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

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

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

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

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

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Lerner

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

***

Aleks

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

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

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

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

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

I snorted. “He actually said that?”

“Mm-hmm. He was dead serious, too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imposter.

Where’s your dick at? Huh?

Packed away?

Who does that?

Fake.

Liar.

Loser.

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

Imposter.

Liar.

Fake.

Louder, louder, LOUDER.

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

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

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

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

“Mom, we’ve been over this.”

“But—”

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

She fell silent.

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

There were only two options I could think of.

One: Do nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mom cleared her throat. “Hey, Annie.”

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

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

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

A rock formed in the pit of my stomach.

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

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

Mom frowned. “Pronouns are important.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are the ground rules?” I asked.

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

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

“If he’s late, we wait for him . . .”

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

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

I’m sure he is.

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

Definenice dress.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you want us to help or not?”

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

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

“It’s more than just a dress.”

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

At least for the next few months.

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

“That’d be her choice.”

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

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

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

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

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

Fake trans.

Loser.

Liar.

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

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

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

. . . or me.

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

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

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

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

“No heroics—”

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

“I’d do anything to protect you.”

“I know.”

“Is there anything else I should be doing?”

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

HIS fault.

“Aleks?” Mom asked, worried.

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

***

 

 

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Short Stuff ed. by Alysia Constantine

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

It could start anywhere…

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

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

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

Preorder now!

 

And now, to the stories!

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

Fave Five: New Queer Halloween Reads

This doesn’t include any of the titles recently posted under Queer Necromancy, Ghostly Queer YA, or New and Upcoming Witches in YA, so definitely check those out too! And make sure you catch up on older Halloween reads as well!

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (YA Horror)

His Hideous Heart ed. by Dahlia Adler (YA Poe Retellings)

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve (Paranormal YA)

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (Adult Fantasy)

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (Adult Horror)

Bonus: It’s a smaller POV, but the character of Poe’s muse Lenore in The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters is definitely into the ladies!

 

October Book Deal Announcements

Yep, it’s a brand-new feature celebrating book deals! This is a combination of deal announcements that have been submitted through the site and copied from Publisher’s Marketplace and Publishers Weekly, with some minor editing. If you’d like to submit a deal, you can do so here.

Children’s/YA Fiction

Rob Sanders’s BLING BLAINE, about a child who is all about bling and glitter until complaints pour in and bling is banned from school, but then allies come to the rescue, illustrated by Letizia Rizzo, to Christina Pulles formerly at Sterling Children’s, with Eve Adler editing, for publication in fall 2020, by Rubin Pfeffer at Rubin Pfeffer Content for the author, and by Emily Coggins at Astound US for the illustrator (world).

Vicki Lame at Wednesday Books has acquired LGBTQ Reads founder Dahlia Adler’s YA novel, COOL FOR THE SUMMER, about a girl named Lara who finally lands the guy of her dreams, only to have her unexpected(ly female) summer fling transfer to her school for their senior year. Publication is slated for summer 2021; DongWon Song at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency brokered the two-book deal for North American rights.

Author of PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE and BURN BABY BURN BABY, and board member of the Ontario Writer’s Conference Kevin Craig’s THE CAMINO CLUB, in which six wayward teens are given an ultimatum after getting in trouble with the law: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain; when it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become, to Annie Harper at Duet, in a nice deal, in an exclusive submission, for publication in October 2020.
Rights: Mary Jo Courchesne, Gryphon Publishing Consulting

Jess Verdi’s‘s FOLLOW YOUR ARROW, after breaking up with her long-term girlfriend and falling for the new guy in town, an openly queer social media influencer faces blowback from her fans and is forced to define what it means to be bi—to the world, and to herself, to Aimee Friedman at Scholastic, by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

Maggie Tokuda-Hall‘s SQUAD, about a clique of teen girls whose favorite pastime is to get dressed up; go to parties; target entitled, date-rapey bros; turn into wolves; and eat them, illustrated by Lisa Sterle, to Martha Mihalick at Greenwillow, for publication in fall 2021, by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (NA).

Alexandra Cooper at HarperTeen has acquired, at auction, Laurel Flores Fantauzzo’s THE HEARTBREAK OF CORAZON TAGUBIO. Cory Tagubio is an outcast at her all-girls Catholic high school. In the wake of an accident, Cory grows close to her history teacher, Ms. Holden, but when the crush turns into something more, Cory is shipped off to her half-brother in the Philippines, leaving her to discover how her family and their country have shaped her past and how they might change her future. Publication is set for winter 2021; Andrea Morrison at Writers House sold world English rights.

