It’s a fabulous year for YA authors shifting over to Adult Romance, and if you’re as excited as I am about Claire Kann being one of the writers to make the shift, then just wait until you see this cover. The Romantic Agenda releases from Berkley on April 12, 2022, and here’s the story:
Thirty, flirty, and asexual Joy is secretly in love with her best friend Malcolm, but she’s never been brave enough to say so. When he unexpectedly announces that he’s met the love of his life—and no, it’s not Joy—she’s heartbroken. Malcolm invites her on a weekend getaway, and Joy decides it’s her last chance to show him exactly what he’s overlooking. But maybe Joy is the one missing something…or someone…and his name is Fox.
Fox sees a kindred spirit in Joy—and decides to help her. He proposes they pretend to fall for each other on the weekend trip to make Malcolm jealous. But spending time with Fox shows Joy what it’s like to not be the third wheel, and there’s no mistaking the way he makes her feel. Could Fox be the romantic partner she’s always deserved?
And here’s the gorgeous cover with art by Alex Cabal and design by Rita Frangie!
Claire Kann is the author of Let’s Talk About Love, If It Makes You Happy, The Marvelous and an award-winning online storyteller. In her other life she works for a non-profit you may have heard of where she daydreams like she’s paid to do it.
Today on the site I’m delighted to be revealing the cover of The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong, a found family story with an asexual protagonist releasing from Angry Robot on March 8, 2022! Here’s the story:
A circus takes down a crime-boss on the galaxy’s infamous pleasure moon!
Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon where everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job, and when the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him or face vivisection.
With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down. And if Jes can also avoid going back to being the prize subject of a scientist who can’t wait to dissect him? Even better.
And here’s the incandescent cover, designed by Kieryn Tyler!
Khan Wong has published poetry, played cello in an earnest folk-rock duo, and been an internationally known hula hoop teacher and performer. He’s toured with a circus and produced circus arts shows in San Francisco, where he also worked as a grantmaker with a public sector arts funding agency.
“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.
This edition is dedicated to YA Fantasy with bi protags, with a bonus of three of them also having POV characters on the ace spectrum. As ever in this series, this fact isn’t shown on the cover or in the copy, so those who need safer choices to bring home can rely on these for the quietly queer content you need.
Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria – A personal favorite, this fantasy’s got you hooked alllll the way up: gay, bi, and ace protags make up 3/4 of the cast, including a very cute m/m relationship. Great choice if you’re a fan of “friends on a quest”-type fantasy.
The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke – This is, as the blurb suggests, a sibling-centric Historical Fantasy…but those siblings happen to consist of a bi girl and a demisexual boy in love with his (male) best friend. Great for Jewish rep, too!
Scavenge the Starsby Tara Sim– a demisexual girl and bisexual boy anchor this fantasy adventure take on The Count of Monte Cristo!
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – or, in five words, Bi Brooklyn Bruja in Wonderland! Yes, it looks extremely heterosexual from the blurb, which works very nicely in our favor, because it is not.
It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts – here for your Queer MC at Magic School needs, this standalone stars bisexual Alka Chelrazi as she infiltrates a prestigious academy to get her revenge. My official blurb: “An addictive and invigorating tale of romance, revenge, and rebellion. Alka Chelrazi is a heroine I’d gladly follow to the ends of the earth.”
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust – What luck that maybe my favorite YA standalone fantasy also happens to be a bisexual f/f YA? Based on Persian mythology and exploring monstrousness in the most glorious way, I cannot advocate harder for adding this one to your shelf. (Bookshop) – reposted from Under the Gaydar: F/F YA Fantasy
The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine – This book about a girl who’s supposed to become a queen with massive powers and then just …doesn’t is pretty epic on its own, but the main character is also quite besotted with her handmaiden. As per usual in Fantasy, the word “bisexual” isn’t used, but the differentiation of her feelings from simply being friendly is done clearly, and the guy she ends up with never feels like a romance she settled for. It’s followed by The Cursed Queen, which is also bi, but f/f, and caps off with The True Queen, which brings together the MCs of the first two books. – paraphrased from Under the Gaydar: YA Fantasy Worlds
Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – Yup, we’re gonna open and close with the same author, because why not! Dragons! Sisters, one of whom is bisexual! Honestly, what more do you need?
Today on the site, I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of Skye Quinlan’s debut, Forward March, which releases from Page Street on February 1, 2022 and promises to the band geek ace YA of all of our dreams! Take a look:
All Harper McKinley wants is for her dad’s presidential campaign to not interfere with her senior marching band season.
But Harper’s world gets upended when the drumline’s punk-rock section leader, Margot Blanchard, tries to reject her one day after practice. Someone pretending to be Harper on Tinder catfished Margot for a month and now she’s determined to get to know the real Harper.
But the real Harper has a homophobic mother who’s the dean and a father who is running for president on the Republican ticket. With the election at stake, neither of them are happy about Harper’s new friendship with out-and-proud Margot.
As the election draws closer, Harper is forced to figure out if she even likes girls, if she might be asexual, and if it’s worth coming out at all.
And now feast your eyes on the festive cover, designed by Laura Benton and illustrated by Alex Cabal!
Can’t wait until February? Good news! We’ve got an excerpt right here, so check it out!
Unless you want your instrumental section to shun you for the entire season, you never start a story with, “This one time at band camp.” It’s an official rule of marching band, one that’s been carved into the missing door of the tuba locker, somewhere between “tie your shoes” and “keep your eyes on the field commander.”
