Tag Archives: Asexual

New Release Spotlight: Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Grieving and growing up are at the heart of this sophomore novel from Morris Award finalist Bowman, and so’s exploring the asexual spectrum. Where or not you’ve already loved and been destroyed by Bowman’s debut, Starfish, you’re definitely gonna wanna get to know her strong, nuanced, gorgeous work here.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

Buy it: Amazon * Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleBooks-a-Million * IndieBound

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New Releases: September 2018

All This I Will Give to You by Dorothy Redondo (1st)

When novelist Manuel Ortigosa learns that his husband, Álvaro, has been killed in a car crash, it comes as a devastating shock. It won’t be the last. He’s now arrived in Galicia. It’s where Álvaro died. It’s where the case has already been quickly closed as a tragic accident. It’s also where Álvaro hid his secrets.

The man to whom Manuel was married for fifteen years was not the unassuming man he knew.

Álvaro’s trail leads Manuel deep into one of Spain’s most powerful and guarded families. Behind the walls of their forbidding estate, Manuel is nothing but an unwelcome and dangerous intruder. Then he finds two allies: a stubbornly suspicious police lieutenant and Álvaro’s old friend—and private confessor—from seminary school. Together they’re collecting the pieces of Álvaro’s past, his double life, and his mysterious death.

But in the shadows of nobility and privilege, Manuel is about to unravel a web of corruption and deception that could be as fatal a trap for him as it was for the man he loved.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Book Depository

Soft on Soft by Em Ali (10th)

Cover to be revealed on the site on September 5th!

June Bana might post nearly daily makeup looks that gain thousands of likes but Real Life June has built a wall behind which she exists with her two cats.

But with messy feelings getting in a way of an early hermit life, June begins to realize that she wants more. She wants model/actress, Sunshine Reincarnated Selena Clarke. It doesn’t hurt that Selena is amazing with cats and quiets down June’s anxiety to bearable levels.

June is given the choice of facing her anxieties about relationships to gain not only a girlfriend but also a better understanding of how far she’d go for love.

But would she take it? Would she leave her comfort zone for something softer?

Contemporary fluffy piece where one homebody and one extrovert make one hell of a love story.

Buy it: Amazon US * Amazon UK

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman (11th)

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

Buy it: Amazon * Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleBooks-a-Million * IndieBound

She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak ed. by Chitra Nagarajan, Azeenarh Mohammed and Rafeeat Aliyu

The book is a collection of 25 first-hand accounts by women telling their stories on their own terms. This is a much-needed collection as there is very little work published about lives of LGBTQi communities in Africa. The stories challenge the stereotypes of what we assume is lesbian, bisexual, gay and trans in Nigeria and offers a raw, first-hand look into the lives and realities of those who are queer. The narrators range from those who knew they were gay from an early age to those who discovered same-sex attraction later in life. These engaging and groundbreaking narratives include stories of first time love and curiosity, navigating same-sex feelings and spirituality, growing up gender non-conforming and overcoming family and society’s expectations. What does it mean to be a queer Nigerian? How does one embrace the label of ‘woman’? While some tell of self-acceptance, others talk of building a home in the midst of the anti-same sex marriage law.

The book is edited by three women in Nigeria.  Azeenarh Mohammed is a trained lawyer and a queer, feminist, holistic security trainer. She is active in the Nigerian queer women’s movement and has written on queerness and technology for publications such as This is Africa and Premium TimesNG. Chitra Nagarajan is an activist, researcher and writer. She has spent the last 15 years working on human rights and peace building and is involved in feminist, anti-racist, anti-fundamentalist and queer movements. She currently lives and works in Maiduguri. Rafeeat Aliyu has a BA in Marketing and works in communication and research. She is particularly interested in sex and sexuality in both modern and historical Nigeria.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Book Depository * IndieBound

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton (18th)

Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.

Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.

Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker (20th)

Matchmaking? Check. Surfing? Check. Falling in love? As if.

Sunny, striking, and satisfied with her life in paradise, Theodosia Sullivan sees no need for marriage. She does, however, relish serving as matchmaker for everyone who crosses her path. As the manager of her family’s surf shop in Hanalei Bay, that includes locals and tourists alike.

One person she won’t be playing Cupid for is the equally happy bachelorette down the street. Baker Kini ʻŌpūnui has been the owner of Queen’s Sweet Shop since her parents passed away and her younger brother married Theo’s older sister and moved to Oahu. Kini’s ready smile, haupia shortbread, and lilikoi malasadas are staples of Hanalei’s main street.

