Category Archives: Guest post

Uncertainty as Opportunity: Why It’s Okay To Not Know Everything About Your Identity Right Away, A Guest Post By Ana on the Edge Author A.J. Sass

Today on the site I am so excited to be welcoming A.J. Sass, author of the groundbreaking middle grade contemporary Ana on the Edge, which releases today from Little, Brown Young Readers. Here’s a little more about the book:

For fans of George and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, a heartfelt coming of age story about a nonbinary character navigating a binary world.

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season’s program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn’t correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he’s around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it’s tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking years of hard work and sacrifice.

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

And here’s the post!

A month after I started hormone replacement therapy, my friends threw me a “T-party” in San Francisco’s Dolores Park. I’d recently come out as trans and chosen a name that has stayed with me to this day: Andrew. And pronouns? He, him, and his, because I’m a guy, obviously.

Hold that thought.

I remember that afternoon well. It was unusually warm for a July in San Francisco, and the outing felt festive, reminiscent of a Pride Month weekend just a few weeks earlier. I was surrounded by friends who’d supported me as I navigated both my social and medical transition. My world felt full of potential. Finally, I could focus on living my life rather than on coming out to everyone and the emotional labor that entailed.

Just the same, I found myself shrugging when a friend jokingly asked if, two injections into my transition, I’d noticed any physical changes yet.

“Not yet,” I’d said. Then, a slight hesitation before I admitted, “honestly, I’m not even sure I feel like a man at this point.”

“Give it time,” my friends who’d been on testosterone (T) longer encouraged me. “It’ll happen, especially when strangers stop misgendering you.”

Their advice was well-meaning and, I suspect, a truth for many folks who’ve pursued this particular avenue of transition. So I waited, and I hoped my feelings would change on a similar trajectory with my body.

They didn’t.

I can’t remember the first time I heard the word nonbinary. Maybe I read an interview online or it came up in a casual conversation. What I do remember is the immediate connection I felt to its definition:

Nonbinary: not relating to, composed of, or involving just two things.

That’s me. I knew instantly.

So why did it take me another four years to decide to discontinue T and even longer to publicly announce my identity? Simple: I didn’t want to be a burden. I’d just come out as a trans man to my friends and family, then had to approach my workplace’s HR department to change my name and pronouns. There was a nagging concern that I’d be inconveniencing people after I’d already asked them to use one new name and set of pronouns.

And what if I realized that different pronouns worked better for me later on? How many times could I come out to people before they got fed up?

By the time I wrote Ana on the Edge, I was more or less comfortable being seen as a man in my public life, even if it didn’t perfectly describe who I am. But, as writing often does when you’re delving into something personal, Ana’s journey to discovering her nonbinary identity brought to the surface feelings and thoughts about my own.

I created an ending to Ana’s story that left things open, one that sent readers the message that, “hey, this kid now knows she’s nonbinary, but she doesn’t have everything figured out yet, and that’s okay.” But it wasn’t until relatively late in the drafting process—after I’d revised the story enough to begin querying agents—that I realized the same logic could be applied to myself.

It was a revelation that allowed me to critically evaluate how I wanted to be seen as an author who plans to continue exploring queer themes in the kidlit space. In a way, Ana, my fictional ‘enby bean’ ice skater, taught me that not knowing everything about myself all at once is not only acceptable but something to embrace. And the individuals who might not be so enthusiastic about having to learn a new set of pronouns? They’re not people worth being concerned about. My identity—an inherent part of who I am as a living, breathing, feeling human being—is not up for debate no matter how often it happens to evolve, nor is it an inconvenience.

Near the end of Ana’s story, she reflects on the decision not to change her pronouns yet: “Uncertainty feels like less of a burden and more of an opportunity.”

I’ve held that line close to me on the lead-up to publication. Because some people know who they are when they’re young, and that’s entirely valid. But for a long time, the only trans narratives I could find in the media exclusively reflected the experience that you either know you’re trans at a young age or else you’re not really trans.

People aren’t static. Our tastes, interests, and even appearances change as we learn more about ourselves over time. Why not the understanding of our internal sense of self, as well? Instead of the shame I’m tempted to feel for inconveniencing people when I learn something new about myself, Ana helped me acknowledge that my identity is my own, even at times when I’ve been uncertain about some aspect of it.

Maybe you were twelve like Ana when you discovered your identity or well into adulthood like I was. Maybe you’re still trying to figure it out now; that’s also perfectly fine. The wonderful thing about identity is it has no expiration date. Sit back, enjoy the journey, and celebrate every new discovery.

Parties (T, tea, or otherwise) are also highly recommended.

***

A. J. Sass is a writer, editor, and occasional mentor. A long-time figure skater, he has passed his U.S. Figure Skating Senior Moves in the Field and Free Skate tests, medaled twice at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, and currently dabbles in ice dance. When he’s not exploring the world as much as possible, A. J. lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs. Ana on the Edge is his first novel.

Why the Label “All Ages” is Important to Me: a Guest Post by The Dragon of Ynys Author Minerva Cerridwen

Today on the site we’re welcoming Minerva Cerridwen, author of fantasy novella The Dragon of Ynys, “an inclusive fairytale for all ages” starring an aromantic asexual main character (and lesbian and trans side characters) which was rereleased this past September from Atthis Arts. Here’s the blurb:

Every time something goes missing from the village, Sir Violet, the local knight, makes his way to the dragon’s cave and negotiates the item’s return. It’s annoying, but at least the dragon is polite.

But when the dragon hoards a person, that’s a step too far. Sir Violet storms off to the mountainside to escort the baker home, only to find a more complex mystery—a quest that leads him far beyond the cave. Accompanied by the missing baker’s wife and the dragon himself, the dutiful village knight embarks on his greatest adventure yet.

Buy it: Publisher’s website | Smashwords| Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

And here’s the post!

The Dragon of Ynys is a fairy tale with an aromantic asexual main character, and lesbian and trans supporting characters. And, of course, a dragon!