But the door isn’t actually missing from the locker. Mrs. Devereaux ripped it from the hinges after Natalie Portman—no, not that Natalie Portman—had been caught having sex with her boyfriend inside. I still don’t know how they’d fit, even after Nadia and I squeeze inside to test our latest theory.
“Obviously, they took out the tubas.” Nadia’s great at stating the obvious. It’s one of the things I love most about her. What I don’t love is her elbow currently wedged between my ribs. She’s standing on top of a muddy tuba case, her forehead against my temple to avoid hitting the shelf above our heads, the bottom of which is covered in wads of old, still-tacky bubblegum. “But Matt is tall, and Natalie has a bad knee. Maybe they did it on the floor?”
“I don’t know.” I shove my hands against Nadia’s boney shoulders, her bronze skin slick with a sheen of sweat from rehearsal.
“But I’m pretty sure there’s gum in my hair, and I think I smell mold in here.” I tilt my head forward, and my hair snags on some- thing that feels gross and sticky and that I might have to cut out of my curls later. With my back pressed into the far corner of the locker, Nadia pushes against my front, her knee digging painfully into my hip. “No one’s cleaned this locker out for months,” I say glumly. My hair snags again, and I groan; this is why gum is illegal in the band room. “Not since Natalie tainted it. Let me out before I die of something worse than suffocation.”
Nadia snorts and sprays my cheek with spit. Her dark eyes gleam a golden brown like the polished brass of her trumpet, except maybe with a touch more deviance. She’s kissed a few boys in here, too, but she swears that the mechanics are different. I’ve never cared enough to ask how, and I still don’t know why Nadia brought me in here. Bellamy or Evelyn would’ve done this with far more enthusiasm. “Natalie wasn’t the first to get laid in here, you know.”
“No,” I say dryly, wiping off my cheek. “But she’s pregnant and people think it’s cursed.”
“It’s not cursed, Harper, for God’s sake. Natalie poked a hole in the condom.”
Tomayto, tomahto, who cares? I don’t want to be in this locker.
I twist my hips and force Nadia off the tuba case. She slides down with a grumble of protest, then stands in the doorway and narrows her eyes, pondering a new theory. “Let me out, Nadia. It’s hot, you’re sweaty, and I feel gross. I want to take a shower while there’s still hot water in the bathroom, preferably before the color guard takes it over. The mystery of the sex-locker can wait.”
Nadia hops out of the locker and stumbles over a flip-folder with sheet music from next week’s halftime show. She kicks it aside, knowing I’ll slip on the folder’s plastic pages and break my neck if she leaves it there. “Shower after dinner,” Nadia says. As soon as I’m free from the locker, she loops her arm through my elbow. “You promised to help me clean the dorm, and I won’t let you weasel your way out of it again.”
Our dorm is on the south side of campus, tucked behind the empty field where the band practices every afternoon. It isn’t messy, per se; Nadia’s half of our shared bedroom is spotless, not a book out of place or even a shoe left out on the floor. She likes it that way, the sparkling cleanliness that makes my skin crawl. I thrive in the organized chaos that’s my half, my clothes and books and a pencil or three scattered across the stained beige carpet. Everything I have has a place, on the floor, beneath my bed, or on the rotting window- sill, but at least I know where everything is. As organized as Nadia might be, she can never find anything she’s looking for.
And if there’s a week-old slice of pizza that’s still sitting out on my desk, well . . . it’s entirely Nadia’s fault. She shouldn’t have Door-Dashed pizza last weekend.
“The room is starting to smell, and I don’t know how you can even tolerate it with your asthma. Honestly, Harp, you have no self-preservation. If not for me, you’d be—”
Dead. I don’t need the reminder.
If not for Nadia Juliette, I would have died last spring when our boarding school’s cafeteria served seafood for the first time. On top of forgetting both my allergy to fish and my EpiPen, I’d for- gotten to make sure that a piece of shrimp hadn’t swum onto my plate by accident. Nadia had stabbed me in the leg with one of the extra pens she keeps stashed in her backpack for emergencies, hard enough to leave a bruise that lasted for weeks. She never lets me forget it, though it’s usually more of a reminder for me to take care of myself than it is for her to boast about having saved me. It depends on her mood that day.
She has one of my emergency inhalers, too, stuffed into the spe- cial “Harper Bag” she’d made for her backpack after I’d collapsed during band camp sophomore year.
I wouldn’t say I’m forgetful, but Nadia begs to differ. Things just slip my mind.
“Can we not talk about how much I suck at being a human?” I ask, shoving open the back doors of the band room.
A warm blast of stifling, end-of-summer air heats my sun-burnt skin. I breathe in deep and can smell the rain on the wind, can feel the sticky mugginess that plays hell with my lungs and makes my shirt cling to all the wrong parts of me. “Is it supposed to storm tonight?”
The clouds above are an ominous gray and rumble low in answer. Nadia’s smile is sympathetic. “We can blast Demi Lovato if you want?”
“I knew there was a reason we still live together.”
Nadia and I have been rooming together since we were seven, when my mom became the dean of Golden Oaks Academy and Nadia’s father uprooted their family from Indonesia for better job opportunities. We transferred late in the semester, and since there hadn’t been anywhere else to put us, they shoved us both into the smallest room in the dormitories. It was either that or a broom closet. We’ve come a long way since then—now we have the second smallest room on campus. Mom keeps offering to place us in one of the empty suites in the faculty building, but I don’t want any special treatment. Being her daughter already makes me the school pariah. Besides, no one wants to live with their teachers, and Nadia and I have a good system: I keep my chaos contained to my side of the room, and Nadia won’t smother me in my sleep. It works best with a limited amount of space for me to dirty up.