Jessica Garrison at Dial has bought, on exclusive submission, Stephanie Oakes’s THE MEADOWS, which centers on a queer girl who has pretended to “reform” following years in a government-sanctioned conversion therapy center, but can’t forget the girl she left behind, and resolves to find her. Publication is set for fall 2021; Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency handled the deal for world rights.

Daniel Ehrenhaft at Soho Teen has bought Carly Heath’s debut YA novel, THE HEATHENS OF MUSKOX HOLLOW. Set in 1904 Norway, the novel follows a trio of queer teens—two boys and their best friend, Asta—who decide to defy the expectations of their rural Scandinavian village by leaving their families, living on their own, and challenging the town’s patriarch in the region’s annual winter horse race. Publication is set for fall 2021; Steven Chudney at the Chudney Agency brokered the deal for North American English rights.

Cassandra Rose Clarke‘s FORGET THIS EVER HAPPENED, queer speculative fiction set in a run-down Southern town where space and time are inconsistent, to Mora Couch at Holiday House, for publication in fall 2020, by Stacia Decker at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner (world).

Diana Pinguicha‘s A MIRACLE OF ROSES, pitched as an f/f #ownvoices retelling of the Portuguese miracle of the same name, where the Princess of Aragon enters a bargain with an Enchanted Moura so she can reverse her gift that turns all the food she touches into flowers, to Lydia Sharp at Entangled Teen, by Travis Pennington at The Knight Agency (world).

Brianna Shrum‘s 13 WAYS TO START A FOREST FIRE, in which a 17-year-old girl is trapped by a freak mudslide and, in order to survive the cruel Rockies in the dead of winter, decides to trust the one boy she knows she shouldn’t, to Nicole Frail at Sky Pony Press, by Steven Salpeter at Curtis Brown.

Deya Muniz’s THE PRINCESS AND THE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH, in which a lady, a denizen of the Kingdom of Fromage, must disguise herself as a man in order to inherit her father’s estate, but her secret becomes difficult to keep once she falls in love with a royal princess, to Andrea Colvin at Little, Brown Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2021 (world).

Sasha Laurens’s A WICKED MAGIC, the story of two teens and new witches whose friendship comes to an abrupt end when a spell they foolishly cast summons an ancient force that steals one of the girls’ boyfriends; they are then forced to work together with a new friend who is harboring a magical secret of her own to rescue him, to Ruta Rimas at Razorbill, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2020, by Jennifer Udden at New Leaf Literary & Media (world English). Publication is set for July 27, 2020.

Adult Fiction

Karelia Stetz-Waters‘s untitled book, in which two very different women find themselves running a sex toy shop that one of them inherited and soon fall in love as the business struggles for survival and family obligations threaten to tear them apart, to Madeleine Colavita at Forever Yours, by Jane Dystel at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (NA).

Juliette Wade’s sci-fi MAZES OF POWER, in which a fever strikes the cavern city of Pelismara, and Tagaret must represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne, but a power struggle and an exploitative brother stand in his way, to Sheila Gilbert at DAW by Kristopher O’Higgins at Scribe Agency (NA). Publication is set for February 4, 2020.

Anbara Salam’s BELLADONNA, a story of friendship and obsession set in the 1950s, following two schoolgirls from Connecticut whose lives are changed forever when they travel to a silent convent in northern Italy to study art for a year, to Amanda Bergeron at Berkley by Catherine Drayton at Inkwell Management, on behalf of Hattie Grunewald at Blake Friedmann, now at The Blair Partnership (NA). Publication is set for June 9, 2020.

University of Louisiana in Lafayette PhD candidate Caitlin Vance’s THE PAPER GARDEN, a darkly humorous, gothic, and speculative story collection that explores contemporary queer romances, mother-daughter relationships, and mental illness by reimagining fairy tales or myths, to Hasanthika Sirisena at 7.13 Books, for publication in spring 2021.

Director of Creative Writing at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and author of five books Timothy Schaffert‘s THE PERFUME THIEF, about a queer American expat with an infamous past as a thief of rare scents who retires to Paris to become a legitimate perfumer, crafting unique scents scents for the city’s cabaret performers and sex workers, until the Nazis occupy the city and seek her expertise for a sinister purpose, to Margo Shickmanter at Doubleday, in a good deal, for publication in 2021, by Alice Tasman at Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency (world English).

