All posts by Dahlia Adler

Backlist Book of the Month: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Published in 2010, Horner’s debut was one of the first f/f romances in modern YA, and I’m going to admit right now that that totally scared me off of reading it for years. Let’s just say, with some notable exceptions, early queer YA was…not excellent. But man, as soon as I read this I was really mad for cheating myself, because this is a book I would’ve been recommending for sure during all those in-between years. Road trip and theater elements plus a best friend/romance confusion element plus an enemies-to-lovers romance, all in an alternating timeline story? I MEAN. Anyway, don’t make the same mistake I did, especially now that it’s out of print! (But not hard to find used and discounted!)

For months, Cass Meyer has heard her best friend Julia, a wannabe Broadway composer, whispering about a top-secret project. Then Julia is killed in a sudden car accident, and while Cass is still reeling from her death, Julia’s boyfriend and her other drama friends make it their mission to bring to fruition the nearly-completed secret project: a musical about an orphaned ninja princess entitled Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad.

Cass isn’t one of the drama people. She doesn’t feel at home with Julia’s drama friends, and she doesn’t see a place for her in the play. Things only get worse when she finds out that Heather Galloway, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school, has been cast as the ninja princess.

Cass can’t take a summer of swallowing her pride and painting sets, so she decides to follow her original plan for a cross-country road trip with Julia. Even if she has a touring bicycle instead of a driver’s license, and even if Julia’s ashes are coming along in Tupperware.

Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad is a story about friendship. About love. About traveling a thousand miles just to find yourself. About making peace with the past, and making sense of it. And it’s a story about the bloodiest high school musical one quiet suburb has ever seen.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * AbeBooks

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Exclusive Excerpt from City of Betrayal by Claudie Arseneault

Today on the site, we have an exclusive excerpt from Claudie Arseneault’s upcoming fantasy, City of Betrayal, releasing on October 22nd! If you’re not already in the know, this is the second book in the series; if you like what you see but haven’t read the first, you can grab it here on sale for only $2.99!

Please note that the blurb contains spoilers for book 1, so if you’re new to the series, you can skip right on past to the excerpt!

*****

The whole city is searching for Hasryan.
 
Lord Allastam wants to take bloody, ruthless revenge for the murder of his wife. Inspector Sora Sharpe wants to bring him to justice for his crimes against the city. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return.
 
While the city’s eyes are turned to these two, no one is willing to help Lord Diel Dathirii free Isandor from the influence of the Myrian Enclave and their vengeful leader, Avenazar. High Priest Varden Daramond could help Diel, except Varden has been imprisoned. Lord Dathirii’s only hope of rescuing Varden is Arathiel. An alliance with him, however, would invoke the wrath of the Golden Table… and Lord Allastam himself.
 
With enemies gathering around him, Diel is left without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres and must place his fate in Lower City residents. But little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.

Buy it: Major RetailersDirect from Author (Gumroad) | Paperbacks   

*****

And now, the excerpt!

*****

Diel’s happy humming always lightened Jaeger’s heart. It didn’t follow any known song, but simply filled their morning routine with joy, hovering in the air as they dressed. Listening to him, Jaeger could almost forget that their position in the city’s politics had worsened, not improved. But Arathiel had agreed to their dangerous plan and would soon join them, and Diel’s attempt to save Branwen’s friend would see the light, come what may.

This, however, did not completely explain why Diel seemed to float. Jaeger smiled and slipped behind his love as the other elf buttoned his doublet. He ran his fingers along the collar and folded it expertly, looking at the other through the mirror. A hundred thirty years ago, Diel had developed strong feelings for Arathiel, who had been House Brasten’s weapons master. Nothing had come out of it—Arathiel had barely noticed Diel, instead spending his time with Kellian—but it didn’t surprise Jaeger that this attraction had carried through decades.

Jaeger couldn’t resist this chance to tease. Diel’s crush on Arathiel had led to their first in-depth discussion of polyamory, and Jaeger knew the morning’s joy came from more than finally having a viable solution to their predicament. “I can’t remember the last time I made you sing like this.”

For a brief instant, Diel froze, then he threw his head back and laughed. “You’re not jealous. I know you better than that, and you know me better, too.”

“I do.” Jaeger ran his hand over Diel’s shoulder, leaning in closer. How often had Diel fallen in love with another through the decades? His heart shifted that way, expanding to greet the latest amazing person he’d met but never letting go of Jaeger. They had no secrets from one another, and when Diel wished for something more serious, he was the first to know. Jaeger often pushed him to act on it—faced with his love’s unaltered felicity, Jaeger could find no jealousy in himself. The occasional third angle to their relationship enriched his life, too. Even though Jaeger didn’t fall for most of them, he enjoyed the shifts in their dynamic and the special intimacy he often developed with them. Jaeger pulled the golden hair back a little to land a short kiss behind Diel’s ear. “I assume you’ll want to tell Branwen the good news.”

“Absolutely. I thought we might share breakfast.”

Diel examined himself once more in the glass, squaring his shoulders and taking a deep breath. The last few days had been hard on him, but the bags under his eyes had shrunk overnight. He glanced at the window, where the first sunlight filtered through white curtains. “It’s a bit early, but Aunt Camilla taught me all I need to know about strong teas. If you could go get Branwen? I’ll call someone to help me set the table.”

The request surprised Jaeger. Diel usually invited his niece and nephew himself while his steward readied everything. Could Diel manage the preparations? Jaeger bit his lip and withheld the question. An informal breakfast with Branwen didn’t require elaborate protocols, and while Diel might not know all the household servants by name, he didn’t need Jaeger to interact with them or get their help. Still, it bothered him that Diel had decided to reverse the roles, until he realized that at this hour, Branwen would be sound asleep and unwilling to wake.