Beyond the faculty parking lot that stretches like an inky sea of black, blistering pavement, our sprawling green practice field is a flurry of stick-spinning motion. The drumline always stays late after rehearsal to practice their crappy cadences. They draw in crowds from all over campus, mostly upperclassmen who clap and cheer and stomp their feet in sync with the snares and bass drums. They’ll beat on their drums for hours, crashing their cymbals until my skull is splitting and I hide beneath a pillow to escape it.
Drums are my absolute least favorite instrument. They’re loud, and our drumline sucks.
Nadia and I trudge through the muddy grass, the blades tram- pled flat from the day’s long hours of high-stepping. The yard lines, painted fresh every morning, are nearly gone from the abuse of slides and crab-walks. They’ll disappear entirely if it rains tonight. But the lines that mark out the end zones are still clear, and the drumline has gathered in the nearest one in a circle. Stick a penta- gram in the middle and they’re a cult.
“Drummers,” Nadia scoffs, the word like acid on her tongue. She tugs on my arm and we give them a wide berth on our way back to the dorm. Zander Bryant purposely beats his mallet through the warped head of his bass drum and cackles. “I can’t believe I dated one freshman year. It’s like all they care about are sticks and mallets and banging on a drum until it breaks.”
I stifle a snort behind my fingers. She says it loud enough that they probably hear her. “That’s not nice, Nadia. That’s like saying that all trumpets are obnoxious and only care about blasting their horns in people’s ears.”
“We are obnoxious, and it’s not my fault that trumpets are naturally loud.”
She’s not even the slightest bit wrong; I’ve never met a trumpeter who wasn’t full of themselves. “Truer words have never been spoken.” Nadia bumps my shoulder and grins at me, her lip gloss from this morning still shining. Or maybe she put more on. She keeps a mirror in her trumpet case. “What do you think they say about people who play the saxophone?” she asks.
My freckled shoulders are the color of a lobster left in the sun for too long, properly baked and overdone. Shrugging them at Nadia makes me wish she had some aloe in the drawstring bag she carries around with her everywhere. “We’re wise.”
Nadia’s hoot of laughter cleaves through the field, and I pretend not to notice the heads that swivel in our direction. “Have you met Michael Briggs? That is absolutely not true.”
“Hey, McKinley! Wait up!”
I whirl around on my heels, a quick “to the rear,” like the call of my name is a command given by Mrs. Devereaux. My shoes twist into the mud with a gross squelching sound, and Nadia squeals as I wrench her around with me. “Christ, Harper, a little warning would be nice!”
A snare drum and harness thud into the grass from inside the drumline’s circle, splattering mud on a set of sparkling blue tenors. A pair of multicolored sticks clack against the snare’s silver rim, and discontent ripples through the drumline in the form of cursing and groans.
Margot Blanchard squeezes between two bass drums, phone in hand as she jogs toward Nadia and me. I don’t have the slight- est idea why Margot would ever want to talk to me, though the drumline doesn’t need her, not with ten other drummers still harnessing their snares. But as their fiery section leader, she’s the only one among them who can keep a steady beat while screaming at the football team on game nights.
I’ve never spoken to her before. Margot transferred here from Canada in the eighth grade because her dad is the ambassador for the Canadian embassy in D.C. I’ve seen them together at fund- raisers, but in the great wide world of politics, my dad doesn’t like Margot’s dad because, apparently, he’s “too damn liberal.”
Nadia raises an eyebrow and nudges me with her elbow. “How do you know Margot?”
“I don’t.” I smile nervously and raise my hand in greeting. “Hi, Margot.”
“Hey.” Margot stops in front of me. She rolls her shoulders and stretches her arms until her spine cracks like a glow stick. Snares are heavy and even though they’re padded, their harnesses look uncomfortable. As little as she is, I don’t know how Margot even carries one. “Look,” she begins, panting to catch her breath. Mar- got has a slight French accent, a pretty lilt I could listen to for days if she were anyone else. “I know that we, uh, don’t really know each other, but . . . do you think we could talk? Just for a minute. It’s important. If you’re busy, I won’t keep you, but we really need to talk.”
I tilt my head and take this opportunity to stare at her. Margot will have to take it out once classes start, but she’s biting on the back of the silver stud pierced through her thin bottom lip. “Talk about what?”
Margot glances at Nadia and shifts her feet in the mud. “Do you mind if we talk alone?”
Nadia bristles, crossing her arms and puffing out her chest like a bird whose feathers have been ruffled. “Anything you want to tell Harper, you can tell me, too. We live together, and I’ll find out anyway.”
“She’s right,” I warn, not unkindly. There’s nothing I keep from Nadia. “What’s up?”
Her sigh is more annoyed than resigned, as if we’ve given her the runaround. Margot drums her fingers against the back of her phone, and I notice her nails are painted black. “Look,” she says again. She turns to face me and ignores Nadia entirely. “I really appreciate that you think my hair is cool and that I rock some lesbian aesthetic, or whatever, but we are never going to work. I’m sorry.”
It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard because it’s something I would never say, especially to Margot Blanchard.
My eyes instinctually dart to the top of her head.
