Fave Five: Queer-Girl YA Set in Maine

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (bi f/f)

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (bi f/f)

Style by Chelsea M. Cameron (lesbian f/f)

All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell (pan f/f)

Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale (bi m/f)

Bonus: For a trans girl MG set in Maine, check out Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker!

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of a YA debut I’ve been highly anticipating, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, which releases from Bloomsbury on July 7, 2020! Of course, you may better know this book from its perfectly succinct deal announcement, which described it as “queer black girls team up to overthrow the patriarchy in the former kingdom of Cinderella,” but here’s a fuller picture of the story:

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

And here’s its beautiful cover, designed by Manzi Jackson!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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Black Forest Photography

Kalynn Bayron is a debut author and classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family.

Backlist Book of the Month: Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

The policy here for what constitutes “backlist” is that it has to be a year old. So did I literally put Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria into my schedule to promote the very single month it became eligible, even though it’s technically kind of the author’s frontlist? Sure did! Because it is great and underread and has gay, bi, and ace rep and it’s “friends on a quest” which is my favorite kind of contemporary (think Finnikin but gay!) and if you haven’t yet read it, you absolutely should!

In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

Better Know an Author: Rin Chupeco

You’ve been seriously busy these past couple of years! But let’s focus on your newest release first: the fabulous The Never Tilting World, your YA fantasy that released on October 15 and has been billed as Frozen meets Mad Max: Fury Road. What drew you to this story, and were either of those movies in fact inspirations?

I love the aesthetics involved in Mad Max: Fury Road, and wanted to construct a world where those aesthetics would feel right at home. There’s a lot of sparseness to Fury Road that I wanted to emulate, and what strikes me is that the lack of any specific settings never detracted once from the story. In fact, the absence of any concrete locations is what helps propel the story – all Furiosa knows is that she must make it to the mythical Green Place, and is disheartened to find that it’s long gone. For the same reason, both Odessa and Haidee are trying to get to the Great Abyss, the center of Aeon where the worst of the destruction had happened, because they believe there’s something there that will help them figure out how to heal the world. Their hope is what pushes the story forward, too.

TNTW is a little different from Frozen in that, while it’s a story about two sisters, both Haidee and Odessa haven’t even met each other yet. Both begins their travels with an idealized idea of what their sister must have been like, what kind of a family they could have been, and it’s their motivation to try and make the world a better place, because its destruction is what tore them apart in the first place. And it’s a great way to highlight their similarities and their differences with each other before they even meet, so readers get an idea of what kind of relationship they could have as they barrel toward the story’s climax!

There are four characters who really take center stage in The Never Tilting World, including an f/f couple. What one character in the group would you trust to take you to the end of the world, and why?

Right off the bat, it’s not going to be Arjun. We are too similar in personality, which is why I know I can’t trust him for crap. His only advantage is that he’s got a better sense of direction than I do, but we are going to drive each other wild snarking on each other and ignoring all the warning signs and wind up getting eaten by a monster goldfish or something.

Odessa’s a bit too sheltered to understand how the world works at the book’s beginning, and Haidee will be too distracted by the possible automata she could be building en route, and also she will be absent-minded enough to bring helpful inventions to aid on the trip, but not enough food and water. So it’s definitely Lan I’m going to trust, because she’s a responsible leader who is also an excellent healer, scout, fighter, and tracker…. as long as we’re not making the journey on a ship.

You had another work out just before autumn hit, which happened to be in His Hideous Heart, an anthology I know a little bit about. “The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay” is such a cool and different take on one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories, and one you completely made your own, including setting it in the Philippines. Can you share some details about it that are especially meaningful to you?

Boracay was where I, four months pregnant with my first kid, was when Typhoon Haiyan hit. It was one of the first places in the Philippines where it made landfall, and considering that it was a super-typhoon – well, you can only imagine the destruction we saw, and the destruction we barely managed to avoid. Boracay had always been my safe place, in a way – it’s a gorgeous beach, I know how to avoid all the noisy party areas and where to go so it feels like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. That’s where my mind goes when I feel stressed and want to recharge. But that changed a lot after the typhoon, and I started to look at it as a place where bad things could and do happen, even though it’s still one of my most favorite places in the world. Edgar Allan Poe is a huge inspiration to me, and I thought it would be great then to marry a tribute to him with the one place that I know best. Most of the locations in the story are actual places in Boracay, down to the drinking challenges at the bars and the cafe where you can get calamansi cupcakes (although of course, I wish there were eldritches and fairy beer there, too!) One of the murders in my story though, was based on an actual murder of a trans girl by a US marine that made national news (and I can’t really say much else beyond this, because spoilers!).

But wait, there’s more! In just a few months, you have another queer YA fantasy coming, this one with a gay male MC. What can you tell us about Wicked as You Wish?

WICKED AS YOU WISH was seven years in the making, and it’s about a Filipina teen descended from the Filipino mythical heroine Maria Makiling, who winds up helping a young Avalon prince defend his kingdom against the Snow Queen. It’s my “what if fairy tales were real historical events” storyline that I’m really proud of.

My deuteragonist is Alexei Tsarevich, a prince with a HUGE chip on his shoulder, mostly because he’d witnessed his parents’ murder, had to flee his own kingdom when he was five years old, had to watch his kingdom freeze for twelve years, making it inaccessible to all and worrying about any survivors still inside, and had been bouncing from one hiding place to the next, because many governments are searching for him and the powerful spelltech patents his family own. (because yay, capitalism.) To make things worse, he also has a curse where everyone he kisses turns into a frog – excepting Tala, and he cries when he realizes there’s at least one person in the world he couldn’t hurt. He’s kind and loyal and supportive, but he also harbors a lot of survivor’s guilt, and also guilt for many other things he’d had to do to survive. He’d always believed his family’s most powerful weapon, the firebird, had been destroyed decades ago – so when it comes for him on his eighteenth birthday, he now has to deal with suddenly being given the power to change his destiny for the first time in twelve years. Sometimes he does that poorly, and often a little too aggressively to make up for the feelings of vulnerability that had been a constant to him over the years, but I think this is also why I like him very much. Like Lan and also like me, he deals very poorly with trauma, and I wanted to emphasize the different ways people process that, because those ways have happened to me.

