fit’s fans don’t know about her: when Fit was three-years-old, her mother, suffering from postpartum psychosis, tried to kill her.
Now Fit’s mother, River, has been released from prison. Fit is outraged that River is moving in with the family, and it’s not long before Fit’s video followers realize something’s up and uncover her tragic past. But Fit soon realizes that the only thing her audience loves more than tragedy is a heartwarming tale of a family reunion. Is faking a relationship with River the key to all Fit’s dreams coming true?
When sort-of-superhero Levon Ludlow meets Jay Jantzen on a bench beside their college quad, he knows he’s met a kindred spirit. Levon can talk to animals, but only pests and nuisances that no one wants to talk to. Jay can manipulate and freeze water, but only thirty-two ounces at a time. They fall in love fast and hard, bonding over their mundane powers and pledging to be content with a small and safe life in Levon’s beloved hometown.
But thirteen years in, Levon knows that small and safe are no longer enough for his partner. Jay’s been on a self-improvement kick, honing and expanding his powers on the sly. And when Jay gets recruited by a super headhunter for a job three thousand miles away, their long-term relationship is tested like never before.
With the dubious advice of some irksome animals—and the help of an unexpected new mentor—Levon tries his hardest to boost his own powers, catch up to Jay, and salvage their bond. But the more he learns about himself, the less clear-cut his choices seem. Can they save their relationship—and if they want different things, should they even try?
Societies thrive on order, and the Rating System is the ultimate symbol of organized social mobility.
The higher it soars, the more valued you are. The lower it plummets, the harder you must work to improve yourself. For the students at the prestigious Maplethorpe Academy, every single thing they do is reflected in their ratings, updated daily and available for all to see.
But when an act of vandalism sullies the front doors of the school, it sets off a chain reaction that will shake the lives of six special students — and the world beyond.
Told in dual timelines—half of the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backward—We Used to Be Friends explores the most traumatic breakup of all: that of childhood besties. At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. Funny, honest, and full of heart, We Used to Be Friends tells of the pains of growing up and growing apart.
Balancing epic and intensely personal stakes, bestselling author Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son is a gritty, fast-paced adventure about two brothers caught up in a magical war generations in the making.
Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.
Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.
Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.
Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.
Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.
And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.
With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that’s impossible to put down.
Maddie Marrow lives for her summers at the Inn at Havenfall, hidden up in the mountains of Colorado. The inn is the only place where she gets to see the boy she loves, Brekken and it provides an escape from her real life, which consists of endless mind-numbing days at high school . . . and visits to the local prison where her mother sits on Death Row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother.
But the inn is much more than it appears. The manicured gardens, Mirror Lake, and even the building itself hold a tantalizing power, a magic meant to protect all who seek refuge and peace. Maddie’s uncle runs the inn, guardian of the gateways to the hidden worlds that converge in the tunnels, and she dreams of one day taking it over.
But this summer, everything is going wrong. Maddie almost gets run over by an alluring new staffer, Taya, her relationship with handsome Brekken becomes complicated, and then the impossible happens: a dead body is discovered, shattering the inn’s sanctity. As questions mount over who’s responsible, Maddie realizes even greater dangers face them all.
With everything she loves at stake, Maddie must confront startling truths about the secrets lurking beneath Havenfall, and within herself.
Physics genius Caro Kerber-Murphy knows she’s smart. With straight As and a college scholarship already in the bag, she’s meeting her two dads’ colossal expectations and then some. But there’s one test she’s never quite been able to ace: love. And when, in a particularly desperate moment, Caro discovers a (definitely questionable) scientific breakthrough that promises to make you irresistible to everyone around you, she wonders if this could be the key. What happens next will change everything Caro thought she knew chemistry – in the lab and in love.
Is her long-time crush Haruki with her of his own free will? Are her feelings for her best girl friend some sort of side-effect? Will her dog, Sirius, ever stop humping her leg?
Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.
Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.
But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
In Southern California, no one lives more than thirty miles from the nearest fault line. Sasha Bloom is standing right on top of one when her world literally crumbles around her. With her mother now dead and father out of the picture, Sasha moves in with her estranged grandparents.
Living in her mom’s old bedroom, Sasha has no idea who she is anymore. Luckily, her grandparents are certain they know who she should be: A lawyer in the making. Ten pounds skinnier. In a socially advantageous relationship with a boy from a good family—a boy like Cole Edwards.
And Cole has ideas for who Sasha should be, too. His plus one at lunch. His girlfriend. His.
Sasha tries to make everything work, but that means folding away her love of photography, her grief for her mother, and he growing interest in the magnificently clever Lily Chen. Sasha wants to follow Lily off the beaten path, to discover hidden beaches, secret menus, and the truth about dinosaur pee.