Margot’s curly black hair is shaved on the sides and longer on top than in the back. It compliments her golden-brown skin, the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and the beauty mark that’s just above her lip. But the longer I look at Margot, the more I realize she’s a walking dress-code violation. Her tattered black shorts are nowhere near the required length of just above the knee. She’s wearing a loose-fitting tank top with some weird indie band logo across the front, one that’s dingy and sweaty and shows off the straps of her bra, and an old red flannel is tied around her waist by the sleeves.
I guess she is some kind of punkish, lesbian stereotype; every- one knows that Margot likes girls. We’ve all seen her kiss plenty at football games. But I’ve never spoken to her before now, and I’ve definitely never told her that I like her hair or her aesthetic. I do kind of like her combat boots, though. They’re cute.
“What on earth are you talking about?”
Margot has the nerve to look guilty, her mouth pinching at the corners. “You’re funny, Harper, and I like talking to you about books. But I think it’s best for both of us if we stop this whole thing right now. I’m moving back to Canada once we graduate, you know? I don’t want to be tied down.”
Nadia’s suspicion is palpable, as if she truly believes I’ve lied to her about knowing Margot. I can feel the heat of my best friend’s glare burning its way through my temple. “Stop what now?” I ask, absently picking at my fingernails. I tear at a cuticle until it bleeds, a nervous tick that I’ve been trying to break for years. “We’ve never even talked before today.”
Margot frowns and glances sidelong at Nadia. “We’ve talked every day for a month, Harper. Since the end of band camp. See, this is why I said we should talk alone, in case you were keeping this a secret. I’m not judging you; I know your dad’s a Republican or whatever, but—”
“Keeping what a secret?” My heart is beating in the back of my throat. I can hear my pulse roaring in my ears as if my head has been shoved underwater, Margot calling out to me from just above the surface with some outlandish accusation. It feels as if I’m being outed to Nadia when there’s nothing to actually “out” me for. I don’t know what Margot is talking about. “I don’t know who you think you’ve been talking to, Margot, but it’s not me. I didn’t even know you knew my name.”
Margot’s frown only deepens. It carves out the dimples in her cheeks. “You really have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
“Not a freakin’ clue.”
Margot unlocks her phone. She taps and scrolls with her thumb. “I’m on Tinder,” she says. I don’t point out the irony that she’s just told me she doesn’t want to be tied down. She turns her phone around to show me and Nadia the screen. It’s cracked. “And apparently it’s news to you, but you’re on Tinder, too.”
Obie knew his transition would have ripple effects. He has to leave his swim coach, his pool, and his best friends. But it’s time for Obie to find where he truly belongs.
As Obie dives into a new team, though, things are strange. Obie always felt at home in the water, but now he can’t get his old coach out of his head. Even worse are the bullies that wait in the locker room and on the pool deck. Luckily, Obie has family behind him. And maybe some new friends too, including Charlie, his first crush. Obie is ready to prove he can be one of the fastest boys in the water—to his coach, his critics, and his biggest competition: himself.
She can pry into folks’ memories with just a touch of their belongings. It’s something she’s always kept hidden — especially from her big, chaotic family. Their lives are already chock-full of worries about Daddy’s job and Mama’s blues without Tennie rocking the boat.
But when the Lancasters move to the mountains for a fresh start, Tennie’s gift does something new. Instead of just memories, her touch releases a ghost with a terrifying message: Trouble is coming. Tennie wants to ignore it. Except her new friend Fox — scratch that, her only friend, Fox — is desperate to go ghost hunting deep in the forest. And when Tennie frees even more of the spirits, trouble is exactly what she gets… and it hits close to home. The ghosts will be heard, and now Tennie must choose between keeping secrets or naming an ugly truth that could tear her family apart.
Magic and mayhem abound in this spooky story about family legacies, first friendships, and how facing the ghosts inside can sometimes mean stirring up a little bit of ruckus.
In Other Boys, debut author Damian Alexander delivers a moving middle grade graphic memoir about his struggles with bullying, the death of his mother, and coming out.
Damian is the new kid at school, and he has a foolproof plan to avoid the bullying that’s plagued him his whole childhood: he’s going to stop talking. Starting on the first day seventh grade, he won’t utter a word. If he keeps his mouth shut, the bullies will have nothing to tease him about―right?
But Damian’s vow of silence doesn’t work―his classmates can tell there’s something different about him. His family doesn’t look like the kind on TV: his mother is dead, his father is gone, and he’s being raised by his grandparents in a low-income household. And Damian does things that boys aren’t supposed do, like play with Barbies instead of GI Joe. Kids have teased him about this his whole life, especially other boys. But if boys can be so cruel, why does Damian have a crush on one?
San Francisco and Orangevale may be in the same state, but for Héctor Muñoz, they might as well be a million miles apart. Back home, being gay didn’t mean feeling different. At Héctor’s new school, he couldn’t feel more alone.
Most days, Héctor just wishes he could disappear. And he does. Right into the janitor’s closet. (Yes, he sees the irony.) But one day, when the door closes behind him, Héctor discovers he’s stumbled into a room that shouldn’t be possible. A room that connects him with two new friends from different corners of the country—and opens the door to a life-changing year full of magic, friendship, and adventure.
In a modern mega-city built around dragons, one boy gets caught up in the world of underground dragon battles and a high-stakes gang war that could tear his family apart.