However, Theo’s matchmaking machinations and social scheming soon become less charming—even hazardous—to everyone involved. And when she fails to heed Kini’s warnings about her meddling, she may be more successful than she ever intended. Theo has to face the prospect of Kini ending up with someone else, just as she realizes she’s loved Kini all along.

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Off Limits by Vanessa North (24th)

By day, Natalie Marshall is the Thorns Ladies’ Social Club’s perfect concierge: resourceful, observant, immaculate. But she turns her phone off when the night concierge arrives, and then she’s Nat: the raunchy lead singer of Vertical Smile—notorious for lewd lyrics and sexually-charged performances.

Rebecca Horvath isn’t used to asking twice—for anything. As the scion of one of Hollywood’s most powerful film dynasties, she’s waited on, pampered, fawned over—spoiled. So when she asks the cute front person of her favorite queer punk band to be her date to a charity auction, she isn’t expecting the whispered “no,” or for the singer to disappear without even thanking her for the martini.

For Natalie, two worlds colliding spells professional catastrophe–her on-stage antics definitely violate the club employees’ standards clause. For it to be Bex Horvath—a perennial gossip-pages feature—who discovers her secret is terrifying.

When the focus of a criminal investigation at work brings Nat’s double life to the attention of her employer, everything spins out of control. Bex is there to prove there’s more to this party girl than meets the eye. Nat might have to trust her with her secrets, but her heart? That’s off limits.

Buy it: Amazon * iBooks * Kobo * Barnes & Noble

Counterpoint by Anna Zabo (24th)

Twisted Wishes lead guitarist Dominic “Domino” Bradley is an animal onstage. But behind his tight leather pants and skull-crusher boots lies a different man entirely, one who needs his stage persona not only to perform, but to have the anonymity he craves. A self-imposed exile makes it impossible to get close to anyone outside the band, so he’s forced to get his sexual fix through a few hot nights with a stranger.

When computer programmer Adrian Doran meets Dominic, he’s drawn to the other man’s quiet voice and shy smile. But after a few dirty, demanding nights exploring Dominic’s need to be dominated, Adrian wants more than a casual distraction. He has no idea he’s fallen for Domino Grinder—the outlandish, larger-than-life rock god.

Dominic is reluctant to trust Adrian with his true identity. But when the truth is revealed prematurely, Dominic is forced to reevaluate both his need for Adrian and everything he believes about himself.

Buy it: Amazon / B&N / iBooks / Google Play

Black Wings Beating by Alex London (25th)

36949994The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great

falconer–while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig (25th)

36220335A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. The first book in a new trilogy from the acclaimed Heidi Heilig blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Exclusive Cover Reveal: From the Same Star by Nicole Field!

First we had an exclusive  excerpt reveal from Nicole Field’s Changing Loyalties, and now Field’s back with an exclusive cover reveal for a brand-new book, From the Same Star! FtSS is an f/f asexual contemporary romance with BDSM content, and it releases on October 8th! Check it out:

In  the aftermath of her mother’s death, Angela struggles to recover and re-enter the world. When she meets Steve, who works in the café across the street, she feels able to take a step out of her grief-filled home. With Steve, she hopes to do D/s as a way to take a break from the pain consuming her, but discovers that in doing kink, you bring all of who you are with you, including grief.

Then Steve’s best friend is in a tragic car accident, and winds up in a coma, and Angela longs to offer support to Steve, as well as receive it. 
And here’s the cover!

Preorder it!

***

Nicole writes across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity. She lives in Melbourne with her fiancee, two cats, and a bottomless cup of tea. She likes candles, incense and Gilmore Girls.

New Releases: August 2018

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé (7th)

Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository  | Indigo 

Past Imperfect by Carrie Pack (9th)

This is the second book in the In the Present Tense series.

Now on the run from the corporation that turned him into a lab experiment, Miles finds himself in a fight for his life as he unravels the complicated relationships he shares with ex-boyfriend Adam, whom he still loves, and wife Ana, whose allegiance he cannot trust.

Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Bethany Carter is on the run from her past and present. Having escaped the same institution that trapped Miles, she must find a way to safely manage the schizophrenia that triggers her time travel while navigating unpredictable bouts of paranoia.

As Miles’ and Bethany’s lives become more intertwined, Dr. Branagan, the man who made their lives a living hell at Longleaf Retreat, will stop at nothing to continue his research, even if it means destroying his subjects in the process.

