Category Archives: Guest post

How Depression is Affecting the LGBTQ Community and How to Prevent It, Especially During Times of Crisis: a Guest Post by Dr. Gregory Charlop, Author of Why Doctors Skip Breakfast

Today on the site we’re pleased to have Dr. Gregory Charlop, who’s here to discuss the very relevant topic of Depression in the LGBTQ community, as both a member of said community and a doctor at a telemedicine wellness clinic. First, here’s a glimpse into his new book:

Why Doctors Skip Breakfast_3DScientists just unlocked the secrets of aging

Thanks to research from Harvard, USC, and MIT, we now understand what causes aging. You’ll discover how to live a long, healthy life free of disability, frailty, and dependence. Learn how to restore your youthful vitality and drive. Tap into energy you never knew you had and start a new business, travel the world, create a charity, and enjoy more time with your favorite hobbies.

In Why Doctors Skip Breakfast, you’ll learn what foods, medicines, lab tests, wearable technology, and supplements you need to feel young and look fantastic. Are you ready to play with your great-grandkids?

The new science of sleep

You know sleep is important, but are you sleeping wrong? Use cutting-edge sleep techniques, melatonin, and wearable technology to boost your work performance, improve your mood, and protect your health. Read critical information about obstructive sleep apnea, a dangerous condition that can suffocate you overnight. There’s a bonus chapter with special sleep strategies designed to improve your athletic performance.

Depression and the Ketamine Revolution

There’s new hope for people suffering from depression. Ketamine and dietary changes can treat depression, even when oral antidepressants and other conventional therapies failed. Find out whether ketamine is right for you.

Designed for elite performers or anyone who wants to stay young, energetic, and happy, Why Doctors Skip Breakfast is your easy to read guidebook for success and radiant health. You climb out of bed at noon, afraid to face the day. Nothing interests you. Today will be like yesterday, and tomorrow looks no better. You feel hopeless and alone. How did you get here?

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

Depression and anxiety harm millions of people each year. The LGBTQ community is particularly at risk for depression and suicide. The coronavirus pandemic just made everything worse. The loss of friends, fear of disease, and economic uncertainty are driving depression and anxiety disorders through the roof. How can you heal when you’re worried about losing your job or dying?

Social distancing threw gasoline on the fire. A major study of Canadians quarantined for the SARS epidemic found that one in three people developed PTSD or depressive symptoms from the isolation. Quarantines keep people from family, friends, therapists, and favorite activities. If you already have depression, the separation can make you feel even worse; alone, helpless, and forgotten.

For many in the LGBTQ community, the coronavirus pandemic is eerily reminiscent of the early days of HIV and AIDS. We remember the panic of a mysterious virus run amok, killing neighbors and isolating communities. This similarity is a brutal reminder of dark days and only serves to increase the emotional and psychological toll we face today.

Thankfully, there are some great resources to help members of the LGBTQ community cope with depression. Let’s review some of the best.

Telemedicine lets folks meet their physicians and therapists virtually, from the comfort of their living rooms. Hop on your couch in your PJs and chat with your mental health professional. Skip the hassle! It saves you from the risk of infection from the clinic and can be a lifeline while physical offices are closed. Some people enjoy the convenience of telemedicine so much, they never want to go back to in-person visits. If you already have a mental health professional, there’s a good chance that they’ll see you online. If you need an online practitioner, sites like Psychology Today and Talkspace will hook you up.

Social connections reduce depression. Humans are social creatures, and many of us suffer when we’re away from other people. Secure social connections improve mental health. Bonds with others reduce the risk of suicide in the LGBTQ community. Since quarantines make in-person meetings more difficult, many people are turning to virtual happy hours. Apps like Zoom and Houseparty make online gatherings fun. Houseparty makes it easy to add friends, and the app features a variety of games that are sure to spice up your tele-party.

A healthy diet is a powerful way to reduce depression and increase energy. A remarkable study found that the Mediterranean diet improved symptoms of depression in as little as three weeks – and the results were long-lasting. Take advantage of online grocery delivery and turn your kitchen into a health spa. If you’d like to try the anti-depressant diet, be sure to eat lots of veggies, nuts, olive oil, and turmeric. And, cut out the sugar!

Moderate exercise is one of your best weapons against depression. Multiple studies prove that exercise reduces anxiety and improves mood. Your best bets are aerobic exercise and mindfulness-promoting activities like tai chi and Qigong. Have trouble exercising on your own? You can form socially distant walking groups. Gather a friend or two and walk or jog together, while remaining 6-10 feet apart. You’ll feel motivated and stay safe. Another option is to find an online personal trainer. They’ll motivate you and watch your form while remaining harmlessly outside of your home.

Crisis hotlines are always available. If you feel severe depression or are contemplating suicide, please contact a specialist. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is free, confidential, and open 24/7. Call them at 800-273-8255. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a great resource and has a 24/7 hotline 800-662-HELP. The Trevor Project has a 24/7 hotline geared towards LGBTQ youth and can be reached at 866-488-7386.

Depression is a devastating illness that can rob you of happiness and hope. Social distancing and fear of the COVID pandemic only compound the problem. If you are depressed or anxious, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the impact of depression and still stay safe from the virus. If you aren’t depressed, please check on your friends, neighbors, and family. They may be suffering in silence and need your help. Together, we will overcome.

Portrait of GREGORY CHARLOP  by Charles Ng | TimeOnFilm.comGregory Charlop, MD is the author of Why Doctors Skip Breakfast: Wellness Tips to Reverse Aging, Treat Depression, and Get a Good Night’s Sleep. He runs a telemedicine wellness clinic based in Beverly Hills, CA. Reach him at www.GregoryCharlopMD.com

Queer Speculative Aotearoa New Zealand: a Guest Post by AJ Fitzwater

Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome author AJ Fitzwater, author of the very queer fantasy short story collection The Voyages of Cinrak The Dapper, which releases today from Queen of Swords Press! Here’s a little more on the book:

Cinrak the Dapper is a keeper of secrets, a righter of wrongs, the saltiest capybara on the sea and a rider of both falling stars and a great glass whale. Join her, her beloveds, the rat Queen Orvilia and the marmot diva Loquolchi, lead soprano of the Theatre Rat-oyal, her loyal cabin kit, Benj the chinchilla, and Agnes, last of the great krakens, as they hunt for treasures of all kinds and find adventures beyond their wildest dreams. Let Sir Julius Vogel Award-winning storyteller A.J. Fitzwater take you on a glorious journey about finding yourself, discovering true love and exploring the greatest secrets of the deep. Also, dapperness.

Buy it!