One of the most interesting things about watching your career is seeing you thrive thousands of miles away from the so-called center of YA publishing. What’s it like building a career in American publishing from Southeast Asia, and what’s the bookish scene like in the Philippines?

The writing community in the Philippines is a lot similar to the one in the US, I think, albeit in a smaller scale. A big difference though, is that many writers prefer local publishing, which I find personally disheartening. There’s a lot of good stories here waiting for an international audience, but I also think colonial mentality plays a big part in the reluctance. We’re used to looking at the US as something infinitely grander, so we tend to think the works that we do pale in comparison to the works abroad, and that’s not the case at all. This was the mindset I had to unlearn because it’s very prevalent here, but that might also be because I had big dreams and wanted to write for a living, which would not have been possible with the local publishing industry. As odd as it sounds, my name is probably recognizable in the US pub field, but not in my own country. So many people have assumed I’m American simply because I published abroad, and most local panels I’ve done always inevitably wind up with people coming up to me and going “wait what, you’re Filipino?! You’re not visiting from the US, you actually live here?!” There’s a lot of other factors, too (my books are too expensive for many, I don’t look like a typical Filipino and my last name is more of a Chinese-Filipino hybrid, looking down on children / teen books – yes, this isn’t just an American thing – or looking down at books written in English and not in Tagalog) but what IS heartening is the number of writers here who do know me and started querying agents because they saw it was possible. That’s what I want to encourage more of!

What other books do you recommend for queer Southeast Asian rep? What would you still really love to see?

I can’t answer this question without talking about Gail Villanueva and My Fate According to the Butterfly, because I think it gives the best perspective on Filipino culture and issues, primarily the drug war here, and there are some relationships between Sab and important people in her life, including gay supporting characters, that breathe life into her work. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo is about trying to define your own Filipino-American identity along with also being queer. For other Southeast Asian but not queer-centered, there’s also Hanna Alkaf and her gorgeous poem of a book, The Weight of Our Sky, and I can’t help but tear up just thinking about this. But speaking specifically for Philippine gay rep though – as I mentioned before, that’s the most frustrating part. There’s so many LGBTQ+ books here in the Philippines, many of which try to navigate being gay while at the same time still being Catholic – and often in humorous tones, because Filipinos find a lot of solace in humor – but they’re virtually unavailable to most people outside of the country. There’s Tagalog books written to make people laugh, like Happy Na, Gay Pa (“Not just Happy, But Also Gay”) by Danton Remoto, or something that explores the issue more seriously, like Don’t Tell My Mother by Brigitte Bautista, but as a whole it’s not something people outside of the Philippines can very easily find.

What’s your first recollection of LGBTQIAP+ representation in the media, for better or for worse?

I don’t think there’s been any one specific recollection that I remember, because I grew up with LGBTQ+ prevalent enough in local media. While that sounds like a good thing, considering that the Philippines is a very highly conservative country that doesn’t even have divorce laws yet, much less abortion rights or marriage rights for same-sex couples, it’s also very problematic. You’ll see a lot of gay celebrities and gay representation in TV series, but the mindset seems to be treating them for their entertainment value, not for them as people. You’ll also see problematic depictions of them (the one I remember most clearly as a kid was this movie called Barbie: Maid in the Philippines, which is a pun. A straight cis man pretends to be a female maid because he’s on the run, and gets into hijinxes. It’s like a weird combination of Some Like It Hot and Mrs. Doubtfire. They shot this movie across from my house, and I actually have old pics of toddler me being held by some of the actors, so I remember it well.) So it’s “you can give them rights in movies and other media, but you can’t make that official in law”, which has always been the strangest thing to me. I’ve seen some LGBTQ+ people enforce this opinion even, like “I shouldn’t be given rights because it’s against the Bible and so it can’t be officially legal – but as long as no one’s stopping me personally to be the way I am, it’s fine”. There’s a lot of Catholic guilt to unpack.

I know fandom and gaming are big parts of your life. What in particular are your great loves?

I feel like I’ve been in every major 90s and early 2000s fandom that’s ever been made, from Buffy to Harry Potter to Deadwood to even the really niche ones like Kindred the Embrace or Harvey Birdman. Star Trek is my first and biggest love, but I think the one with the really biggest impact to my life is probably anime, simply because so many people here were into it. Almost everyone in the Philippines with a working TV know what anime is, and we love it. (There was this popular variety program / gag show that has one frequent skit that satirizes televangelist Bible readings, and they used the Voltes V theme song as their ‘religious’ song to open, and it’s hilarious how so many people here can sing it from memory. Heck, we celebrate a Naruto Day.)

Anime was really the gateway drug that opened me up to gender fluidity. Ranma 1/2 in particular was very eye opening, but not necessarily the way I wanted it to be. This is about a martial artist who falls into a cursed spring, and now he turns into a girl when he gets hit with cold water, but turns back into a boy with hot water. The whole plot is about him trying to find a way to undo the curse, and I always wind up mentally screaming at him. Like – “You can TURN into a man or a woman! That’s a BLESSING! Why are you trying to get rid of this blessing?! I would kill for this power!” And that opened doors into understanding deeper definitions of fluidity beyond just the binary, for me. Anime really made me understand the gay parts of me I didn’t realize I had. I was defined by series like Gravitation (which was really gay boy porn for girls and it’s so embarrassing to remember how teen me was so hot for the main character, who was also an angsty brooding traumatized bisexual AUTHOR) and Revolutionary Girl Utena (lesbian swordfighting! personally, I believe Utena walked so that Gideon the Ninth could run). Video games really emphasized that too, particularly with my favorite category, mmorpgs / multiplayer rpg – I could subsume myself into the personality of a male berserker instead of being limited to say, a female healer. I was always the main (male) tank / defense for group runs with friends, for example, and that grew to be my trademark class.

As we stare into the abyss of 2020, what upcoming queer titles are you most excited for?