“I see you are once again leaving me with the arduous task. Should I find armour? Alert Kellian we might have an incident on our hands?”

Diel pressed his lips together, trying his hardest not to laugh. After a playful shove to Jaeger’s shoulder, he schooled his expression and conjured some poor defence for his niece. “She’s not so terrible. Use the promise of good news as your shield and you’ll be fine.”

Jaeger grinned and saluted. “There are causes worth dying for,” he said before taking his leave.

Diel’s laugh followed him through the office and into the corridor, and Jaeger marvelled at how relaxed he was. He missed their brief banter—it vanished when Diel became anxious, and the Myrians spread his patience thin. Perhaps it was selfish of him, but the obvious impact this war had on Jaeger’s domestic life pushed him even more to stop Avenazar quickly and put an end to the stress and loss affecting the family. Jaeger wasn’t sure how they would see this through without the help of other Houses, but he trusted Diel to find a solution, even if it led them down less desirable pathways.

*****

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Quebec City. Her long studies in biochemistry and immunology often sneak back into her science-fiction, and her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders. The start of her most recent series, City of Strife, came out on February 22, 2017! Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!

Science in Fantasy Worlds: a Guest Post by Ginn Hale

Today on the site, author Ginn Hale is back to talk about science in fantasy worlds in honor of her newest release, The Long Past and Other Stories, which is sort of a mashup of Alt-history, steampunk, and weird west. Here’s a little more info on the book and where you can buy it:

 1858 –Warring mages open up a vast inland sea that splits the United States in two. With the floodwaters come creatures from a long distant past. What seems like the End Times forges a new era of heroes and heroines who challenge tradition, law, and even death as they transform the old west into a new world.

In the heart of dinosaur country a laconic trapper and a veteran mage risk treason to undertake a secret mission.

A brilliant magician and her beautiful assistant light up stages with the latest automaton, but the secrets both of them are hiding test their trust in each other and pit them against one of the most powerful men in the world.

At the wild edge of the Inland Sea, amidst crocodiles and triceratops, an impoverished young man and a Pinkerton Detective must join forces to outmaneuver a corrupt judge and his gunmen.

Buy it: Amazon * Smashwords

And here’s the post!

On the surface all this scientific information in fantasy novels would seem like a contradiction.  We fantasy authors make our livings spinning tales of magic; one might expect that we’d be more invested in the mystic and supernatural. But science in our real world does something very similar to magic in most fantasy realms. It lays bare the ways systems function while also illuminating the wonders of them. Both magic and science present wisdom as a kind of power.

Most fantasy books that feature magic will have the dictates of magic serve the same roles that physics or chemistry play in our world. For example, in the real world solar energy drives our winds and weather. But in a fantasy world perhaps the weather is powered by a colony of huge dragons that churning up the sky.  Magic might have to be employed to discover their nests, high in the clouds and perhaps it will prove the key to calming the creatures, before they destroy any island nations.

This can get tricky when an author introduces real world science into a magical fantasy story, but it doesn’t have to be.

I suggest that if a world really was magical then the science of that world would discover as much. Scientist in a magical world would want to test and describe the parameters and limits of magic. So, when I needed to explain the mysterious ‘white hell’, in Lord of the White Hell, I was able to use the character of Kiram, a young engineer, to study the characteristics of the magical force and the young man who possessed it—Javier.

In The Long Past & Other Stories the character of Grover isn’t a scientist, but he’s practical and a problem solver so when he’s confronted with a magically caused rift in time—as well as flood waters and dinosaurs from the cretaceous era—he applies logic and reasoning to work out what needs doing.  But the presence of science isn’t just felt in problem solving it’s also a powerful embodiment of human curiosity and wonder. Endowing characters and cultures with scientific values can actually enrich the magical qualities of a story.

Consider flight. It seems almost magical to witness a hummingbird zip through my garden. But when I discover that they are beating their wings 40 times a second, the truly astounding nature of theses animals begins to sink in. They move their wings so fast, so furiously and at just the perfect angles to generate tiny tornadoes, which they extend into the air around them and use like additional wing lengths. They’re like miniature storm-gods riding cyclones of their own creation!  All the while their hearts are pounding 1,200 beats per minute.

Understanding just those few facts transforms my idea of these small shimmering creatures and fills me with wonder.  And of course that is exactly what I want my readers to feel when they enter the fantastical realms of my books.

*****

Award-winning author Ginn Hale lives in the Pacific Northwest with her lovely wife and their ancient, evil cat. She spends the rainy days admiring local fungi. The stormy nights, she spends writing science-fiction and fantasy stories featuring LGBT protagonists. (Attempts to convince the cat to be less evil have been largely abandoned.)

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: (Un)Masked rerelease by Anyta Sunday and Andy Gallo

Today on the site, we’re celebrating the re-release of (Un)Masked by Anyta Sunday and Andy Gallo, a gay paranormal NA romance, which was previously published by Dreamspinner Press but now has new editing and a new cover! Here’s the blurb:

Walker has two wishes: to perform the play of his dreams alongside his best friend at Wellington’s Tory Street Theatre, and to meet that special someone. Someone he’d go to the ends of the earth for. Someone who might only exist in fairy tales.

When Jay meets accordion busker Lethe Cross, it’s like living a dream come true. Lethe’s music captivates Jay, and he resolves to meet the man who plays so beautifully. But then he discovers Lethe’s life is more like a nightmare. The phrase “down on his luck” can’t begin to cover it. Determined to help, Jay does some snooping for answers—and winds up on the wrong end of a centuries-old curse. The good news is there’s a way to break it. The bad news is it might cost Jay his life.