The story was first published in 2018 with a different publishing house, which unfortunately went out of business last year. After the release of the 2018 edition, sensitivity issues were pointed out to me, mainly regarding trans representation. It was all too clear in the story that I had not completely figured out my genderqueer identity when I first wrote it. Having learned more about the depth of the story’s issues and about myself, I have worked with a new team of editors and sensitivity readers to improve the book before re-publication. The 2020 edition, now published with Atthis Arts, also has a new epilogue, and an afterword about the story’s (and my own) journey towards what it is now.

The Dragon of Ynys is innocent, very clear about the message it wants to send, and the novella-length plot is relatively simple.

You might conclude that sounds like a children’s book. Booksellers would definitely prefer if it was that easy to know on which shelf to put it. And sure, it is suited for children and middle-grade readers, but I think the story will speak to adults just as much. After all, the person for whom I wrote this in the first place was… me.

I was 25 when I wrote the first draft. I hadn’t discovered everything about myself and maybe I still haven’t now, at 29. I wrote the story that I needed to read, about acceptance—not only of others but also myself. Considering some of the phrases I had written into the first version, the tale couldn’t be clear enough in its messages.

When I’m not writing or drawing, I work as a pharmacist. Every day, I meet people who are quite a bit older than me, who share little parts of their worries and thoughts in the context of medical conversations. I hear people try desperately to conform to expectations without stopping to wonder if those things really are what they want to do with their lives. (Of course, sometimes they are, and society simply isn’t making it easy for everyone to achieve those goals.) Still, these chats often make me think that a lot of adults would benefit from reading a story that clearly shows the advantages of listening to different perspectives, to better understand others as well as to learn more about their own true selves. Hearing relatable stories can not only make us feel less alone, but also help us grow the confidence to allow others to get to know the real you. In turn, we learn to truly listen to what those new friends are telling us—and that’s the difficult part. Sometimes we need to challenge everything we’ve ever been taught in order to open our minds. This message of listening combined with acceptance is very present in The Dragon of Ynys.

Of course children’s books can be read and loved at any age—I certainly still enjoy them. But it wouldn’t feel right to me to name only younger readers as the intended audience for my fairy tale, because the adults who influenced me as a child would have needed to hear its messages in order to pass them on to me. Most (queer) people I know who are around my age experience moments of nostalgia where we grab a book that we wish we could have had as a child, or a teenager, or three years ago when we were struggling to make sense of our identity—because the media we had access to when we were younger did not contain any, or barely any, LGBTQIA+ representation, and even if the subject ever came up, the adults we knew might not have acknowledged that this could be us.

I hope that The Dragon of Ynys can be one of those moments of nostalgia and comfort for some of us. Obviously it’s more important that people can find support from their friends, family or community rather than from a book, but I am certain that there are sixty-, seventy-, eighty-year-olds in our current society who might benefit simply from reading that nothing is wrong with them. And it can inspire adults to be those supportive people to the children around them. That’s why it’s so important to me to present this story as a fairy tale for all ages. Really, all.

***

Minerva Cerridwen is a genderqueer aromantic asexual writer and pharmacist from Belgium. She enjoys baking, drawing and handlettering.

Since 2013 she has been writing for Paranatellonta, a project combining photography and flash fiction. Her first published work was the queer fairy tale ‘Match Sticks’ in the Unburied Fables anthology (2016). Her short stories have also appeared in Atthis Arts anthologies Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove (2019) and Community of Magic Pens (2020).

For updates on her newest projects, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Never Too Late: a Guest Post by Out on the Ice Author Kelly Farmer

Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.

During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.

Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.

Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.

Letting love in means putting yourself out there.

When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.

Buy it: Amazon | Apple Books | B&N | Kobo | Google Play

Here’s the post, compliments of Kelly Farmer!

Hi there! I’m Kelly, and I’m bisexual.

Not so long ago, I wouldn’t have said that. Because I didn’t know. See, I discovered this in my early forties. Part of what helped me come to terms with this was writing my debut novel, Out on the Ice. There was some serious life imitating art going on.

I’d been a strong LGBTQIA+ ally forever. Positive representation in media and human rights have always mattered. I cheered on marriage equality with gusto for my friends and loved ones. But never, not once, did I feel anything close to identifying as a member of the community. Never had one of those “experimental phases” in college. So I went along as a straight girl up until 2018.

And then… I watched the United States Women’s National Hockey Team win that nail-biter Olympic gold medal game against Team Canada. It reminded me of the book I wrote years ago that featured a female goaltender. How much I enjoyed being immersed in that world. How I missed writing hockey stories (I was known as the girl who wrote “hockey books” long before it was popular). Sweet news bits came out about U.S. and Canadian female hockey players who, despite the fierce on-ice rivalry, had found love off the ice.

The story seeds started to get planted. Playing the “What if…” game is my favorite part of being a writer. I knew I wanted a story between a retired women’s hockey legend (Caro) and someone out and proud (Amy) to shake up the other’s quiet life. Sort of a melding of my old hockey stories and what I wanted to write about now. Amy declared she was bisexual because there wasn’t a lot of representation out there.

So the story percolated in my head, and something strange happened. I was thinking an awful lot about female/female romances. Reading stories about women athletes falling in love. Googling information about bisexuality. It felt so warm and fuzzy. It felt…right. Little flashes of ideas started coming to life. Not for my book—for myself. I was out for a sunny afternoon walk one day when a single thought popped into my head: What if I’m bisexual?

I remember smiling to myself. And then laughing, Oh my God, it figures. I don’t live life by “ordinary” conventions. Of course I’d fall under the greatly misunderstood bisexual umbrella. I chewed on this for weeks. Months. Did more Googling. More soul-searching. It made a lot of sense. I found guys attractive—that hadn’t changed. But there were some behaviors I’d never thought much about. I’ve always “admired” athletic women. (Haha—I sure admired Megan Rapinoe a lot.) I can’t sit in a chair like a normal person. (What, one leg flung over the side isn’t normal?) I’m always pointing and shooting finger guns at people. And really, Rachel Weisz in The Mummy is so adorable…

It sunk in, and I finally said it out loud to myself: “I’m bisexual.” I was 42. Never too late to live an authentic life! I really dug into book research that doubled as personal research. Learned about bi-erasure that bothered me so much, it became an important topic in Out on the Ice. Going on this journey with Caro and Amy helped me become more comfortable with the idea of finding love with another woman. Why not?

