February 2021 Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Emmy-nominated writer, actor, and producer of Netflix’s Special Ryan O’Connell‘s JUST BY LOOKING AT HIM, in which a gay TV writer with cerebral palsy who, despite his perfect boyfriend, can’t stop cheating with a sex worker while in search of something bigger, to Michelle Herrera Mulligan at Atria, at auction, for publication in spring 2022, by Kent Wolf at Neon Literary (NA).

Alexis Hall‘s ROUGH RIDE and FOOL’S GOLD, the next two installments in the award-winning SPIRES series, along with the first four previously-published books and LOOKING FOR GROUP, as well as HUSBAND MATERIAL and THE AMNESIA PLOT, two additional LGBTQIA+ romances in the BOYFRIEND MATERIAL universe, to Mary Altman at Sourcebooks Casablanca, by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary.

Montana MFA Jules Ohman‘s BODY GRAMMAR, pitched as a queer SWEETBITTER set against the backdrop of the glamorous but grueling modeling industry, in which a young woman discovers herself, what it means to live in her body, and how to let herself find love, to Anna Kaufman at Vintage, in an exclusive submission, by Dan Conaway at Writers House (NA).

Author of ON HELL and the nonfiction collection MINERVA THE MISCARRIAGE OF THE BRAIN, artist, and musician Johanna Hedva‘s YOUR LOVE IS NOT GOOD, set in the Berlin and Los Angeles art worlds, following a queer biracial Korean American painter on the precipice of success as she struggles to reconcile her ambitions, her growing debt, and her complicated relationship to whiteness with her support for a boycott of museums and galleries for their racist and imperialist practices, to Jeremy Davies at And Other Stories, by Clare Mao at Europa Content (world English).

Lambda Award and Charles Johnson Fiction Award-winning author of the story collection BLUE TALK AND LOVE Mecca Jamilah Sullivan‘s MORE OF EVERYTHING, about an African American girl growing up in 1990s Harlem, grappling with the stigma of obesity passed down through three generations of women in her family, who comes to terms with her self-image and her sexuality against the backdrop of Harlem’s changing landscape, pitched as a fictional counterpart to Roxanne Gay’s HUNGER, to Gina Iaquinta at Liveright, at auction, for publication in summer 2022, by Janet Silver at Aevitas Creative Management (NA).

Griffin Prize winner Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A MINOR CHORUS, in which a queer Indigenous doctoral student steps away from his dissertation to conduct research in his northern hometown for what he hopes will be a novel about how to live a beautiful life; he has a series of intimate encounters with friends, lovers, and elders that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief, to Mo Crist at Norton, at auction, for publication in fall 2022, by Stephanie Sinclair at CookeMcDermid (US).

KJ Charles‘s THE DOOMSDAY BOOKS, a duo of gay Regency romances about aristocrats, smugglers, and spies on the Kent coast, to Mary Altman at Sourcebooks, in a two-book deal, by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary (world).

Maya Deane’s WRATH GODDESS SING, an #OwnVoices trans women’s literary epic fantasy pitched as reimagining of the Iliad, wherein Athena recruits the young trans heroine Achilles to defeat the omnipotent Helen and her Olympian enablers before she drowns the world in human sacrifice, pitched as a mash-up of N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy and Madeline Miller’s SONG OF ACHILLES, to David Pomerico at William Morrow, by Jason Yarn at Jason Yarn Literary Agency (world).

Paulette Kennedy‘s PARTING THE VEIL, in which a scandalous Gilded Age heiress marries a British lord with a tragic past, only to discover dark family secrets hidden within his haunted manor, pitched in the vein of The Clockmaker’s Daughter meets the queer-inclusive fiction of Sarah Waters, to Jodi Warshaw at Lake Union Publishing, for publication in fall 2021, by Jill Marr at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency (world).

Caribbean-English-American writer David Santos Donaldson‘s GREENLAND, a literary ghost story in which a Black gay writer who is on an obsessive quest to get published, seeks to find his own voice while writing a novel about the forbidden real-life love affair between E.M. Forster and the young Black Egyptian train conductor Mohammed el-Adl, as he becomes gradually more and more possessed by Mohammed’s spirit which is coming alive in him as he writes, drawing on magical realism and exploring issues of racism, psychological manipulation, and identity, to Tara Parsons at Amistad, in a pre-empt, for publication in spring 2022, by Tom Miller at Liza Dawson Associates (world English).

Cornell University Press production editor and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund award recipient Jennifer Savran Kelly‘s ENDPAPERS, about a genderfluid bookbinder in 2003 New York, whose discovery of a queer love letter written on the back of an old lesbian pulp cover and hidden in the binding of a book pushes them to venture out of the safe world they’ve built as they track down the letter’s author, reexamine their own ill-fitting relationship, and use their art to explore what it means to live authentically, to Abby Muller at Algonquin, by Trevor Ketner at Ladderbird Literary Agency (world English).

Author of PETITE MORT Beatrice Hitchman‘s ALL OF YOU EVERY SINGLE ONE, set in a queer bohemian enclave of Vienna in 1910-1946, about three women and the lengths they’ll go to protect the ones they love, to Chelsea Cutchens at Overlook, for publication in January 2022, by Laura Macdougall at United Agents (NA).

Children’s/Middle Grade Fiction

Queer mixed media artist from Washington and #DVpit success story Ashley Ferguson‘s Middle Grade graphic novel MY GIRLFRIEND THE WITCH, in which the narrator has disappeared into fanfiction ever since coming out as queer, and escapes to a magical world, finding it easier than making new friends or dealing with “supportive” parents who don’t “get” him, to Michele McAvoy at Blue Bronco, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2023 (world).

Debut author Katryn Bury‘s DREW LECLAIR GETS A CLUE, pitched as a modern-day, queer HARRIET THE SPY, in which a true crime-obsessed girl decides to catch a cyberbully by profiling all of the bullies in her grade, and discovers that family, friendship, and sexual identity are the hardest mysteries to solve, to Emilia Rhodes at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2022, by Chelsea Eberly at Greenhouse Literary Agency (NA).

Young Adult Fiction

Mason Deaver‘s THE FEELING OF FALLING IN LOVE, in which a boy’s non-relationship ends right before his mother’s latest wedding so he enlists the prep school roommate he barely tolerates to pose as his boyfriend only for their temporary alliance to turn into something much more, to David Levithan and Jeffrey West at Scholastic, in a two-book deal, by Lauren Abramo at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (NA).

Author of BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR and the forthcoming IN THE RAVENOUS DARK AdriAnne Strickland‘s COURT OF THE UNDYING SEASONS, about a reluctant initiate to a school for vampires trying to survive the deadly politics of her kingdom’s blood-drinking rulers, her sexy-but-hostile mentor, and a string of student murders, to Rachel Diebel at Feiwel and Friends, for publication in 2023, by Hannah Bowman at Liza Dawson Associates (world).

Rebecca Mix‘s debut THE ONES WE BURN, a Sapphic YA fantasy in which a blood witch’s mission to assassinate the prince she is betrothed to is compromised by the discovery of a deadly plague—and by the beautiful princess intent on stopping it, to Alyza Liu at Margaret K. McElderry Books, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2022, by Kiana Nguyen at Donald Maass Literary Agency (world English).

Author of GHOST WOOD SONG and the forthcoming THE RIVER HAS TEETH Erica Waters‘s THE RESTLESS DARK, in which two girls join forces in a macabre true crime contest to find the missing bones of a killer in the nightmarish fogs of Cloudkiss Canyon, but when their search morphs into a hunt for a monster in their midst, the girls must ask themselves—is the fog to blame for what’s happening in the canyon, or are they?, to Alice Jerman at Harper Teen, in a good deal, in a two-book deal, for publication in fall 2022, by Lauren Spieller at TriadaUS Literary Agency (NA).

Author of REVERIE and BE DAZZLED Ryan La Sala‘s THE HONEYS, pitched as Heathers meets Midsommar set at an exclusive overnight camp in the Catskills, to Zack Clark at Scholastic, in a good deal, at auction, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Veronica Park at Fuse Literary (world English).

Non-Fiction

Married writer/photographer team Hannah Murphy and Billie Winter’s QUEER POWER COUPLES, a photographic celebration of queer intimacy and excellence, to Natalie Butterfield at Chronicle, for publication in spring 2023 (world).

LGBTQ human rights activist Angeline Jackson and Susan McClelland’s THE POWER OF ONE PERSON, with its title chosen from President Obama’s public address about Jackson’s ordeal and efforts, the true story from Jackson’s POV as a young girl and rape survivor, coming to terms with her sexuality and forging ahead to create safe spaces and unprecedented support for LGBTQ communities in Jamaica, to Scott Fraser at Dundurn Press, in a nice deal, for publication in the fall of 2022, by Rob Firing at Transatlantic Literary Agency (world).