Kristen Arnett‘s SAMSON, a novel of motherhood, expectations, and toxic masculinity within a queer household, and WITH FOXES, a diverse, blackly humorous story collection, to Cal Morgan at Riverhead, in a major deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Serene Hakim at Ayesha Pande Literary (NA).

Adult Non-Fiction

Griffin Poetry Prize winner Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A HISTORY OF MY BRIEF BODY, a meditation on grief, joy, love, and sex at the intersection of indigeneity and queerness, to Eric Obenauf at Two Dollar Radio, by Stephanie Sinclair at Transatlantic Literary Agency (US).

University of Georgia MFA in narrative nonfiction and Lamba Literary fellow Martin Padgett’s MIDNIGHT AT THE OASIS: A DECADE OF DRAG, DRUGS AND DISCO AT THE SWEET GUM HEAD, following the intersecting journeys of drag queen John Greenwell, also known as Rachel Wells, and civil rights activist Bill Smith through the gay rights movement and drag culture in 1970s Atlanta, to Amy Cherry at Norton, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Beth Marshea at Ladderbird Literary Agency (NA).

Film/TV

Jacqueline Carey‘s KUSHIEL’S LEGACY series, which spans three epic trilogies set in Terre d’Ange and deals with a remarkable courtesan who saves her nation, the adventures of her adopted son, and ultimately, the trials of Moirin, a descendant of the legendary ruling house, to Lionsgate, with Dan Hadl producing, by Jane Dystel at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

K.D. Edwards‘s THE LAST SUN, a queer tarot-inspired fantasy, to Escape Artists, by Kim Yau at Paradigm, on behalf of Sara Megibow at kt literary.

Tom Ryan‘s KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF, in which a group of lifelong friends is shattered when a serial killer strikes their small town and claims one of their own; one year later, unable to let go, a teen finds himself investigating new clues, and begins to wonder if he can trust anything, including his feelings for his best friend, the boy who died, optioned by Robert Munic of Pull the Pin Productions and Cheryl Bayer of Living Popups, with Munic and Baker producing, by Kim Yau at Paradigm, on behalf of Eric Smith of P.S. Literary Agency.

Audio

Adiba Jaigirdar‘s THE HENNA WARS, to Emily Parliman at Listening Library, by Brent Taylor at Triada US, on behalf of Uwe Stender.

5 New October eBooks Under $5!

All links are Amazon affiliate and help support the site.

Sweetest Thing by Natasha West (f/f Romance, $2.99)

American Love Story by Adriana Herrera (m/m Romance, $3.99)

Freeing Her by Anna Stone (f/f Romance, $4.99)

Daddy by Jack Harbon (m/m Romance, $4.99)

Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon (m/f bi Romance, $4.99)

Fave Five: Ghostly Queer YA

Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Now Entering Addamsville by Francesca Zappia

Bonus: If you’ve read Shadowshaper, definitely check out Ghost Girl in the Corner by Daniel José Older, which is a related Sapphic ghostly novella.

Double Bonus: If you like to keep an eye on upcoming titles, definitely make sure Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters (2020) and The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (2021) are on your radar!

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

Wanna get amped for another Halloween-perfect read? Then you are definitely gonna wanna keep Wranglestone by Darren Charlton on your radar! This debut gay zombie UK YA releases from Stripes on February 6, 2020, and we’ve got a gorgeous cover and an excerpt for you! But first, here’s a little more info on the book:

In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps the Dead at bay. But when winter comes, there’s nothing to stop them from crossing the ice.

Then homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore and he’s forced to leave the community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he’s always watched from afar, herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over. But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they’ve ever known.

Zombie lore meets a gay coming of age tale that defies genre expectations at every turn. An action-packed and thought-provoking debut, for fans of Patrick Ness, Marcus Sedgwick, Dread Nation and The Walking Dead.

And here’s the utterly chilling cover, designed by Pip Johnson with art by Jana Heidersdorf!

Preorder now!

On approaching the cover design, Pip said: “I wanted to work on Darren’s cover as soon as I heard about Wranglestone – such an intriguing story, in such an epic setting…  Working with Jana to create a cover that conveys the sense of place, atmosphere and heart as well as the troubling undertones of the story, has been a thrilling challenge. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands!”