Once, dragons nearly drove themselves to extinction. But in the city of Drakopolis, humans domesticated them centuries ago. Now dragons haul the city’s cargo, taxi its bustling people between skyscrapers, and advertise its wares in bright, neon displays. Most famously of all, the dragons battle. Different breeds take to the skies in nighttime bouts between the infamous kins―criminal gangs who rule through violence and intimidation.
Abel has always loved dragons, but after a disastrous showing in his dragon rider’s exam, he’s destined never to fly one himself. All that changes the night his sister appears at his window, entrusting him with a secret…and a stolen dragon.
Turns out, his big sister is a dragon thief! Too bad his older brother is a rising star in Drakopolis law enforcement…
To protect his friends and his family, Abel must partner with the stolen beast, riding in kin battles and keeping more secrets than a dragon has scales.
When everyone wants him fighting on their side, can Abel figure out what’s worth fighting for?
The first LGBTQ+ anthology for middle-graders featuring stories for every letter of the acronym, including realistic, fantasy, and sci-fi stories by authors like Justina Ireland, Marieke Nijkamp, Alex Gino, and more!
A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true–but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out.
From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQIA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories from authors including: Eric Bell, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Ashley Herring Blake, Lisa Bunker, Alex Gino, Justina Ireland, Shing Yin Khor, Katherine Locke, Mariama J. Lockington, Nicole Melleby, Marieke Nijkamp, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro, Molly Knox Ostertag, Aida Salazar, and AJ Sass.
Struggling with anxiety after witnessing a harrowing instance of gun violence, Manuel Soto copes through photography, using his cell-phone camera to find anchors that keep him grounded. His days are a lonely, latchkey monotony until he’s teamed with his classmates, Sebastian and Caysha, for a group project.
Sebastian lives on a grass-fed cattle farm outside of town, and Manuel finds solace in the open fields and in the antics of the newborn calf Sebastian is hand-raising. As Manuel aides his new friends in their preparations for the local county fair, he learns to open up, confronts his deepest fears, and even finds first love.
When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!
Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.
Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?
Born in Paris, Kentucky, and raised on her gram’s favorite country music, Cline Alden is a girl with big dreams and a heart full of song. When she finds out about a young musicians’ workshop a few towns over, Cline sweet-talks, saves, and maybe fibs her way into her first step toward musical stardom.
But her big dreams never prepared her for the butterflies she feels surrounded by so many other talented kids—especially Sylvie, who gives Cline the type of butterflies she’s only ever heard about in love songs.
As she learns to make music of her own, Cline begins to realize how much of herself she’s been holding back. But now, there’s a new song taking shape in her heart—if only she can find her voice and sing it.
Today on the site we’re welcoming Minerva Cerridwen, author of fantasy novella The Dragon of Ynys, “an inclusive fairytale for all ages” starring an aromantic asexual main character (and lesbian and trans side characters) which was rereleased this past September from Atthis Arts. Here’s the blurb:
Every time something goes missing from the village, Sir Violet, the local knight, makes his way to the dragon’s cave and negotiates the item’s return. It’s annoying, but at least the dragon is polite.
But when the dragon hoards a person, that’s a step too far. Sir Violet storms off to the mountainside to escort the baker home, only to find a more complex mystery—a quest that leads him far beyond the cave. Accompanied by the missing baker’s wife and the dragon himself, the dutiful village knight embarks on his greatest adventure yet.
The Dragon of Ynys is a fairy tale with an aromantic asexual main character, and lesbian and trans supporting characters. And, of course, a dragon!
The story was first published in 2018 with a different publishing house, which unfortunately went out of business last year. After the release of the 2018 edition, sensitivity issues were pointed out to me, mainly regarding trans representation. It was all too clear in the story that I had not completely figured out my genderqueer identity when I first wrote it. Having learned more about the depth of the story’s issues and about myself, I have worked with a new team of editors and sensitivity readers to improve the book before re-publication. The 2020 edition, now published with Atthis Arts, also has a new epilogue, and an afterword about the story’s (and my own) journey towards what it is now.
The Dragon of Ynys is innocent, very clear about the message it wants to send, and the novella-length plot is relatively simple.
You might conclude that sounds like a children’s book. Booksellers would definitely prefer if it was that easy to know on which shelf to put it. And sure, it is suited for children and middle-grade readers, but I think the story will speak to adults just as much. After all, the person for whom I wrote this in the first place was… me.
I was 25 when I wrote the first draft. I hadn’t discovered everything about myself and maybe I still haven’t now, at 29. I wrote the story that I needed to read, about acceptance—not only of others but also myself. Considering some of the phrases I had written into the first version, the tale couldn’t be clear enough in its messages.
When I’m not writing or drawing, I work as a pharmacist. Every day, I meet people who are quite a bit older than me, who share little parts of their worries and thoughts in the context of medical conversations. I hear people try desperately to conform to expectations without stopping to wonder if those things really are what they want to do with their lives. (Of course, sometimes they are, and society simply isn’t making it easy for everyone to achieve those goals.) Still, these chats often make me think that a lot of adults would benefit from reading a story that clearly shows the advantages of listening to different perspectives, to better understand others as well as to learn more about their own true selves. Hearing relatable stories can not only make us feel less alone, but also help us grow the confidence to allow others to get to know the real you. In turn, we learn to truly listen to what those new friends are telling us—and that’s the difficult part. Sometimes we need to challenge everything we’ve ever been taught in order to open our minds. This message of listening combined with acceptance is very present in The Dragon of Ynys.