NEA fellow and author of three poetry collections Emma Bolden’s THE TIGER AND THE CAGE, a debut memoir connecting a personal narrative of endometriosis, chronic pain, and asexuality to a long history of women being treated as curiosities and hysterical unreliable narrators of their own bodies and experiences, to Sarah Lyn Rogers at Soft Skull, for publication in fall 2022, by Cassie Mannes Murray at Howland Literary (world).

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros

Once you see the cover, it’ll become quickly clear why it feels so extra special to be able to introduce to you The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros, a queer, Jewish historical YA thriller that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in weeks. It releases from Inkyard Press on September 7th, and I could not encourage you more strongly to use the preorder links below! Here’s the story:

Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.  

Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.

But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.

Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.

And here’s the magnificently Gothic cover designed by Mary Luna with art direction by Erin Craig!

Yes, that is my blurb on there! “The City Beautiful is the haunting, queer Jewish historical thriller of my darkest dreams.” Extremely accurate!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound | Blackwell’s

(c) Melanie Elise Photography

Aden Polydoros grew up in Illinois and Arizona and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Arizona University. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys going to antique fairs and flea markets. He can be found on Twitter at @adenpolydoros.

Happy Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week!

Happy Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week! Running from February 21st-27th, this week we’re celebrating aromantic rep, so check out these titles! (Representation is included/highlighted with each title, where I know it.) As usual, all links are affiliate and earn a percentage of income for the site, so please use them if you can!

Please note this roundup only features titles that were not previously featured in other Aro Awareness Week Roundups, so make sure you check last year’s post for more!

Books to Read Now

This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria

(MC is aroace)

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Common Bonds: A Speculative Aromantic Anthology  ed. by Claudie Arseneault, C.T. Callahan, B.R. Sanders, and RoAnna Sylver

Common Bonds is an upcoming anthology of speculative short stories and poetry featuring aromantic characters. At the heart of this collection are the bonds that impact our lives from beginning to end: platonic relationships. Within this anthology, a cursed seamstress finds comfort in the presence of a witch, teams of demon hunters work with their rival to save one of their own, a peculiar scholar gets attached to those he was meant to study, and queerplatonic shopkeepers guide their pupil as they explore their relationship needs and desires. Through nineteen stories and poems, Common Bonds explores the ways platonic relationships enrich our lives.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Goddess of the Hunt by Shelby Eileen

A poetry collection about the mythic life of Artemis, Greek Goddess of the hunt. Told through the perspective of Artemis herself with the contributions of a few other Greek Goddesses. This collection reimagines and follows Artemis navigating her lifelong vow of chastity and, rather than suffering through it, owning it as a facet of her aromanticism and asexuality. Immerse yourself in a cultivated tempest of poems illustrating Artemis as a warrior, whose shoulders have known an excessive weight of responsibility, and who always fights to remain her authentic self among people who would change her.

Buy it: Amazon

Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

(The MC of this trilogy is aroace)

Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.

Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet–her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” Until her mom brings home a live specimen and Nita decides she wants out; dissecting a scared teenage boy is a step too far. But when she decides to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold in his place–because Nita herself isn’t exactly “human.” She has the ability to alter her biology, a talent that is priceless on the black market. Now on the other side of the bars, if she wants to escape, Nita must ask herself if she’s willing to become the worst kind of monster.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Take Me to Your Nerdy Leader by Hailey Gonzales

(MC is aromantic heterosexual)

Paige has always been scared to be herself. The real Paige- the nerdy Paige- who just wants to have real friends, talk about anime, lose her virginity, and share her art- doesn’t exist at school or to her friends. Only quiet Paige does.

Her new school in Bowden is full of opportunity. There’s Revolution Recognition where she can share her art. There’s confident and enigmatic Shawn who she just feels drawn to. The anime club poster is only icing on the cake. She sees her chance! If only she can reach out and take it. And the cute boy she keeps running into is definitely on her radar.

Buy it: Amazon

East Flows the River by Michelle Kan

A Maiden, a Fox, and a long journey home.

Ties that bridge rivers, dreams that touch Heaven, and the magic of the places we call Home.

(In which a Heavenly Maiden and a Fox Spirit search for the places they belong.)

An Aromantic Chinese Fairytale.

Buy it: Amazon

Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity

(One MC is aromantic pansexual)

A gender-confused farmer desperate to reclaim her farm and escape her stepparents’ abuse. A closeted prince more interested in helping his people than finding a bride. A fairy godfather with a ton of secrets and no powers. In this diverse fairy tale, everyone is searching for a happy ending.

The masquerade ball to find Prince Longhollow’s future bride might be Cynthia Lynah’s best chance at getting her family farm back. If she can marry him, she’ll have all the money and power she needs. Her newly discovered fairy godfather is ready to help her, but his magic can’t do anything to stop her heart from falling for two women she shouldn’t be attracted to–her stepsisters. In the midst of her flirtations, she causes her fairy godfather to lose his magic and stirs trouble for the prince desperate to save his nation from a famine.

Everyone gets a chance to be the hero of their story, but happy endings seem impossible when they need more than magic to make them happen.

Buy it: Amazon

Books to Preorder

Create My Own Perfection by E.H. Timms (April 2)

(MC is aroace)

“It’s not every day you get to put the fear of Medusa into a god.”

Emma Stone, medusa, is the groundskeeper for Olson College of Extensive Education, a place where everyone is welcome, from the mythical to the magical. When her selkie best friend loses her skin in Fresher’s week, the race is on to find it before someone uses it against her.

The search brings Emma face to face with her oldest enemy – and forces her to confront the worst nightmares of her past.

Buy it: iBooks | Kobo | B&N

Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace (May 4)

(MC is aroace)

Like everyone else she knows, Mallory is an orphan of the corporate war. As a child, she lost her parents, her home, and her entire building in an airstrike. As an adult, she lives in a cramped hotel room with eight other people, all of them working multiple jobs to try to afford water and make ends meet. And the job she’s best at is streaming a popular VR war game. The best part of the game isn’t killing enemy combatants, though—it’s catching in-game glimpses of SpecOps operatives, celebrity supersoldiers grown and owned by Stellaxis, the corporation that runs the America she lives in.

Until a chance encounter with a SpecOps operative in the game leads Mal to a horrifying discovery: the real-life operatives weren’t created by Stellaxis. They were kids, just like her, who lost everything in the war, and were stolen and augmented and tortured into becoming supersoldiers. The world worships them, but the world believes a lie.

The company controls every part of their lives, and defying them puts everything at risk—her water ration, her livelihood, her connectivity, her friends, her life—but she can’t just sit on the knowledge. She has to do something—even if doing something will bring the wrath of the most powerful company in the world down upon her.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Fire Becomes Her by Rosiee Thor (January 1, 2022)

(MC is demiromantic)

With only a drop, one can light the night sky with fireworks . . . or burn a building to the ground. The few flare families on top — the so-called “elite” — hoard the magical resource for themselves, and seventeen-year-old Ingrid Ellis wants her fair share.

Ingrid doesn’t have a family fortune, monetary or magical, but at least she has a plan: Rise to the top on the arm of Linden Holt, heir to a hefty political legacy and the largest fortune of flare in all of Candesce. Her only obstacle is Linden’s father, Senator Walden Holt, who refuses to acknowledge their relationship.

When Senator Holt announces his run for president, however, Ingrid uses the situation to her advantage. She strikes a deal to spy on Gwendolyn Meyers, the Holts’s opposition, in exchange for the senator’s approval. But the more Ingrid learns about the world around her, the more she questions where her true allegiances lie.

Suddenly, Ingrid finds herself at an impasse: Will she stand with the Holts, who have the power and influence to give Ingrid everything she so desperately desires? Or will she forge her own path with Gwendolyn in hopes of building a better future for everyone?

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Follow Your Arrow by Jessica Verdi

Today on the site I’m excited to be sharing the entire first chapter from Jessica Verdi’s upcoming Follow Your Arrow, which releases from Scholastic on March 2nd and centers on setting biphobia on fire. Or I could just let the publisher describe the book in a slightly classier way:

CeCe Ross is kind of a big deal. She and her girlfriend, Silvie, are social media influencers with zillions of fans and followers, known for their cute outfits and being #relationshipgoals.

So when Silvie breaks up with her, CeCe is devastated. She’s lost her first love, and now she can’t help but wonder if she’ll lose her followers as well.

Things get even messier when CeCe meets Josh, a new boy in town who is very much Not Online. CeCe isn’t surprised to be falling for a guy; she’s always known she’s bi. And Josh is sweet and smart and has excellent taste in donuts… but he has no idea that CeCe is internet-famous. And CeCe sort of wants to keep it that way.