By the time I typed The End, I was really freaking proud. Proud of this book. Proud that I’d come to terms with who I am. And nervous but proud that when I was ready, I’d be able to join the community. It started slow and quiet, a little at a time. Privately to my parents and brother, then in little bits here and there. When I sold Out on the Ice this past February, I knew I wanted to make it known before my book launched. So I did, rather gloriously in social media posts this spring.

I am so, so lucky to be surrounded by fantastically supportive friends and family. I was anxious about coming out, but the one thing that gave me strength was knowing it wouldn’t be a big deal. That’s another thing that got incorporated into my manuscript: coming out stories are so varied. They can be simple, or beautiful, or painful, or just plain awful. I could really tap into the nervousness, the uncertainty, the feeling like you have a big secret, the huge relief once it’s out.

This book will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only because it’s my debut novel, but it’s also the debut of me in all my bisexual glory. That’s a pretty terrific combination.

* * *

Kelly Farmer (she/her) has been writing romance novels since junior high. In those days, they featured high school quarterbacks named Brad who drove Corvettes and gals with names like Desireé because her own name was rather plain. Her stories since then have ranged from historical and contemporary male/female romances to light women’s fiction to LGBTQ+ romance. One theme remains the same: everyone deserves to have a happy ending.

Kelly was a 2015 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Finalist in the Contemporary Romance category. She is past president of the Chicago-North Romance Writers and is also a member of Women’s Fiction Writers Association.

When not writing, she enjoys being outside in nature, quoting from 80’s movies, listening to all kinds of music, and petting every dog she comes in contact with. All of these show up in her books. She also watches a lot of documentaries to satisfy her hunger for random bits of trivia. Kelly lives in the Chicago suburbs, where she swears every winter is her last one there.

To connect with Kelly, talk about Schitt’s Creek and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and share photos of your adorable pets, please head over to:

The Places Behind We Go Together: a Guest Post by Author Abigail de Niverville

I’m excited to welcome Abigail de Niverville to the site today to celebrate the release of her new book, We Go Together! This contemporary m/f YA Romance stars a cis bi girl and trans boy coming back together over a summer, and the author is here to talk about the settings of the book and why they mean so much to her. But first, a little more on the book, out today from NineStar Press!

WeGoTogether-fThe beaches of Grand-Barachois had been Kat’s summer home for years. There, she created her own world with her “summer friends,” full of possibilities and free from expectation. But one summer, everything changed, and she ran from the life she’d created.

Now seventeen and on the brink of attending college, Kat is full of regret. She’s broken a friendship beyond repair, and she’s dated possibly the worst person in the world. Six months after their break-up, he still haunts her nightmares. Confused and scared, she returns to Grand-Barachois to sort out her feelings.

When she arrives, everything is different yet familiar. Some of her friends are right where she left them, while some are nowhere to be found. There are so many things they never got to do, so many words left unsaid.

And then there’s Tristan.

He wasn’t supposed to be there. He was just a guy from Kat’s youth orchestra days. When the two meet again, they become fast friends. Tristan has a few ideas to make this summer the best one yet. Together, they build a master list of all the things Kat and her friends wanted to do but never could. It’s finally time to live their wildest childhood dreams.

But the past won’t let Kat go. And while this may be a summer to remember, there’s so much she wants to forget.

Buy it: NineStar Press

And here’s the post!

When I was little, until I was about ten years old, my family piled into the car, with stuffed animals and bedsheets jammed into every corner, and drove to the family cottage in Shediac, New Brunswick. My grandmother and great-aunt would stay there pretty much the entire season, with a revolving door of family popping in for dinner visits and overnight stays. The cottage was old, with mismatched plates, and furniture that vaguely smelt of must. But even with all its imperfections, it was perfect. Going to the cottage was a magical time every year when real life felt eons away, and time almost stopped and sped at the same time.

When I was twenty-one, my friends and I drove out to a friend’s cottage in Cap-Pelé, in a community a little further than Shediac on the Acadian coast in New Brunswick. We went down a long, dirt road, with various houses and cottages peeking through the trees. It was more rural than Shediac, but just as magical. We sat on the deck and looked down at the beach, so close to us and so far from the world and our responsibilities. My friend mentioned how some people lived here all year, not just in the summer. I thought to myself that would be ideal, to live on this small corner of the coast and forget about life.

A few years later, my mom’s cousin moved to Grand-Barachois, another area along the Acadian coast. She had a beautiful house, fully winterized and a minute’s walk away from the beach. Her street was so quiet, with only a hint of the world beyond coming from the cars moving on the old highway. The sky was vast and blue, and stretched on forever. I thought to myself that it would also be a wonderful place to write a story.

While all three of these places were different, the experience was always the same. I loved coming to that corner of the province. I loved feeling the sand in my toes and smelling the sea air. I loved how these places made time stand still. I loved how cozy they felt, preserved with artefacts from the past—like old TVs and jigsaw puzzled with pieces missing. I knew, one of these days, I wanted to write a book with this setting, and somehow recreate the feeling these places gave me.

When I first began We Go Together, I started with a simple concept: to write a summer novel that took place somewhere along the Acadian coast. I had a character in mind who was in a transitional period of her life, who would be looking both forward and backward in order to piece herself together. The more I wrote, the more it became clear this character had survived a traumatic relationship, and needed to parse what had taken place in a setting that would allow her space to breathe. The beaches in Grand-Barachois felt like the perfect setting. They were peaceful, remote, timeless—but never lonely. A gentle removal from daily life, to ease into acknowledging the darker parts of the past.

