How Writing and Reading Fantasy Got Me Through the Pandemic: a Guest Post by Curling Vines and Crimson Trades Author Kellie Doherty

Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome Kellie Doherty, author of the recently released romantic fantasy Curling Vines and Crimson Trades! She’s here to talk abut the importance of writing (and reading) fantasy during a pandemic! Which, you know, just happens to be what we’ve got going on in the world right now.

Take it away, Kellie!

You know that little meme of the dog drinking tea and sitting in a burning room while saying “everything is fine”—yeah, we’re all that little dog. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on our lives and stress levels through the roof, it really does seem like everything is on fire, and quite frankly, everything hasn’t been fine. Shifting to telework, closing our bubbles, kids homeschooling, isolation, jobs lost, lives lost, constant worry…this year has been hellish, and the whole world will be overjoyed to see 2020 get yeeted on New Year’s Eve. Thankfully a vaccine is finally on the horizon but even then, it’ll take time for things to get back to “normal.” Suffice it to say, it’s been…a year.

But you know what kept me going throughout this historic and horrifying time?

Fantasy.

Yup, that’s right.

When the world was (and in most cases, still is) falling apart at the seams, fantasy was a great escape for me. Writing about glowing eyes and rust-orange swords became the thing I gravitated toward when the COVID cases hit too close to home or when the news shouted about limited hospital beds. Reading about dragons and journeys and the friends found along the way became the blanket I tucked myself under when the world was too scary, too stressful, too…everything this year.

To put it simply, fantasy became my Important Thing. While other people were baking sourdough bread to relieve stress, I was frantically working on my fantasy book Curling Vines & Crimson Trades, joining my character as one single moment changed her whole life and set her on an adventure filled with magic, mayhem, and mythological beasts. A journey that would alter her irrevocably. While my friends were playing games about island adventures with animal villagers or committing spaceship murder rampages (both still speculative escapism, by the way), I dove deep into reading Priory of the Orange and found myself tugged along with the characters and tugged out of the real world for a while.

Because that’s what fantasy does. It helps us escape. That’s why it’s so important. While I’m mostly talking about writing and reading fantasy here, there’s also a whole horde of other fantasy-type “escapes” like television, movies, podcasts, games, and other artistic expressions that falls into this category as well. Fantasy has permeated our society in the best way and for me, it’s become the perfect way to disconnect from the horror of the year. Why? Because it ticks literally all the boxes of what we can’t do right now during the pandemic.

We can’t travel. We can’t see our friends the way we want to. We can’t frequent our usual coffee shop haunts. We can’t live our lives the way we’ve become accustomed to.

But because I read fantasy stories and I write fantasy novels, I can! Kind of, anyway.

I can go on long journeys and see new things—cities, wonders of nature, ancient ruins. I can experience adventure and come across magical creatures, meeting new people and cultures along the way. I can sit in a tavern with some favorite characters. I can create swords infused with moonlight magic or make healers who can cure the sick with a single touch. I can live a normal (to their world) life with the characters of the story. And I really appreciate that.

Fantasy stories also have an “adventure thrust upon the characters” kind of feel where the characters lives are turned upside down, and they must navigate rough waters. The characters are broken and bruised and might’ve even lost friends or family along the way, and they’ve been transformed by their adventures. But they survived. I appreciate that too, now more than ever.

What I really enjoy, is that no matter if the real world is sunshine and daisies or if it’s falling to pieces, no matter where I am in my own headspace, fantasy takes me someplace else every single time. And don’t even get me started on the nostalgia factor of reading childhood favorites! Writing fantasy is also my way of analyzing what’s happening in the real world and pinning down what really matters in the end—family and friends. (Annnnd it’s also a lot of fun for me, too!)

So wherever you are, pick up a fantastical novel you’ve been wanting to read or try your hand at penning that flash fiction piece niggling your mind. Step into another world for a while to decompress from ours. I know you’ll enjoy the adventure!

***

About the Book

Rare goods trader Orenda Silverstone leads a happy life with her wife and friends. She’s an Elu—a race whose crafting is centered on protection—but her power is broken. Now, her sword is her strength. When her wife gets kidnapped and Orenda has to use her trading skills to complete some nearly impossible tasks to get her back, a good sword arm won’t be enough. Orenda’s time is rapidly coming to a close. She needs help.

But she’s been forced into silence. Two sun goddess worshippers, twins Lan and Lyra, decide to join Orenda’s quest in order to guard one of the rarer items to its destination. Orenda’s not sure she can turn her back on either one, but with no other options, she competes against the sunrises to complete her tasks before her wife is killed.

Then, the unthinkable happens. Orenda’s best friend, Jax, tries to kill her.

Between racing against the coming dawns and battles at every turn, Orenda’s list now seems insurmountable. No longer certain of who is friend or foe, she must come up with a plan to save them all before the sun rises on her wife’s final day.

Buy Curling Vines & Crimson Trades here!

***

Kellie Doherty is a queer science fiction and fantasy author who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. When she noticed that there wasn’t much positive queer representation in the science fiction and fantasy realms, she decided to create her own! Kellie’s work has been published in Image OutWrite 2019, Astral Waters Review, Life (as it) Happens, and Impact, among others. Her adult sci-fi debut novel—Finding Hekate—came out in April 2016 from Desert Palm Press and the sequel—Losing Hold—came out in April 2017. She’s currently working on a five-book adult fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties released in March 2019 from Desert Palm Press and won a 2019 Rainbow Award. The second book Curling Vines & Crimson Trades is launching later this year! An excerpt from Curling Vines won first place in an Alaska Writers Guild Fiction contest in 2020.

TBRainbow Alert: 2021 YA Starring QTBIPoC, Part I

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (January 19th)

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall in love, especially not in Chinatown. Red-Scare paranoia threatens everyone, including Chinese Americans like Lily. With deportation looming over her father—despite his hard-won citizenship—Lily and Kath risk everything to let their love see the light of day.

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

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

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

Buy it: Booktopia | Dymocks | Book Depository

Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson (February 2nd)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera (March 2nd)

This is the sequel to Infinity Son

53018247._SY475_Emil and Brighton Rey defied the odds. They beat the Blood Casters and escaped with their lives–or so they thought. When Brighton drank the Reaper’s Blood, he believed it would make him invincible, but instead the potion is killing him.

In Emil’s race to find an antidote that will not only save his brother but also rid him of his own unwanted phoenix powers, he will have to dig deep into the very past lives he’s trying to outrun. Though he needs the help of the Spell Walkers now more than ever, their ranks are fracturing, with Maribelle’s thirst for revenge sending her down a dangerous path.