Of course children’s books can be read and loved at any age—I certainly still enjoy them. But it wouldn’t feel right to me to name only younger readers as the intended audience for my fairy tale, because the adults who influenced me as a child would have needed to hear its messages in order to pass them on to me. Most (queer) people I know who are around my age experience moments of nostalgia where we grab a book that we wish we could have had as a child, or a teenager, or three years ago when we were struggling to make sense of our identity—because the media we had access to when we were younger did not contain any, or barely any, LGBTQIA+ representation, and even if the subject ever came up, the adults we knew might not have acknowledged that this could be us.
I hope that The Dragon of Ynys can be one of those moments of nostalgia and comfort for some of us. Obviously it’s more important that people can find support from their friends, family or community rather than from a book, but I am certain that there are sixty-, seventy-, eighty-year-olds in our current society who might benefit simply from reading that nothing is wrong with them. And it can inspire adults to be those supportive people to the children around them. That’s why it’s so important to me to present this story as a fairy tale for all ages. Really, all.
Minerva Cerridwen is a genderqueer aromantic asexual writer and pharmacist from Belgium. She enjoys baking, drawing and handlettering.
Since 2013 she has been writing for Paranatellonta, a project combining photography and flash fiction. Her first published work was the queer fairy tale ‘Match Sticks’ in the Unburied Fables anthology (2016). Her short stories have also appeared in Atthis Arts anthologies Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove (2019) and Community of Magic Pens (2020).
Today on the site, we’re excited to welcome Celine Frohn, editor of Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology, out now from Nyx Publishing! This speculative collection features a wide range of identities, including gay, lesbian, bi/pan, trans and non-binary, poly, and asexual characters. Check it out here and then learn a little more about the stories that make it up!
Unspeakable contains eighteen Gothic tales with uncanny twists and characters that creep under your skin. Its stories feature sapphic ghosts, terrifying creatures of the sea, and haunted houses concealing their own secrets. Whether you’re looking for your non-binary knight in shining armour or a poly family to murder with, Unspeakable showcases the best contemporary Gothic queer short fiction. Even dark tales deserve their time in the sun.
The anthology contains stories by Claire Hamilton Russell, Ally Kölzow, C. L., Lindsay King-Miller, Avery Kit Malone, Katalina Watt, Jude Reid, S.T. Gibson, Jenna MacDonald, Eliza Temple, Katie Young, Sam Hirst, Ryann Fletcher, Heather Valentine, Jen Glifort, E. Saxey, Anna Moon, and Mason Hawthorne.
The haunted house as a metaphor is something that fascinates me. In “Leadbitter House”, the house is a proxy for the protagonist’s body, the struggles he faces throughout the story reflect a number of struggles that are common to transgender experiences. Elijah is confronted over and over by people who believe that his house must be arranged or decorated or treated in the way that they expect it to be, rather than how Elijah needs it to be, or who express outright disgust at it. The use of body horror elements in this story is another part of the gender narrative that I explore through my work. Often, it isn’t until other people read my writing and say “wow that’s body horror!” that I realise what effect the scenes I develop might have for someone who is not in my head. I try to make the ostensibly gory, horrific elements more about connection and exploration of the body, about intimacy and anxiety connected to bodily experience, in a way that uses the uncanny to interrogate that which is often assumed to be familiar and ‘normal’.
But besides all that, sometimes organ removal is fun!
“Laguna and the Engkanto” by Katalina Watt
My story ‘Laguna and the Engkanto’ takes place on a fictional island called Avelina and is inspired by Filipino folklore, specifically the engkanto: a mythical spirit of the environment. The engkanto in my story is genderless and similar to a siren or mermaid, acting as a catalyst for and symbol of sexual awakening. Laguna begins the story with a fear of the sea, and as she becomes more in tune with herself and her body, this transforms into a longing for it.
I wanted to explore the idea of queerness within the prism of a society which is highly spiritual in both the religious and folkloric sense. The characters are living under the shadow of colonialism which has brought, among other things, these new religious ideologies. Within this society and particularly for a young woman, the engkanto represents both sexual agency but also transgressive pleasure, and I wanted to play with the concept of queerness as it relates to these intersections within a culture.
“Brideprice” by S.T. Gibson
“Brideprice” is my love letter to the vampire novels and action fantasy movies like Van Helsing that got me through my teens. When I was first coming to terms with my own bisexuality, my desires felt monstrous, so stories of ravenous supernatural creatures pining away after maidens soothed me. I was enamored by the capricious, sensual, mysterious brides of D, who struck me as the perfect mix of maiden and monster, seducer and seducee. I wrote “Brideprice” to give them their own narrative voices, and to play up the queerness inherent in the source text. This undying family is re-imagined as a polyamorous unit of cis and trans men and women who simultaneously desire one another and compete with one another for power.
The Dracula myth is generally told from his perspective, or the perspective of his victims, but not the brides. “Brideprice” is my attempt to give agency back to the brides. This is why Dracula rarely speaks in the story and only exists filtered through the brides’ memories: he’s just the catalyst for their leap into immortality. Whether they’re trying to escape violence, bigotry, or poverty, he’s their dark door into a new world, but they’re the ones seizing agency and making that final choice.