Is it too early to be super-excited for Harrow the Ninth??? Also, Reverie, The Gravity of Us, and Belle Revolte! I’m still only just starting on amazing 2019 titles as it is, including Crier’s War and Her Royal Highness, just because I’ve been so busy!

author

 

Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and did many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fairy tales but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She was born and raised in the Philippines and, or so the legend goes, still haunts that place to this very day. Find her at rinchupeco.com.

New Release Spotlight: Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett is one of those books that just nails it, from concept to voice to nuance, and Simone is one of the main characters you just can’t forget. She’s handling friendships, a budding romance, questioning her sexuality, and directing the student play, all while managing being HIV-positive and everything that comes with it, including keeping her diagnosis a secret as needed, even under the threat of blackmail. There’s nothing quite like it out there right now so do yourself a favor and pick it up!

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Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Friend Scheme by Cale Dietrich

Having adored The Love Interest, Cale Dietrich’s first speculative gay YA romance, I’m thrilled to have him on the site today revealing the cover of his long-awaited sophomore novel, The Friend Scheme, which releases from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan on May 26, 2020! Here’s the story:

Part thriller, part romance, The Friend Scheme is another twisty #ownvoices YA novel from Cale Dietrich, author of The Love Interest.

Seventeen-year-old Matt is the son of one of the most powerful criminals in the world – and everyone expects him to follow in his father’s dark footsteps.

But his father’s world has never suited Matt. His desire for a different life grows when, one night, he meets a boy named Jason. Smart, chaotic, and as disinterested in a life of crime as Matt is, the pair quickly become friends. And when Jason comes out to him, Matt thinks they have a shot at becoming more than that, revealing a part of himself he has long repressed out of fear of his father.

As Matt and Jason’s connection grows deeper, Matt grows suspicious of his new friend’s motives. He really does seem like the perfect boy – maybe even too perfect, especially when he starts encouraging Matt to disclose details of his father’s empire. Now Matt must figure out if he can trust his new friend, or his father’s plans for him…and must decide if he can ever do the impossible and come clean about who he really is, and who he is meant to love.

And here’s the impossibly cool cover, designed by Katie Klimowicz with art by Meybis Ruiz Cruz!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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Cale Dietrich is a YA devotee, lifelong gamer, and tragic pop punk enthusiast. He was born in Perth, grew up on the Gold Coast, and now lives in Brisbane, Australia.

New Releases: November 2019

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What Burns by Dale Peck (5th)

45821224Written over the course of twenty-five years, the stories in What Burns examine the extremes of desire against a backdrop of family, class, and mortality.

In “Bliss,” a young man befriends the convicted felon who murdered his mother when he was only a child. In “Not Even Camping Is Like Camping Anymore,” a teenaged boy fends off the advances of a five-year-old his mother babysits. And in “Dues,” a man discovers that everything he owns is borrowed from someone else—including his time on earth.

Walking the tightrope between tenderness and violence that has defined Peck’s work since the publication of his first novel, Martin and John, through his most recent, Night Soil, What Burns reveals Peck’s mastery of the short form as well as the novel.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan (5th)

This is the sequel to Girls of Paper and Fire

Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan—it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.

Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl (5th)

44229171._sy475_A lonely newlywed and her wayward brother-in-law follow divergent and dangerous paths through the postwar American West.

Muriel is newly married and restless, transplanted from her rural Kansas hometown to life in a dusty bungalow in San Diego. The air is rich with the tang of salt and citrus, but the limits of her new life seem to be closing in: She misses her freethinking mother, dead before Muriel’s nineteenth birthday, and her sly, itinerant brother-in-law, Julius, who made the world feel bigger than she had imagined. And so she begins slipping off to the Del Mar racetrack, to bet and eavesdrop, learning the language of horses and risk. Meanwhile, Julius is testing his fate in Las Vegas, working at a local casino where tourists watch atomic tests from the roof, and falling in love with Henry, a young card cheat. When Henry is eventually discovered and run out of town, Julius takes off to search for him in the plazas and dives of Tijuana, trading one city of dangerous illusions for another.

On Swift Horses is a debut of astonishing power: a story of love and luck, of two people trying to find their place in a country that is coming apart even as it promised them everything.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Ghosting You by Alexander C. Eberhart (5th)

Tommy hears dead people. Okay, one dead person. His best friend, Chase. Since his death, Tommy can’t stop hearing his voice. They talk every day and Tommy even sends him texts, but it always ends the same. Message failed to send. Until one day, a stranger texts back.

Getting stuck in nowhere Georgia was not on Nick’s summer agenda, but a horoscope, a chance encounter, and a cute boy has things looking up. There’s just one problem, the boy hates him. When a broken phone leaves him with a new number, Nick is ready to write off the entire summer as a loss. But then he receives a strange text.

When Tommy and Nick’s worlds collide, the attraction is instant, but Tommy just can’t let Chase go. Can Nick use his status as Tommy’s anonymous stranger to break down his defenses or is Nick destined to live in a love triangle with a ghost?

Buy it: Amazon

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (5th)

31373184The dreamers walk among us . . . and so do the dreamed. Those who dream cannot stop dreaming – they can only try to control it. Those who are dreamed cannot have their own lives – they will sleep forever if their dreamers die.

And then there are those who are drawn to the dreamers. To use them. To trap them. To kill them before their dreams destroy us all.

Ronan Lynch is a dreamer. He can pull both curiosities and catastrophes out of his dreams and into his compromised reality.

Jordan Hennessy is a thief. The closer she comes to the dream object she is after, the more inextricably she becomes tied to it.

Carmen Farooq-Lane is a hunter. Her brother was a dreamer . . . and a killer. She has seen what dreaming can do to a person. And she has seen the damage that dreamers can do. But that is nothing compared to the destruction that is about to be unleashed. . . .

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (5th)

43575115._sy475_Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (5th)

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

And it’s that struggle that gives the book its original structure: each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope―the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman―through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and widens the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.