But when CeCe’s secrets catch up to her, she finds herself in the middle of an online storm, where she’ll have to confront the blurriness of public vs. private life, and figure out what it really means to speak her truth.

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

And here’s the first chapter of Finding Your Arrow!

I study the app post like it’s a Renaissance painting, dissecting and analyzing each detail before tapping the button that will send it out to the world. It took me ten minutes of crafting and deleting and rewriting to land on this combination of words and images and emphasis, but I’m still not sure about it.

Do the all-caps and exclamation points convey the right level of enthusiasm, or does the tone tip over into annoying? And I purposely limited the hashtags to three, because too many and people will just scroll right by instead of putting in the effort to read, but maybe I should have hashtagged #spring and #news too? For discoverability? And the emojis . . . I love emojis, but sometimes I wonder if everyone else in the world is over them and I’m showing how out of touch I am when I use them too much. Not that anyone’s said, “Hey, CeCe, you might want to rethink how many emojis you use” or anything. I just . . . I don’t know. I worry.

“Does this look okay?” I ask Silvie, holding the screen out. We’re lying on the floor in her room—our usual hangout spot. My leg is draped over hers, and we’re both scrolling on our phones—our usual position.

Silvie’s room is spacious, artfully designed, and looks like an #ad. Lots of white furniture, framed photography, and intentional pops of color. We spend most of our time at Silvie’s house, especially on weekends when my mom’s working long hours, or when we have a video to record or a livestream to do, like today. The sleek lines and bright light of her bedroom make for a way more professional backdrop than the chaos of mine.

Silvie skims my post draft in one point five seconds, then glances back at me. “Looks good. Why haven’t you posted it yet?”

“I needed to get it right.”

She rolls her eyes. “Ceece, we go live in”—she checks the time on her own phone—“ten minutes. Just post it; it doesn’t need to be perfect.”

She doesn’t get it. She could post Hey. Live video at 1. Watch it. and get fifty thousand likes and a hundred new followers within minutes. Everyone loves Silvia Castillo Ramírez.

I, on the other hand, have had to work incredibly hard to get people to like me and care about what I have to say.

I hold my breath and tap post. “Okay. Done.” Silvie goes back to scrolling.

When I first joined social media in seventh grade, @Hi_Im_CeCeRoss was a lot different than it is now. Not only my follower count and reach, but the content itself. The few people who actually read my posts probably got a kick out of the twelve-year-old white girl in the Midwest going on epic rants about #gerrymandering and #prisonreform and #healthcarepolicies. But I’d been fighting against my father’s conservative beliefs pretty much since I was old enough to speak. It was not only all I knew; it was who I was. And at first, the app felt like a natural extension of that: a chance to express my views without my dad telling me I was wrong, or that I’d understand when I was older, or that I was embarrassing myself. I didn’t edit, didn’t self-censor, didn’t obsess. I posted whatever was on my mind.

But then my father left.

And everything changed.

Suddenly I didn’t want to be The Girl with All the Opinions anymore, the girl who was so strong-willed, so defiant, it had torn her family apart. I just wanted to be happy, for once. I wanted—needed—a chance to breathe.

When Silvie and I met, she already had a following online—people actually listened to her, looked to her for her thoughts and perspective. Sure, her feed was mainly about stuff like #fashion and #style, but still. She was happy.

So I followed her lead.

For over two years now, I’ve done everything I can to make it look like my life is as shiny and special as Silvie’s. And that’s the thing about social media: You get to decide how people see you. You can become a casual, confident, carefree girl with more friends than she can keep track of and not a single problem to be seen. Every post, each comment, is another stitch in the tapestry of my online world. A heavily filtered selfie here, a post with a potentially controversial opinion edited out before being posted there, and about a zillion tongue-biting, sugary-sweet replies to haters. And honestly, even the haters are tolerable, because #lifestyle influencing might invite eye rolls, but it rarely invites the vitriol that fighting over immigration policies does. It certainly doesn’t lead to shouting matches so intense they make the walls of your house shake. It doesn’t stretch the limits of family, and it doesn’t result in divorce.

“You really need to stop overanalyzing everything,” Silvie says, clicking her phone off, untangling her leg from mine, and standing to stretch. It’s an unseasonably warm day for late March in Cincinnati, but the loss of skin-to-skin contact sends an instant shiver over me. “It’s not good for you.”

That’s where she’s wrong.

Overanalyzing—though I prefer to call it curating—has worked. Silvie may have 1,200,000 followers, but I have 985,000. She might have six sponsorships at the moment, but I have four. We’re both continually featured on Famous Birthdays’s “trending influencers” list.

Life isn’t perfect, the world isn’t perfect, but the time I spend on the app is as close to perfect as I’ve found. It’s my loophole. And I’d like to keep it.

Speaking of, I need to retouch my makeup before we go live. I sit at Silvie’s vanity and uncap the eyeliner I keep at her house, while she comes up behind me and grabs her brush. People often do double takes when they meet my girlfriend in person for the first time, because her combination of blue-green eyes, dark hair, and olive skin is unexpected. But those same people invariably go back for a third and fourth glance. Silvie is truly one of the most beautiful people most of us have ever seen, even online.

I, along with most of the world, am a little more ordinary-looking than Silvie. But in moments like this, studying our side-by-side reflections, it’s not hard to see what our fans see: Silvie and I don’t only look good together; we look like we go together. Our hair is almost the same shade of dark brown—Silvie’s long, mine falling in a blunt bob to just above my chin. And even though Silvie’s seven inches taller than me, we fit. My skin is pale, and my eyes are a basic brown, but I think I have nice eyebrows and shoulders, and my earlobes are just the right shape for earrings. The ones I’m wearing right now are little yellow dangly houses; they were a birthday gift from Silvie last year. Silvie’s wearing the lesbian like whoa T-shirt she got at a thrift store.

She finishes fixing her loose side pony, and I wordlessly hand her a bottle of hand lotion. Whenever she brushes her hair, she likes to rub a tiny bit of lotion into her hands, then gently tamp down the frizzies on the top of her head. After being together for over two years, we know each other’s quirks like they’re our own. “This stuff is the best, isn’t it?” she says as she squeezes a small amount of lotion into her palm and massages her hands together.

“What, the hand cream?” I lean closer to the mirror and dab some of Silvie’s coral-tinted lip gloss onto my lips.

“Yeah, all the Dana & Leslie stuff. It’s insane that they’re not more mainstream.”

“Well, that’s what they have you for.” I give her a smile, then quickly devote my attention to applying a pointless second layer of lip gloss.

Dana & Leslie is the gender-inclusive, organic, cruelty-free skincare brand Silvie’s an ambassador for. I fully support their mission, and the partnership has been great for Silvie, but if I’m being honest, I can’t stand the cloying smell of that lotion. And the face wash dried my skin out.

I’ve been avoiding sharing my opinions on Dana & Leslie with Silvie, because she’s really proud of her collaboration with them, and I don’t want to start a fight or come across as unsupportive. I even purposely left all the products she gave me out in plain view on my bedside table at home just so she would see them when she came over.

But I guess I don’t have her fooled. She’s staring at me, unblinking, in the mirror, clearly waiting for a more emphatic agreement that Dana & Leslie products are, in fact, “the best.”

Sigh.

Silvie and I mastered the art of the face-off long ago, and I have no choice but to allow myself to stare back. I know what she’s thinking, she knows what I’m thinking, and we both know we’re on a moving bus, just a stop or two away from The Argument of the Day.

But we’re only four minutes out from one p.m., so Silvie returns the Dana & Leslie lotion to its home on the vanity and wordlessly finishes her hair.

“Looks nice,” I say gently, an attempt at keeping the atmosphere light.

Silvie and I have always bickered. It used to be a point of pride for me. It proved, I thought, that you can be in a committed, long-term relationship with another person but still have your own thoughts and opinions, likes and dislikes. Like this painting I saw once at a museum of two people forehead to forehead, balancing on a board placed on top of a ball. I remember thinking that, apart from it being a man and a woman in the painting, the depiction could have been me and Silvie. Two individuals, each unique and strong-willed, yet when they’re together, perfectly balanced. Not halves of a whole, but two wholes who do better together than apart.

Lately, though, the board has tipped, and our balance is off. It seems every little thing I’ve said or done these last few days has annoyed Silvie. She hasn’t been smiling as much, hasn’t been finding excuses to touch or hug or kiss me all the time like she used to. The bickering has turned into arguing, and the arguments are taking longer and longer to rebound from.