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And here’s AJ to talk about queer speculative fiction of Aotearoa New Zealand!

Aotearoa New Zealand may be a small country (current population approx. 4.5 million), but our literary history is unique and strong.

The queer speculative of Aotearoa New Zealand is a niche within a niche. Where it’s come from and where it’s heading (like all star gazers, we have multiple understandings of our past and future) is a cloak woven with the threads of colonialism, indigeneity, race, and marginalization.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s colonial history carries many parallels to other lands claimed by the British Empire. We inherited their hetero-patriarchal religions, laws, and social sensibilities. Like many countries, our queer people were paraded in front of the courts and people as freaks, deviants, and society destroyers. Our history survived in the underground and in enclaves, through activism, oral storytelling and perseverance.

Our queer heroes include Carmen Rupe, a drag artist, activist, sex worker, and club owner who ran a safe space coffee lounge in Wellington back in the 60s and 70s; Georgina Beyer, the first transgender mayor in the world; Richard O’Brien, Rocky Horror creator; and Marilyn Waring, MP, activist, and economist. Since the turn of the century, we’ve had a great crop of MPs working hard on Rainbow Politics, like Louisa Wall, Jan Logie, Chris Carter, Tim Barnett, and Chris Finlayson. Our historic watersheds are the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1986 (a campaign that began back in the 60s) in the midst of the AIDS crisis, the first Hero Parade in 1991, and the passing of Marriage Equality in 2013. Our current legal battles include trans rights in multiple sectors, like inclusive language, employment, health care (standard, gender affirmative, and mental health), prison reform, and gender changes on official documents.

With the weight of history, the rich living cultures of Māori, Pasifika, and multiple cultures and ethnicities, a secular society, a sea-locked geography that often gives us a cut-off dystopian feel, and walking arm-in-arm with those who paved the way, we can begin to understand what’s different about our literature.

Many early century queer authors wrote in the closet, like Frank Sargeson, and we’re still coming to grips with the lost history of suppressed voices. Voices who led the charge into the 21st century include Witi Ihimaera, Renée, and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, often working across multiple disciplines.

So now I’ve given you a little bit of our queer history and landscape, I can talk about who is creating our speculative narratives, the people picking up the threads, reweaving, and sharing a new spread of stories, sensibilities, and hope.

Academic, activist and historian Ngahuia Te Awekotuku has spent more than 50 years immersed in multiple strands of Māori culture and queer rights. Two of her sectors of interest were researching and revising pre-colonial Māori stories of women’s power and sexuality and gender. This produced the great collection Ruahine: Mythic Women (2003, Huia Publishers).

Everyone is gushing about Tamsyn Muir’s lesbian necromancer epic Gideon the Ninth (Tor, 2019), and quite rightly so. Like many local creatives who work on the big publishing stage, she works from an overseas base, but still claims Aotearoa New Zealand as a home.

Working in the YA sector, Karen Healey is the award winning author of Guardian of the Dead (2010, Allen and Unwin), The Shattering (2011, Allen and Unwin), When We Wake (2013, Allen and Unwin) and While We Run (2014, Allen and Unwin), and as a teacher in Christchurch tends to the hearts and souls of the next generation of authors. There’s also up-and-coming poet and YA author Alexander Te Pohe, who created Ruru Reads,  a site for publishing work from PoC and Indigenous people; a great site in it’s time, Alec has now moved on to fully focus on their writing career.

What does Aotearoa New Zealand’s urban fantasy taste like? Check out Rem Wigmore’s The Wind City (2013, Steam Press), which, as it’s title suggests, brings to life all that makes Wellington interesting. Jamie Sands has a flair for romantic fantasy, including The Suburban Book of the Dead (2018, self published), and the Fairyland Romances series (Self Published).

Author and trans rights activist Caitlin Spice has a versatile story telling voice, just as much at home writing dark fantasy and horror in the short story collection The Silver Path (2017, Mungfish Publishing), as co-authoring the fairy tales Promised Land (2017), Maiden Voyage (2018), and Raven Wild (2019), for LGBTQ children.

Writing aromantic Chinese fairy tales is Michelle Kan, including Come Drink With Me (2019), Gold and Jasper (2019), and East Flows the River (2020, Fish and Swallow). Under her Fish and Swallow Productions company, she also creates independent film, documentary, and online content.

Author of The Dawnhounds (2019, Little Hook Press), Sascha Stronach describes the book as “beserk, witchy, LBGTQ+ mycopunk”. If you like weird and cool and gritty, this is the book for you.

Writing across disciplines is Darusha Wehm. A well travelled creative, Darusha does everything from short stories to games to podcasts to interactive fiction to novellas and novels. They’re just as eclectic in their genres, including cyberpunk, future detective, and political sci-fi. Check out Children of Arkadia (2015, Bundoran Press),   The Voyage of the White Cloud (2018, in potentia press), and the Andersson Dexter series.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s speculative scene isn’t just about literature. FafSwag is a collective of indigenous creators, producing ballrooms, dance, costume, theatre, film, and art with a decidedly futurist bent. And creating comics is Jem Yoshioka with the queer romantic sci-fi webcomic Circuits and Veins.

In short fiction, you’ll find author and editor Andi C. Buchanan. Their novella From a Shadow Grave (2019, Paper Road Press) is a ghost story set in Wellington taking an innovative approach to split narratives; their short stories can be found in a variety of venues, including Fireside Magazine, Apex Magazine, and GlitterShip; and they are also the editor of the speculative magazine Capricious.

And there’s me. There’s my short collection The Voyage of Cinrak the Dapper (2020, Queen of Swords Press) about a lesbian capybara pirate and her found family, and my novella No Man’s Land (June 2020, Paper Road Press) about shape shifting land girls in WW2. I’ve also been published in magazines such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fireside Fiction, and Shimmer.

This is just a taster of Aotearoa New Zealand’s speculative creative output. Once you look into one, you fall down the rabbit hole of many.

***

AJ Fitzwater lives between the cracks of Christchurch, New Zealand. Their work focuses on feminist and queer themes, and has appeared in venues of repute such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Giganotosaurus, GlitterShip, and in various anthologies. They are the author of rodent pirate escapades in The Voyages of Cinrak the Dapper, and the WW2 land girls shape-shifter novella No Man’s Land. With a background in radio, AJ lends their voice to podcast narrations, including for the Escape Artists universe. They enjoy maintaining a collection of bow ties. A unicorn disguised in a snappy blazer, they tweet @AJFitzwater

Will Teens Today Relate to YA Set in the ’90s?: a Guest Post by Jake Martinez

Today on the site, I’m delighted to welcome Jake Martinez, whose debut YA, The Mixtape to My Life, releases today from Deep Hearts YA! Here’s a little more about the book:

Justin Ortega might as well be starring in his very own coming-of-age 80s movie. If only he could find his dream boy to pull up in front of his house in a red convertible and sweep him off his feet, already! At seventeen years young, he isn’t quite Mexican enough for his South Texas town; isn’t manly enough for his father; can sometimes be too much of a smart mouth for his mother; and as for the other kids at school—let’s just say he’d be cast as the quiet nerd with a heart of gold…and an ear for music.