Machado’s dire narrative is leavened with her characteristic wit, playfulness, and openness to inquiry. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek, and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction. The result is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Shine of the Ever by Claire Rudy Foster (5th)

Shine of the Ever 900px (Tumblr) By turns tender and punk-tough, Shine of the Ever is a literary mixtape of queer voices out of 1990s Portland. This collection of short stories explores what binds a community of queer and trans people as they negotiate love, screwing up and learning to forgive themselves for being young and sometimes foolish.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore (12th)

This is the second book in the Chronicles of Ghadid series

Thana has a huge reputation to live up to as daughter of the Serpent, who rules over Ghadid’s secret clan of assassins. Opportunity to prove herself arrives when Thana accepts her first contract on Heru, a dangerous foreign diplomat with the ability to bind a person’s soul under his control.

She may be in over her head, especially when Heru is targeted by a rival sorcerer who sends hordes of the undead to attack them both. When Heru flees, Thana has no choice than to pursue him across the sands to the Empire that intends to capture Ghadid inside its iron grip.

A stranger in a strange city, Thana’s only ally is Mo, a healer who may be too noble for her own good. Meanwhile, otherworldly and political dangers lurk around every corner, and even more sinister plans are uncovered which could lead to worldwide devastation. Can Thana rise to the challenge—even if it means facing off against an ancient evil?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Practically Ever After by Isabel Bandeira (12th)

Ever practical Grace Correa has planned the perfect life.

She has Leia, the perfect girlfriend, amazing friends, is part of Pine Central’s glitterati, and has been accepted into her first-choice university guaranteeing one of the best paying jobs in the country. To Grace, life is an equation where everything can be perfectly calculated to ensure maximum success and the perfect future.

The problem is that life has a funny way of getting in the way of plans.

With high school rushing to an end, Grace’s plans start falling apart. The “piece of cake” final design project is anything but easy, everyone seems to need everything from her, her schedule is a mess, and after a massive fight, all signs say that breaking up with Leia is the practical choice for both of them. Especially since long distance college relationships never seem to last. Except…Grace starts to wonder for the first time in her life if she messed up her calculations.

What can a practical person do when love is the least practical choice?

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Wild Life by Keena Roberts (12th)

36222243._sy475_Keena Roberts split her adolescence between the wilds of an island camp in Botswana and the even more treacherous halls of an elite Philadelphia private school. In Africa, she slept in a tent, cooked over a campfire, and lived each day alongside the baboon colony her parents were studying. She could wield a spear as easily as a pencil, and it wasn’t unusual to be chased by lions or elephants on any given day. But for the months of the year when her family lived in the United States, this brave kid from the bush was cowed by the far more treacherous landscape of the preppy, private school social hierarchy.

Most girls Keena’s age didn’t spend their days changing truck tires, baking their own bread, or running from elephants as they tried to do their schoolwork. They also didn’t carve bird whistles from palm nuts or nearly knock themselves unconscious trying to make homemade palm wine. But Keena’s parents were famous primatologists who shuttled her and her sister between Philadelphia and Botswana every six months. Dreamer, reader, and adventurer, she was always far more comfortable avoiding lions and hippopotamuses than she was dealing with spoiled middle-school field hockey players.

In Keena’s funny, tender memoir, Wild Life, Africa bleeds into America and vice versa, each culture amplifying the other. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Wild Life is ultimately the story of a daring but sensitive young girl desperately trying to figure out if there’s any place where she truly fits in.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Back to September by Melissa Brayden (12th)

Hannah Shephard likes her life, her job, and her perfectly cozy apartment around the corner from her shop. She’s never been one to take big risks and would much rather stay in on a Friday night with a warm cup of decaf and her favorite mystery novel, so why do her friends insist she needs more? Plus, Hannah has bigger problems to focus on. She’s in trouble. Well, her bookstore is, and if she doesn’t find a way to bring in some more cash, she’ll be closing the doors of A Likely Story for good.

When world famous romance novelist Parker Bristow accepts her request to come in for a signing, Hannah might finally be able to drum up some much-needed attention and save the shop. What she didn’t anticipate was an unexpected evening and a woman she wouldn’t soon forget. A real romance is off the table. Parker is flashy, sought after, and Hannah is just, well, Hannah. But for Parker, it seems like Hannah might be a safe place to fall. The question is, what kind of falling are they doing?

Buy it: Amazon

Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman by Abby Chava Stein (12th)

44287250Abby Stein was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, isolated in a culture that lives according to the laws and practices of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, speaking only Yiddish and Hebrew and shunning modern life. Stein was born as the first son in a dynastic rabbinical family, poised to become a leader of the next generation of Hasidic Jews.

But Abby felt certain at a young age that she was a girl. She suppressed her desire for a new body while looking for answers wherever she could find them, from forbidden religious texts to smuggled secular examinations of faith. Finally, she orchestrated a personal exodus from ultra-Orthodox manhood to mainstream femininity-a radical choice that forced her to leave her home, her family, her way of life.

Powerful in the truths it reveals about biology, culture, faith, and identity, Becoming Eve poses the enduring question: How far will you go to become the person you were meant to be?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Floodtide by Heather Rose Jones (15th)

This is the 4th book in the Alpennia series

The streets are a perilous place for a young laundry maid dismissed without a character for indecent acts. Roz knew the end of the path for a country girl alone in the city of Rotenek. A desperate escape in the night brings her to the doorstep of Dominique the dressmaker and the hope of a second chance beyond what she could have imagined. Roz’s apprenticeship with the needle, under the patronage of the Royal Thaumaturgist, wasn’t supposed to include learning magic, but Celeste, the dressmaker’s daughter, draws Roz into the mysterious world of the charm-wives. When floodwaters and fever sweep through the lower city, Celeste’s magical charms could bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor of Rotenek, but only if Roz can claim the help of some unlikely allies.

Set in the magical early 19th century world of Alpennia, Floodtide tells an independent tale that interweaves with the adventures.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

Bound to the Monarchs by Brooke Winters (17th)

Millennia ago, the people of Lencura were split into designations dependent on their abilities. Vitoria is a solviso. Others consider them the weakest of the designations but Vitoria knows she’s stronger than people think. Sure, she can’t fly, shift, or conjure magic but her blood has healing properties that the other designations covet and she knows she can use that to her advantage. She’s aware of the dangers that lurk outside of her region and that the other designations would do just about anything to possess her blood but when her father’s death leaves her homeless she’s willing to take the risk for the chance of a better life.