I know she’s stressed about the prom planning. It’s part of her responsibilities as president of our school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (I’m vice president—our dynamic is nothing if not consistent). Silvie and I had planned to spend this afternoon brainstorming not-cheesy prom theme ideas to bring to our next GSA meeting. We also wanted to put out feelers to @DJRio, a Chicago-based DJ who follows us both on the app, to see if he’d consider DJing our prom. But I can’t help but feel like there’s something else going on with her.

“Just don’t post about it,” she says finally, her tone clipped.

“Post about what?”

“That you don’t like the Dana & Leslie products. It was really nice of them to send extra freebies for you.”

In one second flat, the air in the room goes stale.

“Are you kidding me?” I splutter.

“What?”

“Since when do I post about stuff like that?”

This makes no sense. I don’t post anything without double- and triple-checking it. I would never do anything to jeopardize Silvie’s career, or the work we both do, or our freaking relationship.

She knows that. But all she says is “Just saying.”

“Right, okay.” I mimic the action of typing on my phone and pretend to read aloud. “Hey, just thought you’d all like to know that Dana & Leslie, the company my girlfriend, Silvia Castillo Ramírez, is an ambassador for, is overpriced garbage and I don’t know why anyone would ever want to use the stuff. ’K’ byeeee!”

I wait for her to apologize. Laugh at the ridiculousness of it. She doesn’t. She simply picks up her phone again and asks, her voice flat, “Ready to go live?”

NO, I’m not ready to go live, I want to retort. You’re being a brat and really unfair and we need to talk about this.

But it’s one o’clock. We have work to do.

I check my teeth in the reflective, silvery material of my phone case, and nod. Without further discussion, we sit on Silvie’s bed. Our bodies inch closer together and our smiles appear. Silvie hits the go live button.

“Hey, everyone!” I say, giving a little wave as the screen projects our images back to us.

“Happy Saturday!” Silvie says.

“And happy spring!” I add. Today is March 20, the official first day of spring. I love spring. The hours of sunlight stretch longer, you can wear dresses without tights underneath, and avocados are in season again.

“Oh yeah! Spring break is only three weeks away!” Silvie says. “I’m going to Mexico to visit my grandparents, and we have plans to spend a few days at the beach. I cannot wait.”

“Bring me back a seashell?” I squeeze her hand, and she laughs.

“I’ll bring you a hundred seashells, babe.” She looks at me with hearts in her eyes, and I take my first real breath since the lotion debacle. We’re back at equilibrium, I think with no small measure of relief. It was just bickering, not fighting. She’s not mad at me. Everything’s fine.

“We have lots to share today, so let’s get to it, shall we?” Silvie says.

“Yes, let’s!” I slide a sealed brown box across the bed into the camera frame and grab scissors from Silvie’s nightstand. “This package just arrived this morning from an awesome new company called Benevolence.” Silvie holds the camera steady as I slice the packing tape open. Our followers love a good #unboxing vid, and I have to admit, I do too. There’s something inherently relatable about the feeling you get when a new package arrives on your doorstep, the little thrill that zips through you as you open it up, eager for its secrets to be revealed. Will the item inside match your expectations? Will it fit? Will it be the right color? Or maybe it’s a gift from someone, and you have no idea what you’ll find beneath the cardboard box flaps.

Silvie and I don’t have an official commission-based or pay-for-posts arrangement with Benevolence, but companies often send us free stuff in the hopes that we’ll share the products on our app accounts. We almost always do. Once or twice we decided not to because the company that sent the stuff was well-known for supporting politicians whose values didn’t align with our own, but that doesn’t happen often.

I remove the packing materials and extract the pieces of clothing one by one, holding them up for the camera. Scrunchy blue socks. A soft tank top in a red-and-white geometric pattern. A forest-green cropped-length hoodie. A pair of mustard-yellow short-shorts with white polka dots.

“Oooh, give me those!” Silvie says, propping the phone up on her nightstand so she’s free to duck out of frame and try the shorts on.

I keep talking, keep describing the clothes to our over 70,000 real-time viewers. “This stuff is super cute,” I say honestly. “And the best part is it’s all eco-friendly.” I take the little information card out of the box and read aloud. “Benevolence clothing is made from one hundred percent hemp, which requires fewer chemicals and much less water than cotton to produce.”

I have a captive audience—I could totally take this opportunity to talk more about the importance of choosing carbon-neutral and sustainable products when buying new, but I don’t. Environmental efforts are considered political, and I make sure to keep politics far away from my content. “Everything is so soft!” I say instead, sliding the fabric of the tank top between my thumb and pointer finger. “I bet this would look great under a pair of overalls.”

Silvie pops back into the shot, doing a spin and showing off the shorts, which fit her perfectly, surprising literally no one. Her legs are so long that shorts always look good on her. The girl is like a freaking mannequin.

“These shorts are mine now, thank youuu,” she says with an adorable gleam in her eye.

“You look amazing, babe,” I tell her, and she grins.

She picks up the phone again and leaps onto the bed beside me, bouncing us both. “Okay! Ready for the other big news?”

“Yes!” I say eagerly, though of course I already know what she’s about to say.

“June is a little over two months away, and you know what June is?” She grins at me.

“June is Pride month!” I reply.

“Yup! Each year, throughout the month of June, Pride parades and celebrations are held in cities across the world.” Silvie’s facing the camera again. “And . . .”

She pauses for dramatic effect, and I do a little drumroll sound. “CeCe and I have been asked to lead this year’s march on Cincinnati! We’re going to be the grand marshals at our hometown Pride parade on June fifth!” She sends up a confetti filter over our faces.

“Not only that,” I add, “but we’ve been asked to give a speech at the pre-march rally!”

Talk about #goals. By its nature, this event will be slightly more political than our usual thing, which is a little scary. But I’ve worked so hard to get people to like me, and this invite is proof that I’ve made it. People want to hear me and Silvie speak. They care what we have to say. Even just the idea of that is a dream for me. How could I say no? And besides, Silvie and I will be doing it together, standing side by side, addressing a crowd full of allies with a speech we both wrote.

Silvie gives our now 78,000 real-time viewers a few more details and sets a countdown clock on her app profile. “We still have some time before the event, obviously,” she says, “but mark your calendars if you live in the Cincinnati area! We want to meet as many of you as we can!”

We end the live session the same way we always do: I throw an arm around her and kiss her on the cheek. Sometimes Silvie kisses me in these moments, and sometimes I kiss her. But it’s always on the cheek, and always right before we sign off.

The feed stops.

“Hey, I’m sorry about earlier . . .” I begin lightly, riding the high from our announcement, but Silvie pulls away.

And just like that, the energy bleeds from the room, seeping under the door and through the air conditioner vents.

She’d only been pretending everything was normal during the live feed; I see that now. I should have seen it earlier, but I wanted everything to be fine so badly that I chose to pretend her way-too-fast mood shift was real.

Silently, Silvie adds the video to her stories stream and tags me, then starts scrolling mindlessly, her eyes affixed to the screen.

“What’s wrong?” I ask after a moment. It comes out whinier than I’d planned. I want to add, Don’t make me guess. Just talk to me—we’ll figure it out. I love you. But I don’t say anything more.

She shakes her head. “Forget it.”

“Forget what?” I honestly don’t even know what we’re talking about anymore.

“Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“But I do want to talk about it.” I need answers. Clarity.

Silvie doesn’t say anything. She’s still looking down at her phone, scrolling so quickly I know she’s not actually absorbing the posts.

“I’m sorry I don’t like the Dana & Leslie stuff, okay?” I continue. “But is that a requirement? That we have to like all the same things?”

“Of course not.”

“So what, then?”

“I don’t know,” she mumbles after a beat. Still not looking at me. Still avoiding me.

“You do know,” I press, starting to feel like I’m asking for her to yell at me. “Something is on your mind, Silvie. Just tell me.”

“I don’t want to!” she finally blurts, clicking her phone off and dropping it onto her bedspread. “Stop pushing me!”

I gape at her. “Pushing you? I’m not pushing you! I’m trying to catch up to wherever it is you are. You keep snapping at me. I just want to know what I did to make you so mad at me.”

“I’m not mad at you,” she says. “I already said I wasn’t mad at you. Jeez, CeCe.”

“Well, you didn’t say that, actually,” I half shout. “But how about I’m mad at you now?”

She has the audacity to look shocked at that. “For what?”

“Silvie, you just accused me of planning to trash-talk both you and an entire company online. For literally zero reason. Don’t you know me at all?”

“I didn’t mean that, all right?” Her chest rises and falls with a shuddering breath. “Can you just let it go? Please?”

Let it go. I’ve gotten really good at letting things go over the years. I know how to put my feelings aside for the sake of keeping the peace. I know how to shut up and smile when all I want to do is scream. I just didn’t think Silvie would ever request that of me. “No.” My voice comes out on a strange waver, as if I’m battling to stay upright on a tightrope. “I think I deserve an explanation.”