The one solace Justin has is his love of 80s hair metal bands, which he listens to on his beloved Sony Walkman. The songs, lyrics, and melody keep him just sane enough to escape the pressures of school and help navigate the hurdles life brings. Especially with the doozy this year is shaping up to be. Not only does he have to try out for a captain position which is rightfully his, but his best friend has found a new girlfriend, leaving Justin to fend for himself in a school where he’s mostly known as simply Coconut.

Enter Dominic Mendoza. Sweet, funny, and a blast from his past, the hunky football player has moved in next door. Justin could never forget how Dominic protected him in the eighth grade, nor the way Dominic made him feel, then…and now.

Except, this isn’t a movie. Confusion, friendship, and love won’t guarantee a happy ending unless Justin can learn to accept himself for who he truly is. Hair bands and all.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

And here’s Jake discussing his ’90s inspiration!

***

I’d like to thank LGBTQ Reads for giving me the opportunity to talk about my book and why I decided to set it during the 90s.

When I started writing The Mixtape to My Life, there were certain things I knew I wanted. First, that it was going to be a Young Adult story. Second, that I wanted it to be set in South Texas. Then third, and most important, I wanted it to take place during the 90s. It’s not that I didn’t think that I wouldn’t be able to write a novel set in today’s world, it’s just that I thought if I were able to tap into the feelings I had as a young gay kid growing up in 90s era South Texas, then it might make the main character and all his pent up emotions feel more authentic. But it did make me wonder that if my novel is set in the 90s, would today’s YA audience be able to relate? The answer is yes, because even though it’s a different time, some things never change.

Universal Emotions

One of the main motivations I had for writing a YA novel was the fact that even though we have made great strides in this world towards LGBTQIA+ acceptance, there are still places where many young people feel the need to hide who they are. The fear and uncertainty of what might happen if they came out is a frightening thought. Some go on with their lives, while others pray and pray that they will change and become what others consider to be “normal.”

I thought, maybe, just maybe if they saw that someone in a different time went through the same thing and came out of it okay, then maybe it might give them hope. That’s why it doesn’t matter if they don’t know what Teen Witch is or know the words to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses. Emotions are universal despite the time frame. So is hope. That’s what I wish for people to feel when they read this: hope.

Bullying and Homophobia

One thing that maybe make people uncomfortable about The Mixtape to My Life is the use of homophobic and racial slurs that bullies in the book hurl at Justin, the main character. Some of them are quite harsh and could cause a negative reaction in someone. Trust me, I thought long and hard about whether or not to use them. But in the end, I felt that the story would lose something without it. I heard them on almost a daily basis, and while those slurs may not be as accepted as they were before, they are still used against many in the gay community. A queer teen who hears them as much as I did needs to see that someone can overcome this and find true acceptance. Like I mentioned before, I want that shy queer kid who feels alone to know that no matter what people throw at them, there is still hope that things will get better. You can find people who accept you, and you don’t have to change who you are to have that.

So yes, despite possible unfamiliar cultural references, I do feel that today’s YA audience can relate to a book set during the 90s. The techniques may be more advanced in this current age, but bullying is still bullying, and we can all relate to the hurt that it causes.

***

Jake Martinez is a former South Texas resident who has found a new home in Chicago. He has been writing all his life but has only recently sought to be published. His debut novel, The Mixtape to My Life, reflects on life as a gay teen growing up in South Texas. Jake holds an MFA in Creative Writing and also loves to write plays and screenplays. Aside from writing, you can find him hanging out at home with his husband, their newborn son, and an eclectic group of fur babies.

Tomboys and Witches: Writing Nonbinary Magic, a Guest Post by The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass author Adan Jerreat-Poole

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to welcome Adan Jerreat-Poole, author of the queer fantasy novel The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass, which releases from Dundurn on May 16. Here’s a little more about the book:

Eli isn’t just a teenage girl — she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. Trained to kill with her seven magical blades, Eli is a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts to question everything she was taught about both worlds, the Coven, and her tyrannical witch-mother.

Worried that she’ll be unmade for her mistake, Eli gets caught up with a group of human and witch renegades, and is given the most difficult and dangerous task in the worlds: capture the Heart of the Coven. With the help of two humans, one motorcycle, and a girl who smells like the sea, Eli is going to get answers — and earn her freedom.

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

And here’s the post from Adan on writing nonbinary magic!

***

I grew up reading Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness quartet. I was in love with magic, sword-fighting, and the tomboyish Alanna who had to pretend to be a boy in order to become a knight. In some ways I felt like Alanna—but instead of a girl pretending to be a boy, I was a nonbinary person pretending to be a girl. Like Alanna, I felt the constraints of gender roles and sexism corsetting my life and future. The Song of the Lioness helped me imagine breaking out of those roles.

But I wanted more than that. Where were the magical adventures about people like me?

I am the only queer person in my family. I didn’t come out as bisexual/pansexual until I was 26. I didn’t come out as nonbinary until I was 27. Here is an excerpt from the email I sent to my closest family members three days before my 28th birthday:

Some of you may remember me as a little kid with a bowl cut who wore Harry Potter glasses and animal onesies (some things never change). I looked like a little boy, and I didn’t particularly feel like any gender. I’ve often felt uncomfortable trying to make myself more feminine to fit in with gendered expectations and norms. In the last year or so, I’ve met more and more people who identity as nonbinary and I think that might be a better fit for me. I’ve started using the pronouns “they/their.” It feels right.

I have a couple of really close queer friends who helped me come out and feel comfortable with who I am. But they lived in different cities, and as an introvert it was hard for me to meet new people and break into the local LGBT2SQIA+ scene. Because I didn’t have many trans or queer people in my life, I turned to books. It turned out that sometime between 1998 and 2018 a lot of amazing queer YA literature had been published, and I fell in love with reading all over again. My bookshelf now is filled with titles like Blanca & Roja and Girl Mans Up. These books were the queer family I was missing.

