Tag Archives: Asexuality

Authors in Conversation: Linsey Miller and E. Latimer

2020 is the year for Sapphic YA fantasy, and I’m thrilled to have on the site two of its authors with new releases that are not to be missed! Linsey Miller’s first book after the Mask of Shadows duology is Belle Révolte, a French-inspired dual-POV about two girls who switch places so each can get her desired education, and it just released on February 4! E. Latimer’s first YA is Witches of Ash and Ruin, about a recently outed bisexual Irish witch named Dayna whose beloved coven is facing down a potential serial killer, and it comes out on March 3rd! But they can both describe their books way better than I can, so let’s let them get to it!

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E: I’m so excited I get to do this interview with you! I absolutely loved Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars (is it okay if I think Sal is dreamy and have designated them one of my top fictional crushes? That’s normal, right?)

(Linsey: Sal would be thrilled to be considered dashing and dreamy after Rath laughing endlessly about their inability to rob Elise.)

E: For the past few months I feel like I’ve been seeing the gorgeous cover for Belle Révolte EVERYWHERE, and I was so excited to see Witches of Ash and Ruin on some of the same “anticipated” LGBTQ lists, so cool!

Belle Révolte came out February 4th. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Linsey: Sure! Belle Révolte is the story of two girls—Emilie des Marais and Annette Boucher—who are both unhappy in their lives. Because of the strict social hierarchies, neither of them is able to achieve their dreams. Noble girls are not allowed to study the magic required to by physicians because of the damaging effects it has on the boy, and Annette cannot afford to attend university to pursue the only magical career path available to her: life as a hack. Hacks are people able to use magic but not wealthy or noble enough to pursue higher education. They work as assistants to the rich so that they are worn down by the powerful magic they use in place of their employers.

So Emilie and Annette swap places. Annette takes Emilie’s place at finishing school to study magic and get an education, and Emilie attends university to become a physician’s hack and prove her worth. While at their respective schools, they both decide that the state of their nation is unsustainable and join a brewing rebellion.

But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, the girls must work together and decide what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to stop the fighting and save their nation.

I’m excited we both have a book coming out in the same year, and 2020 seems like an amazing year for YA fantasy. Your previous book, The Strange And Deadly Portraits Of Bryony Gray, was so atmospheric and fun! (It’s fine if I think of spooky books as fun, right? There’s something exciting about having to glance over your shoulder when reading.) I know Witches of Ash and Ruin is a completely different sort of book, but I can’t wait to see how the world comes alive in it.

Do you want to talk a bit about the world of Witches of Ash and Ruin and how you navigated creating a fantasy story within the real world?

E: I’ve always been very drawn to witchy women, both real and imaginary, so when the tag line of “rival covens have to come together to defeat a serial killer” popped into my head, I knew this was the perfect story for me, and that I had to write it.

The story is set in Ireland, because that’s the mythology I really wanted to delve into, but I actually think of the witches’ kitchen as the “heart” of the world, if that makes sense. It’s where they learn their craft, where they meet the other coven, and where they solve a lot of the mysteries in order to hunt down a killer.

Just like the rest of the story, the witch’s kitchen is a strange mash-up of fictional and real. I grew up homeschooling, which meant that I associated with a strange, eclectic bunch of people (other homeschoolers). One of the families I spent loads of time with was a lovely, chaotic family with nine children and a massive, disorderly kitchen where everything was hand built, knitted, patched, baked, sewn. It was all so rough-spun and homemade, and it was done with the utmost love. I don’t think I truly realized how special that place was until much later. In fact, I now realize it was a lot like the Weasleys’ kitchen in Harry Potter.

The farmhouse in Witches of Ash and Ruin is basically that house. The table the witches sit around was one I sat around every Tuesday.

Linsey: I love the idea of that kitchen. There are so many memories I have in my grandmother’s kitchen that I find fueling my writing too. Witches of Ash and Ruin also features a serial killer, which feels terrifying but also separate from those real-world inspirations. Did you base that off of anything in history, and what draws you to this marriage of our world and fantasy?

E: I’ve always had a fascination with serial killers, but the motivation was always something that bothered me. I love magical answers to mundane questions. So the question might be, “What kind of person kills multiple people, and why?” And the answer might just be, “Because he’s evil” or if you want to get more technical, something about the right combination of nature, nurture and a potential head injury.

But that’s kind of depressing. Not only that, it’s boring. I want to put a twist on it, and I want a reason that blows your mind, and makes you realize there’s more out there than you ever dreamed.