Buy it: Interlude

Learning Curves by Ceilie Simkiss (16th)

Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Buy it: Amazon

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (28th)

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Rainy Day Books

Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller (28th)

This is the second book in the Mask of Shadows duology.

As Opal, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and most importantly the ability to hunt the lords who killed their family. But Sal has to figure out who the culprits are before putting them down. Which means trying to ignore the fact that Elise is being kept a virtual prisoner, and that the queen may have ulterior motives.

And the tales coming out of north are baffling. Talk of dark spirits, missing children, and magic abound. As Sal heads north toward their ruined homeland and the lords who destroyed everything, they learn secrets and truths that can’t be ignored.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Watermark (signed) * Book Depository

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss!

Hello and welcome to a super exciting cover reveal! Learning Curves by Ceilie Simkiss is an adult contemporary romance with a white cis panromantic asexual woman (ownvoices) and a fat Puerto Rican cis lesbian woman. (It’s got ownvoices ADHD and anxiety rep, too!) It releases on August 16, and you can learn more about it right here!

LearningCurvesEdited2

Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Aaaand here’s the fabulous cover!

Preorder Learning Curves here!

Ceillie Simkiss is an author from southern Virginia. She started writing fiction as an escape from her day job as a small town journalist, and has been at it ever since, with the support of her partner, her dog and her cats.

New Releases: July 2018

Criminal Intentions: The Cardigans by Cole McCade (8th)

This is the first episode in a brand-new serial. You can also get it via the author’s Patreon.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

When a string of young queer men turn up dead in grisly murders, all signs point to the ex-boyfriend—but what should be an open-and-shut case is fraught with tension when BPD homicide detective Malcolm Khalaji joins up with a partner he never wanted. Rigid, ice-cold, and a stickler for the rules, Seong-Jae Yoon is a watchful presence whose obstinacy and unpredictability constantly remind Malcolm why he prefers to work alone. Seong-Jae may be stunningly attractive, a man who moves like a graceful, lethal bird of prey…but he’s as impossible to decipher as this case.

And if Malcolm doesn’t find the key to unravel both in time, another vulnerable young victim may end up dead.

ABOUT THE SERIES

Baltimore homicide detective Malcolm Khalaji has his own way of doing things: quiet, methodical, logical, effective, not always particularly legal. He’s used to working alone—and the last thing he needs is a new partner ten years his junior.

Especially one like Seong-Jae Yoon.

Icy. Willful. Detached. Stubborn. Seong-Jae is all that and more, impossible to work with and headstrong enough to get them both killed…if they don’t kill each other first. Foxlike and sullen, Seong-Jae’s disdainful beauty conceals a smoldering and ferocious temper, and as he and Malcolm clash the sparks between them build until neither can tell the difference between loathing and desire.

But as bodies pile up at their feet a string of strange, seemingly unrelated murders takes a bizarre turn, leading them deeper and deeper into Baltimore’s criminal underworld. Every death carries a dangerous message, another in a trail of breadcrumbs that can only end in blood.

Malcolm and Seong-Jae must combine their wits against an unseen killer and trace the unsettling murders to their source. Together, they’ll descend the darkest pathways of a twisted mind—and discover just how deep the rabbit hole goes. And if they can’t learn to trust each other?

Neither will make it out alive.

Buy it: Amazon

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (10th)

This is the third and final book in the And I Darken series.

22817368Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?

Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.

Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.

Buy It: B&N * Amazon 

Concerto in Chroma Major by Naomi Tajedler (12th)

Alexandra Graff, a Californian living in Paris, is a stained-glass artist whose synesthesia gives her the ability to see sounds in the form of colors. When she’s commissioned to create glass panels for the new Philharmonie, she forms a special bond with the intriguing Halina Piotrowski, a famous Polish pianist. As their relationship develops, Alexandra shows Halina the beautiful images her music inspires. But when it comes to a lasting future together, will Halina’s fear of roots and commitment stand in the way?

Buy it: Interlude Press

Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie (17th)

33382313Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Over And Over Again by Cole McCade (24th) 

OverandOverAgain6x9A ring of braided grass. A promise. Ten years of separation.

And memories of an innocent love with the power to last through time.