But being friends with Lily might lead somewhere new. Is Sasha willing to stop being the girl everyone expects and let the girl beneath the surface breath through?
Today on the site I’m excited to be revealing the cover for Human Enough by E.S. Yu, an m/m Paranormal Romance releasing October 7, 2019 from Ninestar Press that stars pansexual and gray-ace leads! Here’s the story:
When Noah Lau joined the Vampire Hunters Association, seeking justice for his parents’ deaths, he didn’t anticipate ending up imprisoned in the house of the vampire he was supposed to kill—and he definitely didn’t anticipate falling for that vampire’s lover.
Six months later, Noah’s life has gotten significantly more complicated. On top of being autistic in a world that doesn’t try to understand him, he still hunts vampires for a living…while dating a vampire himself. Awkward. Yet Jordan Cross is sweet and kind, and after braving their inner demons and Jordan’s vicious partner together, Noah wouldn’t trade him for the world.
But when one of Jordan’s vampire friends goes missing and Noah’s new boss at the VHA becomes suspicious about some of his recent cases, what starts off as a routine paperwork check soon leads Noah to a sinister conspiracy. As he investigates, he and Jordan get sucked into a deadly web of intrigue that will test the limits of their relationship—and possibly break them. After all, in a world where vampires feed on humans and humans fear vampires, can a vampire and a vampire hunter truly find a happy ending together?
E.S. Yu is the author of EIDOLON, a queer science fiction featuring assassins, tech conspiracies, and mental health discussions. E.S. is a lifelong lover of speculative fiction, video games, and superheroes. The stories E.S. writes often reflect darkness and injustice, from the perspective of a multiply marginalized person, while always believing in the power of healing and hope for a happy ending. An immigration attorney in a past life, when not writing, E.S. can be found drinking a lot of green tea and, of course, thinking about her next novel.
I’m so thrilled to be featuring this groundbreaking anthology on the site today, along with eleven notes by queer contributors on their entries! The representation in this book is so wonderfully varied, and it’s great to have so many authors here to talk about it! So here’s The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce ed. by the fabulous Angie Manfredi.
Chubby. Curvy. Fluffy. Plus-size. Thick. Fat. The time has come for fat people to tell their own stories. The (Other) F Word combines personal essays, prose, poetry, fashion tips, and art to create a relatable and attractive guide about body image and body positivity. This YA crossover anthology is meant for people of all sizes who desire to be seen and heard in a culture consumed by a narrow definition of beauty. By combining the talents of renowned fat YA and middle-grade authors, as well as fat influencers and creators, The (Other) F Word offers teen readers and activists of all ages a guide for navigating our world with confidence and courage.
“I’ve always had a weird relationship with clothes. I feel like it’s something that a lot of fat trans people deal with. Already clothing and fashion is hard to navigate when you’re fat, this industry doesn’t like you, it doesn’t want to see you be fashionable. It also wants to make you pay extra for daring to have a body. But when you’re trans on top of all of that? It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. It’s so much harder to find clothing as a fat trans person, clothing that can literally save your life, or make you feel like the person you truly are.
Clothing is a life-line for both of us, for fat people, and for trans people. It has the magic to make us feel like our real selves, to be more confident in who we are. I’d never seen anything talk about this connection, ever, so I wanted to say my piece. Because it’s a hard world to navigate, and I want teenagers dealing with the same feelings to know that they aren’t alone with them.”
S. Qiouyi Lu, “Fat, And”
I wrote “Fat, And” because I’ve often been frustrated by fat spaces that focus on fatness to the exclusion of other identities and experiences. As not only a fat person, but a nonbinary person of color, I wanted to represent the complexity of a multilayered identity: Each layer influences the others and is inextricable from the whole. I hope I can inspire people to see themselves as a whole instead of a collection of parts, especially considering how often we’re forced to turn our bodies into parts (my stomach, my arms, my legs, etc.) in a body-negative culture.
Jess Walton, “Losing My Religion”
As a teenager, I came out and found a beautiful, vibrant community that accepted and celebrated me as a bisexual person. Having that community around me helped me stand up to hateful bigotry over the years.
I did not find disability and fat pride and community until my thirties, so ableism and anti-fatness have had a lot more time to do me harm. I wrote ‘Losing my Religion’ because joining Weight Watchers as a teenager was formative and extremely damaging to the way I felt about myself. It led to an adulthood focused on weight loss and ‘fixing’ my body. I was so ashamed of the way I looked – I felt undesirable and unloveable. Every time I managed to lose weight, I would be congratulated and told how good I looked, which reinforced the idea that I needed to lose weight, and that fat bodies were bad, failed bodies. For me, disability and fat pride are closely linked. They’re both about saying my body is not a failed body. I can be proud of who I am instead of ashamed. I can reject those who hate the fat and disabled parts of me, just as I reject those who hate the queer part of me.