Aaaand here’s the cover!

Buy it

But wait, there’s more! Check out this (long!) exclusive excerpt!

From the sidewalk, I spied Lethe cutting strokes through the rippling water. The gray glow of morning made it look as if he swam through satin waves. A cool breeze reminded me just how cold those satin waves would be. I zipped up my jacket, dropped the bag with my towel in it, and perched on the concrete wall.

His arms arched over his head in firm strokes, his head twisting for air on every third stroke. He stood up suddenly, whipping the water from his hair and running a hand through it. He searched the length of the beach several times before he caught sight of me.

He beckoned me over. Each move of his hands pulled me toward him.

“You’re here,” he said.

“Gristle just about killed me for waking him up so early. You always up at this time?”

“The beach is deserted now.” He glanced toward the sea, worrying his bottom lip. “Who’s Gristle?”

Flatmate,” I blurted a little too quickly. “My best mate.”

His shoulders loosened and he looked at me. “Did you come to swim or watch?”

I stripped down to my swimming trunks and tiptoed into the sea. “I should have stuck to watching.”

Lethe laughed and kicked water at me. “You would deprive your other senses of all this?”

I stared at the gently lapping water and not the rivulets of water dribbling down his bare chest. “This is quite the sensory feast.”

“Dive in before I pounce on you.”

“I’m not sure you understand how threats work, Lethe.”

“Who said it was a threat?”

My breath caught, and I waded toward his soft, beckoning smile.

When I reached him, Lethe kicked onto his back. His gaze flickered to me before landing on the clear sky above. His green eyes glittered. If one could see a soul, then his was deep, haunted yet determinedly hopeful.

It reminded me of Gristle at the zoo, living life to the fullest because he claimed death danced in his shadows.

I dove under the water, letting the shock of it numb a sudden shiver. I came up under him and tackled his waist.

Lethe twisted under water with me, bubbles bursting out of his smiling lips.

We messed about in the water for only a few more minutes before Lethe dragged us out. I’d grabbed my stuff and drifted to his towel.

Lethe scrubbed his face. “Haven’t done that for ages.” He smiled at me. “Thanks.”

I choked on my own thanks. I’d not had so much fun with anyone other than Gristle for, well, I couldn’t even remember when.

“Maybe we could do this again?” His voice wavered, and he vigorously rubbed at his hair.

“I am all about indulging in sensory feasts.”

Lethe grinned. “On the discussion of feasts. What about breakfast?” He gave me a once over, lingering at my scrawny waist. “You shouldn’t skip breakfast.”

I forced a laugh and hurriedly pulled on my top and pants. Grabbing my bag, I twisted the street. “See you, then.”

He clasped my shoulder and steered me back around. “I think it came out wrong.”

I raised a brow.

He looked at me, gaze flickering nervously from my eyes to my shoulder. “Will you have breakfast with me?”

* * *

I arrived earlier than the four previous mornings, in time to see Lethe wading into the sea. His muscles flexed with each step, and once he hit waist height, he dove under.

Dropping my bag and towel next to his, I followed after him. My body exploded in goose bumps as the first cold waves cuffed my ankles. Sand sank underfoot as the water dragged itself back in. I quickly dunked into the water and gasped from the cold.

Lethe caught sight of me and waved. I swam over. A hand glided over my back, and I jerked upright, treading water.

“Morning,” Lethe said, smiling, as he circled me. “What brings you here so early?”

You. “I wanted to repay the favor, so I made us breakfast this time. It’s more a picnic, but I wasn’t sure of your schedule. How long do you have?”

Lethe flipped onto his back. Water rippled around him, and I threaded my fingers through the tiny waves. “Have I told you the perks of working as a street musician? Other than the stellar pay?”

I laughed. “In that case, sign me up.”

Lethe splashed water on my face and pointed to the fountain. “Want to race?”

I kicked off, taking my advantage and swiftly made it to the fountain, not too far behind Lethe.

“You’re improving,” he said with a smile. “Another couple weeks, and you’ll be a match for me.” He ducked under the water, only to pop up on my other side. He sliced the top of the water with his hand so it sprayed in my face, then whacked my upper arm. “You’re it.”

I lunged after Lethe, managing to jump on his back halfway to shore. I dunked him under the water.

A rueful grin quirked his lips when he came up gasping for breath. Barely two steps away, Lethe leaped onto my back. His knees locked around my sides and hands pressed my head under water. He didn’t hold me under long, letting go with a little tap to my shoulder. Breathing out a bunch of bubbles into the water, I came up. Lethe remained jammed against my back, his chest expanding against me as he breathed.

When he loosened his grip, I twisted and faced him. Water dribbled down his hair, over his scar, plopping on his lips. I pulled my gaze away from his mouth and combed a hand through my wet hair, pushing the locks off my face. “Up for another race?”

He stared into my eyes and my heart exploded into a gallop. I imagined him leaning in, brushing his lips against mine with the murmured words I like you too, Jay.

I slammed my eyes shut and water stirred as Lethe backed up.

He stroked toward the fountain, and I followed, the ghost of his touch still curved against my back.

“You look hopeful.” Lethe stroked over to where I clung to a jutting edge in the fountain base. He latched a hand on the same edge and pulled himself closer.

Although salt water dominated my sense of smell, I detected a hint of something peppermint and spicy coming from Lethe’s hair.

Lethe tilted his head, watching me. “Really hopeful.”

I dipped my head forward and lightly pressed my lips against his. The taste of salt flowed into my mouth; he felt softer than I’d imagined.