When Vitoria encounters marauders on her way to start a new life in the northern region of Malita, she’s forced to take a detour. Her van breaks down on the border of the shifter lands and she follows her instinct, venturing into the forbidden shifter territory. Better to take her chances with shifters than marauders. Vitoria is placed under the protection of Queen Mathilda and her mate, King Antonio. Mathilda and Antonio’s dominance awakens a passion in Vitoria that she never knew she possessed and she wonders if she might be the third mate they’ve been looking for.

When a dignitary from a neighbouring monarchdom kidnaps Vitoria and offers her anything she could ever want in return for her blood, she realises the only thing she wants is to be Mathilda and Antonio’s. Her monarchs will do anything to get her back but Vitoria isn’t sure what they really want: her or her blood.

Buy it: Amazon

 

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert

Make way, make way, for the first bigender MC in traditionally published YA! (Or at least that I know of, but I feel pretty good about this.) This is a very exciting cover for me to be revealing in particular because the author is the person who taught me the very time “bigender” lo a bunch of years ago, so I’m thrilled to be showing off the cover of Somebody Told Me by Mia Siegert, which releases from Carolrhoda on April 7, 2020 and tells the story of a Russian Jewish bigender teen who discovers they can overhear confessions to their priest uncle and takes it upon themselves to become a “guardian angel.” Here’s the story:

After an assault, bigender seventeen-year-old Aleks/Alexis is looking for a fresh start―so they voluntarily move in with their uncle, a Catholic priest. In their new bedroom, Aleks/Alexis discovers they can overhear parishioners in the church confessional. Moved by the struggles of these “sinners,” Aleks/Alexis decides to anonymously help them, finding solace in their secret identity: a guardian angel instead of a victim.

But then Aleks/Alexis overhears a confession of another priest admitting to sexually abusing a parishioner. As they try to uncover the priest’s identity before he hurts anyone again, Aleks/Alexis is also forced to confront their own abuser and come to terms with their past trauma.

And here’s the brilliantly bi-coded cover, designed by Kimberly Morales!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Lerner

But wait, there’s more! Want an excerpt? We’ve got you covered with the entire first chapter, so come check it out!
(cw: internalized transphobia)

***

Aleks

The last place I ever thought I’d live was next to a Catholic church.

I stared at the street view on my phone screen. The building I would live in looked pretty normal. You know, two stories, flat roof and brick siding and a fire escape. And the church itself was pretty humble-looking too. Not some huge cathedral with gothic architecture and creepy statues of Jesus getting crucified. At least on the outside.

“The rectory’s actually very comfortable, according to your aunt,” Mom said, knuckles clenched so tightly around the steering wheel that they were blanched. “Very homey, aside from the church office. It’s basically an apartment. The couple of other priests attached to Saint Martha’s live in a separate space, so you’ll have a fair amount of privacy.”

“Yup,” I said, putting my phone away. We’d been over this before.

Mom’s eyes remained locked on the road ahead of her. Not one glance behind. “And the cemetery is right across the street. Your uncle said you’re welcome to treat it like your backyard and use it anytime. Well, almost anytime. No barbeques during a funeral.”

I snorted. “He actually said that?”

“Mm-hmm. He was dead serious, too.”

Damn. What sort of heathen did he take me for? Granted, I hadn’t even seen the guy in years. Not since he went from being an Episcopal priest to a Catholic one. According to my internet research, there are only about two hundred people in the country who’ve gone this route—marry, convert, become a priest—so it was no surprise that Uncle Bryan took his new calling seriously. But you’d think that if he got to keep his wife, he would’ve been allowed to keep a sense of humor too. “What does he think I’d do if someone died? Tie a badminton net up on the statues? Play horseshoes with the American flags?”

Mom chimed in: “Croquet through the headstones, stomping over letters and stuffed animals for the deceased.”

“Damn, Mom. And I thought I was brutal.” I waited for her smile. It never came. She gazed ahead, unblinking. She’d never admit she was hurting, that my decision tore her to bits, but she radiated so much pain I could feel it in my chest.

I sank in my seat. Well, no need to keep riffing about the cemetery. Wasn’t like I was planning to set foot in there anyway. Not because I was afraid or thought cemeteries were eerie, even though they kind of were. They just made me sad. Maybe a little angry. I wasn’t really sure why. Last year, maybe I’d have taken advantage of it with my cosplay group just to get an edgy photo for tons of likes. Something provocative by the inevitable statue of Mary. I’d done that sort of stupid shit a lot, especially with him.

Don’t go there, Aleks, I reminded myself. That part of my life was over. No more trolling, no more CAPSLOCK LOLZ, and definitely no more being an asshole just for a bunch of likes. I was going to pretend that segment of time didn’t exist. I’d always been good at pretending.

Although I should have, I hadn’t deleted my social media accounts. Believe it or not, Mom was the one who convinced me not to do it. She thought that one day I’d get nostalgic and not have anything to look back on. I’d taken her word for it because she’d been in tears as she said it. Figured that came from personal experience, maybe with my aunt. So I just disabled notifications and comments and logged out of everything. I didn’t want to deal with the messages from my friends. Former friends, I mean. Why was past-tense so hard to say? To think?

I didn’t want to deal with the other bullshit either. You know, the “faux trans” or “ugly girl” crap that made me nauseous. I’d dealt with that for years, people refusing to believe my identity was legit, people insisting that I was calling myself bigender for attention. I was done with going to conventions where at least three girls would approach me, asking me if I was a boy or girl and, if I said boy, ask “Are you sure?” about seven times before adding, “because you’re really hot.” And I didn’t know if that was because they were lesbians or because they wanted to make sure I was an effeminate guy because that meant they were still straight. And my friends would laugh, especially him, saying, “Yeah, you’re such a hot guy” while the voice inside said something else:

Imposter.

Where’s your dick at? Huh?

Packed away?

Who does that?

Fake.

Liar.

Loser.