Here’s the last thing you have to know about me: I’m angry. Really, really angry. I’m angry at the violence that I’ve experienced and that I see other people experiencing. I’m angry that I had to pretend to be a girl for a long time. I’m angry that we live in a culture that hurts women, trans, queer people, and people of colour. Some of that anger makes its way into the book, curling under each letter and winding through lines of dialogue.

The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is about an angry queer girl trying to find her place in the worlds. The world she grew up in is weird, magical, and dangerous. She’s going to discover that our world is, too. She’s going to meet a really cool nonbinary person who has secrets and tattoos. (They are the main character of the sequel, The Boi of Feather and Steel). She’s going to learn how to come to terms with pain and past mistakes. She’s going to learn how to use anger to fight for justice.This book is about tomboys and witches, assassins and ghosts and bloodthirsty children. These characters handle every fear and challenge with the strength and honestly that I wanted for myself when I was a young person dreaming of becoming a knight.

If you look carefully, you can see the ink on the page pulsing to the beat of my magical nonbinary heart.

***

Adan Jerreat-Poole is a reader and writer who loves all things fantasy and feminist. They are a PhD candidate at McMaster University studying disability and queerness in popular culture. Adan lives in Kingston with their cat Dragon. The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is their debut novel.

Hope and Happy Endings in YA Fiction: a Guest Post by I’ll See You Again Author CJ Bedell

Today we’re excited to welcome Chris Bedell to the site to discuss his YA contemporary novel, I’ll See You Again, out now from Deep Hearts! Here’s a little more about the book:

It’s the start of his senior year, and Cyrus should be worried about college applications, procrastinating on homework, and staying up past his bedtime. And he does, until his mother’s cancer returns.

To make matters worse, Nico Valentine—the person Cyrus hates most—insists on being his friend. Carefree, flirtatious, and spontaneous, Nico is everything Cyrus’s childhood never allowed him to be. When their English teacher offers Cyrus extra credit to tutor Nico, Cyrus knows he shouldn’t accept. He could use the distraction, though.

A fling soon ensues, and Cyrus realizes they have more in common than he thought. What is more, Nico is the first person who seems to get him and who is there no matter what. But, if Cyrus wants his romance with Nico to turn into something real, he’ll have to do something he’s never done before—be vulnerable with another person.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

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And here’s the guest post!

***

(Warning: The following blog post contains spoilers from the YA Contemporary novel I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN)

Hope is a controversial issue in YA literature (and even pop culture in general). On the one hand, people argue YA literature is fiction. So, there’s no harm in having a happy ending. On the other hand, some will argue a YA book might seem unrealistic if an ending is too happy. And the issue of happy endings is something I debated while writing my YA Contemporary novel I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN.

My main character, Cyrus, goes through a lot in the book. His mother has a cancer relapse, and ultimately dies. Cyrus also has his relationship with Nico, which becomes tumultuous towards the end of the book.

Chapter 23 (the book’s second to last chapter) takes place on graduation. Cyrus skips graduation, and reconciles with Nico for that one night. Cyrus wakes up the next morning to find Nico didn’t stay the night. Nico ended things with him on a Post-it note. Some people might argue the book could’ve concluded with that. Cyrus and Nico reconnected very briefly, yet their second breakup reinforces how some relationships don’t always last.

I couldn’t let the book end with the morning after graduation when Cyrus discovers the Post-it note, though. Doing so would’ve been cruel. The arc of Cyrus and Nico’s begins with the book’s first chapter. So, readers deserve a payoff. Cyrus also deserves happiness beyond his writing ambitions, friends, and family. Nico is the one person who understands Cyrus the most despite their opposite personalities. Nico and Cyrus both like to write, had fathers who abandoned them, and had mothers who died of cancer.

Chapter 24 (the book’s last chapter) therefore pushes the novel’s plot forward about nine months. It’s the following March after graduation. Nico and Cyrus are both back in town for Spring Break, and they eventually reconcile.

To me, offering hope is important in YA literature. Something cathartic exists from seeing Cyrus get a happy ending after struggling so much. A general overlap exists with real life—some readers might be grappling with serious problems. And they deserve to know life gets better no matter how trite the sentiment sounds. People are more than their romantic relationship, but being Nico makes Cyrus happy. It’s only human, after all. Most people wanna feel loved and accepted.

Also, I offer realism in a less jarring way. If I wanted to make the book unbelievably happy, then I would’ve had Chapter 24 also mention Cyrus getting a career break with his writing. But I didn’t. Not because that’ll never happen for Cyrus—it will. But because readers don’t need the entirety of Cyrus’s life story to know he’ll be happy. Cyrus is just like most people. Taking life one day at a time. And that’s enough. If Cyrus survived his mother’s death and reconciled with Nico, then he can handle anything.

***

Chris Bedell’s previous publishing credits include Thought Catalog, Entropy Magazine, Chicago Literati, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, among others. His debut YA Fantasy novel IN THE NAME OF MAGIC was published by NineStar Press in 2018. Chris’s 2019 novels include his NA Thriller BURNING BRIDGES (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Paranormal Romance DEATHLY DESIRES (DEEP HEARTS YA), and YA Thriller COUSIN DEAREST (BLKDOG Publishing). His other 2020 novels include his YA Thriller I KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED (BLKDOG Publishing), YA Thriller BETWEEN THE LOVE AND MURDER (Between The Lines Publishing), and YA Sci-fi DYING BEFORE LIVING (Deep Hearts YA). Chris also graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2016.

Eat, Gay Love: a Guest Post by The Mountains of Paris Memoirist David Oates

Today we’re thrilled to welcome David Oates to the site to discuss his travel memoir, The Mountains of Paris: How Awe and Wonder Rewrote My Life, out now from Oregon State University Press! Here’s a little more about the book:

Living in Paris for a winter and a spring and waking each morning to a view of Notre Dame, David Oates is led to revise his life story from one of trudging and occasional woe into one punctuated by nourishing and sometimes unsettling brilliance. He asks: What is the meaning of this tremendousness?

In long years of mountaineering Oates fought the self-loathing that had infused him as the gay kid in the Baptist pew. And in The Mountains of Paris, he ascends to a place of wonder. In luminous prose, Oates invites readers to share a sense of awe—whether awakened by a Vermeer painting or a wilderness sojourn, by the night sky, a loved one, or echoing strains of music—lifting the curtain on a cosmos filled with a terrifying yet beautiful rightness.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

***

And here’s the guest post!

***

I had more fun writing this book than any other to date – and I’ve been writing for a long time. How easily these chapters gobbled up month after month and eventually a few years of my life!