Ever since I was a child, I wanted there to be magic. I still do. If there isn’t any magic in the real world, I’ll slip it into the cracks. I’ll make it fit, so that people can uncover it and think, even for the most fleeting moment, This might be real. That’s the magic of blending reality with fantasy, it unlocks something in you as a reader and lets you glimpse the possibility of a bigger world.

Linsey: That’s really interesting. There are so many personal things, not all of them as tender as a warm kitchen or happy memories, we can associate with ourselves that putting them into books can be hard sometimes. Apart from the lighter dark topic of serial killers, how do you navigate the harder to discuss challenges and triumphs your characters face? Mental health in fantasy works can be difficult to explore sometimes because of the nature of the worlds. Do you take any steps to ensure you give it and your characters enough space on the page, and do you find writing about such personal experiences affects you?

E: It’s such a tricky thing to balance mental health depictions and a fantasy plotline, which is why I feel we don’t see much of it. You want to write that big magical battle where the characters are throwing spells back and forth, but you know if she has anxiety she’s probably going to be freaking out. But if you have her just sort of collapse in the middle of things, it’s all going to be over pretty quick.

Also, you can’t just have all the chapters dealing with the mental illness when you’ve got a serial killer to track down. I found it particularly tricky finding the balance for Dayna. With OCD, a completely accurate depiction would just be pages and pages of obsessions, just endless internal dialogue with her obsessing and checking and obsessing and checking, but honestly who wants to read that?

I had to try to pepper the obsession through here and there, and not have it completely take over the narration. It’s considerably pulled back from what it was to begin with. As for questions of how writing this affects me, the answer is “profoundly.” I’d write a scene with her OCD and then I’d have to step back for a bit and concentrate on a different part, and for some reason editing it was just as hard. It really did feel cathartic in the end though. I couldn’t even get through John Green’s Turtles all the Way Down, so to be able to step back and go, “I did it!” at the end of Witches of Ash and Ruin, well, it felt good.

And it meant writing Witches of Ash and Ruin was a deeply personal experience, and many of the character’s struggles and challenges surrounding her bisexuality, and with her mental illness (OCD) are directly inspired by reality. Do you take inspiration from your life, and if so, how does that effect the process of writing for you?

Linsey: I do. It can honestly make it really hard and challenging to put out there. Annette, especially, was hard for me to write at times because her inner narration is tinged with grief and her asexuality. I knew I wanted to create a world where Annette’s asexuality would make her feel like she’s giving into the power structures around her—women are traditionally calm, collected, and sometimes cold in the world of Belle Révolte—and so she questions if she’s actually asexual or just as she is supposed to be and missing something. It’s hard to get at the heart of that but also important.

It took me ages to figure out how Annette would verbalize her aceness, and that’s because I never really knew how to verbalize. So in a way, she is expressing my experiences for me. I hope it’s made me a better writer, but it has certainly made me a better me. It also feels less threatened to be able to do it in a dark fantasy world because the rules are different. Annette can go after her villains with abandon, which isn’t something we get to do too often in the real world. I think it’s why I’m drawn to dark fantasy. It’s cathartic in a way.

Even though the words tend to leave us once they’re off the page and writing them can be emotionally freeing, getting them there can still be very affecting. Do you have any advice for writers who may want to write about something personal but aren’t quite sure how to start?

E: Writing is a great way to work through things you’re dealing with or have dealt with in the past, but if you’re just starting out be sure to “check in” with yourself. Assess how you’re feeling, how it’s effecting your state of mind and mental health.

Keep in mind also, you may deal with different subjects in different ways. I have to go slow and take breaks if I’m writing about a trigger (OCD) but if I’m working through stuff I’ve been repressing, that’s making me angry, it kind of all comes out. Like rage-induced writing, it’s incredibly therapeutic. Better on the page than in your head.

I know that both Witches of Ash and Ruin and the Mask of Shadows duology explore themes of mental illness: OCD and PTSD. For me, writing about mental illness can be both challenging and rewarding, but I have to be careful with myself, and pay attention to how I’m feeling before I dive into writing a scene with (for example) a full-blown panic attack.

In Belle Révolte are there similar themes of mental illness? If so, what motivates you to explore this, and what is your experience with writing about it?