It lasted less than a couple of seconds before I pulled away. “Really, really hopeful.”

His breath caught and he grabbed my arm and kicked a leg around mine. His mouth met mine again. Our lips parted, and a gentle tongue flicked against mine. A gasp left me, and Lethe’s lips curved into a smile.

I let go of the fountain, wrapping both arms around Lethe, and deepened the kiss. We sank under the water, limbs entangled, gripping at each other. Salt stung my eyes as I looked at Lethe underwater. His hair swirled upward around him and light glowed around him. We broke our kiss and stared at each other. A cloud of bubbles burst from Lethe’s mouth as he laughed, and it sounded like music.

We pushed our way back to the surface and both hauled in air. I sucked in a good third breath, and Lethe splashed water in my face. I spluttered and coughed. His merry laugh taunted me and I chased after him, dunking him under when I got a good hold.

“We’d better go in.” Lethe looked back toward the shore, a frown forming between his brows. “We’ve stayed out here too long.”

Grabbing our bags and towels, we dashed for the outdoor shower. Lethe hurriedly scrubbed seawater from his hair.

I stepped under the spray with him and tentatively touched his chin, lifting his head. Water beaded at the ends of his eyelashes and trailed over the tips of my fingers. “What’s going on?”

Lethe bit his bottom lip. “Nothing.”

“Nothing doesn’t hightail out of the water every morning.”

“Which eyebrow is my scar?”

I gently drew my thumb over the cut in his eyebrow and he sighed and leaned into me.

“What are you running from, Lethe?” I whispered into his ear.

***

Anyta is a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She loves to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love. Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

Anyta writes a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian and French.

Member of Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Anyta: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Andy Gallo’s stories capture how he wished he’d spent his formative years, instead of how it really happened. Unfortunately for his characters, they find themselves infused with some of Andy’s less noble qualities.

A hopeless romantic, Andy writes seated next to a hundred year old Smith Brothers typewriter he inherited from his grandfather. He also dreams of superheroes and wizards and sees no reason why two men with superpowers can’t fall in love just like everyone else. Although not all of his stories have a paranormal bent, a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good read in his mind.

Married and living his happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days rubbing elbows with other parents as they raise their daughter. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.

Connect with Andy:  Website | Facebook

New Releases: October 2017

The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake (2nd)

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.

Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.

This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?

Buy it: Entangled * Amazon * B&N

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (3rd)

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (3rd)

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno (3rd)

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

27 Hours by Tristina Wright (3rd)

28526192Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (3rd)

51bswbsl2bbl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (3rd)

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound * Walmart

Not Your Villain by CB Lee (5th)

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Sightlines by Santino Hassell (9th)

This is the 3rd book in the Community series.

Chase Payne is a walking contradiction. He’s the most powerful psychic in the Community, but the least respected. He’s the son of the Community’s founder, but with his tattoo sleeves and abrasive attitude, he’s nothing like his charismatic family. No one knows what to make of him, which is how he wound up locked in a cell on the Farm yet again. But this time, the only man he’s ever loved is there too.

Elijah Estrella was used to being the sassy sidekick who fooled around with Chase for fun. But that was before he realized the Community wasn’t the haven he’d believed in and Chase was the only person who’d ever truly tried to protect him. Now they’re surrounded by people who want to turn them against their friends, and the only way out is to pretend the brainwashing works.

With Chase playing the role of a tyrant’s second-in-command, and Elijah acting like Chase’s mindless sex toy, they risk everything by plotting a daring escape. In the end, it’s only their psychic abilities, fueled by their growing love for each other, that will allow them to take the Community down once and for all.

Buy it: Riptide | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington (9th)

NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.

Brash and loud Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.

Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary… until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe… marriage He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta (10th)

9780763691646

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski (10th)

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (17th)

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Like Water by Rebecca Podos (17th)

In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.

That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.

Buy it: HarperCollins * B&N * Amazon * Target

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis (17th)

Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people–the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they’ve ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.

When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.

An intricately woven story told in three parts, award-winning Australian author Will Kostakis makes his American debut with this heartwarming, masterfully written novel about grief, self-discovery and the connections that tie us all together.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

City of Betrayal by Claudie Arsenault (22nd)

36199941The whole city is searching for Hasryan—some for revenge and justice, others to save their friends. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return.

Lord Diel Dathirii’s struggle to free his city from the neighbouring imperialistic enclave is far from over. Enemies gather around him, and without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres, he must place his fate in Lower City residents. Little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.

Changing Colors by Elyse Springer (23rd)

Tony Quinn has a knack for figuring people out. He likes labels, likes to be able to put everyone and everything in tidy boxes. As a theater director, it allows him to run a production without too much drama. But when he meets Gentry—“call me Gee”—in a bar one night, he discovers that some people aren’t so easily defined.

Gee Parnell is unlike anyone Tony has ever met before. He refuses to conform—to Tony’s expectations, or to society’s gender roles. He’s sexy and flirtatious, unapologetic and unashamed. And Tony isn’t sure he’s okay with that. So he breaks things off and escapes back into his well-ordered life.

But then an attack leaves Gee bloody and bruised, and Tony realizes that he isn’t ready to lose him. Not only is the passion between them off the charts, but Gee shows him a different way of understanding people. However, an exciting new job opportunity means that Tony has to decide between hiding his sexuality and his relationship with Gee, and his newfound appreciation for the color and beauty Gee brings to his life.