In creating a fictionalized version of this setting, I wanted to reflect a world that felt both current and timeless, with mixes of modern and old technology, and modern and old references, too. A place that was both grounded in reality, but also otherworldly. A place where beauty abounded, even when confronted with desolation. A place full of contradictions, much like the main character Kat’s journey towards understanding her past.

There are many aspects of life in New Brunswick that are not ideal. There are reasons I moved away. But there’s so much beauty in that province that I feel compelled to acknowledge in my writing. There are so many little nooks and crannies characters can explore, and so many memories just waiting to be made. This novel covers some of those beautiful places, but there’s always more to discover.

***

Abigail de Niverville is an author and composer based in Toronto, Canada. Born on the East Coast of the country, Abigail draws inspiration from her experiences growing up there. She’s especially fond of writing contemporary young adult novels and poetry. Abigail holds and M.Mus from the University of Toronto and writes music in many genres, including classical, pop, and film. She is constantly working on new music projects and drafting story ideas.

Home Again: Why I Finally Set a Novel in My Home State, a Guest Post by Tack & Jibe Author Lilah Suzanne

Today on the site, we’re thrilled to welcome author Lilah Suzanne to celebrate the release of their newest, a contemporary f/f Romance called Tack & Jibe that releases from Interlude Press today. Here’s a little more on the book!

Raised on a small island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Willa Rogers has a picture-perfect nautical life: hanging out at the beach with her friends, living in a cozy seaside cottage, working at a sailing store, and running a hugely popular sailing Instagram. It’s so convincing that her overzealous online followers register her to compete in the High Seas, a televised national sailing championship.

Too bad Willa doesn’t actually know how to sail.

Desperate to protect her carefully curated life, Willa tracks down four-time High Seas champion Lane Cordova, and begs her for a crash course in sailing before the race begins. But Lane’s mastery of the water is matched only by Willa’s ineptitude—and her growing crush on Lane isn’t helping matters. When the competition threatens to go awry and take her idealized life with it, Willa has to figure out if she can save her reputation from sinking while taking a chance on love.

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

And here’s the post!

The shopping center when you first come into town features a gas station-slash-Italian grocery store, an eyebrow threading studio that is also, somehow, a U-haul rental center, and next to that, a vape store. This a town that was put on the map in the 1800s thanks to a railroad stop and a natural spring that locals claimed had healing powers— a spring that has since dried up and a train depot that is now a brewery. The rows of brick buildings branded with historical marker placards are occupied by shiny new stores: a juice bar, a coffee roaster, an artisanal chocolate cafe, even more breweries. There’s a new library; an expanded town hall; and a newly-opened art center. The art center, with its white-washed facade and picture windows, sits in the center of downtown, around the corner and across the street from a gun store that boasts over 6,000 guns in stock. It’s a complicated place; a town in flux, but from what to what I’m not quite sure. A rural small-town turned suburban enclave for certain, but just as transplants from colder places north of the Mason-Dixon bring more progressive views, an undercurrent of conformity remains.

The suburbs, like much of the South, is not a place to make waves.

It’s fitting, I suppose, that the first story I’ve set in North Carolina is about a character who struggles with the desire to be someone else, somewhere else. Someone who feels as if they must contort and misrepresent themselves in an effort to fit in and who, in a pretty straightforward metaphor for wanting to get the heck out of dodge, dreams of literally sailing away and never coming back. And yet.

And yet, there’s this tug of home. This is the place that’s shaped them. That’s shaped me. Isn’t this odd little town part of who I am? Won’t it always be? Could I really leave, even if I wanted to? Do I want to? Wherever you go there you are… This is the push-pull at the center of Tack & Jibe, a story that asks a lot of questions about authenticity and truth and finding yourself when you aren’t in a place–literally or metaphorically–to explore that fully.

In truth, I didn’t even realize I was writing these themes in Tack & Jibe until I was well into the editorial process. It was one of those oh, that’s what I was working through here, moments. I am several books and short stories in to a writing career and just now am I writing about the state where I’ve spent most of my life. Just now am I really exploring the complicated relationship I have to home and self and identity and loving a place that doesn’t always love me back. Why? Maybe I just needed time. Maybe I needed to write about other things first. Maybe I just didn’t feel like it. Maybe, like Willa and Lane in Tack & Jibe, I needed to know I could leave if I wanted to. And maybe I do, even if it’s only in a story. But maybe I don’t.

This is what I love about North Carolina: The accent, the sweet tea, the barbeque, the mild winters, the pine forests, the mountains, the beaches, the way people smile and say, “hey!” and genuinely welcome you to their home and heart even when they don’t know you all that well, not really. How people surprise you by being open and loving when you’ve come expect the opposite. Here’s what I don’t love: How change is still slow to come and hard-fought, the gut punch of realizing you don’t belong somewhere after all, knowing there are parts of you that you have to hide, knowing you aren’t safe, knowing that if they knew really knew you, they wouldn’t welcome you into their home and heart. Not really.

I don’t have answers to any of the questions or conflicts I ask in the book nor do I in real life. Like the town I currently reside in, perhaps I’m in flux. I’ve left home before and I probably will again. For now I’m here because, well, because I am. I’m happy though, and in the book, Willa ends up happy. But Tack & Jibe is a rare story where I didn’t neatly wrap up all the loose ends, which troubled me at first until I realized there exists the possibility of multiple happily-ever-afters unspooling from the place where the story finishes. For a lot of us, a sense of home and a sense of who we are is complicated. And for me, for Willa, for Lane, for a lot of people, it probably always will be. Ultimately, that’s what the story is really about. Well, that and sailing.

And romance, of course.

It’s complicated.