Linsey: There actually aren’t. For Sal, I found writing their experiences with PTSD and grief extremely challenging and upsetting even thought I was glad I did it in the end. Grief, neglect, and war come up in fantasy a lot, and when I was writing Sal’s story, that was something I didn’t want to shy away from. I wanted to make sure that Sal was on the road toward developing healthy habits by the end of the series and wasn’t made to feel lesser for their PTSD. Reading about trauma can be traumatic, so I wanted to make sure readers had a chance to recover with Sal on the page instead of having to assume it after the epilogue. But it was hard to write. In Belle Révolte, I didn’t feel like I would have the proper space to write it, and I sort of needed to give my mind a break.

It became more important for me to give other aspects of the book that page space, too.

E: In your Mask of Shadows duology you play with stepping outside of and challenging gender norms and expectations society has. Are there similar themes in Belle Révolte surrounding Emilie and her desire to be a physician? Can you tell us a little bit about why this is a recurring theme in your books, and what you’d like your readers to take away from this?

Linsey: There are some tangential themes. I have some pretty complicated feelings about gender, and on top of that, a lot of the books available to me as a child had female characters who could only be female in specific ways. Additionally, almost every world had a similar gender binary to ours and identical ways to present gender.

In Belle Révolte, I wanted to explore that in a way I was familiar with while also dissecting some of the inspirations of my past. Magic, like traits, clothing, and careers, is socially gendered, and Emilie has only ever pushed back against that aspect of her life. She doesn’t feel like she fits into the way her world tells her to be female, and so she does that thing that I think is relatable to some of us where she utterly rejects everything she is told she should be. I’ve always felt a bit odd in my own skin, and I wanted to write about a character navigating that same uncomfortableness without throwing other people under the bus.

Or carriage, I guess.

Annette likes things that are traditionally feminine in the world of Belle Révolte, as do many of the people Emilie meets, and it was important to me that Emilie personally hate those things for herself without projecting that hate to those things and the people who liked them.

Ultimately, I hope readers can take away that there’s no wrong way to be their gender. Women who love traditionally feminine things aren’t giving into the system, men who love those things aren’t less masculine, and non-binary folks shouldn’t have to present in some androgynous middle ground for their identity to be believed. We should all be able to live as we are, but I think we also have a responsibility to let others live as they are without considering their truth to be less.

Also—and this is something I always hope to live up to—that cis readers take away a willingness to protect the truths and lives of others since we have more social power. When we have power and say we want to help, we have to follow through.

At the same time, I like seeing happy endings in fantasy. We don’t get them in real life, sometimes, and reading about them can feel like hope. Writing about Annette’s experiences were hard but worth it.

I know that part of Dayna’s story is that she is outed as bisexual in her small, conservative town. Even though that’s something that a lot of people may experience, it’s not something we see often in YA fantasy. Were you writing to fill a void, and do you find that contemporary fantasy allows you to do things other genres may not in regards to writing to fill that void?

E: This is actually a great question. I find it really interesting that I’ve had a few people protest that Dayna is outed in the book, because I feel like this happens. All. The. Time. And not necessarily all at once, the way it happens to Dayna. It’s sort of like coming out by choice, and then having to come out and again and again and again. Being outed can happen that way too. I still remember a friend outing me. It was so casual, that’s what got me. She told a boyfriend, who I had just met. It was so off-hand, the way she said it, but it felt shocking to me, because that was something I’d just started sharing with my close friends. No one else knew.

It happened again later. Both times from a supposed friend who didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, both time I dealt with unpleasant reactions from others.

It was something I was angry about for a long time, and I tend to process a lot of my emotions by writing about them. I also think there’s a lack of books dealing with this that aren’t contemporary, which can leave genre readers sort of adrift.

I know that I never had queer YA growing up, both because my family is extremely religious and it wouldn’t have been allowed in the house, and because I didn’t really know such a thing existed. Years later, I’ve read almost everything I could get my hands on, but up until recently I didn’t seem to be able to find a lot of traditionally published books about bisexual girls, and even less about F/F relationships. I think we’re always on a quest to see ourselves in our fiction, and for me, not finding my reflection was discouraging. I know filling that void has been a big influence on the books I write.

What about you? What draws you to queer fiction and motivates you to write the identities you write about?