Buy it: Riptide * Amazon

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns (31st)

27056577Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

There’s a glorious future in piracy…if they can survive long enough.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Better Know an Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Today on the site we have one of my favorite YA authors, and I know I’m not alone in that regard. Anna-Marie McLemore is a highly decorated author of magical realism, and if you haven’t yet read her stuff, I am so sorry that you have shortchanged yourself on knowing all the lyrical beauty she has to offer. Go fix that immediately! And if you need a little convincing, well, time to get to better know Anna-Marie McLemore.

Let’s jump right out of the gate with your new release, Wild Beauty. Why is this book so special to you, and does it have anything to do with a certain fabulous secondary character?

33158561Wild Beauty is my bi Latina girls and murderous, enchanted gardens book. It’s the story in which I gave myself permission to go all in with the feel and setting of a fairy tale, but with the focus on the kind of girls we often see left out of fairy tales.

But I know what you really what to know, and yes, Dalia does happen to be one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written. 😉 She’s caring but can be brutally honest. She’s giving but also goes after what she wants. And she has secrets she’s keeping even from main character Estrella, the cousin who’s like a sister to her. All the Nomeolvides girls are queer, but Dalia is probably the most fearless in her bi identity.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as floored by a fairly new author’s resume as I was when I was refreshing myself on your accomplishments for a blog post earlier this year. How do you celebrate calls like “You’re on the National Book Award longlist!” and “You got a Stonewall Honor!”? 

So, hypothetically how much would you judge me if I tell you there’s been at least one instance of donning a frilly dress and singing a rousing chorus of “I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty, and witty, and GAYYYY!!!” (Blogger’s Note: I would obviously only judge this extremely favorably.)

You have such stunning covers. What part have you played in their process, and is there one that’s especially close to your heart?

I take no credit for the beautiful covers I’ve been lucky to have on my books. My eternal gratitude goes to the designers and art directors who create these incredible works of art, and to my editor, who often has an initial vision for what direction to go in. I’ve adored all my covers, but Wild Beauty does have a special place in my heart because it’s honestly the kind of fairy-tale cover I didn’t think queer Latina girl stories got.

Kinda hard to miss that you are the anthology author to get; in 2018 alone, you have stories in The Radical Element, All Out, and Toil & Trouble. What can you share with us about each of them? 

I’m so excited to be writing for Saundra, Jessica, and Tess! I’ll give you a quick preview of each story:

“Glamour,” forthcoming in The Radical Element: A Latina girl tries to make it as an actress in Golden Age Hollywood, until a family spell throws her together with the scene painter she’s been avoiding since her first picture.

“Roja,” forthcoming in All Out: A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in which Red is legendary outlaw La Carambada, the Wolf is a transgender French soldier, and the woods are the hills of central Mexico in the 1870s.

“Love Spell,” forthcoming in Toil & Trouble: A love witch falls for a deeply religious young man who has a few magical secrets of his own.

If you were creating an anthology, what would the theme be, and who would you have to have on board? 

I would love to edit an anthology of inclusive queer fairy tales that take on not only LGBTQIAP+ identity but also intersectional identity—queer characters of color, queer characters of different faiths, queer characters with disabilities, and more. There are so many brilliant writers I’d love to have on board, but even thinking about asking them to be in my hypothetical anthology makes me nervous. So let’s start here: Would you be in, Dahl? (Blogger’s Note: Hell yes.)

You also have a new book coming out in 2018, called Blanca & Roja, which is sort of a mashup of Snow White, Rose Red and Swan Lake. First of all, that sounds amazing. Second of all, what about these stories in particular called to you to reimagine, and are there others we might see influencing you down the line?

Snow-White & Rose-Red was one of my favorite fairy tales growing up—the two very different sisters, the bear-prince, the frightening magic of the woods near their house. But if I was gonna retell Snow-White & Rose-Red, I knew I wanted to make it Latinx and queer. Sisters Blanca and Roja represent the false duality Latina women so often get cast in. Roja feels backed into being a girl who’s all venom and teeth, and Blanca, as the good girl, is supposed to fall in love with a particular boy. But the boy she actually falls for is nothing like she imagined—he’s genderqueer, he’s proud of his family’s oddness, and he’s as well acquainted with the woods’ frightening magic as she is. I can’t share why without telling spoilers, but I think this boy was the spark who first brought elements of Swan Lake into this book.

All of your books are Magical Realism, which is something that’s specifically found its roots in Latinx oppression. How do you find it serves exploring gender identity and sexual orientation in your work as well?

Magical realism provides a space where gender identity and sexual orientation can be explored in a uniquely Latinx setting, amid the expectations of family, community, and society. It also provides contrasts that are otherworldly but feel very real—a family where love has a terrifying legacy, but where a generation of girls understand each other’s bisexuality; a town that has long-held lore about its swans but doesn’t know quite what to do with a queer girl.

One theme that’s really strong in your work is strong secondary casts of female family. What about that speaks to you and does it have reflection in your own life?

I love exploring the communities that women make—how they lead and follow, how they push against each other, how they speak a common language, a shorthand, but how they also stay distinctly themselves. I grew up around more men than women, and I love them deeply, but so many of my close friends come from households run by women. So does my husband; he’s a trans guy who grew up in a family of mostly women.

What’s something that’s really stuck with you in LGBTQIAP+ lit, for better or for worse?

For a while there, I swear every time there was a queer couple in a series, one or both of them got killed off by book three, and that was the case whether the books were YA or adult. We are fortunately seeing less of that trope. There also wasn’t nearly as much intersectional LGBTQIAP+ lit, and while we still have a long way to go, that is, thankfully, changing.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that your post for Gay YA (now YA Pride) on having sex on the page in When the Moon Was Ours is one of my favorite blog posts of all time (and not just because of the shoutout to me). What else have you found are really important values to you in representation?