When it came to capturing the feel of the novel in her artwork, Jana said: “The best part about my job is getting to read the books I have the privilege to illustrate covers for. Unfortunately, some manuscripts set the bar very high for me. How can I create an artwork equally as intriguing, as atmospheric? In the end, I believe we have found a way to do Darren’s story justice, if only enough to lure people into experiencing the world of Wranglestone themselves.”

Darren set out to achieve certain things with his story. Here’s how he approached the novel in his own words: “Wranglestone is a love story between two boys set in the American wilderness fifteen years after a zombie apocalypse.

When I was growing up in the 80’s, the only way I stood a chance of seeing myself (or future self) reflected in books and film, was in the troubled adult worlds of Joe Orton and Edmund White, when all I needed was for Tom Sawyer to fall in love with Huck or Luke Skywalker to swing across that chasm with Han.

For my debut I wanted to give LGBTQ+ teens not an issue based or coming out story, but their very own adventure and for other readers, a coming of age thriller and mystery that just happens to have a gay relationship at its heart.

So, Brokeback Mountain meets Walking Dead, for teens! I hope you enjoy!”

***

And speaking of enjoying, here’s an excerpt for your reading pleasure!

Chapter One

 

Peter was born into a world of unwelcome visitors. And winter on Lake Wranglestone sure as hell was one of them. Just when the bears had started to leave for higher ground, those damned dark clouds came down off the mountains, carrying something far worse inside.

Peter drove his axe into the woodpile and looked out across the water. The lake, tucked in between the Great Glaciers to the north and the Shark Tooth mountains of the south, was among the most remote of all the refuges built for the nation’s National Park Escape Program. A dozen little islands, all peaked with pine, dotted the deep blue eye of the forest.

His island, Skipping Mouse on account of it being the smallest, was down one end. Eagle’s Rest, where Cooper lived, was all the way up at the top. On a clear day, you could watch him skimming stones in nothing but his undershorts, but not this morning. Fingers of icy cloud hung so low over the water that the islands disappeared inside them. Peter steadied himself on the grip of the axe. The lake took on a special eerie feel now that the year was dying, and the air was thick with log smoke and bull elks grunting. But there was something else.

A loon bird wailed like a wolf in the night.

A canoe broke through the mist.

A moment later, it came.

“No,” Peter whispered. “Not yet. Please go away. I’ll be real good, I promise.”

A single snowflake bobbed over Peter’s head and settled on the blade of the axe. He chewed the skin around his fingernail and the snowflake dissolved to nothing. But it wasn’t nothing. It just wasn’t. Soon more snow would be on its way. More than just the snow too. Soon they would come.

Peter swung round, furiously scanning the shoreline. Over on the mainland, yellow leaves shimmered down from silver branches like sunlight on water. The lake clapped the rocky shore. He sighed. At least there was no sign of the ice forming yet. Their clawing hands couldn’t get to the islands for now. But the big freeze was coming and it was coming fast, and no one was going to dig out their box of sleigh bells and Christmas stockings for First Fall. Not any more. Not ever.

Peter turned back. Above him, candlelight twinkled from inside the island’s piney chamber. They were safe in their little timber tree house. The six wooden stilts that held it up there in among the pine cones and black squirrels were built to withstand a heavy knock, even a herd. That’s what his dad had always promised him anyways. Not that it made much difference. Nothing stopped those stilts from looking as flimsy as matchsticks at this time of year. But then winter was the one season every Lake Lander feared. Not because Montana was about to get colder than a bald eagle’s gaze, but because the Dead could make it across the lake’s frozen waters.

Preorder Wranglestone from The Book Depository!

***

Darren Charlton lives in London with his partner and works in the voluntary sector for a homeless organisation. His lifetime obsessions with the National Parks of America, horror, film music and 80s kids movies have all worked their way into his writing.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

I am delighted to welcome Caleb Roehrig back to the site today for an exclusive cover reveal of his upcoming paranormal romance The Fell of Dark, releasing July 14, 2020 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan and helping usher vampires back into YA!

Caleb himself had some words to say on that, so before we get to the cover you’re all here to see, let’s give the book some context, shall we?

(Okay, fine, I’ll tease it a little first. Happy now?)