That voice still made me shudder. It crept in like a waiting storm, then suddenly it was there, breaking down my mental walls like a hurricane, destroying everything in its path. It was there way before I got in trouble. And afterward, it never went away. Sometimes the voice sounded just like one of my exes. Ring, ring, ring. Buzzing in my ears. No matter how many times I tried to tune it out, it wouldn’t leave me. No. It became louder. Faster. Pulsed like my heartbeat. Like its own breathing, living thing.

Imposter.

Liar.

Fake.

Louder, louder, LOUDER.

The noise was almost unbearable by the time we pulled up in front of a sign that read SAINT MARTHA ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. Loud enough for me to scrape my nails against my scalp, sliding down to rub my fingers against the back of my neck, getting the tension out. Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut—

“You doing okay, Aleks?” Mom asked, her voice shaking.

Trying to sound convincing, I said, “Yep. I’m good.” After all, this was my idea.

“Because if you’re having second thoughts, we can call this off. I could ask for an emergency leave from work—”

“Mom, we’ve been over this.”

“But—”

“Seriously, don’t.” And then to prove my point, “If you do, I’m going to feel guilty as hell. So don’t. Please.”

She fell silent.

The second I’d told my parents I wasn’t safe, Mom had started looking for transfers. There weren’t any openings. I couldn’t let her quit, not when she’d spent so long building her career, trying to get her twenty years to collect pension. And Dad was stationed in Iraq. It wasn’t like I could say “come home” when he was on active duty.

There were only two options I could think of.

One: Do nothing.

Two: Move in with Aunt Anne Marie and Uncle Bryan while Mom waited for a transfer to go through or until I went to college, whichever came first. I had two more months of summer break before I had to decide where I’d spend my senior year of high school, so it was the perfect time to move.

“You know what kind of people they are, right?” Mom had asked me once she’d regained the ability to speak.

“Yeah, I know,” I’d said, although I was mostly guessing based on offhand comments she and my dad had made. My parents had strong opinions on Catholicism, so strong I used to fear that if I ever met a Catholic, they’d curse me simply for existing. But then I got older. I learned that extremists and shitty people exist everywhere. Sure, some Catholics might be scary, but a person could say that about members of literally any group. I was trying to be a less shitty person myself these days, so I didn’t want to make assumptions about my aunt and uncle. Especially because I wasn’t like anyone else I knew, even in the cosplay communities I’d belonged to.

The last time I’d seen my aunt and uncle, I was little. So little, I didn’t remember how old I’d been. I didn’t know if they had converted to Catholicism yet or if Uncle Bryan was still an Episcopal priest. I did remember being entranced by Aunt Anne Marie’s sewing machine and liking Uncle Bryan’s laugh. But I also remember an argument through the walls and the door slamming. Mom’s sobs: What happened to her?

What happened, I guess, was that she was a good Episcopalian girl who grew up to marry an Episcopal priest, and then gradually both she and her husband got into Catholicism. Fun fact, courtesy of my internet research: Protestant clergy are sometimes allowed to switch teams and become Catholic priests, and if they’re already married, they’re allowed to stay married. I still didn’t get it though. Like, did celibacy laws still apply? In which case, what was the point?

My aunt was a puzzle even without all that. My grandparents on Mom’s side were pretty liberal, always vocal about equality, just cool in general. They died a couple of years ago, but back when I was twelve, after Mom told them about me coming out as bigender, they called to tell us all about joining their local PFLAG group. But Aunt Anne Marie wasn’t like them. I had so many friends who’d broken away from their conservative families as they discovered more inclusive values. I didn’t think I’d met a single person who came from a family as chill as Mom’s and left for Faux News. It was different. Weird.

Living with them still had to be better than what I was running from. Coming here was the safest option, because it was the last place anyone would ever think to look for me.

Mom parked the truck and turned the ignition off. “We’re here.”

The rectory—the priests’ residence—looked just like it had online. Right up against it was another building that I knew was the church. It actually looked like an extension of the same building, except the windows on the church part were more arched and the double doors at the front looked more imposing.

We climbed out of the truck. I approached the building and traced my fingers along the cracks in the brick facade. Up close, it looked nicer than in the pictures. They must have done some renovations recently.

There was some chattering and commotion as people came out the front doors of the church, a few yards away. Don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contactbut they went the other direction, oblivious. I exhaled, relieved. For now, I was still invisible. Just the way I wanted.

The front door of the rectory opened. Immediately, I withdrew from the wall, moving to stand next to Mom. An older woman clattered down the steps with an uneven stride, like she was in pain but trying not to limp. Surely that couldn’t be . . .

Mom cleared her throat. “Hey, Annie.”

The old woman corrected her: “Anne Marie. Please.”

I barely kept from gawking as Aunt Anne Marie approached. This didn’t make sense. Aunt Anne Marie wasn’t that much older than Mom. Like a few years. This wrinkly-faced woman looked like she should have been my grandma instead of my aunt.

She embraced Mom stiffly and briefly, like she was being polite even though she couldn’t stand to be near her. Judging from Mom’s expression, the feeling was mutual. Next, she moved to me hugging me for just a second, if even. Like she wasn’t sure it would be welcome. “It’s—it’s good to see you, Alexis.”

A rock formed in the pit of my stomach.

Before I could open my mouth, Mom said, “It’s Aleks today. He and him.”

“It’s fine,” I told Mom quickly. I’d already decided I wouldn’t publicly present as male here. I didn’t know if that counted as going back in the closet or whether it was self-preservation.

Mom frowned. “Pronouns are important.”

“I know, but not today. Okay?” I touched her arm. “It’s fine. I promise.”

Mom frowned but dropped it. Good. Last thing I wanted was super high tension around me before I even moved in. Besides, this was their home. I was a temporary guest. Coming here was my idea. I knew what I was getting into. Sort of.

Aunt Anne Marie didn’t respond to my mother. She looked at me, smiling. It seemed genuine but also strained, like it’d been so long since she smiled it ached. She looked so old. So tired. So thin. Had Uncle Bryan aged that quickly too? “I was worried you’d look more . . .” She trailed off, leaving me to fill in the gap:

Butch? Queer? Covered in glitter with rainbows shooting out of my butt?