28220826Letting queer characters and characters of color have space in their own stories, especially when those characters are being written by authors from our own communities. Characters with marginalized identities need space to grow and evolve in their own stories, they need room for realistic portrayals of the obstacles they face, and they need chances at happy endings.

Is there anything coming up for you that we haven’t covered yet? 

I’m so excited to be hitting the road with the Fierce Reads tour this October during Wild Beauty’s release. I’m also thrilled to get to be at some festivals and conferences this fall; my upcoming schedule just went up on my website (http://author.annamariemclemore.com/p/news-events.html). Very soon I’ll be sharing details about a December event with Lily Anderson in Davis, California, and later this fall I’ll have a little about where I’ll be in 2018.

Thank you so much for having me!

*****

6434877Anna-Marie McLemore (she/her) was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. She is the author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award, and 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. Her latest is WILD BEAUTY, and BLANCA & ROJA is forthcoming in fall of 2018.

From Flash to Epic: Ten Aromantic Stories Recommended by Claudie Arseneault

I am delighted to be here on LGBTQ Reads to perform one of my favourite activities: recommend aromantic fiction. This post contains recs for stories featuring at least one major aromantic characters, and I’ve read and enjoyed all of them. But since I like to spice things up a bit, all of these stories are presented in length order, covering a range from flash fiction to epic fantasy novels. Pick your favourite length, and enjoy!

  • Lemon & Salt by Claudie Arseneault

Flash fiction | Link | Spectrum Lit

Two aromantic spectrum singers renegotiate the shape of their queerplatonic partnership through an unique concert.

Why read it? It feels wrong to start with my own story, but if you’re looking for a free and quick read online featuring aromantic representation, this is a great place to start.

  • Backgame by Lev Mirov

Short story | Myriad Lands Volume II | Guardbridge Books

An aro-ace necromancer resurrects their best friend, a trans man, allowing them to continue both their friendship and their games.

Why read it? This is a powerful piece about the importance of friendship, second chances, and death. It’s also set in a fantasy Middle East city, and provides much needed rep for non-white aromantic characters.

Want more? I also recommended two aromantic short stories over at The Future Fire that are available online for free.

  • The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green by Nicky Kyle

Novelette (ish) | Link | LT3 Press

Louisa is a village girl dreading her coming wedding, but thankfully a dragon’s assault is delaying it. When Dea, an aro-ace dragon hunter, comes to town, Louisa’s life takes a strange new turn.

Why read it? Faerie Godmother twists fantasy tropes of dragons and princesses in new and interesting ways while developing a deep relationship between a lesbian and an aromantic women. This is *almost* the length of a novella.

  • The Trouble by Daria Defore

Novella | Link | LT3 Press

When Danny Kim, lead singer of a small indie band, discovers that his accounting TA is none other than the man he rudely hit on at his last show, he is mortified. Yet it doesn’t stop him from reaching out to Jiyoon, and Danny soon juggles music, classes, and his deepening relationship.

Why read it? Danny’s aromanticism is clearly established and not the source of tension through the story. Both leads are Korean-American, and the story has some adorable domestic scenes mixed in with the sex. And hey, it’s my only contemporary rec! (I read more SFF, if you couldn’t tell)

  • A Promise Broken by Lynn E. O’Connacht

Short Novel | Link | The Kraken Collective

Four-year-old Eiryn is dealing with the grief from her mother’s death, but she still wants to make everyone around her happy. Her aro-ace uncle, Arén, might not be the best parent, but he’s determined to protect her from accusations of upsetting the world’s balance.

Why read it? This is a quiet and powerful story that favours characters over plot, has incredible worldbuilding, and an absolutely lovely cast. Read also for the aromantic character who’s happy with his single life.

  • Good Angel by A. M. Bauslid

Novel | Link | Self-published

As a new angel, Iofiel must attend the angel-demon university. When she meets Archie, an imp bullied by his peers, she decides to change major for demon classes… and might have inadvertently triggered the Apocalypse in the process.

Why Read it? Beyond the delightful characters and queer universe? Iofiel frequently questions her asexuality and aromanticism throughout the story, and I cannot remember seeing another questioning ace or aro character on page.

  • The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver

Long Novel | Chameleon Moon Book 2 | Self-published

Three teenagers must cross a ghost-stricken wasteland on a motorcycle to deliver life-saving data to an airship and its crew.

Why Read it? For the absolute amazingness of Anh “Annie” Minh Le and her adaptive outfit: armour that doubles as braces for her hypermobility, an helmet to help manage sensory overload, and a jacket with shifting studs that can allow for more expression when she becomes non-verbal. You’ll need to read Chameleon Moon to fully appreciate The Lifeline Signal, but both are incredible work of positive queer and disabled representation.

  • An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

Long Novel | Link | Angry Robot

When Saffron steps through a strange portal, she finds herself in the middle of political upheavals she can barely grasp. Thankfully, she has another world walker from Earth by her side: Gwen Vere, who is both aromantic and in a polyamorous relationship.

Why read it? Besides the neatly-woven tale of fantasy epic? An Accident of Stars depicts an older aromantic character confident about herself, who has built a family, and shows great care for Saffron and others.

Bonus Webcomics

Is prose a difficult medium for you? Several online webcomics also include aromantic representation and are available for free! Funnily enough, both of my recs have to do with fey.

Mistland is a fairly new webcomic by Laya Rose, one of my favourite artist out there, about “Es, a half fey girl from a small New Zealand town, suddenly gets caught up in the world of the sidhe – which are a whole lot closer than she realised.” The cast is almost exclusively arospec and acespec women!