Yet they include the most painful material I’ve ever tackled. My life as the gay kid in the Baptist pew. All the ways I tried to bend and break and robotize myself, to become acceptable to God. My dogged persistence in dysfunction and despair. (I’m a stubborn guy, proud of my inner strength. A stupid, fatal pride.) And later, the lover who left me after nine (for me) healing years, leaving me alone and half broken. Two-thirds broken, maybe. Followed by more years of dogged loneliness.

What made it all bearable to write about is that I stumbled onto a way to reframe it. To reconsider what had happened. Because I’m tired of my wounds – maybe you’re tired of yours too. I’ve been nursing them so long, always the same old story of woe and struggle. But here’s the trick: I got to thinking about what had, after all, saved me. What had kept me from harm and allowed me to navigate, in tears or out, into a decent and productive life.

Whatever it was had been potent and, when I think about it, omnipresent. And I came to suspect that this might be my true story – not the woe-is-me tale that most of us almost automatically tell.

* * *

Think of the last really big sunset you allowed yourself to take in. Or the last time you stood under a clear and moonless night sky, being drawn into the incomprehensible mystery and beauty of it.

Or that piece of music that always puts you into some other headspace, or heartspace: and you are suddenly moved, translated into your better self, tender and openhearted.  Or that act of kindness that surprised you (maybe you received it. . . or maybe you offered it). And for a moment you felt like part of a better version of humanity.

Strange reveal: My book about pain turned out to be a book about joy, the weird complicated feeling of big spaces and piercing beauty that floods in upon you for no reason except that you’re alive and for a moment all your senses are open.

I saw that I had been experiencing these moments of unearned joy and unexpected beauty all through my life. As a child, alone in the woods for the first time. As a teen, becoming wrapped up in the vastness of a Bach fugue. As a young adult, receiving kindness from less-damaged people who wondered why I struggled so. . . and, without needing to know why, reached out to me.

Suddenly I understood. I saw how my attraction to poetry drew from the same source. How the high mountains, where I climbed and wandered for so many decades, offered it too. And music! Always music; and even, when my eye and spirit evolved, art too.

They all had the power to call up a kind of tearful joyousness that never lasted more than a few moments, yet that was ever after an indelible memory, a kind of secret hoard of inexpressible gold. I could remember it whenever I needed to – moments from childhood still vivid as if they had just happened. Moments harvested by the me of a decade ago, or six decades ago, still fresh. Still radiating their strange message: This is the universe you are part of. You’ll never understand it. But you’ll know the dignity of being the witnessing soul, the admiring being.

That’s what this book turned out to be about: These moments that have been redeeming me all along, sneaking up on me, overtaking a second or a minute of my life with a kind of huge-hearted feeling that was perilously near to terror – that made me feel small. . . and then expanded me toward something vast, impersonal, and ultimate.

Made small, I grew. That’s my story. And I’m betting it’s the story of anyone who undertakes this kind of remembering. Yes, life is troubled and painful. I don’t deny it! Savagely painful, but also beautiful. Beautiful beyond expression.

It’s a strange thing being alive, no? Worth noticing. Worth allowing a kind of awe that can open up your heart, connecting you to more than can be expressed. I think this awe-and-wonder self might be the real you.

That’s my hypothesis, anyway. Test it on yourself, see what you discover. Pay attention to what opens up your heart in largeness. Gravitate towards that. See what sort of life that is.

***

David Oates is the author of two books of poetry and four works of nonfiction, including Paradise Wild: Reimagining American Nature and City Limits: Walking Portland’s Boundary. His award-winning essays have appeared in Georgia Review, Creative Nonfiction, and Orion. He was Kittredge Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Montana and is founder and general editor of Kelson Books in Portland, Oregon.

Making Familiar Ideas Fresh: a Guest Post by Deathly Desires Author Chris Bedell

Today we’re welcoming Chris Bedell to the site to discuss his recently released YA paranormal romance, Deathly Desires, which came out this month from Deep Hearts! Here’s a little more about the book:

I know what you did last spring…

When 17-year-old Cody’s unrequited crush, Mason, is killed by his friend Veronica, he helps her successfully cover up the murder. That is until the start of their Junior Year, when everyone involved receives a menacing note from someone who knows what they did.

The blackmail about Mason’s death quickly escalates to stalking, arson, and attempted murder. Cody and his friends must discover who found them out before they get killed themselves. And fast.

Noah has an altogether different secret. He’s a grim reaper, escorting people to the afterlife when they die. When his path collides with Cody, a spark soon forms between them. But whether they can make their relationship work is a different question. If Cody and Noah want a real chance at love, they’re going to have to be honest with each other about everything they’ve been hiding from the world.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

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And here’s the guest post!

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The idea that there are only so many stories to tell is one problem writers grapple with. However, the issue shouldn’t deter authors from writing. Putting a fresh twist on familiar ideas is possible. And that’s what I tried doing with my YA Paranormal Romance novel DEATHLY DESIRES, which was published by Deep Hearts YA on November 14, 2019.

Genre mashup is one way to breathe life into writing. The idea applies to DEATHLY DESIRES because of how I combine the Paranormal Romance genre with a Thriller. By itself, Paranormal Romance might generate fatigue because of the market becoming saturated after TWILIGHT.

I didn’t let that hurdle stop me, though. Paranormal Romance and Thriller books might seem different, but I made it work. 17-year-old Cody—one of my two POV characters—dating a grim reaper helps my plot. Noah is connected to the book’s main mystery even though the link might not seem obvious at first. My novel is therefore always building tension with both the romance and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” dilemma.

And within the Paranormal Romance and Thriller elements, I tried to add something slightly different to each. For the Paranormal Romance aspect that meant I didn’t wanna have werewolves, witches, and vampires be the focus. I’ll always love a good book about werewolves, witches, and vampires, but I didn’t have anything new to add.

So, I decided on grim reapers. Grim reapers don’t seem to have been covered much in pop culture like werewolves, witches, and vampires (at least to my knowledge). I still wanted to be careful with the human/non-human relationship, though. A relationship between a human and non-human wouldn’t be perfect, yet I didn’t wanna have it be Cody and Noah can’t together because it would be complicated or because of Cody’s father and friends don’t approve. I therefore decided on a compromise. Cody can build his relationship with Noah, yet sense something is off about Noah. That choice worked with DEATHLY DESIRES because Noah’s mysteriousness adds to the novel’s general mystery. Yet the irony is Noah is harmless. Noah isn’t the villain and respects humans (Noah was a human until he stopped aging at 17, and still looks like his 17-year-old self).