Aunt Anne Marie tried again. “I was worried you’d stand out. If you stay like this, you’ll fit right in.”

I exhaled with relief. Good. Fitting right in was exactly what I needed, even if boy-me was going to hate it in about 0.0008 seconds, and probably girl-me too. It didn’t matter how much this place sucked because it would be safe. If I hid inside my skin, I wouldn’t be in direct danger. No one would notice the ugly girl. She was innocuous and easy to ignore, which was perfect, even though sometimes, just sometimes, I wished she wasn’t so ugly.

Here’s the sad part: I never thought she was ugly until people told me again and again that she was. All those school formals, me standing awkwardly by the wall as everyone was asked to dance except me. That kid who threw a tape dispenser at me in class, telling me to put it on my upper lip to rip the mustache off. The classmates who called me an ugly slut for wearing layers of tank tops in winter when, really, I just got overheated and sweated through my clothes. I guess the masochist in me preferred the bullying to the silence I now was seeking. Any attention was better than no attention, or so I’d thought. I knew better now.

How would people here react if they saw two different people with the same face? If I left the house as a girl one day and a boy the very next? Would they think I had a twin? Think it was a costume? Condemn me to hell? Hold signs outside the rectory and shout slurs at me?

I could picture all that so clearly. Images of horrible things happening to me, worst-case disasters, gleefully narrated by “the voice.” No matter how many times I told it to shut up, it was always there. Left ear, right ear, crashing like a turbulent sea.

“This is just temporary,” Mom said to Aunt Anne Marie. Then, almost as an afterthought, “Thank you for doing this.”

Aunt Anne Marie looked at me instead of my mother. “We’re family.” Like she was erasing Mom from existence. The tension was so thick, it was almost visible. Was there ever a time when she and Mom were close? Like when they were children? Had they confided in each other, whispering secrets in the dark? It was hard to imagine. The few times I’d asked Mom about Aunt Anne Marie, she’d said, “I don’t want to talk about her.” I never pressed. My parents had taught me that if someone doesn’t want to talk about something, you should leave them alone. Don’t prod snakes.

“There are going to be a few ground rules,” Aunt Anne Marie said.

“Ground rules?” Mom asked. “You didn’t say anything about ground rules on the phone.”

Aunt Anne Marie turned on my mother. “I haven’t seen you in years. Not a word of communication. When you called me out of the blue, I gladly stepped in. Money doesn’t grow on trees—”

“Fine!” Mom reached in her purse for her wallet. “If you want money—”

“I don’t want your money. I want to get to know my niece. Is that a crime?”

I flinched. From that perspective, she sort of had a point, even though she’d called me “niece” after Mom had requested male pronouns today on my behalf. Although it was hard to swallow, I could forgive it for now. Tons of people made mistakes, misgendering people out of ignorance rather than cruelty. I’d known to expect it here.

I’d never heard the term bigender until I was twelve. Honestly, I can’t remember if I’d ever heard it. One day I woke up and, out of nowhere, said, “I’m bigender.” Everything immediately felt right, like I’d had a massive epiphany. Simultaneously, it made me really . . . lonely. I couldn’t even find much use of the term online. Of course, the internet is full of people who identify outside of the male or female boxes. Genderqueer and genderfluid have floated around in the mainstream for a little while, but those terms never fit me. There’s a lot of crossover in those brackets, a lot of beautiful transition and blending, but for as different as I was, everything was black and white. There was no gray space. I’d wake up in the morning and know whether I was a girl or a boy. Rarely, in the middle of the day, I’d change. When that happened, it wasn’t a gradual shift. More like a light switch. Off on, on off. And almost always, that sudden shift felt bad.

But now wasn’t the time to think about that. Now was the time to play “blend in” and avoid rocking the boat so that I’d stay safe. My aunt and uncle, despite their religious views, were safe. Thou shalt not kill. Maybe I could suggest an addendum: Thou shalt not be a douchebag to thy nephew.

“What are the ground rules?” I asked.

Aunt Anne Marie looked delighted that I was talking to her. “We eat dinner together at six unless your uncle is helping a troubled parishioner.”

I wondered if “troubled” meant a depressed person or a sinner. Or were depressed people automatically considered sinners?

“If he’s late, we wait for him . . .”

Ooh, toxic patriarchy! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

“. . . unless he tells us ahead of time that we should eat without him, which is the case today. He’s helping out with the summer day camp over at the school.” She nodded toward a building across the way: Saint Martha Elementary. “We’ll eat without him. He’s a very busy man.”

I’m sure he is.

“Also,” Aunt Anne Marie said, “do you have a nice dress?”

Definenice dress.”

“Um . . . yeah? I think,” I said cautiously as the voice in my head screamed, It’s a trap. “If not, I could sew one, I guess. Why?”

“You’ll need one for Sundays, when we go to church.”

Mom’s eyes widened. “You can’t make Aleks—”

“Mass is nonnegotiable,” my aunt said. “If Alexis is going to stay here, it’s what we do. Can you imagine a priest’s niece not attending?”

Mom grumbled beneath her breath, “Unfortunately I can imagine a lot of things.”

“Do you want us to help or not?”

Mom glanced at me, like somehow she was failing even though she was trying her absolute hardest.

I touched her arm. “It’s just a dress.”

“It’s more than just a dress.”

She was right, but that wasn’t a problem for today. “Mom, really. It’s okay. I can deal.”

At least for the next few months.

Mom hesitated but then sighed. “No making Aleks say grace before meals or any of that.”

“That’d be her choice.”

I flinched. Was the emphasis on “her” intentional, or was I extra sensitive today?

When Mom called my aunt and uncle to bring up the idea of me staying there temporarily, one of the first things she said was, “Alexis is bigender. That means some of the time, they identify as female and Alexis, and some of the time they identify as male and Aleks. They’re also queer. If either of you make them uncomfortable or spout homophobic, nonbinary-phobic nonsense, I’ll rip out your throat.”