***

Lilah Suzanne is a queer author of bestselling and award-winning romantic fiction. Their 2018 novel Jilted was named a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and a Foreword INDIES Award, and won a Bisexual Book Award for romantic fiction. Their critically acclaimed Spotlight series included the Amazon #1 bestseller Broken Records, along with Burning Tracks and Blended Notes. Lilah also authored the romantic comedy Spice, the novellas Pivot & Slip and After the Sunset, and the short story Halfway Home, from the holiday anthology If the Fates Allow. A writer from a young age, Lilah resides in North Carolina and mostly enjoys staying indoors, though sometimes ventures out for concerts, museum visits, and quiet walks in the woods.

Sensitive Subjects, a Guest Post by Rewritten Author JR Gray

Today on the site, we’re welcoming JR Gray, author of the Unscripted series, whose second book, Rewritten, released on June 4th! He’s here to talk about writing mental health into his newest romance, a slow-burn Hollywood-set friends-to-lovers that’s a direct sequel of Unscripted (so read that one first!), but first, a little more on the book!

Movie star 102: The headlines are never what they seem.

Quellcrist wasn’t new to fame or the effect it had on a relationship. He’d been married in the spotlight for as long as he’d been famous. But that was before Hale. He knew it was going to test him but even he hadn’t known the toll that months apart would take on his fledgling relationship.

Long days of shooting, different time zones, calls every day dwindled to days without calls, and rumors were all over the rags. Through it all Quell had to battle his own worst enemy but he didn’t know how to win against something inside him. Depression ate him whole and pain took over.

There was so much more at stake than losing his boyfriend, he was losing his best friend. His lifeline, the love of his life. Was there any way to come back from the damage done?

Can they rewrite their ending?

Buy it: Amazon | Indiebound

And here’s the post!

The idea for Unscripted started when I was watching a television show, hoping beyond hope that I wasn’t being queerbaited and that I’d get this amazing love story building. We’ve all been there, shipping something on a favorite show but not expecting to ever get a queer ship. How many times have we all had our hopes up and had the creators ruin it for us. I enjoyed the actors so much I started to watch videos of them and I became obsessed with the idea of two actors falling in love while playing a couple on a television show. This led to me obsessively watching videos on people who played couples in movies or television shows and watching their chemistry. Some went on to be couples and others were just good friends.

But what if I could have both? What if I could write a story where the actors had an intense bromance and then fell in love. As soon as I started crafting the characters I was obsessed. I loved them more than I’ve ever loved any of my other characters. One of the reasons was because I put a lot of my experience with depression into Quell. I felt his pain, and his rejection and his loneliness.

The depression topics in Unscripted were something I’d never done before. I knew it was going to be an intense book. Personal experiences are hard. I had no idea how it would be received, which is always a terrifying moment because I know everyone’s experience with depression is different. I was blown away with the reception and how many people took the time to message me privately to tell me they’d never read a book that showed depression the way they’d experienced it. As soon as I started writing Quell I knew he was special.

I wanted to tell a story that showed how people can realize their sexuality later in life as well as work in one of my favorite tropes: friends to lovers. I wanted to build a safe space in the friendship between Quell and Hale. Something that would help bring Quell out of his loneliness and someone to be there through his dark times. I wanted their relationship to be intense and born out of friendship. I knew it was the only way Quell would open up and feel safe.

This was a massive undertaking. But the book poured out of me and I loved it from the beginning. I knew book two would be even more intense and harder to write because Quell would go darker with his and Hale’s time apart but I knew getting to the HEA would be worth it for these two.

***

Gray is a cynical Chicago native, who drinks coffee all day, barely sleeps, and is a little too fashion obsessed. He writes realistic and damaged characters because everyone deserves a happily ever after.

The Joy in Writing Erotic Romance: a Guest Post by Bottle Rocket Author Erin McLellan

Today on the site we’re welcoming Erin McLellan, author of Bottle Rocket, the third book in the So Over the Holidays series, which released on June 15. Bottle Rocket is an erotic contemporary m/f Romance with a bi male MC, and you can read a little more about here before we move on to the guest post!

Freshly single Rosie Holiday is on the hunt for passion and excitement. This leads her to Leo Whittaker—a bad boy who waltzed out of town, and her life, thirteen years ago. Leo isn’t the type to stick around, but Rosie’s not going to let a no-strings opportunity pass her by.

When a business trip sends Leo back to his hometown, the last thing he expects is for his first love to hand him a list of scorching-hot escapades and a deadline. He’s happy to help Rosie discover her bossy side in the bedroom. Or in a fireworks stand. Or at a Fourth of July barbecue.

Their chemistry burns bright and fast, but what tore them apart years ago is still between them. They are polar opposites. A reserved kindergarten teacher and an irreverent artist. A nester and a wanderer. It will take a spark of imagination and a lot of love to keep their second-chance romance from flaming out.

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

I write queer contemporary romance, all of which is fairly steamy. But of the eight books I’ve written, the only ones that are erotic romances are the So Over the Holidays series, which includes my most recent release, Bottle Rocket.

Erotic romance is romance in which the emotional conflict and plot hinges on the sexual or erotic journey of the main characters. I like to say that in erotic romance if you remove the sex or intimate scenes, the plot no longer makes sense. It’s integral.

Around two years ago, I decided to write something fluffy. All my books up to that point had been fairly angsty. I love those books, but I needed some joyfulness in my life. I know I wasn’t alone in that feeling. Rom-coms and low-angst books are experiencing a bit of a Renaissance right now in adult romance, and I believe this is due to readers wanting happiness in light of some of the heartbreak in our world. But I can only speak for myself. I needed to write something fun. I needed to write something that made me happy.

Enter erotic romance from stage left.

The So Over the Holiday series came to be because of that need. The books in the series are queer erotic romances in which the main characters embark on erotic journeys that are joyful, fun, kink positive, and life changing. I started by writing a sex-toy-selling bisexual heroine who is brash, sarcastic, and sex positive and a hero who is sweet in the streets but nasty in the sheets (Sasha and Perry from Stocking Stuffers). Then I wrote a gay lingerie-loving hero who is fabulous but a little lost and a pansexual workaholic who is completely enamored by his partner (Benji and William from Candy Hearts).