Meanwhile, Ness is being abused by Senator Iron for political gain, his rare shifting ability making him a dangerous weapon. As much as Ness longs to send Emil a signal, he knows the best way to keep Emil safe from his corrupt father is to keep him at a distance.

The battle for peace is playing out like an intricate game of chess, and as the pieces on the board move into place, Emil starts to realize that he may have been competing against the wrong enemy all along.

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

Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim (March 9th)

This is the sequel to Scavenge the Stars.

For seven long years, while she was imprisoned on a debtor’s ship, Amaya Chandra had one plan: to survive. But now, survival is not enough. She has people counting on her; counting on her for protection, for leadership, for vengeance. And after escaping Moray by the skin of her teeth, she’s determined to track down the man who betrayed her and her friends.

Cayo Mercado has lost everything: his money, his father, his reputation. Everything except his beloved sister. But he’s well on his way to losing her, too, with no way to afford the treatment for her deadly illness. In a foreign empire also being consumed by ash fever, Cayo has no choice but to join Amaya in uncovering the mystery of the counterfeit currency, the fever, and how his father was involved in their creation. But Cayo still hasn’t forgiven Amaya for her earlier deception, and their complicated feelings for each other are getting harder and harder to ignore.

Through glittering galas, dazzling trickery, and thrilling heists, Cayo and Amaya will learn that the corruption in Moray goes far deeper than they know, and in the end the only people they can trust are each other.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore (March 16th)

When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly-magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown, in Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Mirror Season

Graciela Cristales’ whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depend on no one finding out what really happened.

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

Bruised by Tanya Boteju (March 23rd)

To Daya Wijesinghe, a bruise is a mixture of comfort and control. Since her parents died in an accident she survived, bruises have become a way to keep her pain on the surface of her skin so she doesn’t need to deal with the ache deep in her heart.

So when chance and circumstances bring her to a roller derby bout, Daya is hooked. Yes, the rules are confusing and the sport seems to require the kind of teamwork and human interaction Daya generally avoids. But the opportunities to bruise are countless, and Daya realizes that if she’s going to keep her emotional pain at bay, she’ll need all the opportunities she can get.

The deeper Daya immerses herself into the world of roller derby, though, the more she realizes it’s not the simple physical pain-fest she was hoping for. Her rough-and-tumble teammates and their fans push her limits in ways she never imagined, bringing Daya to big truths about love, loss, strength, and healing.

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

Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan (April 6th)

Seventeen-year-old Pakistani immigrant Zara Hossain has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas, since her family moved there for her father to work as a pediatrician. While dealing with the Islamophobia that she faces at school, Zara has to lay low, trying not to stir up any trouble and jeopardize their family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval, which has been in process for almost nine years.

But one day her tormentor, star football player Tyler Benson, takes things too far, leaving a threatening note in her locker, and gets suspended. As an act of revenge against her for speaking out, Tyler and his friends vandalize Zara’s house with racist graffiti, leading to a violent crime that puts Zara’s entire future at risk. Now she must pay the ultimate price and choose between fighting to stay in the only place she’s ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.

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

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee (May 4th)

Noah Ramirez thinks he’s an expert on romance. He has to be for his popular blog, the Meet Cute Diary, a collection of trans happily ever afters. There’s just one problem—all the stories are fake. What started as the fantasies of a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe.

When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.

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

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar (May 25th)

When Humaira “Hani” Khan comes out to her friends as bisexual, they immediately doubt her. Apparently, she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Cornered into proving her sexuality, she tells them she’s dating someone—Ishita “Ishu” Dey, the straight A student who seems more concerned with studying than relationships.

When Hani approaches her about fake dating, she agrees on one condition–that Hani help her become more popular so she can win the school’s head girl election. It’s the perfect plan to help them achieve their goals, until Hani’s friends become jealous that she’s spending more time with Ishu. They’ll do everything they can to drive a wedge between them and ruin Ishu’s chances of becoming head girl.

Now, Hani has a decision to make: does she break off her relationship with Ishu for the sake of her friends? Or does she tell Ishu how she really feels and turn their “fake” relationship into something real?

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

The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons (June 1st)

Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris is a proud nerd, an awesome big brother, and a David Beckham in training. He’s also transgender. After transitioning at his old school leads to a year of isolation and bullying, Spencer gets a fresh start at Oakley, the most liberal private school in Ohio.

At Oakley, Spencer seems to have it all: more accepting classmates, a decent shot at a starting position on the boys’ soccer team, great new friends, and maybe even something more than friendship with one of his teammates. The problem is, no one at Oakley knows Spencer is trans–he’s passing. So when a discriminatory law forces Spencer’s coach to bench him after he discovers the “F” on Spencer’s birth certificate, Spencer has to make a choice: cheer his team on from the sidelines or publicly fight for his right to play, even though it would mean coming out to everyone– including the guy he’s falling for.

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

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (June 1st/10th)

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

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

Love and Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura (June 8th)

When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.

That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.

Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.

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

Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa (June 8th)

In a home where social conservatism, machismo, and masculine identity run deep, Corpus Christi, Texas high school senior Julián Luna is forced to keep his gay identity a secret. Jules’ only focus is laying low the next ten months and enjoying every moment he has left with his friends before college takes them on separate paths.

Completely doable.

Until Jules wakes up hungover and discovers he came out on Twitter in between tequila shots. In an instant, his entire life is thrown—literally—out the closet.

Helping him navigate the life that is openly gay Jules is Mat, a Twitter mutual from Los Angeles who slides into Jules’ DMs. He’s friendly, supportive, funny, and so attractive. He’s the first person Jules says the words “I’m gay” to. And, if he weren’t three states away, could definitely be Jules’ first boyfriend.

But a cute boy living halfway across the country can’t fix all Jules’ problems. There’s one thing he’ll have to face on his own: coming out to his homophobic father.

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

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria (June 8th)

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

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

Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta (June 29th)

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer―as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…

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

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson (July 6th)

Three days. Two girls. One life-changing music festival.

Toni is grieving the loss of her roadie father and needing to figure out where her life will go from here — and she’s desperate to get back to loving music. Olivia is a hopeless romantic whose heart has just taken a beating (again) and is beginning to feel like she’ll always be a square peg in a round hole — but the Farmland Music and Arts Festival is a chance to find a place where she fits.

The two collide and it feels like something like kismet when a bond begins to form. But when something goes wrong and the festival is sent into a panic, Olivia and Toni will find that they need each other (and music) more than they ever imagined.