Mom could be a little theatrical sometimes. And by sometimes, I mean all the time. I had to inherit it from someone. I’m sure my aunt and uncle weren’t impressed, but I thought it was pretty damn funny. And it certainly couldn’t have sent a clearer message.

Let me give my aunt the benefit of the doubt just for today. Maybe for the next week, since there would have to be an adjustment. A learning curve.

What if it’s longer than a week? I tried to ignore the nagging worry. What if she uses only female pronouns forever?

Fake trans.

Loser.

Liar.

Aunt Anne Marie continued, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Alexis finds that this is the right path for her.”

Sure. I might also find that I enjoyed bashing my head against concrete.

Aunt Anne Marie looked at her watch. “As I said, your uncle will be working late tonight.” Was he really working late or was he deliberately avoiding Mom?

. . . or me.

 “Let’s get your things to your room, get you settled, and have a little dinner. Okay?” She forced another big smile. “I’m so happy I’ll finally get to know you.”

“Sounds good,” I said, forcing some pep into my voice.

As we walked to the back of the truck, Mom latched to my side. Quietly, she said, “If you need an escape . . .”

“I’ll let you know immediately. I promise.”

“No heroics—”

I embraced my mother, cutting her off. I turned my face against her neck, trying to remember the smell of her perfume and the way her huge hoop earrings jingled. “Thank you,” I whispered. “For letting me do this.”

“I’d do anything to protect you.”

“I know.”

“Is there anything else I should be doing?”

“No, Mom. It’s not you.” It’s them, I thought. It’s their fault.

HIS fault.

“Aleks?” Mom asked, worried.

“I’m fine,” I said instinctively. Then, with the bravest face I could muster, I grabbed the first box.

***

 

 

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Short Stuff ed. by Alysia Constantine

All-queer anthologies are just the most delightful place to find new voices and get a nice variety of representation, so I’m thrilled to help introduce Short Stuff, a new collection edited by Alysia Constantine and coming from Duet Books on June 9, 2020! Today we’ve got not just the cover of the book, designed by the fabulous C.B. Messer, but a little info on each of the authors and each of the stories!

It could start anywhere…

At a summer vacation at the lake, just before heading off to college. In a coffee shop, when the whole world is new. In a dragon’s cave, surrounded by gold. At a swim club, with the future in sight.

In Short Stuff, bestselling and award-winning authors dial down the angst in four meet-cute LGBTQ young adult romances.

Before we get to those stories and authors, let’s check out that lovely C.B. Messer-designed cover!

Preorder now!

 

And now, to the stories!

“Of Stars and Scales” by Julia Ember (julia-ember.com)
Trapped in a quiet, coastal town where nothing ever happens, 16-year-old warrior Fenn longs for adventure and glory. When a dragon attacks a neighboring village, kidnaps a maiden and makes its home in the sacred field of kings, Fenn begs her Aeldorman to send her to fight it. Though the fearsome dragon has already incinerated the warriors who have tried before, Fenn sees it as her duty to rescue the girl trapped deep in the burial mounds with the beast, or die trying.
But Fenn discovers that the maiden and dragon are one in the same, the result of a terrible curse. Going against her own people, she sets out to save the girl and forge a new destiny for herself.
A bisexual retelling of the medieval epic poem, Beowulf.
Julia Ember currently lives in Seattle with her wife and their city menagerie of pets with literary names. She is the author of The Seafarer’s Kiss and The Navigator’s Touch published by Interlude Press. The duology was heavily influenced by Julia’s postgraduate work in Medieval Literature at the University of St Andrews. The Seafarer’s Kiss was named a “Best Queer Book of 2017” by Book Riot, and was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the Bisexual Book Awards. Her upcoming novel, Ruinsong, will be published by Macmillan Kids (FSG) in Fall 2020. Julia also writes scripts for games, and is the author of several published novellas and short stories.
“The August Sand” by Jude Sierra (judesierra.com)
 
As the eldest child in his family, Tommy Hughes always felt the weight of responsibility growing up—to his mother, who depended on him, and to his kid brother and sister, who looked up to him. But during a summer vacation to the Michigan shore, Tommy chafes to break free and to start experiencing a series of firsts before embarking for the new world of college.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist, and Pop Culture Studies. Her novels include A Tiny Piece of Something Greater (Foreword INDIES Finalist, 2019), What it Takes (starred review, Publishers Weekly), Hush, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBTQ romance set in Detroit’s renaissance which was named one of Kirkus Reviews‘ Best Books of 2016.
“I Ate the Whole World to Find You” by Tom Wilinsky & Jen Sternick (neverhaveieverbooks.com)
 
Sparks fly at the local swim club when the manager orders Will, a snack bar chef with culinary ambitions, to cook for the club’s surly Olympic hopeful, Basil, who isn’t amused when Will’s first special is called the “Basil Rickey.”  Complicated by the incompatible terminology of competitive sports and culinary arts, Basil and Will clash—until they both learn the importance of breaking out of their lanes.
Longtime friends and writing partners Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick‘s debut novel, Snowsisters (Duet Books, 2018) was the recipient of and finalist for multiple YA fiction awards, including the Foreword INDIES, the Feathered Quill, and the NYC Big Book Awards. Tom lives in New York with his partner and the world’s most beloved orange tabby cat, Newky. He likes cold weather, anything with zombies in it and old cars. Jen lives in Rhode Island with her husband, two kids and a cranky seven-toed cat named Sassy. She likes live theater, visiting any place she’s never been before, and admits to a mild Twitter addiction.
“Love in the Times of Coffee” by Kate Fierro (katefierro.com)
 
A story of best friends, Gemma and Anya, told in a series of coffee-flavored glimpses. From the first mocha at age fifteen to cups of simple instant coffee after their first night together at twenty, they laugh, love and learn, taking a scenic route to romance.
Kate Fierro spent ten years translating, editing and reviewing other people’s words before making an impulse decision to write down some of her own. She hasn’t been able to stop ever since. Kate lives in Europe and is bilingual, with more love for her adopted language than her native one. her debut novel, Love Starved, was published by Interlude Press in 2015.
Short Stuff releases on June 9, 2020 from Duet Books, and you can preorder it here.