The seconds pass.

Eventually she nods, like she’s decided to give in.

I wait, anticipating some semblance of an explanation.

But that’s not what I get. Out of nowhere, Silvie pitches forward and kisses me. It’s not what I was expecting, but, hey, I can roll with this. I immediately slide closer, kissing her back. We’ve done this countless times; I know the give of her lips, the curves of her face, the taste of her lavender tea obsession so well they’ve become a part of me.

But this kiss . . . It’s different.

Oddly, it reminds me of our very first one, when we were younger and pent up with not only those unbearable, impossible-to-articulate feelings of unexplored need, but also that added layer that all queer kids have to deal with. That feeling of something akin to delicious danger. Of everything feeling so freaking right for once, even with all the people telling you it’s wrong.

This kiss isn’t that, exactly. But it is just as loaded. And it stops as suddenly as it began.

Silvie pulls back, putting her palms out to carve some distance between us.

“We need to talk, Ceece,” she whispers, picking at the stitching of the bedspread. Her lips are still pink and the tiniest bit swollen from our kiss.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do,” I insist.

“I really wasn’t planning on doing this today,” she continues, almost to herself.

My stomach grows cold. “Doing what?”

She turns her phone over, so the screen is facedown, and she finally, finally looks at me fully. Her meaning is crystal clear in her eyes.

Need to talk. Wasn’t planning on doing this.

I suddenly feel woozy, like I’ve been pitched headfirst over a precipice. I leap off the bed just to feel the sturdy floor beneath my feet.

“No.” Only after the word is out there in the room do I realize I’m the one who whispered it.

***

(c) Paul Bausch

JESSICA VERDI is the author of And She WasMy Life After NowThe Summer I Wasn’t Me, and What You Left Behind. She is a graduate of The New School’s MFA in Writing for Children program and lives in New York. You can find her online at jessicaverdi.com.

*Excerpt (c) Jessica Verdi, 2021

Exclusive Cover Reveal: This is Our Rainbow ed. by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby

I am THE MOST excited to be sharing this cover reveal today, not just because I happen to adore the editors personally and not just because the cover is adorable, and not even just because the actually collection sounds incredible and so, so necessary, but because as you’ll read, I had a little hand in this one!

This is Our Rainbow is an all-LGBTQ+ Middle Grade anthology edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby, releasing from Knopf on October 19, 2021, and here to share the cover and the story behind it are the editors themselves!

***

We are SO EXCITED to bring you the cover of This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Him, Her, Them and Us, our LGBTQ+ middle grade anthology!

This anthology has been such a joyful experience from start to finish…and it started with a tweet! Dahlia, who is no stranger to editing anthologies, tweeted that she really hoped there was a queer middle grade anthology in the works, and that she would help whoever decided to take this on however they needed. When Nicole expressed interest, Dahlia got her in touch with Katherine (who had just finished up on It’s a Whole Spiel so had the anthology editor experience).

We clicked immediately and got brainstorming. Meanwhile, our editor at Knopf, Marisa DiNovis, responded to Dahlia’s tweet, too, saying that a queer middle grade anthology was literally her dream. It’s only fitting that we’re doing the cover reveal here, on Dahlia’s blog, seeing as she helped make this whole thing possible!

So Twitter can be a force for good!

These stories are full of so much heart and joy and thoughtfulness, and we cannot wait to share each and every one of these with readers.

This is Our Rainbow

The first LGBTQ+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!

A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.

From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and AJ Sass.

But today, we get to share the most glorious cover either of us have ever seen with YOU.

We are COMPLETELY obsessed with this cover with by Jes and Cin, designed by Sylvia Bi! Like, COMPLETELY OBSESSED.

Without further ado…here it is!

We LOVE this cover. Seeing such joy and pride and so many different representations on the cover of a middle grade book was a dream come true. We love that it’s so bright and happy; queer children getting to be themselves and happy and celebrating themselves was exactly what we wanted on the inside of this anthology, so we love that you can so clearly see that from this cover. And we can’t wait to share the back of the book too in a few months with more characters and more joy!

And we wanted to share more from the artists too! Here’s what Jes and Cin had to say about working on the cover:

What excited you about working on This Is Our Rainbow?

We were so excited that this was the first middle grade anthology about queer identities! We’re extremely passionate about queer representation in kids’ media, and seeing this diverse collection of stories and creatives was something we absolutely wanted (and are very honored) to be a part of.

How did you envision the cover?

The cover was a fun challenge. Fitting in all the protagonists and visualizing their flags into a book jacket is a lot! Sylvia Bi, the assistant designer, gave us some great prompts and directions to play with! We definitely wanted something bright and colorful, that showcased happy queer children celebrating themselves as individuals but also as a community. Reading the stories in this anthology really solidified how this cover would look.

What were your inspirations for the cover’s direction?

We were largely inspired by Naomi Franquiz’s cover for ToComix Press’ Shout Out Anthology! She put so much personality and individuality to the characters on that cover. We wanted the kids to interact with each other for This is Our Rainbow. Like a “warm gay hug” feeling! We also pulled from our experience going to Pride events. The many ways people joyfully expressed their identities through pins, flags, capes, and flower crowns was something we wanted to bring into the cover.

***

This is Our Rainbow releases on October 19th, 2021, and you can find more information and where to buy This is Our Rainbow here!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia where they are ruled by their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. They are the award-winning author of THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON, THE SPY WITH THE RED BALLOON, editor-and-contributor to IT’S A WHOLE SPIEL, and other titles. They not-so-secretly believe most stories are fairytales in disguise. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @bibliogato, and on katherinelockebooks.com.

Nicole Melleby, a born-and-bred Jersey girl, is the author of HURRICANE SEASON, which was a Lambda Literary Finalist, IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS…, a Kirkus Reviews best book of the year, and the upcoming HOW TO BECOME A PLANET (May 2021). She lives with her partner and their cat, whose need for attention oddly aligns with Nicole’s writing schedule. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LadyNeeko

Gimme an R?: Underrepresentation Among the Underrepresented, a Guest Post by Author Gideon E. Wood on Recovery and Addiction

I’m asked often for fiction that deals with recovery, and I haven’t had many recs to offer; it’s not rep to take lightly. So when Gideon E. Wood approached me with a guest post about exactly that, tied to the release of his brand-new fantasy, The Stagsblood Prince, I jumped at it, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Before we get to the post, here’s a little more about The Stagsblood Prince, a gay fantasy epic trilogy opener set in a homophobia-free world:

Cover design by Lance Buckley.

Tel, handsome crown prince of Feigh, has negotiated an end to the war between his country and the strange queendom of Omela. He looks forward to an easy reign of wild parties and wilder men. The deities have other ideas, however, in this gay fantasy novel of transformation, redemption, and love.

When his father dies suddenly, Tel is outmaneuvered by his brother, losing the throne. Tel’s faith prohibits him from raising his sword and spilling blood, so he accepts the humiliation, working to temper his brother’s baser impulses. But the new king’s reign takes a dark turn, and his collaborators begin to round up undesirables, including those with a magic called the stagsblood.

Tel must decide: Flee or fight? Running means abandoning his people to his brother’s evil whims. Standing his ground means the sin of total war. He has no army and only a few allies—and his magical secret.

Caip, his closest friend and protector, brings military experience and blunt advice. Her right hand, Dar, is the picture of loyalty. Tough, battle-scarred Bin doesn’t suffer fools gladly. And Vared, a mysterious singer-turned-diplomat from Omela, speaks the truth to Tel in ways no one else can.  

Buy The Stagsblood Prince

And here’s the post by author Gideon E. Wood!

White. American. Cisgender. Male. Gay. Queer, in my more festive moments. Writer. Progressive. Cat dad. Frequent smirker. Fallen vegan. I suppose I could sit here for hours bullet-pointing my identity. With enough thought, I could get incredibly granular about it. It might even be fun. But there’s one aspect of my identity—one bullet point—before which I put all others: I’m a person in addiction recovery. If I want to be a shade more clinical about it (and why not?), I’m a person with substance use disorder in sustained remission. Fancy!

My understanding of how addiction works (booze and powder cocaine, primarily, if you must know) forces me to—mindfully and regularly—own my recovery before any other aspect of my identity. I drank-and-used myself into homelessness and suicidality, so it is quite literally a matter of life and death for me. So, more than I ponder my race and what it means, more than I ponder my nationality and what it means, more than I ponder even my dude-on-dudeness and what it means, I must ponder my addiction and what it means. This approach has served me well over the last (oh, my gods!) decade, so I have no interest in switching it up. I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to use. I don’t want to die.