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

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe by Hannah Moskowitz

Today on the site I’m excited to be revealing the newest of longtime queer YA author Hannah Moskowitz! The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe is a contemporary f/f YA romance releasing from Entangled Teen on June 1, 2021, and you can learn more about it here:

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

She’s my best friend.

She’s the center of attention.

She is, without fail, the hottest girl in the room. Anytime. Anyplace.

She has freckles and dimples and bright green eyes, and with someone else’s energy she’d be adorable. But there is nothing cute about Ivy. She is ice and hot metal and electricity.

She is the girl who every lesbian wants, but she has never been with the same person twice. She’s one-of-a-kind but also predictable, so I will always be Andie, her best friend, never Andie, her girlfriend.

Then she meets Dot, and Ivy does something even I would have never guessed—she sees Dot another day. And another. And another.

Now my world is slowly going up in smoke, and no matter what I do, the flames grow higher. She lit that match without knowing who or what it would burn.

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

But falling in love wasn’t supposed to be one of them…unless it was with me.

And here’s the beautifully serene cover!

Cover illustration and design by Elizabeth Turner Stokes
Gold Marbling © VectorTwins/Shutterstock  

Preorder now: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Apple | Kobo | Google

But wait, there’s more! We’ve got an excerpt, so you can get your first glimpse of the girls!

I leave with Ivy and Dot, spilling out of the club and toward the lot two blocks away where I left my car. We’re up on College Hill, and the street’s covered with Brown and RISD kids standing in line for cheap pizza or stumbling back to their dorms. Dot’s a little slow in her high heels, and she lags behind Ivy, who snarks to me, “Do you really think I didn’t make sure she wanted to come?”

“Can’t be too careful.”

“I can rescue my own damsels, thanks. Or is this interrogation thing a new role you provide?”

“What, you mean along with my taxi service? And only if they look like they were born during the Obama administration.”

Ivy glares at me and slows down to take Dot’s hand.

They get in the backseat together and are all over each other before I’ve even started the car. Christ. I roll my eyes and adjust the rearview mirror so I don’t have to look at them. “Yeah, you’re welcome for the ride,” I mumble to myself, wondering, like I always do, why the hell I always agree to do this shit. God, I don’t even agree. I volunteer.

I weave us around the college kids, down the hill into the lights of the city, and south to good old Elmwood, the neighborhood where Ivy and I have lived since we were little kids, making pillow forts and mixing nail polish colors and teaching each other how to kiss. Or I guess she taught me.

I don’t really wonder why I volunteer for this shit. I just wish I did.

Elmwood’s one of the shittier parts of the city, and part of me expects Dot to try to back out when she sees where we’re headed; she wouldn’t be the first prospective girl of Ivy’s to do it, and she doesn’t exactly look streetwise. But she doesn’t care, or maybe just doesn’t notice, with her face and hands otherwise occupied, feeling up my best friend in my backseat, and there’s no protest as I turn onto Ivy’s block. And then immediately stop, because her street is crowded with police cars, firefighters, and a bunch of people gathered on the sidewalk.

“Ivy,” I say.

“Mmm,” she says, her hands on Dot’s waist, their lips together.

“Ivy.”

She pulls away and shoots daggers at me in the rearview mirror. “What?”

            “Your house is on fire.”

There’s a second where none of us move, and then all three of us scramble out, leaving the cars open and beeping in protest as we run down the rest of the block, weaving through the crowd until we’re on the sidewalk. The shit hole formerly known as Ivy’s house is smoking pathetically, one wall completely gone and the others not much better, bits of charred roof and furniture strewn into the front lawn. The firefighters are packing up their equipment, ready to go.

Oh my God. Holy shit.

Somehow what comes out of my mouth is, “How many fucking times did your landlord say he was going to fix the wiring.”

“Oh my God,” Dot says. “Was anyone in there?”

I shake my head. “Her mom’s in Costa Rica. Fuck, Ives. You could have been in there.”

Ivy’s staring at the house, her eyes slightly narrowed like she’s trying to figure it out.

“Holy shit,” Dot says. She puts her hand on Ivy’s arm. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

“She’s not okay,” I snap, because who the fuck is Dot to be here, to be part of this, to act like it really matters to her world whether this person she’s known for half an hour burned alive or not? “She could have died. If this had happened last night she would have been in there.”

“But I wasn’t,” Ivy says flatly.

“Still… God, all your shit. All your school stuff. Your clothes.” All the crafts we made when we were little, her half of the construction paper heart that says BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, though fuck if I’m about to say that in front of Dot. I take her hand. “Ivy…”

Ivy is still looking at her house like she’s making a decision, and I think about Dot’s face at the club when she was looking up at her. Two natural disasters in one night.

Ivy’s so fucking beautiful, in the streetlight and the smoke.

Her mouth quirks up into a smile. “Good,” she says quietly. “Good. Burn it all down.”

***

Hannah Moskowitz is the author of more than a dozen works for children and young adults, including Break, A History of Glitter and Blood, the 2013 Stonewall Honor Book Gone, Gone, Gone, and Sick Kids in Love. After a stint in New York, she’s happily back in Maryland.

The Gastronomy of A Curse of Roses: a Guest Post by Diana Pinguicha

I’m so excited to welcome A Curse of Roses author Diana Pinguicha back to the site today to celebrate the release of her debut, and to discuss the delicious food in it! The f/f YA fantasy just released yesterday from Entangled Teen, and if you click on the title above, you can check out the first two chapters right here on LGBTQReads. Already read and loved them? Then read on to learn about its culinary delights!

Disclaimer: I love food. I’ve always loved cooking, and baking, and some of my best memories are with my grandma Nini, who was an out-of-this-world cook. I still think she had some sort of magic in her, because every dish she touched came out delicious. She was also notoriously bad about writing down her recipes, because, well… she didn’t follow any, not really. Portuguese people don’t do measuring cups, or instructions when cooking—we just throw stuff in with confidence and whatever happens, happens.

And, in true grandmother fashion, she’d feed me until I dropped. Much to my mom’s chagrin, since I was obese as a child, and whenever I went to my nana’s I’d come back much heavier than when she dropped me off. I believe Nana’s overfeeding came from the fact that she, much like the rest of my family, starved during the dictatorship, and once she had access to food, she saw no reason not to overindulge. There would be times when I’d cry because I wasn’t supposed to be eating so much. But my nana always made me feel at ease about my weight and appetite. She said, “Fat isn’t ugly, and you’re always so happy when you eat. So eat!”