But now, for real, is Caleb Roehrig:

***

Ten years ago, I read an interview with a literary agent that said: “Unless your manuscript has vampires, werewolves, or shapeshifters, you can’t get published in YA.” This was actually okay with me. I was part of the original cult following for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I longed to craft stories that had the same blend of thrills, humor, and emotional impact.

I wrote a novel about a girl, bitten and left for dead, who gradually develops abilities and cravings she doesn’t understand. She had a gay best friend that didn’t do much—because it was implicitly understood that gays had to be polite and peripheral if they wished to take up space—and she was caught between the attentions of two gorgeous vampire boys. I intended it as the first in a series of five novels…but, of course, it was never published. By the time I realized vampires were a popular trend, it was already far too late to jump on the bandwagon—a lesson I learned the hard way. But I’d sketched the entire series out, including some dramatic twists I could never quite get out of my head, and privately I hoped that someday I’d get the chance to raise my vampires from their untimely graves.

The Fell of Dark is a book that took a decade to see the light of day. I altered most of the plot and all of the players, the main character changing from a straight girl to a gay boy—because that was the story I had really wanted to tell all along—and I condensed my planned five-part series into a single novel that is stacked to the rafters with thrills, humor, action, pathos, magic, mayhem, and make-outs. This cover by Rich Deas evokes the pulp horror underpinnings of the gritty side of my vampire tale, where the stakes are nothing less than the end of the actual world—while still also managing to convey the cheeky humor and apocalyptic frustrations of a gay teen’s first attempt at romance. It’s perfect, and I can’t wait for readers to dive in.

The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town.

Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it.

An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.

Preorder now!