“Homesick” by Sam Hirst
Writing has always been a means of exploring and expressing myself from those early days of pre-teen poetry with its paeans to blonde beauties right through the angsty self-repressing tragedies of my teens littered with sapphic ladies dying to save their beloved. Emerging from years of denial about who I was and ignorance about the words that existed to describe myself – asexual, sapphic, queer… I turned to writing to work out my confusions before I even knew what they were. And that’s where ‘Homesick’ comes from. It mixes the Gothic elements I’ve always loved – ghosts – and one of the intriguing riddles associated with – how the afterlife actually works – with an exploration of queer identity that I’ve often felt didn’t fit in any of the existing categories. Ghosts allow you to move away from the physical. Sexual attraction disappears from the world of my story, the way it is absent from my own life. Exploring life after death allowed me to imagine a world lived within sight of your past but not bound or determined by it. My ghosts are homesick because they haven’t found a home yet and my story is about them finding their way there – to the place and the people they belong with. In writing this story, I followed Marion and Sanan through a Gothic world that they made beautiful. It’s a story of hope in the end and I hope people read it that way.
“Lady of Letters; or, the Twenty-First Century Homunculus” by Heather Valentine
Lady of Letters came from an idea I’d been toying around with for a while about fake profiles and alternate accounts in the mid-2000s era of early social media. I’d played a few games that were either set in that era or touched on the ideas I was interested in – Cibele takes place in a fake MMORPG, and spoke to my experiences of playing Phantasy Star Universe while having arguments with my soon-to-be-ex high school boyfriend in the private chat; and Simulacra takes the idea of the sentient profile in a far more cosmic horror direction.
Seeing the call for stories for Unspeakable, I realised that the key to exploring these ideas on the page was the Gothic. Taking the genre’s sometimes-features of narratives framed through letters and recordings; the all-encompassing emotions its heightened settings allow its protagonists to have without that teenage shame of feeling too much; the idea of a ghostly romance, but making the spectre a digital one.
I think the way that classic Gothic writing explores and remembers is past is something we can use to explore our own much more recent history, as people and as communities.
“Hearteater” by Eliza Temple
Hearteater is a story about a woman who lives alone in a decaying manor house named Scarlet Hall. One dark and stormy night, a stranger named Kat turns up at the house looking for shelter. Lady Scarlet invites her inside, and they grow close, despite each insisting on their own monstrosity.
My initial idea for Hearteater was to explore how Gothic preoccupations with virginity would work when applied to queer sex, but literally none of that made it into the final draft because I got preoccupied by my own issues. Both Lady Scarlet and Kat refer to themselves as monsters throughout the text; they literally are, in the sense of being supernatural and nonhuman, but they also live in a heteronormative society which could consider them monstrous for not being attracted to men. When Kat comes to Scarlet Hall, both women find community in each other—not only are they both lesbians, but their respective supernatural powers complement each other. I wrote Hearteater at a time when I didn’t really have any friends who were also gay women, so the heart of the story is the joy and comfort that comes from finding someone like you, when before you were all alone.
“Taylor Hall” by Jen Glifort
I’ve always loved haunted houses—the dilapidated buildings, the secret passages, the unpredictability of a house’s temperament. But what if the house was benevolent, rather than threatening? I wanted to explore what it would be like to live in a haunted house that was devoted to its owner and wanted to help them.
I thought Taylor Hall would be the ideal environment for a character like Kit, who struggles with gender identity and all the insecurity that comes with it. I’ve questioned my own gender identity my whole life, and feel like I’ve only recently started coming to terms with that. In my experience, suppressing those feelings can cause them to express themselves in unexpected ways (although they’ve never resulted in my house misbehaving in the middle of the night). I wanted to see how something like having a crush on a new roommate could bring up those emotions for Kit.
Setting this story in a haunted house gave me a chance to play with the concept of home. I loved the idea of someone who found a loving, nurturing home that caters to their needs while still trying to find a home in themselves.
“The Dream Eater” by Anna Moon
What if an asexual person is faced with a succubus or incubus? That was my initial inspiration for “The Dream Eater”, where the ace protagonist, Dan, comes across a genderless entity that drains people’s life force. I wanted to write a story where asexuality and queerness allows the main character to relate to the supernatural in a different (and positive) way, and at the same time show an ace person in a happy relationship with an allosexual person (his girlfriend, Elise). The Gothic, and a threatening presence that looms in the space between dream and reality, seemed like the perfect lens through which to explore sexuality, identity, and what it means to be human.
“The Ruin” by E. Saxey
“The Ruin” is a romance, with two guys falling in love through their shared interests: ruined buildings, end-of-the-world fiction, incredibly old poetry. These are also a few of my favourite things. I wanted to explore, through a love story, a nagging doubt I have: are these hobbies actually unsavoury? Is Ruinenlust – so fundamental to the Gothic – also fundamentally dodgy? I can tell myself that I’m interested in how people used to live, or how they’d survive in an apocalypse, but I spend a lot of time (imaginatively) in dark crumbling places. Maybe it’s the continuity of the human experience that delights me, but I suspect it’s the continuity of me, posing solo against the background of all these wonderful ruins.
So while I’m fond of both the characters in “The Ruin”, their relationship isn’t ideal. While the narrator’s interest in the end of the world is purely imaginative, his partner may have a more hands-on approach. Or is that just paranoia?
Very excited to have on the site today the cover reveal for the rerelease of Havesskadi by Ava Kelly, an asexual m/m fantasy (and winner of the Rainbow Book Award for Best Asexual Debut Book) which was originally published by the dearly departed LT3 press and has found a new home at Ninestar Press! The new version comes out on the 24th of this month and kicks off the Dragon Souls series, and here’s a little more about it!