When Luca Ward was five years old, he swore he would love Imre Claybourne forever. Years later, that promise holds true—and when Luca finds himself shipped off to Imre’s North Yorkshire goat farm in disgrace, long-buried feelings flare back to life when he finds, in Imre, the same patiently stoic gentle giant he’d loved as a boy. The lines around Imre’s eyes may be deeper, the once-black night of his hair silvered to steel and stone…but he’s still the same slow-moving mountain of a man whose quiet-spoken warmth, gentle hands, and deep ties to his Roma heritage have always, to Luca, meant home.

The problem?

Imre is more than twice Luca’s age.

And Luca’s father’s best friend.

Yet if Imre is everything Luca remembered, for Imre this hot-eyed, fey young man is nothing of the boy he knew. Gone is the child, replaced by a vivid man whose fettered spirit is spinning, searching for north, his heart a thing of wild sweet pure emotion that draws Imre into the compelling fire of Luca’s frustrated passions. That fragile heart means everything to Imre—and he’ll do anything to protect it.

Even if it means distancing himself, when the years between them are a chasm Imre doesn’t know how to cross.

But can he resist the allure in cat-green eyes when Luca places his trembling heart in Imre’s hands…and begs for his love, over and over again?

Buy It: Amazon

Spec Shelf: Nicole Brinkley Takes You Inside Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston!

Excited to introduce a brand new monthly feature on LGBTQReads today called Spec Shelf, where Nicole Brinkley of the former Queership blog chats with authors about their queer SFF titles! Take it away, Nicole!

***

Welcome to Spec Shelf, the little corner of LGBTQ Reads where I talk to authors about their queer science-fiction and fantasy books. Today, we’re peeking into Ashley Poston’s Heart of Iron, one of my favorite books to release so far this year.

Described as “Anastasia in space,” Heart of Iron follows a ragtag group aboard the spaceship the Dossier: Ana, found floating in space as a child; Di, the glitching android found with her; Jax, the pilot from an unknown planet; and Robb, a royal who needs their help.

Together, they’re crossing the galaxy to try to find a spaceship that might not exist—Robb to find his long-lost father and Ana to save Di from his glitches. Ashley’s writing reads like a movie script, as fast-paced and clear as your favorite sci-fi flick. And much like your favorite sci-fi flick, there is undoubtedly a character you will fall in love with. Favorites as a whole seem to be Jax and Di, but the character that earned my heart? The indomitable Captain Siege, pirate leader of the Dossier.

Learn a little bit about Captain Siege and her wife Talle in the excerpt below—and keep reading for an interview between Ashley and me, where we chat about Heart of Iron, asexual representation, queer pirate girls and Hogwarts houses.

###

At the head of the table, beside the captain, Talle—short and thin, with black hair in a pixie cut and hands so steady she could slit a throat clean while navigating the skyways of Nevaeh—sliced a piece of bread in half with one of the dozen knives from her belt, and buttered it. Siege leaned forward and ate it out of her hand. “Sunshine! That was mine.”

“Ours,” Siege replied, kissing her, and played her hand— three twos. No one called Wicked against the captain. No one ever did. Except Talle.

Talle and Siege had been married longer than Ana had been part of the Dossier. She always wondered how they’d met, but it was a secret—like Siege’s last name.

Di once said that it seemed surprising that two people who were so opposite could fall in love, but he didn’t see that while Siege was the flame, Talle was the shadow. One could not exist without the other.

Ana wished she could explain it. She wondered, often, if he would feel the same about her if he was programmed to have emotions.

###

Now here’s the interview!

Nicole: Let’s skip the whole shebang about “what is your book about” and “tell me about your characters” and dive straight into the fun stuff.

Ashley: Ugh, do I have to?

Nicole: You knew what you signed up for.

Ashley: Fine, fine, LET’S SKIP ALL THE GOOD PARTS AND GO STRAIGHT TO THE SPOILERS. SO, THE FIRST PERSON TO DIE IS—

Nicole: If you touch my favorite can-opener robot E0S, I’ll never forgive you.

Ashley: I can live with that.

Nicole: There are many incredible characters in Heart of Iron—though our resident tiny robot is likely my favorite—and many incredible character dynamics. Watching relationships shift and grow as the book goes on was one of my favorite bits, especially between Jax and Robb. I know Jax wasn’t even supposed to be a POV character, originally. What was creating their dynamic like?