Bottle Rocket, my new release, follows Rosie Holiday, a reserved kindergarten teacher, on a summer journey of self-actualization. She’s recently divorced and has realized that so many of her interests and hobbies were dictated by her ex. She has no idea who she really is, and this extends to her sex life. She has been missing out and intends to take life by the horns and fix it. In walks the hero, Leo, who is a bisexual erotic artist and absolute bad boy. Even better, Leo and Rosie had a secret love affair thirteen years before, so this is their second chance to reconnect.

Leo offers to help Rosie work through a checklist of sexcapades. Their sexy times ultimately lead her to the realization that she enjoys being dominant and in control in bed. Leo is more than happy to be bossed around. Rosie’s femdom breakthrough is revealed through joy, humor, heart, and kindness.

When I started writing these erotic romances, it was important to me that I approached them with joy and kindness in my heart. It felt radical to me to write these journeys of sexual self-discovery without angst, not because other authors haven’t done it before—they have—but because I hadn’t.

Growing up, I didn’t have much of a sex education (hello, public school in Oklahoma) and didn’t truly understand sex positivity until I was well into adulthood. I’ve had to educate myself, and I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had to discover sex and kink positivity and grow in that understanding on my own. Being an avid romance reader has certainly helped my on my own journey. To me, Bottle Rocket feels like a culmination of that education and the joy I’ve found in that education. I hope to continue to grow, to write sex positive queer romance, to create characters who are joyful in their sexuality, and to find radical happiness in the fluffiness.

I have loved writing heroines who own how much they enjoy sex and sex toys and kink. I have loved writing heroes who are totally in awe of their partners and always game to get a little dirty. I’ve loved writing holidays full of big found families, lots of tropes, silly puns, corny humor, and repurposed clichés. It was more fun than I’ve ever had writing romance.

Lastly, and on a personal note—I finished writing Bottle Rocket in March of 2020. I discuss this in an Author’s Note at the end of the book. I wrote it while dealing with the same grief, anxiety, fear, illness, and isolation that so many of us have felt in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Being able to write Rosie and Leo as they find joy in their kinkiness, sexuality, and compatibility gave me joy when I needed it the most. I hope it brings you joy as well.

***

Erin McLellan is the author of the Farm College, So Over the Holidays, and Storm Chasers series. She enjoys writing happily ever afters that are earthy, emotional, quirky, humorous, and very sexy. Originally from Oklahoma, she currently lives in Alaska and spends her time dreaming up queer contemporary romances set in the Great Plains. She is a lover of chocolate, college sports, antiquing, Dr Pepper, and binge-worthy TV shows.

Why LGBTQ Children’s Books Aren’t Just for LGBTQ Families: a Guest Post by Mighty May Won’t Cry Today Co-Authors Kendra and Claire-Voe Ocampo

Today I’m delighted to welcome to the site Kendra and Claire-Voe Ocampo, the (married!) co-authors of Mighty May Won’t Cry Today, “a story about a determined girl who tries not to shed a tear on her first day of school, but with the help of her two moms learns why it’s OK for her (and adults!) to cry.” Here’s the info on the book, which is illustrated by Erica De Chavez and released on June 1!

Pride and love win in this relatable story celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, kids with same-sex parents, and diversity and inclusion.

This vibrant children’s picture book features May, an imaginative and determined girl who tries not to shed a tear on her first day of school but with the help of her two moms, learns why it’s okay to cry. Young readers will delight in how May cleverly navigates the unexpected, resolves challenges with positivity, and utilizes mindful techniques to work through her emotions and feelings. But when May comes across an insurmountable challenge, will she be able to hold back the tears?

Poetic rhymes, colorful designs and lovable characters elevate the story’s positive message about embracing nontraditional families and being mindful when dealing with emotions like sadness, fear, embarrassment and frustration.

This inclusive book is perfect for gay, lesbian and new parents with preschool kids, toddlers, or babies, as it encourages the future generation to embrace and celebrate the differences and emotions in all of us.

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

When we first decided to write and self-publish an LGBTQ children’s picture book featuring two moms and their daughter, it was a no brainer. Every week’s trip back from the library with our daughter, we brought bags full of books—ALL featuring a traditional family structure (mother, father, and child). We are a family of two moms with two daughters. When we went hunting for LGBTQ children’s books, we found only a handful of them available, but they were in short supply and we needed to order through the library database. Even our local bookstores didn’t have much stock or options. It was clear that there needed to be more LGBTQ books available that represented our two mom family.

When we began writing the book and talked to our non-LGBTQ friends, colleagues and community, what we didn’t expect and what surprised us the most was how many of them wanted an LGBTQ book to read to their kids too (especially since they had friends who were two moms!). Time and time again, they talked about how their kids were not exposed to many LGBTQ families and how their books did not show the diversity of families that really exist.

When it came to writing Mighty May Won’t Cry Today, it was important for us to not only show our family structure, but also to show how not-different our lives are from others: to bridge the gap of what might be perceived as “different” and show instead the commonalities. In today’s society we see that it’s more important than ever for books and literature to teach and educate and illuminate the lives and stories of marginalized groups, but not only in terms of how they are different but really what connects all of us.

Mighty May Won’t Cry Today is an “everyday story” about May, an imaginative and determined girl who tries not to shed a tear on her first day of school but with the help of her two moms, learns why it’s okay to cry. We hope our young readers will laugh, smile and cry with May, as they ultimately learn with her how it’s OK to cry: an important lesson for all kids to learn: whether that is from two moms, two dads or any other important person in their lives.

***

L->R: Kendra, Claire-Voe

Claire-Voe and Kendra Ocampo have cried many tears together since falling in love in Boston and getting married in 2014 in New Jersey, just months after same-sex marriage became legal in the state. They’re two moms to two mighty daughters, Xiomara and Violet, who cry often (and that’s okay!) about spilled milk, a wet diaper, or going to school. When they’re not writing, you might find Kendra and Claire-Voe eating Spanish tapas, video gaming, or watching sappy rom-coms which often brings them to tears.