Better Know an Author: Candice Montgomery

You may have already heard me hype Candice Montgomery a million times, but honestly, it’ll never be enough. Their voice in YA is like nothing else out there, and if you haven’t yet read their work, I hope this’ll convince you to dive in! (If not, just read the acknowledgements of By Any Means Necessary, which just released on October 8 and is basically a master class in voice all on its own.) Especially if you’ve been looking for more queer and/or nonbinary Black voices and/or Muslim voices, have I got some wonderful news for you. So please welcome the utterly fabulous Candice Montgomery!
New book! New book! It’s well documented that I’m obsessed with Torrey and By Any Means Necessary, but could you please share a little about your sophomore novel and how it came to be for those who didn’t get an early read?
HAAA! It is absolutely well documented that you run my literary (and personal) life better than I do.
So, By Any Means Necessary is a story about a newly minted college freshman. He’s hyped and ready to take on his new town up in San Francisco, and nervousness—though present!—takes a backseat. That is, until he gets news that the apiary he owns back home, by way of his late uncle, is being seized.
So he’s torn between taking on this new thing that’s only about Torrey himself (and also maybe a little about a certain dancer boy named Gabriel) and going home to a place that’s chewed him up raw, all to save his uncle’s legacy.
The idea for BAMN came to me when a friend and I were on the phone talking about gentrification and how it was affecting us directly, as individuals. And then, common to our conversational flow, we segued into talking about weird hobbies for main characters. She talked about her characters operating a vineyard and I suddenly had the idea for a character to run a bee farm where his struggle (getting stung constantly) and his desire to be free (flying away from the hive he knows) would mirror his hobby. In Torrey’s case, his passion.
Queerness (and specifically queer characters of color) also feature in your debut Home and Away, which has a kickass female football-playing protag and a wonderful male love interest who happens to be bi. What would you say draws Tasia and Kai together, and in your mind, where are they now?
I think Taze and Kai are opposite sides of the same very big coin. And that’s what works for them. Kai brings out Tasia’s looser side and she not only lets Kai just be who he is, but she actively enjoys it. It’s basically just two teens who don’t feel they fit in finding out that they actually DO. With each other.
In my mind, Taze and Kai are still very much together but also attending separate colleges about an hour from one another. Taze is playing ball for Cal and studying Pan African Studies and Kai is over at the San Francisco Art Institute taking the art world by storm. And making Taze laugh while he does it.
For readers looking for even more of your published work, you’ve got a fabulous story in Habibi, the all-Muslim anthology edited by Hadeel Al-Massari and Nyala Ali, starring a Muslim girl who’s managing both depression and her feelings for her best friend, a trans guy named Aaron. What made this the story you wanted to tell in this collection in particular?
Oof! Thank you! I love that story and that anthology so much. Don’t forget about that one by the way. It’s got big plans for the future.
But my story in Habibi is called “Love God Herself.” And it’s a story I wanted to tell because a muslimah (now) friend of mine tweeted on a trending about wanting to see hijabis who are questioning their faith, who are bucking back against traditional Islamic partnerships, who are depressed and not instantly healed, all—MASHALLAH!!!
I reached out to her. Asked her if she’d write it. And then she turned around and asked ME if I would.
And speaking of anthologies, we’ll get even more Cam goodness in 2020 when you feature in the upcoming all-queer anthology Out Now: Queer We Go Again!, the contemporary followup to All Out, once again edited by Saundra Mitchell. What can you tell us about your story for that collection?
My story for Out Now was honestly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. I’m so in love with it. I struggled for months with it and then one night it all just poured out of me, start to finish. I didn’t even read it through before I sent it off to Saundra; I was already so past deadline. Twice. And from there, I didn’t get asked to make any structural changes to the story, either. Just a few grammatical things. It’s a raw story and probably the best thing I’ll ever write. It’s about a skateboarding enby who has a crush on a girl whom they think will NEVER notice them. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. But the main character will take you all the way through it.
Cam Anthology Goodness of 2020 Part II has you breaking into MG in Once Upon an Eid! What was it like to write for a younger audience, and is it something you could see yourself doing in longer form?
First—CAM ANTHOLOGY GOODNESS OF 2020! YESSSS. ONCE has been such a fun process. It was just happy-making anytime I worked on it. This was my first time writing ANYTHING MG. And immediately after my story was submitted, I started drafting an MG novel of my own. It’s on hold for a moment, but I’m 12K words deep and still sooo excited about it.
You’re such a great advocate for more midlist authors and especially for other queer/trans Black authors, and QTAoC in general. What books and authors would you love to see get more attention, and what queer books have meant a lot to you as a both an author and a reader?
Oooh! I love this question. There are a few key QTAoC that I’d undoubtedly return to religiously, one of whom being Rivers Solomon (they), author of An Unkindness of Ghosts. It is the queer Afro-futurist fic of my marshmallow heart. And I wish I’d written it myself. Also entirely jealous of this human’s 12-ton talent: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (they). I should say that these are some pretty heavy novels, though. But I think anybody who reads them will be made better for them. My heart needed ’em.
And if we’re talking books that formed me as both an author and a reader—it’s not fiction, it’s a memoir. But my favorite book in the world, the reason I was able to tell my family I’m queer, the path through which I found my label as a Pansexual person—it’s Paul Monette’s Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. Yes, it’s a memoir. Yes, it’s horrifically heartbreaking. Yes, it ends in a way that will ruin your entire week (lololo). But also… it’s romantic in ways I’ve never seen expressed on the page before.
What’s your first memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in the media, for better or for worse?
Glee. It was, unfortunately, when Glee introduced Kurt and… the kid with the chin and the hair? Blaine? My mom and my little sister and I would watch it together every week and I remember sitting in strained, awkward silence with them, while such an explicit and open GAY display moved across the television. We never talked about it. I just wanted it to be over, not for my discomfort, but for theirs. My mom and sister’s. I wanted to tone down my relationship to queerness in order to make others more comfortable.
And as far as I knew, out of the 3 of us, I was the only one who connected to it. (spoiler: my little sister is out and openly panromantic polyamorous).
As someone contributing to a couple of great collections next year, what would be a dream project for you specifically to helm? 
I absolutely have an answer to this… but that’s all I can say for now. Stay tuned! 😉
What can you share about what you’re working on right now?
Right now, I’m pulling my own teeth out trying to draft a new YA romance about two Black teens who explore their ancestry through Hoodoo and Voodoo. It’s difficult. And it’s unlike anything I’ve written before.
***
Candice “Cam” Montgomery is an LA transplant now living in the woods of Seattle, where they write Young Adult novels. Their debut novel, featured on the 2018 Kirkus Best list, HOME AND AWAY can be found online and in stores now, and their sophomore novel, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY was released earlier this October. By day, Cam writes about Black teens across all their intersections. By night, they bartend at a tiny place nestled inside one of Washington’s greenest trees. They’re an avid Studio Ghibli fan and will make you watch at least one episode of Sailor Moon and listen to one Beyoncé record before they’ll call you “friend.”

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)

***

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

***

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.

Queering up your shelf, one rec at a time!