Ashley: I love character interactions. I think I love writing it because of fanfiction, to be honest. Character studies and all. And I knew going into Heart of Iron, a good chunk of the story would be unremarkable (it’s a “lost royal” trope—we all know how those go), so I wanted to make the characters the story, not the trope itself. And to do that I wanted to make engaging characters. Robb was one of those characters who was an antagonist in one draft, and then a martyr in the next, but he never quite fit very well in any of those roles. He didn’t really come into himself until he met this snarky starship pilot, and then I kind of realized—oh, he’s not any of those things. He’d been screaming at me for so long that I kind of tuned him out, and then when I finally let him go he became this multifaceted character who had lost his father, and who was unsure of his future, and who wanted to do good, but he always seemed to do it wrong.

Nicole: I feel like a lot of modern media—even with all of the steps we’ve made in positive queer representation—still tend to box queer characters into this corner if being That One Thing and not a multifaceted character, especially when written by straight authors. It’s one of the things I love about reading queer SFF—and, of course, fanfiction, which fixes many of the limitations of traditional media.

Ashley: That is really true—and even as a queer woman myself I started to box my characters into one archetype or another. I think, to be honest, it’s a lazy way to earn cookie points. You can have queer rep! But they’re only ONE thing! And it’s fine. I mean, it’s fine. But there came a point in writing Heart of Iron where it wasn’t fine anymore for me. I’ve been writing this book for six years, and during those six years I grew as a person and came into myself, and you can see that through the drafts. Also, I have to add that while I’m a queer woman, I don’t assume to know the trials and tribulations of gay male characters. I had sensitivity readers on Robb and Jax, and their story isn’t about their gayness. That isn’t my story to write. They’re characters who are gay in Heart of Iron—and definitely not the only ones—but their story isn’t about their gayness.

Nicole: And the world of Heart of Iron isn’t one that fixates on their gayness, either. It’s populated by queer characters. Which brings me to my non-robotic favorite character. You know her. You love her. Captain Siege.

Ashley: THE CAPTAIN’S IN THE HOUSSSEEE. I love Captain Siege. And her wife.

Nicole: And her wife Talle! They both play hugely important roles in Heart of Iron, both as Ana’s family unit and as rational heads in a time where all of our POV characters are under extreme emotional duress. How much can you talk about them without completely spoiling your (just-announced!) second book?

Ashley: Well, I can definitely say they’ve seen their fair share of OH MY GODDESS THE WORLD IS ENDING moments, so nothing really surprises them anymore. There will be a lot more about Siege and Talle’s past, how they met, and how that factors into some of the bigger revelations in Heart of Iron.

Nicole: I love nothing more than queer pirate girls.

Ashley: Me, too. I love stories with kickass queer female role models for the main characters. I think that’s important—especially in YA where parents are either dead, MIA, or just not written on the page.

Nicole: That age-old trope—in both anime and YA—really open up the opportunity for teens to explore. It’s much easier without formal adult supervision around. Though Siege does try to reign Ana’s overzealous nature in where she can.

Ashley: Note: she tries. Ana’s like a bottle rocket—she’s going to fly off somewhere, it’s just a matter of where, and there’s no stopping her. I did an event the other day where I had to sort Ana into a Hogwarts House, and I instantly said Gryffindor, but then a friend shouted Slytherin and I was like… OH. She kind of embodies both? She turns, really, from one to the other.

Nicole: Her loyalty to Di could be argued as either a Gryffindor or Slytherin trait—though I think she reveals her true colors as to which House she would belong to as Heart of Iron comes to a close.

Ashley: Yeah, she goes full Hufflepuff—JUST KIDDING. Di’s the only Hufflepuff. Bless him.

Nicole: You mentioned at your launch party that Di is the character you found easiest to write, and I know you put a bit of yourself in Ana as well, though it’s not officially canon in Heart of Iron, in terms of your own queer identity.

Ashley: Well, if we’re talking about things not “officially being canon” then neither Siege nor Talle nor Robb nor Jax are “canon” because they don’t officially state, “HEY, I’M GAY!”

Nicole: Though I would love to see a rainbow flag flown outside the spaceship.

Ashley: HA! Jax would be in charge of the glitter because he’d just like to ruin everyone else’s day. But yeah, the terms for gay/straight/ace don’t exist in the world of Heart of Iron, because there was never a need to put a word to it. I wanted to imagine a world where that was never an issue, where religious reasons didn’t dictate whether you could marry or love someone of the same sex. I guess that’s wish fulfillment on my end, but I think that’s why I love fiction. You can always write the what-ifs, and impossible things are no longer really that impossible.