Why I Wrote In the Role of Brie Hutchens…: a Guest Post by Author Nicole Melleby

I’m so thrilled to have Nicole Melleby back on the site today, especially after reading the wonderful In the Role of Brie Hutchens, their new heartwarming, adorable, romantic, and soap opera-centric Middle Grade contemporary set at a Catholic School, releasing today from Algonquin Books! Come check out a little more about the book, which made me cry and relive my love for As the World Turns:

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

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

And here’s the post! Take it away, Nicole!

***

To understand why I wrote my second book, In the Role of Brie Hutchens… you need to know two things about me.

One: I went to Catholic school.

From kindergarten through 8th grade, I was a St. Mary’s Saint. For high school, I was a Mater Dei Seraph.

(We didn’t know what a Seraph was at first either.)

I wore a school uniform. My only two detentions were actually because of that uniform. One because my skirt was rolled too short (we all rolled our skirts; you only got caught if it was less than two inches from your fingertips.) Two because I had a gray shirt on under my blouse instead of a white one.

Yeah, I know.

This was also a school that banned Harry Potter because JK Rowling was a satanist.

The girls wore boxers under their skirts, to keep the guys from looking up them as we climbed the stairs. Senior year, we got to wear pants…as a privilege. Those privileges could be taken away.

They often were threatened to be taken away.

We went to church every week, which was only exciting because on those days, we came back from mass to shortened class periods. There was only so much the teachers could do in twenty minutes.

Sometimes we cut class and hung out in the chapel. You couldn’t get in trouble if you got caught. Not if you said you just needed a moment with Jesus.

I wonder if they thought I needed that many moments with Jesus. They probably wish I took those moments for real now.

Health class consisted of our gym teacher yelling ABSTAIN at us. In class, in the hallways, at school dances.

We didn’t abstain.

We didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of everything we were doing.

I didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of everything I was feeling.

How could I even begin to explore my sexuality behind walls where they didn’t tell me it was possible?

The second thing you need to know about me is that I. LOVE. Soap Operas.

As a writer, I know what storyline tropes to avoid.

As a soap fan, I know what storyline tropes I absolutely goddamn ADORE.

There’s just something magical about discovering that two characters are pregnant at the same time.

Why? Because there’s definitely a baby swap coming.

If there’s a wedding planned during sweeps month?

It’s definitely going to go up in flames. (And not always metaphorical ones.)

If a beloved character dies? Or a classic villain?

Well, don’t worry too much. They’ll probably be back. Resurrected from the dead, recast with a new actor. (Lots of plastic surgery.)

There’s something so enjoyable about the narration over an old character with a new face, “The role of so and so is now being played by…” as the storyline itself doesn’t miss a single beat.

There’s something awe inspiring (something breathtaking) about a character, in the middle of the afternoon, in broad daylight, on a show that you watch with your mom (that so many moms watch) saying, “Mom, I’m gay.”

My mom was my 8th grade teacher at that Catholic school.

We drove home together at the end of the day.

We turned on our soaps when we got home.

We watched them together.

We watched as Erica Kane’s daughter (Erica Fricken Kane!!) said the words, “I’m gay.”

What you should know is that I didn’t come out to my own mom until much (much) later.

I felt seen that afternoon, anyway.

In the first printing of In the Role of Brie Hutchens… there’s an error in my acknowledgements. A mistake happened as mistakes tend to do, and the last paragraph of those acknowledgements were left out.

In those acknowledgements I thanked Agnes Nixon. For writing those characters. For creating Bianca and writing that storyline where that brave young woman came out to her mom, Erica Kane.

What you should know is that Agnes Nixon made me feel less alone. Agnes Nixon made me feel seen.

I can only hope that, for some reader, somewhere, In the Role of Brie Hutchens… can do the same.

Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. Her debut novel, HURRICANE SEASON, was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist. When she’s not writing, Nicole can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.

Trans Embodiment: Sexuality in Cis/Trans M/M Romance, a Guest Post by Freedom Author E. Davies

One of the most popular requests on the LGBTQReads Tumblr is for recommendations for m/m trans Romance, and I’m so thrilled to have an author of the world’s newest here to talk about it, and specifically about sexuality in it. Freedom by E. Davies releases today, so let’s take a look at the book and then get right into the author’s guest post!

Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. But Henry’s junk does.

Agoraphobe Jaden shouldn’t have let his big brother put a ticket in a blind date raffle for him. He wasn’t expecting to win. And certainly not an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon with a gorgeous stranger—and his total opposite, a hunky wilderness guide.

Henry’s excited to meet a guy he clicks with, having finally finished bottom surgery. He’s been living stealth as the man he is for years, but he’s growing tired of hiding his past. Jaden not only accepts him, he captivates Henry, who resolves to be courageous and vulnerable in the rest of his life.

Back home in Denver, Henry starts to take pride in reconnecting with the trans community, while Jaden pushes himself out of his comfort zone. But freedom always comes at a price. Can they take the plunge into their wide open future together?

Buy it: Amazon 

And here’s the post!

Transition is most visibly about embodiment—but it goes so much further than this simplified explanation. In seeking a better way of physically being, we’re also embarking on a journey of hope. Transition has forced me to believe in who I can be, and to strive to embrace that potential joy, even when those around me didn’t understand; that process has been the most powerful, life-affirming experience of my life.

I’ve been on this journey for over eight years now. A lot has changed, to say the least. And yet, despite massive increases in visibility and public awareness, and the associated risks and opportunities, the progress is uneven. Visibility rarely means education, and it’s hard to find facts on many aspects of transition and trans life. One of those areas is bottom surgery options for trans men, and another is trans men’s sexuality. Where those areas intersect, it’s often impossible to find facts without seeking out one-on-one conversations—which is not always possible or practical.