The Thriller genre elements of DEATHLY DESIRES also needed sprucing up. Cody and his friends Veronica and Brandon are dealing with their “I Know What You Did Last Summer” problem. But I didn’t wanna write teens who appeared shallowed. I don’t wanna give away too much, but I added mitigating factors to their situation so readers can understand why Cody, Veronica, and Brandon behave the way they do even if readers might not agree with their choices. The absentee parent is another idea I pivoted. Cody has a strained relationship with his father, but Cody realizes he must confide in his father about how him and his friends are the victims of a revenge game. Cody tries chatting with his father about said problem, yet his father rebuffs him. That occurrence provides a twist—I wanted to flip the situation. A parent usually might try getting their child to confide in them about a problem. But that’s not so with DEATHLY DESIRES. Cody’s father proves useless, so Cody therefore risks honesty for nothing.

The above ideas are just several examples to show how twisting familiar ideas doesn’t have to be complicated, but I hope they help. But above all, write the story you wanna write (within reason). Sometimes the projects authors are most passionate about are their most creative books, and that enthusiasm will hopefully come across on the page and make readers become engrossed in the novel.

Hunting for Sasquatch: Have You Heard of the Pope Lick Goat Man? (a Guest Post by Monster of the Week author F.T. Lukens)

I mean, that headline is probably already the best thing I’ll read today, but once you read that, how can you not go on to read about F.T. Lukens’s delightful research exploits when writing her The Rules series, including the recently released Monster of the Week, which just came out from Duet Books on October 15? Obviously, you must read more, so first, check out the book, and let’s just keep weirding out from there!

46766039._sy475_Spring semester of Bridger Whitt’s senior year of high school is looking great. He has the perfect boyfriend, a stellar best friend, and an acceptance letter to college. He also has this incredible job as an assistant to Pavel Chudinov, an intermediary tasked with helping cryptids navigate the modern world. His days are filled with kisses, laughs, pixies, and the occasional unicorn. Life is awesome. But as graduation draws near, Bridger’s perfect life begins to unravel. Uncertainties about his future surface, his estranged dad shows up out of nowhere, and, perhaps worst of all, a monster-hunting television show arrives in town to investigate the series of strange events from last fall. The show’s intrepid host will not be deterred, and Bridger finds himself trapped in a game of cat and mouse that could very well put the myth world at risk. Again.

Buy it: Amazon (Affiliate) | B&N | IndieBound (Affiliate)

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And now here’s the guest post from author F.T. Lukens!

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Most writers have joked about being on a government watch list due to the things we research when writing a novel. Myself, as well as many of my author friends, have talked, tweeted, and written about what our defense would be when we are carted away. “No, really, officer, I needed to know the best way to hide a body for my novel! I swear!” (To be completely accurate and honest this was not the last thing I googled for my current work in progress. That honor goes to ‘best way to administer a cure in the case of a pandemic resulting in space zombies.’) I’m sure, if you follow any authors on Twitter, you’ve seen a similar sentiment.

When writing The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic and the sequel, Monster of the Week, I had the absolute pleasure of researching the weirdest, hilarious, most grotesque, horrifying, yet quaint aspects of North American folklore ever. I now have the best answer for the inevitable audience question of “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched for a book?” My answer can be any number of local cryptids and folklore, but for the foreseeable future my favorite is ‘The Lizard Man of Scape Ore Swamp’ solely for the pure joy and lyricism of the name. Well, that, and the story is amazing. Seriously. There’s even a local festival dedicated to the Lizard Man in South Carolina, and that’s a festival I want to visit.

We’ve all heard of Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, The Jersey Devil, and the Mothman (And if you haven’t, how? At least two of these have roller coasters named after them.) Along with a few others, those are the big names in cryptozoology, and take up their fair share of the public consciousness when it comes to weird creatures. But have you heard of the Pope Lick Goat Man? How about the Beast of Bray Road? Or the Fouke County Monster? The Richmond Vampire? The Ozark Howler? No? You’re missing out, my friends.

Peppered across North America are hundreds of local cryptids rooted in the myth and traditions of small towns and big cities from coast to coast. I’ve read all about goat men (shockingly, there’s more than one) who sometimes lure unsuspecting victims onto railroad tracks by song, and other times, chase them with axes. I’ve read about massive animals with glowing red eyes and dark, shaggy fur, that run as fast as cars on all fours, have the curled horns of a ram on their heads, and bugle like elks but look like bears. I’ve read about ghost lights (a ton of places have a local floating light. Check yours out today!), vampires in big cities, werewolves in Wisconsin, giant salamanders in California, blood-sucking big cats in North Carolina, even lake monsters in New York. I’ve jumped at sounds when walking my dog after reading a few of the more sinister accounts of terrifying things that bump in the night. I’ve laughed with my brother about some of the random creatures who lurk on lonely roads and haunt deserted seashores. (We have our own cryptid story about giant migrating crabs on Ocracoke Island. It’s hilarious, and well worth the fifteen minutes it takes us to recount it between laughs.) The point, and there is one, is that the more I researched, the more I realized that cryptids are everywhere.

While Wikipedia is a resource my middle-schooler is not allowed to cite in a research paper, it’s a great starting place for your very own cryptid research adventure. In a mere few hours, you too can fall down a rabbit hole of clicks, and find yourself using the way back machine to read a geocities page that has a first-hand account of how someone’s cousin’s best friend’s aunt’s son happened to overhear a story when having lunch at the little diner down on third (you know the one with the chicken wings to die for), about a creature that stood on its furred hind legs, had the chest of a man but the head of a dog, and howled. After, you can watch a video on YouTube of shaky cam footage, or a video on the top ten weird things in your neighborhood.

Call me quirky, and some people do, but I love a good cryptid story, especially ones that spawn festivals. Here in western North Carolina, there’s an annual Bigfoot festival, complete with a 5k called—wait for it—The Bigfoot Chase. I’m in love. The thought makes me want to find out what other races are out there based on cryptids. Is there Ogopogo swim? A skunk ape triathlon?

Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, there’s a lot of weird and wonderful out there to explore, either in the relative safety of your own home via your computer or one of many monster hunting TV shows on various streaming platforms. You may even venture into your own community. If you do and you happen to come across something strange, please stay safe, take video footage and immediately upload it to the cloud in case you drop your phone during your hasty escape, and in the case of giant migrating crabs, try not to hit them with your car.

* * *

F.T. Lukens is an award-winning author of young adult fiction who holds degrees in Psychology and English Literature. A cryptid enthusiast, F.T. loves folklore and myths, specifically the weird and wonderful creatures of North America. She also enjoys sci-fi and fantasy television shows, superhero movies, and writing. F.T. lives in the mountains of North Carolina, a perfect area for sasquatch sightings, with her husband, three kids, and three cats.