That was another aspect of her that I thought was magical. She cared only for my happiness. She was the only one who never judged me for being “a difficult kid” and would always be kind to me, even when I wasn’t kind to myself. She was also the only person who would let me just be. If I wanted to be left alone in a corner to read, or play video games, she’d let me. If I wanted to hijack the kitchen to make desserts (which she did not like to make) she’d let me. Really, I don’t have enough words to express how much I love her and miss her, and how utterly good she was.

Now that my nana has passed, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to replicate what she’d serve me. The taste is still vivid in my memories, and if I close my eyes, I can remember what her chickpea stew tasted like, her ensopado, her migas. More than anything, I wanted to honor the memories of the food she made me, and because A CURSE OF ROSES takes place in Alentejo, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight the gastronomy of my home region. I’ve mentioned above that people from my family largely starved during the dictatorship, and it’s true for a lot of Alentejo and other interior regions. The way Alentejanos had of making their food last was to add the stale bread they had lying around, and for that reason, a lot of our dishes include it. And since Isabel of Aragon’s miracle involved turning bread into roses—which was another great excuse to go all-in on Alentejo cuisine.

During my research, I also found that many Alentejo dishes have their origin with the Moors. The chickpea stew my nana made? A variation of what is now the Moroccan Harira. The broas? They’re a variation of the Arabic ghoribas. The Encharcada? It’s a variant of Qalb El Louz. The Almendrados? They’re remarkably like the Mlouwza. Which, at a time when people are trying to erase our Moor past, seemed very important for me to include.

So, the gastronomy in ACOR? It’s everything I grew up eating.

There’s açorda (which I stylized as assorda, since medieval serigraphy didn’t have the ç), which is an inexpensive dish that fed my family many a times, and that we make together every Christmas Eve at 3 am. All you need for it is garlic, cilantro, olive oil, stale bread, eggs, and boiling water. Eggs aren’t really mandatory, though. And, if you’re feeling fancy, you can add some fish such as cod.

Açorda à Alentejana

The chickpea stew (Cozido de Grão), which is made with chickpeas, and a lot of other vegetables, such as kale, carrots, and so on. It’s also usually cooked with meat, and my grandma did it with pork. When I was younger and had textural issues with all the different veggies, she’d also pass it through an immersion blender so I could eat it, and whenever my parents told her not to, she’d just give them a smile and say, “It’s two minutes of my time, and if this helps her eat better, I’m doing it.”

Pork is another big player in Alentejo gastronomy. I mention the slaughter season in ACOR, and it’s another thing I’ve lived with. Every February, my grandparents would slaughter a pig, and the neighbors would help them with several cuts, sausages, and so on. No part of the pig went to waste—not even the blood, which is used in some dishes and sausages. The things we made with a single pork would last us almost an entire year, and in older times, the chouriço, and the toucinho, and all that, would be used as something to trade for. It was also not uncommon to have a pig the entire neighborhood took care of, and then divided come slaughter. I do not miss that part of the year, and I haven’t eaten pork in over a decade—but it plays a huge part in our gastronomy, and so, I included it.

Then there is Migas, which is literally bread you throw into a pan, and then water until it breaks up. Some people will also add the fat that’s leftover from cooking the pork—but again, I don’t eat pork, so I actually use regular water and fry it in a bit of olive oil and garlic.

Conventual sweets also make an appearance. There’s Rala Bread (Pão de Rala), which is essentially, flour, sugar, and eggs. There are also Gadanhas, native to my hometown of Estremoz, and they’re based on eggs and almonds.

There’s another aspect I had to consider, and that was what kind of food would be available to you depending on social class. Commoners would be mostly vegetarian, save for the aforementioned pork days and the occasional chicken, or some animal they hunted, as commoners were allowed to hunt in their Lords’ lands in times where food was scarce. Hunting was also another way my family had to feed themselves during the dictatorship (and they kept ferrets solely for the purpose of hunting rabbits!) Meanwhile, the nobility would be gorging on everything, from wine and meats. Sweetwater fish are also part of Alentejo gastronomy, like the boga and the bordalo—fish that are slowly disappearing because of the pollution in our rivers.

There were other dishes I wanted to include, but couldn’t due to the fact that the ingredients were not native to Europe, and could not be realistically delivered. The Tomato Soup (Sopas de Tomate) was one, as were the pumpkin Dreams (Sonhos), and the Ensopado (because it requires potatoes), and the tomatada (that’s when you cook in a delicious tomato sauce—my nana learned to make that especially for me). I also could not include cod-based dishes, which was a shame, but alas. Hopefully there will be other books set in more modern times, where I can highlight those as well.

And I hope this blog post has piqued your curiosity in our humble Alentejo food! I promise it’s as delicious as it sounds!

***

Check out an excerpt and/or buy A Curse of Roses here!

***

Born in the sunny lands of Portugal, Diana grew up in Estremoz, and now lives in Lisbon with two extremely fluffy cats and one amazing bearded dragon. A Computer Engineer graduate from Instituto Superior Técnico, she has worked in award-winning educational video games, but writing is where her heart always belonged. When she’s not working on her books, she can be found painting, immersed in books or video games, or walking around with her dragon.

New Releases: December 2020

The Ballad of Ami Miles by Kristy Dallas Alley (1st)

Raised in isolation at Heavenly Shepherd, her family’s trailer-dealership-turned-survival compound, Ami Miles knows that she was lucky to be born into a place of safety after the old world ended and the chaos began. But when her grandfather brings home a cold-eyed stranger, she realizes that her “destiny” as one of the few females capable of still bearing children isn’t something she’s ready to face.

With the help of one of her aunts, she flees the only life she’s ever known and sets off on a quest to find her long-lost mother (and hopefully a mate of her own choosing). But as she journeys, Ami discovers many new things about the world… and about herself.

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

Get it Right by Skye Kilaen (1st)

A butch lesbian parolee. The pretty pansexual nurse who got away. Is this their second chance at a happily ever after?

Finn is finally out of prison, which is great. Having no job, no car, and no place to sleep except her cousin’s couch? Not so great. Plus, her felony theft conviction isn’t doing wonders for her employment prospects, so she can’t afford her migraine meds without the public clinic.

The last thing she ever expected was for the gal who stole her heart to come walking down that clinic’s hallway: Vivi, the manicure-loving nurse who spent two years fighting the prison system to get proper medical care for her patients, including Finn.

Finn could never believe she imagined the attraction and affection between them. But acting on that in prison, especially as nurse and patient, had been a serious No Way. She’s had eight months to get over Vivi, who abruptly left her job without saying goodbye. Finn is over it. Honest! It’s totally and completely fine.