Linsey: Like you said, there’s a void. My favorite characters growing up, the ones I related to the most, were the ones I could believe were ace even if I didn’t have the words for it then. Their romances were almost devoid of lust or non-existent. I didn’t even think I would ever be in a romantic relationship as a child, so I clung to characters who felt the same as me. Tris from the Circle of Magic who pushed everyone away so that she wouldn’t be disappointed and Mel from Crown Duel felt closer to me than anyone else, and I want to do that for someone out there so that they feel less alone, except now I want to hopefully give them some words that feel like home. Found families and finding people who love you are very important to me in fiction, and I love reading and writing about characters finding a place where they are comfortable and respected, even if the characters don’t think they deserve that. Emilie is arrogant and a bit oblivious, and I wanted her to find her footing and grow without losing her ambition. Annette is kind but she can be shrewd. Belle Révolte has a bunch of angry people in it all coming together as a happy, angry family, and their anger isn’t dismissed.

Do you have any similar feelings about your characters, anger, and “unlikeable” female characters? Your characters have been described as “achingly real.” What do you think makes them real?

Likewise, relationships—platonic, familial, and romantic—seem to feature heavily in Witches of Ash and Ruin. Can you talk a bit about how you developed those and what sort of relationships readers will be able to enjoy?

E: There are actually a lot of angry characters in Witches of Ash and Ruin as well! Dayna is more on the chill side, but Meiner and Cora work through a lot of anger in the story. They don’t do anything that a male character would be labeled “unlikeable” for, but I’m almost sure one or both of them will get stamped with that. Honestly, male characters could probably run around punching babies, and as long as they’re halfway attractive, it’s fine. Female characters are unlikeable the moment they show a little anger, or do something slightly uncharitable. I think as readers we need to step back and take a good hard look at why that is, and what it is society has implanted in us that makes us think that way.

I think what makes the characters real in Witches, is that they are angry. And jealous, and competitive, and impulsive. Every last character is deeply flawed in some way, and all of them are morally grey at best. I think people are like that. They’re not black and white or good or evil, they’re just people.

I also love exploring relationships in fiction, all types. I think that’s what makes things so interesting. I want to see tension in families, chosen families who are tighter knit than “blood,” betrayals you never saw coming, and the type of friend who’s only question upon learning you’ve accidentally murdered someone is, “Want me to bring a shovel?”

I love genre fiction, but my favorite kind is filled with compelling relationships, both the good and the bad. And of course, I’m a terrible sucker for, “I hate you, but I also kind of want to lick your face,” type meet cutes. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers trope?

Ahem, speaking of lovers, Mask of Shadows will forever hold the record for one of my all-time favorite romances. Sal and Elise are precious cinnamon buns who must be protected at all costs. Their chemistry is so great, and I was literally giggling out loud as they flirted with one another. They’re just the right amount of sweet and mischievous, and Sal has that edge of “dangerousness” that makes you fan yourself just a bit, if you know what I mean.

Can you tell us a little bit about the romance/relationship in Belle Révolte and give us a hint about what we have to look forward to?

Linsey: Oh, my precious assassin. I am so glad.

The romance in Belle Révolte is a bit toned down. It’s not as steamy, I guess. Emilie and Annette both have romantic arcs, but they’re similar in that their romantic inclinations are very quiet. Romance sneaks up on them after they become comfortable with a person and learn to trust them.  Their romances are built on respect and trust, even if Emilie’s relationship with their future partner is a bit prickly at the start.

Their romances stem from friendships, and platonic love is something I deeply appreciate. Emilie, who doesn’t really know how to express love because no one’s expressed it to her in a way she recognizes, realizes she loves her friends slowly, and then that she romantically loves one of them. Annette, who’s been burned because of her aceness is a bit too hesitant to admit she’s romantically attracted to someone until after it’s brought up a few times by friends.

Whereas Sal and Elise met and sort of mutually went, “Hellooooooooo,” I wanted the Emilie and Annette to have quieter romances bolstered by their friendships and bonds.

E: Okay last question. You have to pick from Sal, Elise, Annette and Emilie in each of the four scenarios:

  • You’re stranded on a desert island and you need to survive for two weeks before help arrives.
  • You get drafted into the Hunger Games.
  • You have to go to an extremely fancy royal dinner party with strict dining rules, and negotiate for peace in your country. It’s imperative you don’t offend anyone, lest you lose your heads at the end of the night.
  • You’re on a strict deadline to write an entire novel and you have to co-write with someone.

Linsey:

  • My ever-helpful medical nerd Emilie.
  • Sal, though I feel like they would not need me at all and Snow should be very
  • Elise (but also maybe Annette, who I feel would get along very well and probably have more fun than me at a dinner party).
  • She is an excellent diviner, so hopefully she can just divine the future novel and dictate it to me.