Nicole: I think that, when using labels in speculative fiction, it can become complicated. You don’t want sexualities to be erased, which is one of my biggest fears when it comes to aces in fantasy—it’s so easy to ignore a character coded as ace as a “shy straight person,” whatever that means—but that wish fulfillment can be incredibly satisfying and allow further headcanons to be developed, especially when you’re like me and think romantic identity is just a series of question marks because gender and sexuality have no impact on who I fall for.

Ashley: Exactly, and one thing I had to wrestle with in writing Heart of Iron. If you don’t say it, or explicitly talk about it, does it exist in speculative fiction? And then there is author intention vs. execution, and I think this is a good place to segue back to Ana’s identity. I, for the most part, fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum. And I wrote Ana to fall somewhere on there, too. (“But Ashley!” someone is bound to say—and this isn’t a spoiler—“There’s kissing!” to which I want to remind everyone that just because you identify as asexual doesn’t mean you are banned from kissing people.)

Nicole: I’m on the ace spectrum and I love kissing and cuddling.

Ashley: Same! I love kissing, and I love holding hands, and being close to someone, and Ana does that a lot. And for me, that was the only way I knew how to put a little of myself into Ana. How I could show her sexuality like I did for Robb and Jax, Siege and Talle. For me, at least, just to see a character love someone so deeply, without some of the more sexual attractions, was important. That was really, really important to me.

Nicole: All of these relationships—Ana and Di, Jax and Robb, Siege and Talle, me and resident can-opener robot E0S—shape the world of Heart of Iron. What fictional relationships shaped your own writing? Oh, yes. We’re talking ships.

Ashley: THERE ARE A LOT OF SHIPS. I am from the land of fandom and fanfics. I love characters with interesting dynamics—I think they make the strongest OTPs, to be honest. And most of my strongest OTPs are not sexually-charged in nature, but come from a place of snarky quips and electric conversation. (Oh hi baby queer Ash, here’s your clue.) Artemis Fowl and Holly Short, for instance, and Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. I also really love some non-canon OTPs, too. Yuugi and Yami Yuugi from Yu-Gi-Oh!; Hermione and her own ambition, because we know she wouldn’t settle; Rei and Makoto in Sailor Moon

Nicole: Oh, Artemis and Holly! One of our first bonding moments as friends was our mutual love of those two—and you and I have similar preferences with romantic non-sexually-charged ships. Let’s wrap this interview up before we write an entire essay: is there anything else you want folks to know about Heart of Iron?

Ashley: Ha! Hmmm, well, let’s see. Heart of Iron is a story about a lost royal princess—yes, that’s true. There’s no disguising that, really (ha!). I never went into Heart of Iron hoping to rewrite the trope. Some people will like it, and some people won’t, and that’s with anything you read, you know? I guess what I’m saying is, I wrote Heart of Iron to explore the characters within the story—Ana and Di and Robb and Jax—and how they interact. I wanted to tell a story of characters coming together, of their complex relationships, of being the good you wish to see in the world, and of being frightened to be that good sometimes. I wanted to write a story about home—about the people that make it, and the people you have to leave behind to find it, and I hope you find your home, too, in the Iron Kingdom.

Heart of Iron is available now. Buy the book from Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Book Depository. To learn more about the book, visit Ashley’s website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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Nicole Brinkley has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is an independent bookseller and blogger found most often at YA Interrobang and the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog. Like what she does? Follow her on Twitter or Instagram and support her on Patreon.

New Release Spotlight: All Out ed. by Saundra Mitchell

All historical, all queer, all out! This new anthology, edited by Saundra Mitchell, just released from Harlequin Teen and contains a host of queer historical stories by so many faves! (And also me!) Thankfully, many of those faves agreed to share a little about their stories here, so check it out, make good use of those buy links, and enjoy!

(Photographs are mine.)

35140599Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Powell’s * Book Depository

I’m delighted to have a number of the contributors sharing a bit about their stories!

Anna-Marie McLemore, “Roja”

“Roja” began as a reimagining of the story of Leonarda Emilia, better known as La Carambada, the legendary Mexican outlaw who flashed her breasts at the rich men she robbed, so they would know without a doubt that they’d been bested by a woman. But along the way, my imagining of La Carambada wandered, as my stories often do, into the realm of fairy tale. My Emilia became a Mexican version of Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf emerged as a transgender French soldier who garners his own fierce reputation. The forbidding woods became the hills of Mexico in the 1870s, a country in the aftermath of a brutal war.