Except Vivi, here and now, doesn’t seem fine. And Finn couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t try to help.

Is fate offering Finn a second chance? Or is finding love as likely as finding a job with health insurance?

Buy it: Amazon

A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha (1st)

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

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

Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine (1st)

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born. As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late. Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.

Buy it: Books2Read

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley (1st)

Melody McIntyre, stage manager extraordinaire, has a plan for everything. Lead actor need a breath mint? She’s on it. Understudy bust a seam? Mel’s sewing kit is at the ready. Not only is her Plan A foolproof, she’s got a Plan B, and a Plan C, because actors can be total fools.

What she doesn’t have? Success with love. Every time she falls for someone during a school performance, both the romance and the show end in catastrophe. So, Mel swears off any entanglements until their upcoming production of Les Mis is over.

Of course, Mel didn’t count on Odile Rose, rising star in the acting world, auditioning for the spring performance. And she definitely didn’t expect Odile to be sweet and funny, and care as much about the play’s success as Mel.

Which means that Melody McIntyre’s only plan now is trying desperately not to fall in love.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

Big Freedia: God Save the Queen Diva! by Big Freedia (1st)

As the “undisputed ambassador” of the energetic, New Orleans-based Bounce movement, Big Freedia isn’t afraid to twerk, wiggle, and shake her way to self-confidence, and is encouraging her fans to do the same. In her engrossing memoir, Big Freedia tells the inside story of her path to fame, the peaks and valleys of her personal life, and the liberation that Bounce music brings to herself and every one of her fans who is searching for freedom.

Big Freedia immediately pulls us into the relationship between her personal life and her career as an artist; being a “twerking sissy” is not just a job, she says, but a salvation. A place to find solace. To escape from the battles she faced growing up in the worst neighborhood in New Orleans. To deal with losing loved ones to the violence on the streets, drug overdoses, and jail. To survive hurricane Katrina by living on her roof for two days with three adults and a child. To grapple with the difficulties and celebrate the joys of living.

In this eye-opening memoir that bursts with energy, you’ll learn the history of the Bounce movement and meet all of the colorful characters that pepper its music scene. With her own unique voice and unabashed enthusiasm, Big Freedia tells how she arrived at this defining moment in music, and how Bounce ultimately has allowed her to become her own version of diva, one booty-pop at a time.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

 

Secret Santa by Eli Wray (7th)

This is the third book in the A Very Enby Christmas companion series

When Dove plans a holiday threesome with their partner Sage, the event doesn’t quite go off without a hitch. Can they find the Christmas spirit again?

This book includes an all enby trans cast, and a committed hedonist couple inviting a third participant into consensual sexual activity.

Buy it: Amazon

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo (8th)

This is a standalone sequel to The Empress of Salt and Fortune

The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

Crosshairs by Catherine Hernandez (8th)

Set in a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods leading to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called The Boots seizes on the opportunity to round up communities of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ into labor camps.

In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After he loses his livelihood as a drag queen and the love of his life, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer, who helps them plan an uprising at a major televised international event.

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

Femme Like Her by Fiona Zedde (8th)

Nailah Grant only dates studs, races her Camaro for therapy, and believes in leaving her exes in the past where they belong.

But with a layoff looming and her retired parents about to take a life-changing step Nailah isn’t ready for, her world becomes far from stable. Enter Scottie, the only femme she’s ever allowed close enough to touch her heart. They say trouble comes in threes, and this femme is one with a capital T.

Scottie is an ex though, and somebody Nailah never should have been with in the first place. Yet, when the foundations of her life crumble fast, Scottie is the one Nailah finds herself clinging to. Just as things settle into a semblance of something Nailah could only dream about, a shattering secret from Scottie’s past threatens to destroy everything the two women have built together.

Will Nailah stay the course with Scottie, or allow her fears to ruin her chance at a real and passionate love?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Yet a Stranger by Gregory Ashe (20th)

This is book 2 of the First Quarto

When Auggie Lopez returns to Wroxall College, he’s determined that his second year will be different from the chaos he faced as a freshman. He’s living in the Sigma Sigma house, he’s got a good group of friends, and his social media presence is growing. Meeting a hot older guy on move-in day is just the cherry on top. All he has to do now is avoid getting dragged into another murder.

That last part, though, turns out to be easier said than done, especially when Auggie’s ex-roommate, Orlando, asks for help. Orlando’s brother Cal has gone missing, and Orlando wants Auggie to find him.

Auggie knows he’ll need help, but recruiting his friend—and crush—Theo is not as straightforward as he expects. While Auggie was gone for the summer, Theo has started dating someone, and neither Theo nor Auggie knows how to handle the shift in their relationship.

Finding Orlando’s brother dead only makes their situation more complicated. Although the police are quick to write off the homicide as a drug deal gone wrong, Auggie and Theo aren’t so sure, and Orlando begs them to keep investigating. To learn the truth, Auggie and Theo will have to untangle a web of lies while keeping each other safe from a killer who is determined to stop them.

As Auggie and Theo dig deeper, they realize that Cal was a stranger even to the people who thought they knew him. And Auggie and Theo both begin to fear that they are also strangers to each other.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

From Archie to Zack by Vincent X Kirsch (29th)

“Archie loves Zack!”
“Zack loves Archie!”
Everyone said it was so.
But Archie hasn’t told Zack yet. And Zack hasn’t told Archie. They spend just about every minute together: walking to and from school, doing science and art projects, practicing for marching band, learning to ride bikes, and so much more.
Over the course of a few months, Archie tries to write a letter to Zack to tell him how he feels: “From A to Z.” None of his drafts sound quite right, so he hides them all away. One by one, Archie’s friends (Zelda, Zinnia, and Zuzella) find the letters . . . but they know exactly whom they’re meant for.
This new picture book from Vincent X. Kirsch celebrates young, queer love in a whimsical, kid-friendly way.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N

 

November 2020 Book Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Kobby Ben Ben’s NO ONE DIES YET, set in Accra in 2019, the “Year of Return” that memorialized the many who died during the slave trade in Ghana, following three African American friends as they join in the festivities to explore Ghana’s colonial past as Black diasporas around the world make a pilgrimage to West Africa and its underground queer scene; soon, these friends are thrust into the hands of two guides who they have no choice but to trust and what unfolds is an unsettling tale of murder in a country whose dead slaves are shackled with stories that must be heard, to Christopher Potter at Europa Editions, with Eva Ferri editing, in a nice deal, for publication in spring/summer 2022, by Aida Lilly at kt literary (world English).