And you’re not getting away without doing this as well. Who would be your savior in these scenarios: Dayna, Meiner, Cora or Reagan?

E:

  • I think Cora would probably eat me for sustenance, so I’m going to say Reagan. She knows the most spells and would probably be able to keep us alive.
  • It was between Cora and Meiner, but I suspect Cora might backstab me once everyone else was dead. Meiner would actually attempt to keep me alive, I think.
  • Dayna is literally the only one in the entire cast of characters who wouldn’t get our heads chopped off.
  • Reagan or Dayna. Probably Reagan, because I feel Dayna and I would be too neurotic together and wouldn’t get much writing done.

E: This was awesome, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in an interview. I am seriously SO pumped for Belle Révolte to come out, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Thanks Linsey!

Linsey: !!! Thank you AND thank you for chatting with me. I am so glad Witches of Ash and Ruin will be out in the world this year, and I can’t wait to read it.

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Linsey Miller grew up in Arkansas and has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience (undergrad) lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of Bookends Literary and has an MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut duology, containing Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars, was about a genderfluid thief out for revenge who fought their way through auditions to be the next royal assassin. Linsey can currently be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

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E. Latimer is a fantasy writer from Victoria, BC. Her middle grade novel, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray was published by Tundra Books, and was nominated for the 2019 Red Maple Fiction Award.

In her spare time, she writes books, makes silly vlogs with the Word Nerds about writing, and reads excessively. You can find her on her website http://www.elatimer.com/ or over on twitter as @ELatimerWrites.

Happy Asexual Awareness Week!

Happy Asexual Awareness Week! As I am out of the country this week, this will be the only post until I return; good thing it’s a weeklong celebrate with lots of books to fill the time! These books contain both asexual and demisexual main characters of varying romantic orientations, so hopefully there’s a little something for everyone, but if not, please check out Claudie Arseneault’s amazing Aro Ace Database to find the perfect match!

Books to Read Now

*Note: books that have been featured as New Release Spotlights on the site are listed separately.

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story—that she died proclaiming her faith.

But it’s not true.

I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did—and didn’t—happen that day.

Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up.

Buy it: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indigo | iBooks | Google

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

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.

The Spy With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Companion to the 2018 Sydney Taylor Honoree The Girl with the Red Balloon

In a nuclear arms race, you’d use anything for an edge. Even magic.

Ilse and Wolf Klein bear many secrets. Genius Ilse is unsure if her parents will ever accept her love of physics. Her brother Wolf strives for a quiet life, though he worries that there’s no place in the world for people like him. But their deepest secret lies within their blood: with it, they can work magic.

Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.

When Wolf’s plane is shot down, his entire mission is thrown into jeopardy. Wolf needs Ilse’s help to develop the magic that will keep him alive, but with a spy afoot in Ilse’s laboratory, the secret letters she sends to Wolf begin to look treasonous. Can Ilse prove her loyalty—and find a way to help her brother—before their time runs out?

Loyalties and identities will be tested in this sweeping fantasy and a fast-paced thriller that bravely explores the tensions at the dawn of the nuclear age.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

How to Be a Normal Person by TJ Klune

Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Buy it: Amazon

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: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | BAM | Book Depository 

Overexposed by Megan Erickson

Levi Grainger needs a break. As a reality show star, he’s had enough of the spotlight and being edited into a walking stereotype. When he returns home after the last season of Trip League, he expects to spend time with his family, only to learn his sister is coming back from her deployment in a flag-draped casket. Devastated, Levi decides the best way to grieve will be to go off grid and hike the Appalachian Trail—a trip he’d planned to do with his sister.

His solitary existence on the trail is interrupted when he meets Thad, a quiet man with a hard body and intense eyes. Their connection is stronger than anything Levi has ever experienced. But when Levi discovers the truth about what Thad is hiking to escape, their future together looks uncertain, and uncertainty is the last thing Levi needs…

Buy it: Amazon

City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault

Isandor, City of Spires.

A hundred and thirty years have passed since Arathiel last set foot in his home city. Isandor hasn’t changed—bickering merchant families still vie for power through eccentric shows of wealth—but he has. His family is long dead, a magical trap has dulled his senses, and he returns seeking a sense of belonging now long lost.

Arathiel hides in the Lower City, piecing together a new life among in a shelter dedicated to the homeless and the poor, befriending an uncommon trio: the Shelter’s rageful owner, Larryn, his dark elven friend Hasryan, and Cal the cheese-loving halfling. When Hasryan is accused of Isandor’s most infamous assassination of the last decade, what little peace Arathiel has managed to find for himself is shattered. Hasryan is innocent… he thinks. In order to save him, Arathiel may have to shatter the shreds of home he’d managed to build for himself.