Maybe the Frenchman the real Leonarda Emilia loved wasn’t a transgender soldier. Maybe most people don’t think of a Mexican girl when they imagine Little Red Riding Hood. But for the time it took me to write “Roja,” I got to imagine both Red and La Carambada as both queer and Latina. Writing “Roja” made these stories feel like they belonged to girls like me.

Natalie C. Parker, “The Sweet Trade”

I am a life-long fan of pirate stories, historical and fictional. As a kid, I believed that the only people who became pirates were boys and men. This was certainly what I’d learned from history—Blackbeard and Calico Jack—and definitely what was reflected in fiction—Long John Silver and Captain Hook. When I finally discovered that girls and women were also a part of the historical narrative (Anne Bonny! Madame Cheng!), I immediately wanted to find their reflection in fiction. They are there, but those who land in the adventure tend to find themselves sidetracked to the adventures of boys and are rarely queer in any way.

I wrote “The Sweet Trade” because I wanted to see queer girls choosing adventure and choosing each other. I wanted to explore the origin story of two girls breaking away from the expectations of others and striking out on their own. In that way, it’s sort of a pre-pirate story, the opening gambit in what will surely be a grand adventure.

Nilah Magruder, “And They Don’t Kiss at the End”

It’s all in the title, really. I wrote “And They Don’t Kiss at the End” because I needed a story with no kissing. Romance and sex always made me a little uncomfortable, not just in practice, but in theory. I ran from declarations of love and admiration from friends. I scrunched my face and turned away when the guy got the girl in movies. I thought I was a “late bloomer” when this aversion persisted into adulthood. I kept waiting to meet “the one” to cure my indifference, and they never came. This story is an exploration of asexuality in the 1970’s, at a time when terminology to describe asexuality was still being formed. It was a chance for me to imagine different choices than the ones I made in my youth. Getting to gush about Pride & Prejudice with roller skating as a backdrop was also a plus.

Dahlia Adler, “Molly’s Lips”

Kurt Cobain’s shirt worn in the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit, photographed at the Experience Music Project in Seattle

I used to fear writing short stories because I didn’t know how to make them feel like a complete story without death. I’ve grown since then, but death is still very much present in “Molly’s Lips”— specifically, that of Kurt Cobain, deceased frontman of my favorite band, Nirvana; the story is set at his big vigil in Seattle on April 10, two days after his body was found. And it isn’t about girls falling in love; they’ve already fallen. It’s about finding the voice, the confidence, the words to share those feelings, and the bravery they were given by someone who had the courage to push back against bigotry in his fandom. It’s also a love story with its own built-in soundtrack; what could be better than that?

Mackenzi Lee, “Burnt Umber”

My family is from the Netherlands–my dad grew up in a Dutch farming community in Iowa, my last name (which is not Lee) is very long and starts with a Van, and I have a fondness for all poetry from Delft. When this anthology invitation came my way, I was about to go to Amsterdam to research a different writing project. While there, my already-existing fascination with Dutch art from the Golden Age became an obsession. I wanted to know all about painting, why these paintings existed, what it took to become a master painter and the commodification surrounding art and masterpieces. Art that, in its day was considered commercial trash is now hanging in galleries people from all over the world visit. It was all a lot of information that had no place in the book about flowers I was researching, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to use it. But when I visited Rembrandt’s studio in Holland, I knew I wanted to write something set in the Dutch art world and this story was a perfect opportunity.

The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

One of my favorite things to do in my writing is take the tropes of historical or genre narratives and give them to queer characters. This story is “draw me like one of your French girls” from Titanic. It’s Girl with the Pearl Earring. It’s the Vincent Van Gogh episode of Dr. Who. But it’s two boys, an artist’s studio, a significant lack of clothing, and a whole lot of awkward teenage crush.

Alex Sanchez, “The Secret Life of the Teenage Boy”

“The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy” takes place in 1969, when I was a teen bursting with romantic yearning. Although I was aware of my attraction toward other boys, I had no positive words to put to those intimate feelings—only negative slurs. People rarely spoke openly or honestly about sex. Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. Acting on it was a criminal offense. I didn’t know of any openly gay people. The term “gay” had barely even come into use. In my teenage isolation, I fantasized for hours about a strong handsome young guy who would swoop into my life and carry me away to a place where we could be free to love each other. This story is a reminiscence of what it was like to live in that time and place, yearning for a life and a world that would take years to come.