I also wrote ‘Losing My Religion’ because Weight Watchers still exists, and is still doing serious harm to fat people, including kids. In fact, they’re targeting kids and teens with their kurbo app. They can try rebranding themselves as ‘Wellness that Works’, but I’ll always see them for what they are – a harmful, predatory, profit driven cult.
I’m honoured to be a part of this anthology; it’s one of the books I really needed as a fat, queer, disabled teen. I’m so, so relieved that it exists in the world now.
Alex Gino, “Body Sovereignty: This Fat Trans Flesh is Mine”
I have the right to change my transgender body. I do not have an obligation to change my fat body. Body sovereignty, the idea that I am the decision-maker over my very self, holds these two statements in balance. It’s also the idea at the heart of my essay Body Sovereignty: This Fat, Trans Flesh is Mine. Like the title, this piece mixes a touch of radical body theory with a practical look at how transgender and fat bodies are treated, and why it’s so important to claim and reclaim control over how and whether our bodies are altered. There’s even a little chart! I can only imagine the hard roads I could have skipped down a little more easily if someone had slipped an essay like this, as part of a book like this, into my hands when I was a teen, and I’m delighted to be able to do that for others, especially for fat queer, trans, and nonbinary youth.
Jiji Knight, “Brighter Than Starlight”
This book is everything I wish I had when I was growing up fat and struggling to answer the the question “What is normal?”
No one ever assures you that yes! You are the norm. Your body is the norm. Body positivity is still such a foreign movement to some people – hell – most people. The very concept that fat people are reclaiming the word ‘fat’ and celebrating their curves, their bodies, is exhilarating.
I am fat. I am bisexual. I am an artist. And I am proud to have been a part of such a wonderful amalgamation of beautiful contributors.
Miguel M. Morales, “50 Tips from a Fat and Fabulous Elder”
The pieces I submitted to the anthology revealed themselves as I walked in the park near my home in Kansas. I wanted to build up stamina for all the walking I’d be doing on an upcoming trip to Hawai’i. I’d never been that far from home and I wanted to do, see, and taste so much. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t push my body too hard all at once. My secret unspoken goal was to hike Diamond Head.
At the park, I listened to music to help me set a pace for the hike. That’s when I noticed changes in my body’s movement; in its rhythm. I noticed the beauty of nature’s largeness and how society celebrates this grandeur yet blames ours on weakness. I wondered if we amused the trees by hastily moving on a circular path going nowhere, trying to get smaller while we admired their size.
I found my relationship my clothes began to change. Instead of tugging at my shirts desperate for them to hang loose on me, I allowed them to caress my curves. Instead of pulling up my shorts constantly afraid I’d display plumber’s crack, I allowed them to gently settle and rest comfortably on my hips without a worry.
I thought about the anthology and advice I’d want to share. Things my oldness and my queerness and my brownness has taught me about being fat. I remembered those who’ve helped me learn not only to operate this body but to love it.
I’m thrilled this anthology features four of my pieces. I’m eager to write more about intersectional fatness.
Oh, I did hike Diamond Head. I got passed up on the trail by some elderly people and some children, but it was amazing. I was amazing. You should have seen me.
Laina Spencer, “To All the Pizzas I’ve Loved Before”
Funnily enough, I don’t normally write non-fiction, but when Angie approached me about writing as essay for The (Other) F Word, I was so excited that I couldn’t say no. I kept thinking about myself as a teenager, and what it would have meant to read something like this. And because I’m always thinking about books and representation, and especially YA books, that’s what I decided to write about that.
And as someone who’s aroace, I wanted to talk about how I don’t necessarily relate to certain narratives, and how it feels sometimes to be aroace in fat spaces, and vice versa. Hopefully I did that pretty well!
Hillary Monahan, “Fatness & Horror: The Match Made in Not Heaven”
“When Angie asked me to talk about fatness in my genre of choice–horror–I was delighted. It was something I’d ranted and railed about in my private circles for years. How can we exist in a world, take up space in the world, people the world and be either completely absent from stories OR be “punished” for our fatness by making comedic, convenient victim fodder? I want none of that–as a fat fan and as a fat creator.”
“Write Something Fat” by Sarah Hollowell
When I wrote my first book in high school, it never occurred to me that my characters could be anything other than skinny. I didn’t understand then how much damage I was internalizing from a lack of positive representation – not just feeling bad about myself, but erasing myself at every opportunity.