Her novel, The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic, won several awards, including the 2017 Foreword INDIES Gold Award for Young Adult Fiction and the 2017 IPBA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best Teen Fiction.

Writing Bisexual Characters—By Accident: a Guest Post by Author Nem Rowan

Today we’re welcoming to the site author Nem Rowan, author of Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, genre mashups of horror, urban fantasy, and romance with trans and queer representation set in the UK that make for perfect reads for this time of year! The books are being rereleased following the closing of Less Than Three Press, so the author is here to give them a boost and talk about how bisexuality unexpectedly found its way into his stories!

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My two books, Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, recently received a re-release through JMS Books after the closing down of Less Than Three Press, and both have transgender representation in them. What I didn’t plan for when I wrote these books was the representation of bisexuality! Rough Sleepers was one of the finalists in the Bi Writers Association’s 2018 Annual Book Awards for the Romance genre, and this made me consider how and why I seem to write in bisexual characters, sometimes without even meaning to.

I am a transgender man, and this makes a large impact on the kind of characters I write and the way I write about them. Being trans means I sometimes approach certain fictional situations in a different way to how a cis-gendered writer might, taking into consideration the character’s self-esteem, physical presentation and anatomy. When you write trans characters as a trans author, a little part of yourself always makes it into the story, whether it’s in something the character says or does—such as coping strategies for living in a world that can be quite hostile at times—to the reasons for the clothes they wear. But, whether a writer is trans or not, a part of yourself is always there in the writing, and I suppose I didn’t consider that my sexuality would have such a far-reaching, yet subtle, influence on what I wrote as well.

Just a little warning that there are spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read my books!

In Witcheskin, the character Wenda and her husband Evan were in a poly relationship with the main villain of the story, Geraint. At the time of writing, I never considered that this would actually mean—as they were in an equal triad—that both Evan and Geraint were bisexual. It’s never explicitly written in the book, but I had always considered Maredudd, the love interest and secondary main character, to be bisexual, in that his character is heavily inspired by water, and the fluidity of water. It was not a far stretch for me to imagine Maredudd dating a man, a woman, or anyone really, and perhaps that is why he is so ready and willing to accept Owen. Maredudd has no boundaries and lives a free, sometimes wandering, life. Why wouldn’t his sexuality be like that too?

Moving on to Rough Sleepers, the categorisation of the main character’s sexuality became complicated when it came to defining its place in publishing. Leon is bigender, and (s)he switches between male and female frequently throughout the book. Leon’s sexuality is hard for him/her to define, and even harder for me to define, even though it’s clear that Leon is chronically attracted to masculinity. Ceri, on the other hand, had his sexuality pre-planned for me, since he appears as Geraint in the first book, and after dating Wenda for a time, then goes on to be in a relationship with Leon. Even Mecky, one of the other main characters, leans heavily into bisexuality, as she is attracted to both masculinity and femininity, and seems to take particular interest in gender transformation. I never planned any of these things when I wrote the book; I just wrote it.

My third, currently unreleased, novel The Things We Hide At Home, which hopefully will be getting the release it deserves through JMS Books, is the first book I’ve ever written with a strictly gay male/male romance, and I’m not entirely sure why it ended up that way. The main character, Tenny, is a trans male who is also gay, and is quite different to Owen in how he navigates the world. Perhaps when I wrote this novel, I was going through a particularly gay phase myself. Bisexuality, at least for me and the bisexual people I know, seems to fluctuate in waves, and is never a static block of 50% masculine, 50% feminine.

I think when authors allow their characters to evolve completely organically, by simply guiding them along the vague path chosen by the plot line, they sometimes end up choosing their own sexualities. When I create characters, their sexuality is the last thing I think about. At times, their default sexuality just happens to be bisexual, even if I don’t realise it, and it opens them up to choosing their loves in sometimes totally unexpected ways. Only later, when they have established a solid personality and romance do I then decide what to do about their sexuality, and even then it may just be a small note jotted on a pad somewhere.

Likewise, I’m not saying it’s wrong to pre-plan your character’s sexuality. That’s an impossible thing to refrain from if the story is deeply entwined with that aspect of the character, for example, in a coming out story, or a book based on someone’s life experiences. But, that’s just not my writing style! I think it’s wonderful that writers will actively choose to make their characters LGBTQ+ because it’s important to get that work out there, to the people whose lives we are representing, to the people who need it the most. It could be that my books, and other authors’ books, are found by accident while searching, by someone who needed to see themselves in a main character, being brave and finding their place in the world, because that makes all the difference when you feel isolated and alone.

I feel that bisexuality is sometimes under-represented, and I’d love to see it written about more and more in the LGBTQ+ fiction world. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a gay couple at the forefront—it could have a male and a female in what appears to be a heterosexual relationship, but if one or both of them is bisexual, it’s still queer. We can’t, as a community, do bisexual people a disservice by dictating who they fall in love with, whether it’s gay or straight or anything else, because then we risk becoming the oppressors we’ve fought against all these years.

Bisexuality isn’t greed or indecision; it’s just another sexuality colour in the rainbow.

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Nem Rowan lives in Sweden with his wife and their girlfriend. He loves reading non-fiction and is fascinated by True Crime and unsolved mysteries, especially missing persons cases and serial killers. Nem is also well-read in mythology and folk tales, particularly British and European folklore. He is a huge fan of Horror movies and Retrowave music.

Nem started writing when he was 11 years old and since then, he’s never looked back. Romance has always been his favourite genre after inheriting a box of Mills & Boon novels from his grandma, but being a Horror fan, there is always some way for him to work in a bit of that to make sure things don’t get too mushy.

https://nemrowan.com
https://instagram.com/nemrowan
https://twitter.com/MrNemRowan

Your Weapon of Choice: a Guest Post by Master of Restless Shadows Author Ginn Hale

Today on the site we’re welcome back Ginn Hale, whose fantasy Master of Restless Shadows, part of the Cadeleonian world (but kicking off its own new series) releases today! It’s full of espionage and other courtly intrigue, not to mention magic, witches, and romance. Here are the details:

Freshly graduated Master Physician Narsi Lif-Tahm has left his home in Anacleto and journeyed to the imposing royal capitol of Cieloalta intent upon keeping the youthful oath he made to a troubled writer. But in the decade since Narsi gave his pledge, Atreau Vediya, has grown from an anonymous delinquent to a man renowned for penning bawdy operas and engaging in scandalous affairs.

What Narsi―and most of the larger world―cannot know is the secret role Atreau plays as spymaster for the Duke of Rauma.