Kate Scelsa, “The Coven”

Since I started working on my theater company’s adaptation of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” back in 2010, I’ve done a lot of reading about Hemingway and his peers in Paris in the 20’s, and something that’s always fascinated me was Hemingway’s relationship with Gertrude Stein and this whole community of lesbians that he used to hang out with. The vision of Gertrude Stein as a kind of den mother has always appealed to me, so I wanted to give her that role with two young women who were still figuring out who they were to each other. And then of course Hemingway himself needed to make an appearance. And, yes, there are witches.

Tess Sharpe, “The Girl With the Blue Lantern”

I grew up in Gold Rush country, in the shadow of a mountain that has many stories and myths attached to it. I also grew up writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy instead of the contemporary mysteries and thrillers I write now, so being able to create a historical fantasy piece was a special treat.

People still make a living pulling gold from the water and dirt in my childhood county. I’ve panned little flakes and tiny nuggets out of the creek that snakes through our homestead myself. Gold has been a strong motivator for many things throughout our history: war, destruction, greed, murder, exploitation, exploration, colonization.

But in “The Girl with the Blue Lantern,” gold leads us to a very different place: love. A story of escape and acceptance, of gold sprites, and of one very silly dog named Virgil.

Kody Keplinger, “Walking After Midnight”

Walking After Midnight” is, at it’s core, a love letter to the trope of “two strangers meet and walk around talking all night.” I’m a sucker for stories like Before Sunrise, and I thought it would be fun to explore that sort of narrative between two young queer women. Betsey is an actress who hasn’t quite made the leap from child star to leading lady the way someone like Elizabeth Taylor did. Laura is a waitress at her family’s diner and isn’t sure she’ll ever escape her small town. I loved exploring these girls’ opposing situations, their hopes and fears. And getting to write about Betsey, whom I’d describe as gray-asexual, was a joy.  Plus, I mean, I got to use all the things I’ve learned from the You Must Remember This podcast to good use!

Tessa Gratton, “Three Witches”

As a queer “recovering” Catholic and occasionally practicing witch, I’ve for years been aware of the threads of desire that can be found in medieval Catholic writing. Usually it’s desire for heaven or Christ’s touch, especially to the nuns considered to be “married” to Christ, but often this desire surpasses the flesh in queer ways, especially in the writings of the female mystics like St. Teresa of Avila. In “Three Witches” I wanted to explore the desire embedded in the prayers and explorations of medieval nuns, as well as the inherent conflict between desire and purity in the imagery and words associated with the Virgin Mary. The Inquisition was the strongest political force in Spain during the 15th century, hunting predominantly Jewish people and Muslims, but also available to excise anything unwanted from the Church. Including “unnatural” desire.

That’s all to say: I wanted to write a sexy, difficult story about two girls falling in love (and in lust) while grappling with what they’re told they should desire. And I wanted to write about witches. 

Sara Farizan, “The End of the World as We Know It”

I know 1999 is a year that should not belong in a historical fiction anthology, but it was almost twenty years ago!  I wanted to write a story that took place at the end of the twentieth century and encapsulated some of the hopes and fears people had going into the new century. Ezgi and Katie, two life- long best friends who have a strained relationship, also have their own hopes and fears for the future that come to light on New Year’s Eve while watching MTV’s countdown to midnight. When you think the world might come to an end, and tomorrow might mean the end of civilization as you know it (Y2K, man. What a trip), you have to hold on to the people you care about most, no matter how scary or daunting that may seem.

Shaun David Hutchinson, “The Inferno and the Butterfly”

I love magic. And what’s more magical than finding love in an unexpected place? “The Inferno and the Butterfly” was a story I’ve been dying to tell. I’ve always been fascinated by stage magicians, and though Alfie and Wilhelm might be the assistants, they’re the ones performing the real magic.

New Release Spotlight: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

A biromantic ace heroine! A YA set in college! Excellent rep! THAT COVER!!! Due to a recent move, all my books are packed up and I haven’t read this one yet, but the raves have been so overwhelming that I know it needs to be your next read and mine!

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Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

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

New Release Spotlight: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

A big ol’ fuck you to “inspiration porn” with an asexual protagonist who’s still unclear where she lands on the romantic spectrum while also grieving the loss of her best friend in their creepy Alaskan town. I love this book. A lot. You should read it.

Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter…

Sourcebooks Amazon US Booktopia
IndieBound Amazon UK iTunes
Barnes & Noble The Book Depository Target