I wasn’t just erasing my fatness. Finding out that bisexuality existed as an option was an amazing, freeing moment in my life. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but most of the reactions I got were that it was a phase or I was trying to be trendy. I also went to a high school in southern Indiana in the early 2000s – not a lot of out-and-proud queer people there! It was mostly me, my gay best friend, the girl who was my first kiss, the one other out gay kid, and the ones we suspected were closeted.
I wasn’t seeing queer people like me in the media, I wasn’t seeing them in my life, and even well-meaning people around me seemed to think I’d grow out of it. I didn’t write a queer story until I was in college. I was erasing myself, again.
“Write Something Fat” is about giving myself permission to not erase myself. I wrote it to the teenage version of me, but I also wrote it to the current version of me who wonders if now I write too many fat bisexual girls.
But here’s the thing: If other authors can write dozens of books about straight skinny characters, then I can sure as hell write as many as I want about the fat queer ones. And you can, too.
Jon Higgins, Ed.D., “Black, Fat, Fem: The Weight of a Queen”
As soon as I heard about this anthology, the fat 16 year old queer kid inside of me jumped for joy. After reaching out and learning that my work had been accepted, I not only felt validated, but that my work and journey would in turn help someone who might really need the reassurance that they are seen and valued.
Working on this project reminded me that I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams. I am fat, Black and queer and I am leaving behind seeds of my experiences to help other people grow. What’s even more riveting is knowing that I, in my own way, got to share a narrative that is often overlooked and undervalued in my own voice and in my own experience.
Working on this project reminded me of why I began writing in the first place. Why I felt the need to continue to remind others that their lives and their experiences need to be heard and more, that these stories will be the ones that change the lives of those who need it most. I am so grateful for the opportunity and I can’t wait for the world to engage in the greater context of this book and it’s many chapters of knowledge, hope and resistance.
“You Are Loved” by Ady Del Valle
I wrote the chapter “You Are Loved” because these are words we don’t get told often but also words we don’t tell ourselves often. I wanted to be able to write something real and meaningful for this amazing and inspiring book, while relating it to myself ans what I do in the industry to do mt part. “You Are Loved” is a chapter of self-love with fashion or without, no matter your size or how you identify you are worthy in more ways the one. The “Other” F Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce is a book that will speak to so many in many ways that we all can relate to, its real words form real people. I hope my chapter and the book as whole helps and inspires anyone who flips through the pages no matter who they are and give them motivation to love who they are as they are.
Angie Manfredi is a librarian and writer who owns every season of Law and Order on DVD and sends over 150 handwritten Valentines every year. She has spent the last 11 years working directly with children and teens of all ages in a public library and now works in library consulting on all things youth services. Angie is fat and not sorry about it. She is a passionate advocate for literacy, diversity, and decolonizing the discourse surrounding children’s literature. Her latest book is The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce.
Well, this is a pretty exciting post for me, considering I’m the editor of this particular anthology! Getting to see different takes on Poe was fun in itself, but getting to see half the collection come back with queer protagonists? Now, that was utterly delightful. I asked the authors of those stories to share a little bit about them, so come check it out!
Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.
Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining “Ligeia”), Kendare Blake ( “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).
Tessa Gratton, “Night-Tide”, a retelling of “Annabel Lee”
“Annabel Lee” is one of the poems that used to get stuck in my head when I was a kid. Something about the rhythm, the longing, and the weird imagery—not to mention morbid aesthetic—spoke to thirteen year old Tessa. I used to recite it to myself in a sing-song way, letting the imagery wash over me. When I set out to write a short story inspired by it, I knew I needed a story with a refrain, and that it needed to be filled with longing and angst, and the anger I felt as a kid when adults pretended they knew better than me what I was feeling. It wasn’t until I was a few pages into writing that it occurred to me I never actively decided to make “Night-Tide” about girls in love with each other—because, to me, the poem always had been about emo teenaged lesbians.
“Annabel-Lee” is so unapologetically passionate, and as a poem it’s unashamed of its melodramatic nature. When I was a teen I was passionate and melodramatic, but I knew shame, because the world had already taught me what I was and was not allowed to love and desire. That makes me angry, and as an adult I see more shades of anger in “Annabel-Lee” than I noticed as a teen. It’s all woven into my story “Night-Tide,” which I hope inspires passion and drama and, yes, anger, in readers. Because love is so messy, and queer people deserve the space to embrace melodrama, anger, and to confront shame. We deserve the chance to take risks as we discover and decide who we are and want to be.