When you think about our expanding string of letters (LGBTQ+ is not really an acronym, let alone LGBTQQIP2SAA+…don’t get me started), I’d ask you to imagine a superscript lowercase r—for recovering or recovery available—attached to each. We’re here. We’re queer (or whathaveyou). Even within our community, we are not yet used to it. I find this shocking.

If we take a few minutes to consider it, most of us will intuitively understand that substance use disorder runs rampant through our private and public LGBTQ+ spaces. If your own anecdotal evidence fails to convince you (and good on ya for that, really), rest assured: the research has been done. Among others, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) acknowledge significantly higher rates of substance use disorder in the LGBTQ+ population. The reasons for this prevalence are probably self-evident: trauma, rejection, domestic strife, stigma, the risk of assault, and so on. And it’s not only addiction. These factors seem to increase risk for all manner of mental or behavioral health difficulties for us.  Sadly, the science has also found serious gaps in treatment and support services for our community.

Most of us already believe representation matters. Again, the evidence is there, both anecdotally and in the research. Visibility improves our physical and mental safety, along with our feelings of wellbeing. Whatever our place in our long string of letters, our stories are not told frequently enough. In recent years, we have seen improvement on that front. We are raising our voices, finally. And some are learning to listen.

But where’s my lowercase r? Where’s the representation of queer addiction and—even more importantly, I’d argue—queer recovery? Both our guts and our sociology tell us we should be seeing those stories more than we do. We should be hearing those voices begin to rise. They are there, if we really search and listen, but they are few and far between. When I do encounter them, they tend to be in memoir or narrative nonfiction, and usually depictions of folks in the thick of it. What about after the thick of it? Especially in fiction. And I’m sorry, but I was a mess for a really long time, then I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and all was well does not cut this particular mustard. As we say in recovery circles, we don’t wander into the dark heart of the wilderness for twenty years and then find ourselves safe and comfy at home the moment after we’ve realized we’re lost. It takes time. It takes work. It’s a hike. (Incidentally, I’m sure these stories are out there somewhere, so get in touch! I anxiously await your recs.)

I write fantasy with LGBTQ+ characters. When planning my debut, The Stagsblood Prince, I knew I wanted my main character to represent not just queerness but queerness in motion from active addiction to sustained recovery. Fantasy may not seem like a natural fit for such storytelling, but like all other human foibles and frailties, addiction and recovery are highlighted and brought into crisp relief when placed before a fantastical backdrop of myth and magic.

In fact, the genre may be more suited than most to lift these stories up. I had my own path to putting down substances and my own path to not picking those substances back up for a long while now. There are as many of these roadways as there are people in recovery. My approach may not work for you. We’ve found no silver bullets in the mountain of strategies, but plenty of overlap. Commonalities—shared principles—can be found among the many and varied recovery schools of thought.

Prince Tel of The Stagsblood Prince cannot walk into a Twelve Step meeting or secular support group. Such spaces do not exist in his world. He can’t Zoom with his therapist. There is no Zoom. There are no therapists. He has no psychopharmacology of which to avail himself. Inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, hospitalization? Nope.

What, then, can Prince Tel do? He can learn to practice the principles of treatment and recovery which keep millions of people (the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services says it’s about 23.5 million in the US alone) away from substances here on non-fantasy earth. Tel can tend to his physical, mental, and spiritual health in myriad ways. He can foster habitual gratitude. He can strive for honesty in all matters. He can lessen his burdens by sharing his struggles with others. He can interrogate himself and uncover the flawed thinking at the heart of his troubles. Most importantly, he can learn to ask for help when he needs it. And he’ll need it! He’s got love to find and a world in need of saving.

First and foremost, I hope The Stagsblood Prince entertains. As I see it, that’s my job. In my wilder dreams, though, at least one of you will see yourself represented in Tel and his journey. If you’re finding your use of alcohol or other substances problematic today, maybe you’ll see that recovery is possible. Believe me, the aforementioned asking for help stuff is powerful medicine. (SAMHSA and NIDA are good starting points for resources. My inbox is also always open.) If you’re already on the road, maybe Tel will keep you walking for a while.

We’re here. We’re queer. We are more likely to find ourselves in addiction. We are just as likely as anyone to recover. It’s well past time to get used to it.

***

(c) Daisy Cobb

Gideon E. Wood writes gay fantasy fiction. He has been proudly clean and sober since 2011. Second chances and transformation are at the heart of his work. Gideon lives in New England with his cat but thinks it’s important you know he isn’t a cat person.

You can find him on social media @gideonewood or email him: gideon@gideonewood.com.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: An Island Without You by Malulani Moreno

I’m so, so excited to have Malulani Moreno on the site today to reveal the cover of his debut, Hawai‘i-set contemporary YA An Island Without You, which releases from Abrams Books on January 4, 2022! Here’s the story:

When Keoni’s longtime bully Spencer disappears, he’s ecstatic: Life as a sixteen-year-old gay outcast in Wahiawā, Hawai‘i just got a lot easier. But Keoni can’t seem to escape Spencer’s memory—there are missing posters everywhere, his best friend is spearheading a fundraiser, and some people think that Spencer didn’t actually run away.

Aaron didn’t know what to expect when his dad uprooted them after his mom’s death, but it wasn’t that the first person he’d connect with in their new town would go missing. Still reeling from the loss, Aaron tries to make friends, but that’s hard with his selective mutism and the visions he’s having about Spencer.

When their lives collide, Keoni and Aaron try to find the truth of what happened to Spencer. And as they draw closer to the truth, they also grow closer to each other.

And here’s the lovely, tranquil cover of An Island Without You, illustrated by Andi Porretta and designed by Hana Anouk Nakamura!

And here’s a message from the author himself!

Hawaiʻi is my home. Or as we say in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, our native tongue, it is my kulāiwi, the place of my ancestors’ bones. I am so excited to present to you the cover for my novel, An Island Without You, which is as much about my main characters, Keoni and Aaron, as it is about my native homeland.

Keoni is a lot like teenage me. A Native Hawaiian, or Kanaka Maoli, growing up in a place colonized by Americans, feeling more of a connection with the Western world than with his own culture. He struggles at school because of the taunts and bullying of his childhood tormentor, Spencer. And all he really wants is deep connection and friendship. Keoni is a character I needed growing up, and I’m elated that Native Hawaiian keiki and LGBTQ+ teens will get to see themselves in the pages of a book.

Aaron, too, carries similarities to my younger self. He recently moved to a new town on the island of Oʻahu. All he wants is to meet a friend, but that’s difficult for him since he’s a little socially awkward, struggling with a condition called Selective Mutism. He meets someone, though, a closeted high school athlete by the name of Spencer, who he thinks could end up being more than a friend.

Keoni and Aaron’s lives collide when Spencer — the boy they have in common — turns up missing. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own when the book launches in January 2022.

You can add An Island Without You on Goodreads. And pre-order from your favorite retailer or through Abrams Books.

For now, a hui hou. Until we meet again.

Malulani Moreno is a hapa writer of Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), Mexican, and Portuguese descent. Born in Honolulu, Hawai’i, he currently lives and works on Maui. He earned his MFA in creative writing at The New School. An Island Without You is his first novel.

New Release Spotlight: Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

Oh, how I love this book. Let me count the ways! A) It’s perfect on the coming-of-age front, B) it has found family in multiple iterations, C) it has a Black lesbian heroine in STEM from a military background that I know anyone who was an overachieving child (and especially those pushed by parents) will identify with, more and more so the closer you get to Grace’s identity, and D) the romance is so. Freaking. Cute. It’s not what you’re picturing when you think “Got married while drunk in Vegas” but it’s such a great take on it that you are not gonna be mad about it!

Honey Girl releases February 23 from Park Row Books, so please make good use of those buy links below to preorder!

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Backlist Book of the Month: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Literally nobody on Earth needs me to extol the virtues of Akwaeke Emezi’s writing; pretty sure all their awards and accolades do a fine job at that on their own. But if you somehow haven’t read Pet, their speculative 2019 YA debut starring a Black trans girl who goes hunting for the most insidious kind of monster in a world that’s supposed to be safe from them, I am legally* obligated to make sure you do that, and to remind you that no matter how much increased rep we see in other areas, we’re still not seeing a real increase in transfeminine YA heroines in traditionally published YA novels, and certainly not trans girls of color.

But this isn’t a “read it because the rep is so special” call, even though the rep is so special, and nothing brings on more like increasing the success of what exists; it’s a “read it because it’s one of the only times in my life I’ve ever been completely hooked by a novel on page 1.” Read it because it does something brilliant and special with the gentle way it handles CSA and both sides of the fear and bravery coin. Read it because it’s so damn smart in such a slim profile. Read it because I said so.

Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with the lesson that the city is safe for everyone. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature who some might call monstrous but, in reality, is anything but, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has emerged from one of her mother’s paintings to hunt a true monster–and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. No one has encountered monsters in years, though, and Jam’s quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth is met with doubt and disbelief.

This award-winning novel from a rising-star author asks: What really makes a monster, and how do you save the world from something if no one will admit it exists?

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

New Releases: February 2021

The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney (1st)

When Jenn Berney and her wife decided they wanted to have children, they took the next logical step: they went to a fertility clinic. Intrauterine insemination is a simple medical procedure that has been available since the 1950s, but doctors were baffled by Jenn’s situation. With no man factoring into her relationship, she was disparaged by doctors, given an inaccurate diagnosis, and her medical needs were overlooked.

Berney decided to step outside of the system, and, looking into the history of fertility and her own community, she realized queer women have a long history of being disregarded by a patriarchal medical community, and have worked around it to build families on their own terms. In The Other Mothers, Berney reflects on the odds that were stacked against her because of her sexual orientation and envisions a bright future worth fighting for. Writing with clarity, determination, and hope, Berney gives us a wonderful glimpse of what America can be.

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Royal Family by Jenny Frame (1st)

For Veronica Clayton, the sudden death of her mother has turned her naturally bright and happy-go-lucky view of the world bleak. As the Police Protection Officer for the Queen’s children, she has purpose, but for the next six months, the Queen’s family is the focus of a documentary on royal life. The last thing Clay wants is a camera pointed in her face.

Katya Kovach, a refugee to Britain, knows all about death and grief. She saw her family shot in front of her and has never recovered from those dark memories. Now trained at London’s most prestigious childcare school, she’s happy as the nanny to Queen Georgina and Queen Bea’s children.

Clay is usually good-natured, but the rule-oriented Katya is not only a pain, but annoyingly beautiful, and they find themselves facing the awkward reality that everyone else is a couple except them while their every move is being filmed. Loss has defined both their lives, but guarding their hearts may prove to be the biggest heartbreak of all.

Buy it: Bold Strokes Books

The Boy from the Mish by Gary Lonesborough (2nd)

It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city – but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them… As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret – a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.

Buy it: Booktopia | Dymocks | Book Depository

Lone Stars by Justin Deabler (2nd)

Lone Stars follows the arc of four generations of a Texan family in a changing America. Julian Warner, a father at last, wrestles with a question his husband posed: what will you tell our son about the people you came from, now that they’re gone? Finding the answers takes Julian back in time to Eisenhower’s immigration border raids, an epistolary love affair during the Vietnam War, crumbling marriages, queer migrations to Cambridge and New York, up to the disorienting polarization of Obama’s second term. And in these answers lies a hope: that by uncloseting ourselves–as immigrants, smart women, gay people–we find power in empathy.

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100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell (2nd)

Transgressive, foulmouthed, and devastatingly funny, Brontez Purnell’s 100 Boyfriends is a revelatory spiral into the imperfect lives of queer men desperately fighting—and often losing—the urge to self-sabotage. His characters solicit sex on their lunch breaks, expose themselves to racist neighbors, sleep with their coworker’s husbands, rub Preparation H on their hungover eyes, and, in an uproarious epilogue, take a punk band on a disastrous tour of Europe. They also travel to claim inheritances, push past personal trauma, and cultivate community while living on the margins of a white supremacist, heteronormative society.

Armed with a deadpan wit that finds humor in even the lowest of nadirs, Brontez Purnell—a widely acclaimed underground writer, filmmaker, musician, and performance artist—writes with the peerless zeal, insight, and horniness of a gay punk messiah. From dirty warehouses and gentrified bars in Oakland to desolate farm towns in Alabama, Purnell indexes desire, desperation, race, and loneliness with a startling blend of levity and vulnerability. Together, the slice-of-life tales that writhe within 100 Boyfriends are a singular and uncompromising vision of an unexposed queer underbelly. Holding them together is the vision of an iconoclastic storyteller, as fearless as he is human.

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Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell (2nd)

While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.

But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.

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This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria (2nd)

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

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Love is an Ex-Country by Randa Jarrar (2nd)

Randa Jarrar is a fearless voice of dissent who has been called “politically incorrect” (Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times). As an American raised for a time in Egypt, and finding herself captivated by the story of a celebrated Egyptian belly dancer’s journey across the United States in the 1940s, she sets off from her home in California to her parents’ in Connecticut.

Coloring this road trip are journeys abroad and recollections of a life lived with daring. Reclaiming her autonomy after a life of survival—domestic assault as a child, and later, as a wife; threats and doxxing after her viral tweet about Barbara Bush—Jarrar offers a bold look at domestic violence, single motherhood, and sexuality through the lens of the punished-yet-triumphant body. On the way, she schools a rest-stop racist, destroys Confederate flags in the desert, and visits the Chicago neighborhood where her immigrant parents first lived.

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Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson (2nd)

Andre Cobb hopes his luck is finally turning around. After being sick for as long as he can remember, he’s finally gotten the liver transplant he desperately needed. Now his life can finally begin. But weeks after the operation, he feels shaky and ill, passes out, and wakes up somewhere totally unexpected…the past.

Somehow, he’s slipped through time to the 1960s version of his neighborhood in Boston. While there he meets Michael, who he is instantly connected to. Michael is everything Andre is not. He’s free-spirited, artistic, and open to all of life’s possibilities.

But just as suddenly as he arrived, Andre slips back to present-day Boston. As he tries to figure out what happened, the family of his donor reaches out to let him know his new liver may have side effects… of the time travel variety. They task their youngest son, Blake, with the job of helping Andre figure out the ins and outs of his new ability.

As Andre trains with Blake, he can’t help but feel attracted to him. Blake understands Andre in a way no one else ever has. But every time Andre journeys to the past, he’s drawn back into to Michael’s world.

Torn between two boys, one in the past and one in the present, Andre has to figure out where he belongs and more importantly who he wants to be before the consequences of jumping in time catch up to him and changes his fate for good.

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Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (2nd)

Rachel is twenty-four, a lapsed Jew who has made calorie restriction her religion. By day, she maintains an illusion of existential control, by way of obsessive food rituals, while working as an underling at a Los Angeles talent management agency. At night, she pedals nowhere on the elliptical machine. Rachel is content to carry on subsisting—until her therapist encourages her to take a ninety-day communication detox from her mother, who raised her in the tradition of calorie counting.

Early in the detox, Rachel meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop and is intent upon feeding her. Rachel is suddenly and powerfully entranced by Miriam—by her sundaes and her body, her faith and her family—and as the two grow closer, Rachel embarks on a journey marked by mirrors, mysticism, mothers, milk, and honey.

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Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard (9th)

Fire burns bright and has a long memory….

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?

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As Far As You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper (9th)

Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.

From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?

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Kink, ed. by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell (9th)

Kink is a dynamic anthology of literary fiction that opens an imaginative door into the world of desire. The stories within this collection portray love, desire, BDSM, and sexual kinks in all their glory with a bold new vision. The collection includes works by renowned fiction writers such as Callum Angus, Alexander Chee, Vanessa Clark, Melissa Febos, Kim Fu, Roxane Gay, Cara Hoffman, Zeyn Joukhadar, Chris Kraus, Carmen Maria Machado, Peter Mountford, Larissa Pham, and Brandon Taylor, with Garth Greenwell and R.O. Kwon as editors.

The stories within explore bondage, power-play, and submissive-dominant relationships; we are taken to private estates, therapists’ offices, underground sex clubs, and even a Victorian-era sex theater. While there are whips and chains, sure, the true power of these stories lies in their beautiful, moving dispatches from across the sexual spectrum of interest and desires, as portrayed by some of today’s most exciting writers.

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Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne (9th)

This is the sequel to Architects of Memory

Natalie Chan gained her corporate citizenship, but barely survived the battle for Tribulation.

Now corporate has big plans for Natalie. Horrible plans.

Locked away in Natalie’s missing memory is salvation for the last of an alien civilization and the humans they tried to exterminate. The corporation wants total control of both—or their deletion.

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Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas by Sam Maggs, ill. by Kendra Wells (9th)

Anne Bonny had it all—her own ship, a pirate crew, and a fearsome reputation—but a new enemy has her on the run and it’ll take all of Anne’s courage to stay afloat. The night before a major heist, Anne has an unsettling dream, and come morning, the robbery is thwarted by Woodes Roger, a zealot who has sworn to eliminate piracy. With no plan to escape, Anne must persuade her crew to seek the meaning of her dream—or perish. Full of sass, solidarity, and swordplay, Tell No Tales is a graphic novel about belonging, belief, and how far we’re willing to go to protect the ones we love.