Ignition Zero is a completed webcomic by Noel Arthur Heimpel, about a group of queer friends defending their fey companions, Ivory, and getting mixed up in fey and spirits! One of the main character is an aromantic man and in a queerplatonic relationship!

And there you go! Ten wildly different stories with aromantic characters for you to enjoy. I hope everyone can find something to their taste in there, and if you know other good stories with aromantic representation (especially contemporary!) please don’t hesitate to share with us!

*****

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Claudie is best known for the Aromantic and Asexual Characters in SFF Database and for her body of work, which features several ace and aro characters. Her latest novel, City of Strife, is the first of a political fantasy trilogy released in February. Find out more on her website!

Excerpt: The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale

Today on the site, we’ve got an excerpt from a brand-new contemporary f/f romance release, The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale, which is the first book in the new Tour Dates series! Music fans, do not miss out! Check out a little more info on the book:

34824809

Victoria “Vix” Vincent has only two weeks to find a replacement fiddle player for her band’s summer tour. When classically trained violinist Sawyer Bell shows up for an audition, Vix is thrilled. Sawyer is talented, gorgeous, funny, and excited about playing indie rock instead of Beethoven. Their friendship soon blossoms into romance, even though Vix tries to remember that Sawyer’s presence is only temporary.

Sawyer’s parents think she’s spending the summer months touring Europe with a chamber ensemble. But Sawyer is in dire need of a break from the competitiveness of Juilliard, and desperately wants to rediscover her love of music. Going on tour with her secret high school crush is just an added bonus. Especially when Vix kisses her one night after a show, and they discover that the stage isn’t the only place they have chemistry.

But the tour won’t last forever, and as the summer winds down, Sawyer has to make a tough decision about her future—and what it means to follow her heart.

Buy it

And now, the excerpt!

As per instructions, Sawyer had one suitcase, a backpack, and her violin case. She was clutching the latter to her and searching in her bag, probably to fish out her wallet, maneuvering the case out of the way with the ease of long practice and tossing her hair back to keep it out of her way.

“Stare much?” Jeff murmured, appearing next to her.

Vix scowled up at him. “Shut up. I’m just wondering why she didn’t mention needing a ride.” That, and wow, Sawyer had an amazing pair of legs. She was also wearing cowgirl boots with her dress, which Vix appreciated. Once again, she couldn’t shake the feeling she’d seen Sawyer before. Had they gone to the same high school? It was possible, though Sawyer would have been at most a freshman when Vix was a senior. And Vix hadn’t exactly been social with her own classmates, much less anyone else.

Jeff shrugged, appearing unconcerned. “Dunno. But you probably won’t find the answer by staring at her legs like that.”

Maybe not, but it sure wasn’t a hardship to try.

They both watched as Kit walked over and grabbed her bag, and Sawyer gave him a grateful smile and finished up with the cabbie.

“Ugh.” Connor ambled over, his eyes heavy lidded and his face drawn in tired lines. “Why do we have to leave so early?”

Vix patted him on the arm. “Because you’re an idiot.”

“Um.” Connor blinked at her. “What? Why is that the answer?”

“Oh, sorry,” Vix said sweetly. “I was answering the question you should have asked, which was ‘Why did I drink so much and stay up until two in the morning when we have to leave at six?’”

Connor made a face as Sawyer approached, looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and way too awake. “What time did you go to bed?” Connor asked, clearly thinking the same. He sounded vaguely accusatory.

“Eight thirty.” Sawyer blinked her wide, pretty hazel eyes. “Why?”

“Like, eight thirty at night? That eight thirty?” Connor asked.

“Well, yeah.” Sawyer glanced at Vix with a confused expression. “It isn’t eight thirty in the morning yet.”

Connor groaned. “Great, you’re a morning person. I thought we got rid of the morning person. Is that, like, a fiddle-player thing?”

“Bryant was a morning person because he was hooked up to a 5-Hour Energy IV drip,” Vix pointed out.

“Unlike Miss Diet Coke here,” said Jeff, after he stowed Sawyer’s suitcase in the back. He nodded at Vix. “If you ever want to watch Vix lose her mind, steal her morning beverage of choice and prepare to die.”

“Hello, Diet Coke was so high school. I drink Coke Zero now.” Vix tugged at Sawyer’s arm. “Come on, let’s get settled.”

“Do you need me to drive?” Sawyer obediently followed Vix to the van. “I mean, if y’all were up that late, I can take the first shift.”

“Nah, Jeff always drives first.” Vix was suddenly excited at the prospect of having another girl to talk to on the bus. Not that she didn’t love her band, but seriously, this was going to be awesome. “Besides, have you ever driven a van before? Like, one this size?”

“Ah. No.” Sawyer climbed in after her and bounced a little on her seat. She seemed to be two seconds away from clapping her hands.

Vix burst out laughing as she collapsed next to Sawyer, her phone, earphones, and Coke Zero already in her lap.

“What? Why are you laughing?”

“You look like you’re about to go to summer camp.” Vix smiled. Sawyer’s enthusiasm was adorable.

*****

Avon Gale HeadshotAvon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories—either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary Agency.

Connect with Avon: Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Newsletter  |  Instagram  |  Website

 

Excerpt Reveal: The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake

Exciting times on the site today! We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from Melissa Eastlake’s upcoming m/m YA Rapunzel retelling, The Uncrossing, which releases from Entangled Teen on October 2nd! Check this out:

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.

Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.

This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?

TBR it * Buy it

And now, the excerpt!

*****

Finally, feeling like a human tornado, he pulled out his phone and texted Jeremy: What a day

The reply took no time at all. Tired of talking about it. Tell me another joke?