2020 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow R.B. Lemberg‘s THE UNBALANCING, set in the same Birdverse universe as the author’s FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES, in which a group of queer and nonbinary magic keepers across an archipelago must come together to save their islands from an environmental catastrophe, to Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications, with Jaymee Goh editing, for publication in winter 2022, by Mary C. Moore at Kimberley Cameron & Associates (world English).

Author of WHEN HARRY MET HARRY Sydney Smyth‘s BRIDESMATES, an LGBTQ romance about a brokenhearted man who reluctantly agrees to be a male bridesmaid (a “bridesmate”) in his BFF’s wedding and finds romance along the way, to Rose Hilliard at Audible Originals, in an exclusive submission, for publication in spring 2021, by Emily Sylvan Kim at Prospect Agency, on behalf of et al Creative (world).

Syrian Canadian author, public speaker, and LGBTQ refugee activist Danny Ramadan‘s THE FOGHORN ECHOES, an #OwnVoices novel that begins in war-torn Syria, where a forbidden romance between two boys culminates in a traumatic incident, the echoes of which reverberate through their adult lives in Vancouver and Damascus, to David Ross at Penguin Canada, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Rachel Letofsky at CookeMcDermid.

Autistic debut author Sunyi Dean‘s THE BOOK EATERS, in which a lesbian Book Eater, forced into arranged marriages, gives birth to a Mind Eater and loves her son so fiercely she becomes a monster herself to save him from her family’s violent ways, to Lindsey Hall at Tor, in a significant deal, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, for publication in winter 2022, by Naomi Davis at BookEnds (NA).

Author of LAKEWOOD Megan Giddings‘s THE WOMEN COULD FLY, pitched as reminiscent of Kelly Link and Ottessa Moshfegh, about a Black bisexual woman on a journey to come to terms with the loss of her mother, who disappeared mysteriously when she was a teenager; set in a world where witches are real, to Rakesh Satyal at Amistad, in a pre-empt, by Dan Conaway at Writers House (NA).

Children’s Fiction

Author-artist Wallace West‘s debut MIGHTY RED RIDING HOOD: A FAIRLY QUEER TALE, the first in a series of reimagined folktales from a queer perspective, starring a sassy boy in a frilly red riding hood who confronts a bullying wolf espousing gender norms, to Andrea Spooner at Little, Brown Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Marietta Zacker at Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency (world).

Jyoti Rajan Gopal‘s DESERT QUEEN, a biography-in-verse which follows the life of beloved Rajasthani drag performer Queen Harish, known as the Whirling Desert Queen of Rajasthan, who, lit by an inner fire and propelled by a family tragedy, defied the gender conventions of middle class Indian life, battled discrimination and intimidation, and eventually grew up to dance with Bollywood movie stars and on stages across the world, illustrated by Svabhu Kohli, to Arthur Levine at Levine Querido, in an exclusive submission, for publication in spring 2023, by Wendi Gu at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates (world).

Young Adult Fiction

Amanda Woody‘s debut THEY HATE EACH OTHER, told in dual POVs, a queer enemies-to-lovers romance that follows 17-year-olds who turn to fake dating after a homecoming disaster; their ploy begins to fail spectacularly, though, when unexpected chemistry and past scars interfere, weaving a profound connection between the two, to Dana Leydig at Viking Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2023, by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media (world English).

Author of HOW WE FALL Kate Brauning‘s THE BALLAD OF DINAH CALDWELL, a futuristic Ozarks thriller pitched as inspired by True Grit, in which a queer teenage girl sees her mother and brother murdered by a local kingpin and vows revenge and revolution no matter the cost, to Ashley Hearn at Page Street, with Tamara Grasty editing, in a nice deal, for publication in October 2021, by Bridget Smith at JABberwocky Literary Agency (world English).

Remi England‘s THE ONE TRUE ME AND YOU, a queer romance in which a beloved fanfic author and beauty pageant contestant find love, and learn what it means to be—and stand up for—yourself, to Alexandra Sehulster at Wednesday Books, for publication in winter 2022, by Eric Smith at P.S. Literary Agency (world English).

NYT-bestselling author of CEMETERY BOYS Aiden Thomas‘s untitled fantasy duology, pitched as Aztec Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games; and another untitled book, pitched as gay Titanic in space, to Holly West at Feiwel and Friends, in a significant deal, in an exclusive submission, in a three-book deal, for publication in fall 2022, fall 2023, and fall 2024, by Jennifer March Soloway at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world).

Non-Fiction

Editor-at-large for LinkedIn and former staff writer for Wired and Fortune Jessi Hempel’s THE FAMILY OUTING, pitched as FUN HOME meets Modern Family, about her family’s transformation from the portrait of traditional charm to a new incarnation, with almost all of them embracing their queer identities, an expansion of her viral Time magazine cover story and a new definition of what it means to live in our changing world, to Rakesh Satyal in his first acquisition at Harper One, in a major deal, at auction, by Suzanne Gluck at William Morris Endeavor (NA).

Reality TV star of the Bravo series Shahs of Sunset Reza Farahan’s MEMOIRS OF A GAY SHAH, a humorous and at times heartbreaking story about being gay, Muslim, Jewish, and Persian in America, to Kate Roddy at Sourcebooks, by Steve Troha and Katherine Odom-Tomchin at Folio Literary Management.

Professor of English literature at DePaul University Francesca Royster‘s FIERCE LOVE: A MEMOIR OF BLACK QUEER MOTHERHOOD, examining the conception of what family means, the complexity of queer parenthood, and the influence of race on everyday acts of parenting in a biracial household, to Chelsea Cutchens at Abrams Press, for publication in fall 2022, by Claire Anderson-Wheeler at Regal Hoffmann & Associates (world).

Recipient of an inaugural David Prize philanthropic grant Edafe Okporo‘s ASYLUM, a blend of memoir and manifesto by a young, gay, Nigerian refugee who sought asylum in America after fleeing his home in the wake of violent hate crimes, examining the American asylum process, the modern refugee’s experience—especially the unique challenges facing LBGTQ+ refugees—and his path toward becoming the executive director of the RDJ Refugee Center in Harlem, to Zachary Knoll at Simon & Schuster, by Daniel Lazar at Writers House (NA).

Creator of #TheKentTest and culture critic Clarkisha Kent‘s FAT OFF, FAT ON, a humorous memoir about a fat Black woman, telling the story of how a fat body isn’t a cosmic punishment and is one you can grow into, how sometimes family doesn’t always mean home, and sharing ill-fated love affairs of the bisexual kind, to Lauren Hook at Feminist Press, for publication in fall 2022, by Claire Draper at The Bent Agency (world English).