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Not Quite Out by Louise Wallingham (9th)

William Anson is done with relationships, thanks. He’s starting the second year of his medicine degree single, focused, and ready to mingle with purely platonic intentions.

Meeting Daniel, a barely recovered drug addict ready to start living life on his own terms, might just change that.

There are two problems.
One: William isn’t out.

What’s the point in telling your friends you’re bisexual when you aren’t going to date anyone?

Two: Daniel’s abusive ex-boyfriend still roams the university campus, searching for cracks in Daniel’s recovery.

No matter how quickly William falls for Daniel, their friendship is too important to risk ruining over a crush.

William is fine with being just friends for the rest of forever.

Well, not quite.

Content warning – This book includes references to abortion, PTSD, drug addiction, abusive relationships, and self-harm.

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Wonderstruck by Allie Therin (9th)

This is the final book in the Magic in Manhattan series

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie is on a mission: to destroy the powerful supernatural relic that threatens Manhattan—and all the nonmagical minds in the world. So far his search has been fruitless. All it has done is keep him from the man he loves. But he’ll do anything to keep Rory safe and free, even if that means leaving him behind.

Psychometric Rory Brodigan knows his uncontrolled magic is a liability, but he’s determined to gain power over it. He can take care of himself—and maybe even Arthur, too, if Arthur will let him. An auction at the Paris world’s fair offers the perfect opportunity to destroy the relic, if a group of power-hungry supernaturals don’t destroy Rory and Arthur first.

As the magical world converges on Paris, Arthur and Rory have to decide who they can trust. Guessing wrong could spell destruction for their bond—and for the world as they know it.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N 

Let’s Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih (16th)

Set in the year between the 2015 Supreme Court marriage equality ruling and the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre, Let’s Get Back to the Party explores the intertwined lives of two gay men named Sebastian Mote and Oscar Burnham: estranged childhood friends who reconnect as adults in Washington, DC.

Thirty-somethings who came of age after the AIDS crisis but before the current era where they might have had the comfort of an out adolescence, the two have grown into very different men. Sebastian, a straitlaced suburban high school teacher mourning the end of a long-term relationship, finds his orderly lifestyle threatened by the appearance of Arthur Ayer, a gay student so comfortable in his own skin that Sebastian finds himself dangerously obsessed with the teenager. Oscar, furious and defiant in the face of what he sees as the death of queer culture, begins a confusing relationship—is it friendship or something more?—with once-eminent novelist Sean Stokes, known for graphic stories of pre-AIDS hedonism. Alternating chapters from Sebastian and Oscar’s points of view, Let’s Get Back to the Party recounts their mirrored struggles with generational envy, cultural identity, the traumas of history, and, ultimately, each other.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Kobo

The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan (16th)

11-year-old Stevie is an avid reader and she knows a lot of things about a lot of things. But these are the things she’d like to know the most:

1. The ocean and all the things that live there and why it’s so scary
2. The stars and all the constellations
3. How phones work
4. What happened to Princess Anastasia
5. Knots

Knowing things makes Stevie feel safe, powerful, and in control should anything bad happen. And with the help of her mom, she is finding the tools to manage her anxiety.

But there’s one something Stevie doesn’t know, one thing she wants to understand above everything else, and one thing she isn’t quite ready to share with her mom: the fizzy feeling she gets in her chest when she looks at her friend, Chloe. What does it mean and why isn’t she ready to talk about it?

In this poetic exploration of identity and anxiety, Stevie must confront her fears to find inner freedom all while discovering it is our connections with others that make us stronger.

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Soulstar by C.L. Polk (16th)

This is the final book in the Kingston Cycle

For years, Robin Thorpe has kept her head down, staying among her people in the Riverside neighborhood and hiding the magic that would have her imprisoned by the state. But when Grace Hensley comes knocking on Clan Thorpe’s door, Robin’s days of hiding are at an end. As freed witches flood the streets of Kingston, scrambling to reintegrate with a kingdom that destroyed their lives, Robin begins to plot a course that will ensure a freer, juster Aeland. At the same time, she has to face her long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum twenty years ago.

Can Robin find happiness among the rising tides of revolution? Can Kingston survive the blizzards that threaten, the desperate monarchy, and the birth throes of democracy? Find out as the Kingston Cycle comes to an end.

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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers (16th)

This is the fourth book in the Wayfarers series

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

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A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth (23rd)

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The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.

A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

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Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann (23rd)

In this wry and hilarious queer romantic comedy, fifteen-year-old Phoebe realizes that falling in love is maybe not just for losers.

Did you know you can marry yourself? How strange / brilliant is that?

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe thinks falling in love is vile and degrading, and vows never to do it. Then, due to circumstances not entirely in her control, she finds herself volunteering at a local thrift shop. There she meets Emma . . . who might unwittingly upend her whole theory on life.

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Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought by Briona Simone Jones (23rd)

African American lesbian writers and theorists have made extraordinary contributions to feminist theory, activism, and writing. Mouths of Rain, the companion anthology to Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s classic Words of Fire, traces the long history of intellectual thought produced by Black Lesbian writers, spanning the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century.

Using “Black Lesbian” as a capacious signifier, Mouths of Rain includes writing by Black women who have shared intimate and loving relationships with other women, as well as Black women who see bonding as mutual, Black women who have self-identified as lesbian, Black women who have written about Black Lesbians, and Black women who theorize about and see the word lesbian as a political descriptor that disrupts and critiques capitalism, heterosexism, and heteropatriarchy. Taking its title from a poem by Audre Lorde, Mouths of Rain addresses pervasive issues such as misogynoir and anti-blackness while also attending to love, romance, “coming out,” and the erotic.

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Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (23rd)

With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that.

This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.

In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Shadow War by Lindsay Smith (23rd)

World War II is raging, and five teens are looking to make a mark. Daniel and Rebeka seek revenge against the Nazis who slaughtered their family; Simone is determined to fight back against the oppressors who ruined her life and corrupted her girlfriend; Phillip aims to prove that he’s better than his worst mistakes; and Liam is searching for a way to control the portal to the shadow world he’s uncovered, and the monsters that live within it–before the Nazi regime can do the same. When the five meet, and begrudgingly team up, in the forests of Germany, none of them knows what their future might hold.

As they race against time, war, and enemies from both this world and another, Liam, Daniel, Rebeka, Phillip, and Simone know that all they can count on is their own determination and will to survive. With their world turned upside down, and the shadow realm looming ominously large–and threateningly close–the course of history and the very fate of humanity rest in their hands. Still, the most important question remains: Will they be able to save it?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Book Depository | Bookshop

Best Laid Plans by Roan Parrish (23rd)

Charlie Matheson has spent his life taking care of things. When his parents died two days before his eighteenth birthday, he took care of his younger brother, even though that meant putting his own dreams on hold. He took care of his father’s hardware store, building it into something known several towns over. He took care of the cat he found in the woods…so now he has a cat.

When a stranger with epic tattoos and a glare to match starts coming into Matheson’s Hardware, buying things seemingly at random and lugging them off in a car so beat-up Charlie feels bad for it, his instinct is to help. When the man comes in for the fifth time in a week, Charlie can’t resist intervening.

Rye Janssen has spent his life breaking things. Promises. His parents’ hearts. Leases. He isn’t used to people wanting to put things back together—not the crumbling house he just inherited, not his future and certainly not him. But the longer he stays in Garnet Run, the more he can see himself belonging there. And the more time he spends with Charlie, the more he can see himself falling asleep in Charlie’s arms…and waking up in them.

Is this what it feels like to have a home—and someone to share it with?

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I’m a Wild Seed by Sharon Lee De La Cruz (23rd)

In this delightfully compelling full-color graphic memoir, the author shares her process of undoing the effects of a patriarchal, colonial society on her self-image, her sexuality, and her concept of freedom. Reflecting on the ways in which oppression was the cause for her late bloom into queerness, we are invited to discover people and things in the author’s life that helped shape and inform her LGBTQ identity. And we come to an understanding of her holistic definition of queerness.

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The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by KJ Charles (24th)

Robin Loxleigh and his sister Marianne are the hit of the Season, so attractive and delightful that nobody looks behind their pretty faces.

Until Robin sets his sights on Sir John Hartlebury’s heiress niece. The notoriously graceless baronet isn’t impressed by good looks, or fooled by false charm. He’s sure Robin is a liar—a fortune hunter, a card sharp, and a heartless, greedy fraud—and he’ll protect his niece, whatever it takes.

Then, just when Hart thinks he has Robin at his mercy, things take a sharp left turn. And as the grumpy baronet and the glib fortune hunter start to understand each other, they also find themselves starting to care—more than either of them thought possible.

But Robin’s cheated and lied and let people down for money. Can a professional rogue earn an honest happy ever after?

Buy it: Amazon