After the Cadeleonian royal bishop launches an unprovoked attack against the witches in neighboring Labara, Atreau will require every resource he can lay his hands upon to avert a war. A physician is exactly what he needs. But with a relentless assassin hunting the city and ancient magic waking, Atreau fears that his actions could cost more than his own honor. The price of peace could be his friends’ lives.

Buy it: Blind Eye Books | Amazon | Smashwords

And here’s the guest post on making choices in the world of weaponry in Epic Fantasy, complete with fabulous exclusive art from cover designer Zaya Feli!

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Epic fantasy is full of weapons. Swords are particularly common. Some are imbued with specific and significant cultural meaning, such as Excalibur or Kusanagi-no-tsurugi. Others, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gurthang or Sikanda from The Never Ending Story are magical to the point of sentience, while others are simply notable for their history, quality or the use they are put to, such as Mr. Smee’s Johnny Corkscrew in Peter Pan—so named because of the way the sailor twists the blade in the wound after stabbing his opponent.

But it’s not just magical, mythical, or infamous weapons that convey information about the their world and the person wielding them. After all swords, spears, bows, guns, etc. are real tools with real histories. Everything about them—from how they’re made, how they’re adorned and who can carry them—has been shaped by particular places and times in human history.

To me as an author, this means that who I arm and how I choose to arm them can serve the story.  Even when the choice of weapon might seem little more than costume to a reader, often much more thought has gone into the matter.

When I began writing my Cadeleonians series—Lord of the White Hell, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf and Master of Restless Shadows—I called on personal experience, and a passing familiarity with the history of weapon to arm my protagonists and also to personalize how and why they fight.

Since the series begins inside a military academy, it only made sense to employ weapon preference and fighting styles to characterize the students and to add depth to their duels. (Not to mention the ambushes and battles they would later be involved in.)

Slim and smart, Kiram Kir-Zaki is far more interested in his mechanical studies than swordplay, so he relies on tactics more than strength. He also hails from a different culture than his sword-swinging Cadeleonian classmates, so his weapon of choice is a bow, which offers him the advantage of distance. Archery allows him to hunt birds, while his classmates gripe about winter rations of cabbage stew. His inventiveness also means that he eventually crafts his own unique weapons to defend himself and his family of choice.

His roommate Javier on the other hand is an excellent swordsman, but because his instructors believed he’s cursed he’s forced to undergo a regime of religious penance that leaves him physically weak. This leads to his decision to forgo both shields and longer, heavier swords, as just carrying them would exhaust him. Instead he relies on a light rapier—not unlike an early épée. Of course stepping into a dueling ring armed with such a fragile-looking sword broadcasts his vulnerability. Javier’s solution is to play up his weakness—expending the minimum of his strength to elude his opponents and hold them at bay all while lulling them into overconfidence. Then, having conserved his strength and lured his opponent into the range of his shorter, lighter weapon he strikes his winning blow.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is their friend Elezar, who possesses exceptional strength and reach. He comfortably wields a longer, much heavier sword; one that readily tears through the armored enemies he faces on the battlefield. Since the majority of his fighting is done while mounted I imagine him armed with something between an estoc and a broadsword. On foot, his weapon of choice is probably something like a bastard sword, (likely a hand-me-down and quite out of fashion, but comfortable to him and a reminder of the people he’s left behind when he journeys to other lands.) That said, Elezar has also won his way through couple predicaments by employing a woodcutter’s maul—ouch!—and his coin purse.

Master of Restless Shadows introduces a new character: Sabella, who is a professional fighter. But unlike the nobles who schooled at the Sagrada Academy, Sabella’s battles are fought in dueling rings of sword houses and serve as entertainment for gamblers and the general public. Her weapon is a civilian sword, a rapier. It’s easily sheathed and unsheathed in close quarters and meant for combat on city streets against unarmored opponents. Like Sabella herself, a rapier is agile and deadly. It’s also something a rarity for any woman to possess, as sumptuary laws would normally bar a Cadeleonian woman from wearing a sword. (Though my books are fantastical, sumptuary laws aren’t. They were and are still used to suppress gender and class freedom. Fascinating historical figures like as Mary Frith (aka Molly Cutpurse) and the extraordinary duelist, La Chevalier d’Eon number among the many people who struggled to live authentically under such laws.)  But since I took my initial inspiration from the real life figure of duelist and opera singer Julie D’Aubigny in creating Sabella, I allowed her to win a special dispensation to dress in men’s clothes—which includes her beloved rapier.

Master of Restless Shadows also introduces Delfia who, like Sabella, has been expertly trained in combat since childhood. But since she and her brother are assassins, it would hardly do for her to flout sumptuary laws or strut through the capitol with a rapier at her hip. Instead she carries a fighting knife, which her decorative sheath and full skirt help to disguise as a mere belt knife. And, of course, she also employs poison. Being smaller and less menacing in demeanor doesn’t make her less deadly. It does however mean that her greatest weapon is the element of surprise. (As in, ‘Surprise! That tiny jab from a lace needle was loaded with poison!’)

Ariz

And last but not (I hope) least is Delfia’s brother, Ariz. He puts me in mind of a quote attributed to Confucius: Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance. In his guise as an instructor of fencing and dance, Ariz often plays down his facility for swordplay. But his grace, balance and speed as a dancer really ought to betray him, particularly when it comes to sword dancing. (Most sword dances actually began as forms of military exercise and training, so that ought to be a give away right there.) However Ariz presents himself and his personal weapons in the most lackluster manner possible. Instead of using the eye-catching effect of bluing to bring out the splendor of his heavy rapier and dagger, Ariz’s weapons are russeted or browned. This chemical process renders the flats of the blades a dull black-brown. At a glance his drawn dagger can appear to still be sheathed.

This detail, is a small one but to me it is central to Ariz’s characterization. Not only does it display just how he fights and survives but it serves as a metaphor for the man himself. That’s not too shabby of a feat for a homely sword with a deadly point to pull off.

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Ginn Hale lives with her lovely wife in the Pacific Northwest. She spends the many cloudy days observing plants and fungi. She whiles away the rainy evenings writing fantasy and science-fiction featuring LGBTQ protagonists. Her first novel, Wicked Gentlemen, won the Spectrum Award for best novel. She is also a Lambda Literary Award finalist and Rainbow Award winner.

Her most recent publications include the Lord of the White Hell, Champion of the Scarlet Wolf and The Rifter Trilogy: The Shattered Gates, The Holy Road, His Sacred Bones.

She can be reached through her website: www.ginnhale.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Her Instagram account, however, is largely a collection of botanical photos…so, be warned.