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Handmade Holidays by Nathan Burgoine

You know those cover designs that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Well this is one of them, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the re-design of Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine, rereleasing* on December 1! (Yes, that’s next week!) Here’s the story:

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born. As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late. Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.

And here’s the festively charming cover by Inkspiral Design!

Preorder now!

*Handmade Holidays was originally published by NineStar Press in 2017

Daniel Smith Photography

‘Nathan Burgoine is a tall queer guy who writes mostly shorter queer fictions, though novels do happen. He tends to write fiction with a dash of the speculative, usually contemporary, and always with queer characters. He’s published dozens of short stories, and released his first collection of short fiction, Of Echoes Born, a series of interconnected short fiction pieces tell a story greater than the sum of its parts.

At the novella length of things, ‘Nathan tends to write queer romance, including his wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey gay romance In Memoriam, a trio of holiday-themed romances: Handmade Holidays (chosen family), Faux Ho Ho (fake boyfriend), and the upcoming Village Fool (an April Fools’ Day prank gone wrong). He also co-wrote Saving the Date with Angela S. Stone, as part of the 1Night Stand series, a romance which explores surviving and thriving after a hate crime.

His first speculative fiction novel, Light (think a gay superhero, only not very good at it yet), was a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks (a teen boy with a tendency to plan out his whole live has to scrap his plans when he develops a teleportation problem), was a finalist for the YA Prix Aurora Award. His other two novels, Triad Blood and Triad Soul (vampires, wizards, and demons, oh my!), are contemporary urban fantasies set in Ottawa.

‘Nathan lives in Ottawa, Canada, with his husband and his rescued husky. You can find him online at nathanburgoine.com.

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: A Beautiful Doom by Laura Pohl

Today on the site I am so excited to reveal the cover of The Last 8 author Laura Pohl’s first book in her brand new series, The Grimrose Girls! A Beautiful Doom releases from Sourcebooks on August 3rd and features two f/f couples, a demi-bisexual lead, and an aroace lead, and if dark academia and fairytales are your jam, this is your next can’t-miss read. Check out the blurb:

The Descendants meets Pretty Little Liars in this story of four troubled friends, one murdered girl, and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed. Reimagined fairytale heroines must uncover connections to their ancient curses and forge their own paths… before it’s too late.

After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled Ariane’s death as a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.

When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events that no one could have predicted. As the girls retrace their friend’s final days, they discover a dark secret about Grimrose—Ariane wasn’t the first dead girl.

They soon learn that all the past murders are connected to ancient fairytale curses…and that their own fates are tied to the stories, dooming the girls to brutal and gruesome endings unless they can break the cycle for good.

And here’s the iconic cover, designed by Maggie Edkins and Nicole Hower!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

But wait, there’s more! We also have the first two chapters:
read on!

Chapter One

ELLA

The first day of school started with a funeral.

This was not, of course, the usual for the Grimrose Académie for Elite Students, whose student body mostly lived to their eighties, and went on to command corporate conglomerates or win Academy Awards, Nobel Prizes and other such trifles. Therefore, everyone was shocked, and whispers were heard in every corner of the castle, from the library tower to the girl’s bathroom on the fifth floor.

The whispers, especially, followed Eleanor Ashworth.

Ella gazed upward self-consciously, tightening her hand on the strap of her bag. “How long do you think this is going to last?”

Eleanor, known to her friends only as Ella, was a small girl of seventeen, with light blond hair cut to her chin and equally light brown eyes, reddened cheeks, freckles all over her face and arms, and clothes that had seen better days. The whispers had followed her before, but never with such commitment.

“A month, if we’re lucky.” Yuki, Ella’s best friend answered, a crease appearing in her ivory forehead.

“We won’t be,” Rory muttered, glaring at a group of younger girls who dared to dart eyes in their direction. “What the hell are you looking at?”

“You do realize that attracts even more attention, right?” Yuki said, raising an eyebrow.

“At least I’ll get a reason to fight,” Rory replied with a satisfied shrug.

The Grimrose Académie was exclusive not only in name, but also in reputation. Its location in Switzerland and the exorbitant prices ensured that only the richest and most powerful were able to attend. It sat on one of Alps’ most beautiful lakes and boasted a giant fairytale-like castle with four towers and white marble, gardens extending beyond the mountains that surrounded them, and a crystalline lake to complete the view.

Studying at Grimrose was a guarantee of your future. When you studied at Grimrose, nothing could ever go wrong.

Except that on the eve of the first day of school, one of the Académie’s most exceptional students had drowned in the lake.

For most students, it meant an uproar. For the Académie, it meant an open line for calling parents reassuring the safety of their children, and keeping the death out of the papers. Drowned in the lake besides the school, alone.

But for Ella, Yuki, and Rory, it wasn’t just another tragedy. Ariane Van Amstel had been their best friend.

Ella avoided the stares and the whispers, knowing all the students wanted to ask her the same questions. Had she been suicidal? Did she know how to swim? Did Ella know she was sad? And why hadn’t Ella helped her?

The last question was the worst, the reminder a sting.. How could she not know if one of her best friends had done the unthinkable? Ariane had been happy, daughter of a rich businessman from Holland and with a bright future ahead of her. Just like everyone in the Académie.

Well, everyone except Eleanor Ashworth.

The worst part about the stares was how they made her feel ashamed, because she ought to have done something. She should have acted. She should have saved her friend, because that’s what friends did.

Ella stepped forward in the cafeteria line, looking at their lonely table in the corner. Everyone else in the cafeteria was lively, friends gathering for the first time in three months, groups coming together with only happiness in their minds. But for them, the table was missing something. Stacie caught her looking wistfully at the popular table, and she gave the smallest nod to her stepsister.

Stacie and Silla, her twin stepsisters, belonged to Grimrose in a way that Ella couldn’t. They paid full tuition. Ella was the scholarship student.

In truth, Stacie and Silla owed their place to Ella. The Académie had personally invited her, but her stepmother ruled that she would go only as long as there had been openings for her two daughters. That had been five years ago. Sharon said if Ella wanted to go to an expensive school, she had to deserve it.

Rory slammed her tray on their table as they settled down. The table felt too big for them now. There was a space where Ariane was supposed to be, at the table she had chosen herself. It felt like a part of her was missing, and Ella could not find anything big enough to hide that absence.

The three girls sat in silence. Ella finished her lunch and opened her bag to pick a pair of knitting needles.