Caleb Roehrig, “The Glittering Death,” a retelling of “The Pit and the Pendulum”
With a cast of one, “The Pit and the Pendulum” is one of Poe’s simplest narratives: an anonymous man, alone in a dungeon, tries to evade a series of inventive death traps set by the Spanish Inquisition. The sexuality of the prisoner is irrelevant to the story—and, in my opinion, that was the perfect reason to queer the character in my adaptation of it. Laura Bonelli, the central figure of “The Glittering Death,” is questioning. (Possibly bi, though she’s not sure yet.) This fact has nothing to do with how she ends up in the clutches of a villain who calls himself the Judge; it has nothing to do with the dangers she faces, or how the story eventually concludes; but it has something to do with who she is. It’s her identity, and would still be if the story was about a driving lesson, a graduation party, or a first kiss.
I balk at saying a protagonist “just happens to be queer,” because nothing about identity can be reduced to pure happenstance; but there’s power in bringing casual visibility to identity—especially when the character in question is the one to whom it matters most.
Rin Chupeco, “The Murders at the Rue Apartelle, Boracay,” a retelling of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”
“The Murders at the Rue Apartelle, Boracay” is the story of Ogie Dupin, a Filipino-French amateur detective investigating a strange murder set in a supernatural island getaway. In keeping with the original Poe story, it’s told by an unnamed narrator, this time a young trans girl. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is not an easy story to retell – I had to write a locked room mystery believable enough for Ogie’s deductions to make sense, and yet complex enough to keep people guessing at the solution till the end. But more than that, I also wanted to write my trans narrator in a way that would give her just as much agency as Ogie, in stark contrast to how these detective stories are often written. It’s difficult to find the right balance, showing off her own intelligence without taking away from Ogie’s skills and the murder mystery, but I think I was able to pull it off!
“Hop-Frog” is, in its essence, a story about monsters. About who gets to be human and who is considered a monstrosity. About how we can be monstrous in our humanity–or our inhumanity. It’s a story about disability, too. Historically those two–disability and monster narratives–intersect quite often. (After all, every changeling story is a disability story at heart.) So when I brainstormed reimagining Hop-Frog I knew I wanted to include both those elements. I wanted to center it on disabled characters, my two queer, broken girls who are both looking for revenge—or perhaps belonging. I wanted to throw in an element of historicity (which Poe alludes but never quite commits to). And I wanted to play with monsters. I’ll just leave it up to you to decide who the monsters are: the fae, the unseelie folk, or the humans?
Emily Lloyd-Jones, “A Drop of Stolen Ink,” a retelling of “The Purloined Letter”
“A Drop of Stolen Ink” came about the way so many of my stories do: with a weird sequence of events. I was at work, thinking about Poe because the always-lovely Dahlia had mentioned how awesome it would be to rewrite those tales for a modern audience. (I believe I responded with, “OH PLEASE PLEASE LET ME DO THE PURLOINED LETTER.”) I’ve always adored mysteries – and Poe created the detective archetype with his character of C. Auguste Dupin.
And then I reached beneath a cash register scanner. Which would have been fine and normal – up until the scanner beeped and brought up a number on the computer. I made a joke about someone equipping my arm with a barcode and then my brain immediately jumped on the possibilities.
I adored working on this short story because it’s about how much of ourselves we share with the world. There are some characters’ names who are never revealed and others who put all of themselves out there. It’s about identities, both stolen and reclaimed. And I also just wanted to write an adorable budding f/f romance set in a cyberpunk near-future world, I’ll admit it. I’m really excited to share this story with both new and old readers of Poe.
Dahlia Adler, “Lygia,” a retelling of “Ligeia”
People ask me how I chose to retell “Ligeia” in particular, and the truth is that it basically chose me. I don’t share the horror/thriller strengths of my co-authors here, and I knew that whatever I did was going to have a sort of romantic contemporary sensibility, just a lot more Gothic and tragic than my usual.
“Ligeia” is a story about a man who loses his first wife to illness and remarries, but never quite finds that same love for his second wife before losing her to illness as well. The second wife, however, is the one who returns from the dead…but she returns as his first wife, Ligeia.
Knowing I didn’t want to go paranormal, I knew this was going to be a story about turning a new girlfriend into an old one, trying to revive something that couldn’t be revived and going to mad, toxic lengths to do it. It’s a story that requires praying on insecurities in a way teenage girls have truly mastered, a story I knew would thrive on a specifically female main character. Add that to the perennial queer problem of never quite being sure when your next possibility can or will come along in an area where so few people are out, making the narrator’s loss all the more dramatic and her new venture feel all the more necessary, and you have so many of the components that created “Lygia.”