The red dragon is hunting her own. Up in the icy peaks of the northern mountains, Orsie Havesskadi spends his days hiding from her, but eventually he is found and his dragon magic stolen. Cursed to wander the lands as a mortal unless he recovers his magic before twenty-four rising crescents have passed, Orsie embarks on an arduous journey. Spurred by the whispers in his mind, his quest takes him to a castle hidden deep in a forest.
Arkeva Flitz, a skilled garrison archer, discovers an abandoned castle in the woods. Trapped there, he spends his days with his two companions, one cruel, the other soothing. One day, a young man arrives at his gates, and soon they are confined by heavy snowfalls and in danger from what slumbers in the shadows of the castle.
And here’s the striking new cover, by none other than Natasha Snow!
Ava Kelly is an engineer with a deep passion for stories. Whether reading, watching, or writing them, Ava has always been surrounded by tales of all genres. Their goal is to bring more stories to life, especially those of friendship and compassion, those dedicated to trope subversion, those that give the void a voice, and those that spawn worlds of their own. Their publication history includes fantasy and science fiction short stories, novelettes, and the award-winning novel Havesskadi. Among their latest publications, Erebus is a sci-fi slipstream short story in Selene Quarterly, and Peripheric Synthesized is a sci-fi flash piece in Sci Phi Journal.
This is an excellent year for queer MG graphic novels, and this lovely debut is a delight to kick off with, featuring siblings who must disguise themselves as girls in order to escape a murderous relative. Only when it turns out that “girl” isn’t a disguise for one of them, the fact that they have to stay safe and get the throne to its rightful owner is further complicated by the fact that she doesn’t truly want things to go back how they were. (Amz|B&N|IB)
It’s a seriously wild time for Callender, who just released an adult fantasy and also has a YA coming up in May, but right in the middle the Stonewall-winning author is returning to their MG roots with this heartrendingly hopeful tale of a boy named King growing up in the Louisiana bayou, grieving his brother’s sudden death. Khalid had been his idol, and the only thing King knows for sure that he wanted is for King to stay away from Sandy, the gay kid in his class. It’s kind of a problem, since not only did they used to be close friends, but Sandy was the one person who understood King’s feelings. When Sandy disappears and King is the last person to have seen him, he knows it’s time to set King’s rule aside and find his old friend. It’s that journey back to friendship that sets the steps for King to find his way into his future. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Howard follows up The Whispers with this drag-centric story of an ambitious twelve-year-old entrepreneur who’s still looking for the perfect idea to make him rich and famous. Then an eighth grader drag queen walks into his “office” in search of an agent, and ta da! Suddenly Mikey’s running a talent agency, and he’s also spending a lot more time with out-and-proud Julian, which gives him the confidence to embrace himself and maybe even pursue his crush. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Possibly Middle Grade’s sportiest queer novel thus far, this one centers around sixth grader Silas, who works his way out of the closet through researching baseball player Glenn Burke, the first out player in pro baseball. While he can come to terms with his identity on his own and even to his best friend, sharing it with his baseball team is a struggle. But keeping it from them may turn out even worse. (Amz|B&N|IB)
Rosewater’s fun, sporty, and eminently relatable debut kicks off the wonderfully illustrated Derby Daredevils series with a bang, or should I say a Bomb Shell? That’s the derby name for Shelly, who together with Kenzie (that’s Kenzilla to you) dreams of becoming a roller derby superstar. But the only way the girls can guarantee getting to run together is if they try out as a team, and two girls does not a team make; getting another three on board is going to be key if they’re ever gonna have a shot. But Kenzie doesn’t love Shelly’s recruitment process and how quickly she seems to be making new besties, and it only gets more awkward when she tries to recruit Kenzie’s secret crush for the team. (Rep note: in addition to being queer herself, Kenzie’s also got a trans dad!) (Amz|B&N|IB)
Melleby is still in the early stages of what promises to be a healthy queer MG career, beginning with the heartfelt mental health-centric Hurricane Season and moving on now to this Sophomore, about an eighth grader at Catholic school who’s struggling to come out to her mother, and lands herself in one wild situation after another to push off doing it. Want a sneak peek? Click on the title link for an excerpt of the whole first chapter! (Amz|BN|IB)
I am so excited to have Gino back in queer MG. The author who brought us the groundbreaking George returns with Rick, the story of a boy who’s struggling to emerge from under the shadow of a jerky best friend. He’s used to brushing stuff off, the way he does when his dad teases him about crushes and he just…doesn’t have them. Then Rick enters middle school and discovers the Rainbow Spectrum club (which counts as one of its members a certain Melissa you may recall?), and suddenly, there finally opens a path to understanding who he really is, without the weight of others’ words and expectations. This is only the second MG I know of with an ace-spec MC, and the first with a male MC, so definitely one to keep on your radar! (Amz|B&N|IB)
Rowan’s life is full of secrets, from the abuse he faces at home to the identities he knows aren’t safe to share. The only way he can let it out is to write letters, tie them to balloons, and let them go into the great beyond in the hopes they’ll reach someone who understands him. But then he makes a new friend at school who understands and appreciates him just as he is. (Amz|B&N|IB)
The policy here for what constitutes “backlist” is that it has to be a year old. So did I literally put Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria into my schedule to promote the very single month it became eligible, even though it’s technically kind of the author’s frontlist? Sure did! Because it is great and underread and has gay, bi, and ace rep and it’s “friends on a quest” which is my favorite kind of contemporary (think Finnikin but gay!) and if you haven’t yet read it, you absolutely should!
In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.
In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.