This is obviously aggravated by the current campaigns to stigmatize trans men’s surgeries. The abuse associated with trans bodies leads to many of us talking only behind closed doors—which is what transphobic factions want, so that they can control the conversation… and in doing so, our very hopes and dreams. Even when you do encounter information, it tends to be dry surgical factsheets that don’t really relate to everyday life. What will it feel like to actually interact with this different body in sex, while getting dressed, or in the bath? These questions tend to get overlooked in favor of the important decisions on surgeons, optimal healing, and so on. When you’re caught up in the required treadmill of waiting, chasing referrals, fighting for your rights, preparing for outcomes, and more, it’s hard to imagine the minutia of the “after”.

That’s where fiction can come in.

For cis authors, trans lives are often most interesting at their most raw: coming out, starting hormones, getting top surgery. But the focus on trans men in earlier stages of their journeys, the comparatively more easily-available information, and persistent myths and stigmas around gay trans men’s sexuality, means that romance featuring trans men tends to place them before or without bottom surgery.

When I started writing trans characters in MM romance, the questions I strove to answer in my fiction were much like those in the rest of my life: What does trans life actually look like after the moments that tend to be in the spotlight?

In answer, I’ve worked to create stories with a variety of trans men: James in Grind is struggling with debt from top surgery and has no interest in the further surgeries currently available, but packs and enjoys frot; Nic in Flaunt has had meta and is both ready to reembrace his femininity, and exploring his options for phallo now; Jake in Forever is boldly toppy, and would like a hysterectomy but wants to bear a child first. Each character tends to subvert some readers’ expectations, and each reflects an equally valid trans life.

In Freedom, I finally wrote a trans character who is post-phallo (all stages), having dated men before and during transition, but who hasn’t hooked up since then. He also has a complicated relationship with transness, having lived stealth for some years and found it liberating at first, only to feel like it began to encroach upon his freedom instead.

The conversations I wrote in Freedom came from a place of wanting to explore this different possible relationship to transness—post-dysphoria, if you like. Post-transition as a concept seems wobblier than it did when I started writing the book, and when I set out on this surgical journey myself. Nowadays, I think my relationship to myself, my past, and my community will keep on evolving for many years to come.

Throughout all my stories, I hope to show that transition is an ongoing process and series of choices, and there is no one-size-fits-all narrative. Above all, I want trans readers to see that romance can find you at any point in this journey; that they—and we—are loveable and loved no matter what. We can be as open and out or as stealth and private as we wish. Trans men are not an obscure fetish, nor are we desired only post-transition, or only desired by certain sexualities or genders, or any of the other myths. I tend to write pairings of cis gay men and trans gay men, simply because they’ve been the most common in my life experience. Even this fact often surprises people! Plenty of cis gay men do date, fuck, love, befriend, and desire trans men. If that simple fact can’t make it to any broader cultural awareness, there’s certainly an uphill battle about the complicated choices we make regarding our bodies.

When I was preparing for lower surgery, the vast majority of people in my life had no idea what was involved, what the options were, or even that it was possible to have a real, satisfying sex life—either before or after surgery! In particular, cis gay culture at the moment seems to have very little idea how to address our existence, and gay fiction often reflects that confusion and uncertainty. Yet trans men have been dating cis gay men (as well as people of all genders and sexualities) for as long as people have been around! Within broader society, there’s very few portrayals of our bodies, whether we opt for bottom surgery or not.

There seems to be an odd dichotomy of thought: either we must desperately desire surgery (leaving no space for those who are happy without it), or we must reject it, as “natural bottoms” (a deeply transphobic concept that is startlingly pervasive). If we do choose surgery, either it’s “the surgery” that grants us, overnight, a cis penis—a misunderstanding that can create painfully dysphoric interactions with friends and lovers. Or, on the other hand, we’re doomed to life with no satisfactory options.

Where’s the room for reality: that our options are broad, our outcomes not always certain but certainly not hopeless, and our lives not necessarily centered on this one narrow aspect of our selves? That the results can be more than satisfactory, and huge strides in techniques have been made, yet outdated myths tend to circulate more widely than fact? That despite this, there are huge strides in advocacy, information, and aftercare that must be made to protect and uplift us?

Better still, where’s the room for fantasy: that we can set aside all our reality for an afternoon and just enjoy a story? That we can have a perfectly wonderful sex life where the differences between our junk and the expectations placed on cis guy’s are minimal, or even celebrated? This is what was so deeply enjoyable about writing Freedom—having Jaden simply accept Henry’s body, embrace the advantages, and focus on learning what makes Henry, specifically, feel good. It’s not a fantasy that’s so far away from real life. In my experience, that’s how relationships tend to work, yet we often aren’t granted this fantasy on the page. Sensual moments are often used for predictable narrative tension, as if we can’t simply exist, fuck, and love it.

Not that there isn’t a place for those stories—trans lives are messy, real, and diverse. Even within Freedom, with my optimistic outlook and aims, there are moments where Henry struggles to remember that his learned habits about his body are outdated now.

Romance books are a tremendous place to explore how our many lives and loves can look. The diversity in trans bodies and lack of education regarding them can throw off readers sometimes. But that very lack of expectation is also an opportunity! Because no person should be expected to enjoy or desire sex, to fit naturally into any role, or to be interested in any particular sex act, gender, or person. Yet too many norms of society are structured around these rigid, artificial ideals.

In rewriting the rules of expectation, trans people can show a path to sexual liberation for all. At the end of the day, sex—between fictional characters or in real life—ought to be about finding what each person involved desires, and looking for the points of intersection where both (or more) can find what they want and need.

One thing’s for certain: sex, sexuality, and transness isn’t neat and tidy, but it is full of hope and possibility. And that’s something that will never grow old.

***

Since 2013, E. Davies has crafted feel-good stories of men in love–stories that are brimming with hope, found families, and realistic guys next door getting their modern fairytale endings. As for hobbies: rescuing bees, dancing badly, traipsing through meadows, and studying photos of cute guys for research totally count, right?