“Knitting already?” Rory asked, chewing with her mouth open.

“This is just…” Ella started. “I promised Ari. Couldn’t finish it because Sharon kept nagging me last week. So now I have to finish it before… before…”

She didn’t finish her sentence, letting out a frustrated breath. Ella knew she was ranting. That she was stuck in a loop. She had to finish her goodbye present. If she didn’t, then…

The good thing was that Ella’s brain could not imagine a consequence worse than the situation they were already in.

“The memorial is this afternoon,” Ella said. “I promised it. I’m doing it. Ella Ashworth doesn’t let her friends down.”

Not even if they were dead, she thought to herself.

Chapter Two

YUKI

Yuki Miyashiro waited for her friends in the garden.

She stood perfectly still as other students passed her, glancing at the tall lonely figure with ivory white skin and dark hair like a raven’s feathers that fell over her shoulders, turning their heads when they met the merciless black eyes.

The memorial was being held in the garden, the only place that could hold all the students, despite being inconveniently close to the lake where Ariane had drowned.

When Rory and Ella showed up, they went in silence together. The gardens were lush and covered in flowers and bright tones of green, the last touches of summer.

“You all right?” Ella asked, and for a moment, Yuki’s stomach twisted in guilt. She should be the one asking the question.

Ella had been her best friend since their first day of school, when Ella had declared Yuki’s shoes were the most beautiful she’d ever seen, and therefore both of them had to be friends. Only later Ella confessed that she didn’t like the shoes that much, but that she found complimenting people was always the best way to make friends.

Yuki wouldn’t know. She didn’t have a lot of friends.

“I’m all right,” Yuki answered, even though it was a lie.

Ella pulled her knitting from her bag. Ella always needed something to do with her hands. She took a deep breath, and Rory glanced at them both.

“You’ve been taking the pills?” Rory asked.

“Yeah,” Ella replied. “Wait, you think I haven’t?”

“That’s not what she said,” Yuki interrupted.

“I’ve been taking them.”

Rory looked at Yuki for reassurance, but Yuki could offer nothing. Ella had been diagnosed with severe OCD and anxiety over a year ago, and it was still an adjustment..

It was a short walk. Every student was wearing their uniform, liberty blue skirts and pants, white shirts and silver ties and periwinkle blue blazers, a crowd of blue descending the path. The rain had stopped but the clouds had stayed, and the sky was gray like the mountaintops. Students started filling the front, but Yuki preferred the back.

Ariane’s parents were standing in the front row. There was no coffin—they would take the body home, sealed up so no one would ever see the bright red flaming head of hair, but there was a picture of her. Yuki avoided Ari’s eyes, and stared at the ground.

Ella had sat down almost immediately on the chair, and Yuki closed her eyes, but there were the whispers, talking of the bloated body, talking of Ariane drowning, her body sinking into the lake, and how they had found her, face up, barely recognizable. Accident. Suicide. Same thing. It didn’t matter. She was dead.

When Reyna Castilla stepped to the pulpit, Yuki was almost glad to hear her stepmother’s voice.

“It’s with great sorrow we are gathered here today,” she started. “One of our most promising students has been taken from us so abruptly. Ariane was a great student, and beloved by all. It’s difficult to describe how terrible her loss…”

Yuki tuned all of it out. Reyna didn’t know Ariane enough to truly understand what it meant to lose her. Her loss was pure, untainted by knowing and loving Ariane.

Yuki’s loss was not pure.

When she looked up, she saw another face in the crowd. Edric, Ariane’s ex-boyfriend. Only one week after he and Ari had broken up, he’d been with someone else. All over each other in the halls.

Yuki wished she could watch him choke.

To calm herself down, she recited the facts of the case to herself.

Ariane did not know how to swim. Ariane would not go near the lake at night. Ariane would not leave without saying goodbye. But there had been no foul play discovered.

Reyna’s eulogy ended, and Ari’s father took over the microphone, giving another thankful speech. All the students in the school were courteous enough to pretend they cared, even though Ariane did not belong with them.

She belonged to us.

Yuki’s heart beat faster in her chest.

The memorial dissolved little after that. Ella got up before any of them could stop her and walked decidedly over to Ariane’s parents. Yuki could almost hear what Ella was saying. She could imagine her words would be firm and kind. A flash of a smile from Ariane’s mother, a hug, Ella handing them the sweater she’d finished.

Someone else approached Yuki, and she turned to see her stepmother.

Reyna rarely looked tired, but today, Yuki could glimpse something raw in her, as if she’d lowered a barrier that wouldn’t be lowered again in the next hundred years.

Reyna didn’t look like she was old enough to be Yuki’s stepmother. Her medium brown skin was flawless, and her rich chocolate brown hair fell in generous waves over her shoulders. She dressed the part of the Headmistress at least, today a dark red dress that was both formal and elegant.

“Walk back with me?” Reyna asked, gesturing to the castle.

Yuki obeyed, as she always did. Perfect posture, walking calmly side by side. Their shoulders never touched. The silence stretched as they climbed.

“How are you doing?” Reyna asked at last, not unkindly.

Yuki did not answer for a moment. She knew what was expected of her. She’d seen the answer in Ella’s hands, in Ella’s gestures, in Ella’s words. She was supposed to be holding up, to accept her loss gracefully, to think of the others.

“Fine,” she answered curtly. “Just fine.”

Reyna paused as they climbed and Yuki was forced to stop her march.

“Yuki, one of your friends just died,” Reyna said. “I’m asking because I know you can’t be all right.”

“Well, I am.”

She spoke the words with such conviction that she almost felt like she could hear them ringing across the gardens, across the leaves and carried by the bird’s wings. I am. I am. I am.

She wouldn’t lose her composure. She was the headmistress’ stepdaughter, after all. Her behavior would always be examined first.

“I’ll ask the police to keep the questions to a minimum,” Reyna said, and Yuki took a deep breath, because she did not lose her composure, because she was always, always, the image of perfect, no matter what happened, and she was not going to lose her cool today. “It’s all routine.”

“It’s fine.”

“I’m just preparing you for what’s to come,” she said. “I don’t want to make this worse for you. I know how hard it must be.”

Except Reyna didn’t know.

She had no idea.

She could never have any idea at all, because Ariane was dead, and it was Yuki’s fault.

***

 

Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature. She is the author of THE LAST 8 duology, which won the International Latino Book Awards. Her next novel is A BEAUTIFUL DOOM, which opens the Grimrose Girls duology. Learn more about her on her website (www.onlybylaura.com),  and make sure to follow her on twitterinstagram, and pinterest.

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