He replied with the dumbest thing he could think of: Where did the general put his armies?

He waited, looking out the window at the piles of ash they’d left in the alley. The bird beat dumbly against the wall near Luke’s arm—he couldn’t control it, but it stayed close to him anyway.

The phone rang.

Luke thought, Fuck. He answered. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” He waited for Jeremy to say no. Just once, for someone else to show some sense.

“Where?” There was already laughter in Jeremy’s voice.

Luke touched the window. In the room’s weak air conditioning, the glass was warm. “In his sleevies.”

Jeremy laughed and groaned at once. “Oh, no.”

Oh, no. “Oh, yes.”

“Nope. No, no, nope.”

Stop it right now. “Yes. Say it. Say, ‘Oh, yes.’”

Jeremy was quiet for a long time. Luke opened his hand against the glass. Good, he thought. Hang up on me.

“Oh.” Jeremy paused. “Yes.”

Luke squeezed his eyes shut. “I changed my mind. Don’t ever say that to me again.”

“Yes?”

“Stop it right now. You will hang up your phone if you know what’s good for you, Kovrov.”

Jeremy didn’t hang up. “Can you not call me that?”

Luke put his forehead against the back of his hand on the window. There were lots of things he could have said, but the one he picked was, “Jeremy.”

Jeremy’s breath caught, a click through the phone. “You should hang up on me. I’m the one who, you know. All this. My family. Everything.”

“I don’t think I’m going to do that.” It had been a long day, but Luke hadn’t forgotten the beginning of it: that smile in the car. He’d known what he’d wanted before his vision and the attack, and he knew what he wanted now. “I think I’m going to kiss you.”

Jeremy was quiet. Luke could see him: gaze sliding everywhere, stretching his fingers out to tap his palm against whatever was near. His bed. Luke rolled his face up, putting his lips on the back of his hand.

“Yes,” Jeremy said.

*****

Melissa Eastlake’s debut novel, The Uncrossing, is coming in 2017 from Entangled Teen. She is a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow and lives in Athens, Georgia with her partner and their dogs.

 

 

Mental Illness and Happily Ever After: a Guest Post by Taylor Brooke

My name is Taylor Brooke and I have Dissociative Dysthymia.

I sound like I’m standing in front of an empty chair at a narcotics anonymous meeting and I’m about to share my story. Granted, I’ve done that before, too. But this is much different and there isn’t really another way to begin. I’m a twenty-six-year-old Queer girl living in Central Oregon. I write books about magic and heartache, blurred lines and wanting. Recently, I wrote a book about all these things stirred up like cake batter, sprinkled with parts of me that I hadn’t fully realized until the story finished baking, was topped with icing and ready to eat.

Fortitude Smashed is a contemporary romance. It’s a little bit science fiction, and a little bit literary. Underneath the contemporary romance, science fiction and literary, there’s a quiet, selfish sub-plot that showed itself after I piled a piece onto a plate. I didn’t realize that the sprinkles of me that I’d tossed into the book would present themselves as brightly as they did.

I have Dissociative Dysthymia, and so does the main character, Aiden Maar.

But this is Contemporary Romance. Queer, mentally ill main characters don’t get to fall in love, and if they do, they don’t get to keep it.

Except they do. We do.

After years of exposure to eerily distinct, boxed-in narratives describing mentally ill, Queer characters as problems to be solved, riddles to be answered, and ugly wounds to be healed, I anticipated that this book would never be published. It wasn’t neat. Aiden wasn’t miraculously healed after he fell in love, his anxiety didn’t vanish, his depression wasn’t erased, but he was loved. He got to love back, too.

It was inconceivable. A character, like me, that I had written into a book about soulmates, was given a messy, deserved, heartfelt happy ending. He was given a chance.

Fortitude Smashed 900px FRONTBecause we deserve to be given a chance. I hadn’t written Fortitude Smashed as a how-to or a fantasy, because it’s neither. It’s a contemporary romance – realistic, raw, a little bruised. It’s the happy ever after most Queer, mentally ill folks don’t get to see in their favorite romance books.

Aiden doesn’t get better, because there isn’t anything wrong with him.

Honestly, coming to that realization after I finished my first read through of the book was jarring to say the least. I didn’t set out to dismantle my own thought process, but I did, somehow. It’s easy to discredit ourselves, to say we don’t deserve this or that when it comes to dating, love, friendship and so on. But we do.

Happy ever after doesn’t equal the eradication of mental illness, it simply involves the communication, patience and understanding that comes with loving a mentally ill person.

We deserve love. We deserve soulmate tropes and coffee shop meet-cutes, college fling storylines and fake dating clichés. There’s room for mentally ill characters to be front and center, and to be given the same beautiful, funny, heart wrenching, warm love stories that neurotypical characters are repeatedly gifted.

Fortitude Smashed did get picked up by an amazing publisher, even though I thought it wouldn’t. No one asked me to change Aiden. He got to be himself, flawed, wonderful, manic, wanted and scarred. He got to fall in love and keep it.

We all do. We just have to be brave enough to know it, or strong enough to allow ourselves the chance to believe in it. Fate, soulmates, romance, cute dates and lifelong friendship – we get it all. Even us.

Especially us.

Buy Fortitude Smashed at:

Barnes & Noble * Interlude PressAmazon * Book Depository

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After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup artist, Taylor Brooke turned her imagination back to her true love—books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she’s traveling, hiking or reading. She writes Queer books for teens and adults. Her debut, Fortitude Smashed, will be published by Interlude Press in September 2017. Follow her on Twitter at @taysalion.