Arathiel could appeal to the Dathirii—a noble elven family who knew him before he disappeared—but he would have to stop hiding, and they have battles of their own to fight. The idealistic Lord Dathirii is waging a battle of honour and justice against the cruel Myrian Empire, objecting to their slavery, their magics, and inhumane treatment of their apprentices. One he could win, if only he could convince Isandor’s rulers to stop courting Myrian’s favours for profit.

In the ripples that follow Diel’s opposition, friendships shatter and alliances crumble. Arathiel, the Dathirii, and everyone in Isandor fights to preserve their homes, even if the struggle changes them irrevocably.

Buy it: Books2Read

Over And Over Again by Cole McCade

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

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (2nd)

35430702Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bone setting—or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh; and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a small window of hope opens. Doctor Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician that Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to opening old wounds, she also has no money to make the trip.

Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid. In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that will lead her from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker

What if you weren’t sexually attracted to anyone?

A growing number of people are identifying as asexual. They aren’t sexually attracted to anyone, and they consider it a sexual orientation—like gay, straight, or bisexual.

Asexuality is the invisible orientation. Most people believe that “everyone” wants sex, that “everyone” understands what it means to be attracted to other people, and that “everyone” wants to date and mate. But that’s where asexual people are left out—they don’t find other people sexually attractive, and if and when they say so, they are very rarely treated as though that’s okay.

When an asexual person comes out, alarming reactions regularly follow; loved ones fear that an asexual person is sick, or psychologically warped, or suffering from abuse. Critics confront asexual people with accusations of following a fad, hiding homosexuality, or making excuses for romantic failures. And all of this contributes to a discouraging master narrative: there is no such thing as “asexual.” Being an asexual person is a lie or an illness, and it needs to be fixed.

In The Invisible Orientation, Julie Sondra Decker outlines what asexuality is, counters misconceptions, provides resources, and puts asexual people’s experiences in context as they move through a very sexualized world. It includes information for asexual people to help understand their orientation and what it means for their relationships, as well as tips and facts for those who want to understand their asexual friends and loved ones.

Buy it: [Amazon] [Audible (audio book)] [Barnes & Noble] [Bol] [Book Depository (USA)] [Book Depository (UK)] [Books-A-Million] [Fishpond (Australia)] [IndieBound] [Powell’s] [Skyhorse ] [Walmart]

Asexual Books Featured on the Site

Books Available for Preorder

The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion by Lynn O’Connacht (November 6th)

The Ice Princess's Fair IllusionAll Marian wants is for society to accept that she’s just not interested in… whatever society thinks she ought to be interested in. A princess with a reputation for insults and snide remarks, she’s afraid to show anyone who she would be if people would let her. In a fit of temper at her refusal to marry, her father creates her worst nightmare: she is to be wed to the first beggar who arrives at the gates.

Edel was visiting purely for diplomatic reasons, aiming to ensure her daughter inherits a strong and peaceful kingdom. She sees something in Marian that is achingly familiar and when Edel hears the king’s proclamation, only one thing is on her mind: to protect Marian from the fate that had befallen Edel herself.

Their lives threaded together by magic, Edel and Marian will have to find their way in the world in this queerplatonic, sapphic verse novel retelling of King Thrushbeard.

Preorder: B&N * Amazon

Switchback by Danika Stone (May 28, 2019)

Ashton Hamid knows everything about gaming. His D&D battles are epic; the video game tournaments he organizes, multi-day tests of endurance with players around the world. Real life, however, is a different matter. So when he and his best friend—outspoken “A” student (and social outcast) Vale Shumway—head out on a camping trip to Waterton Lakes National Park with their Phys. Ed. class, Ash figures it’ll be two days of bug bites, bad food, and inside jokes.

Instead, the two friends find themselves in a fight for survival.

An unexpected October snowstorm separates Ash and Vale from the rest of their class. By the time the teens realize they’ve missed the trail, they have wandered deep into the Canadian Rockies. Lost in the wilderness and hunted by deadly predators, their only hope is to work together. But with Vale’s limited supplies and Ash’s inexperience, can the best friends stay alive long enough to find their way back to civilization?

Preorder: Amazon

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Better Know an (Asexual or Demisexual) Author

5 SFF Stories Similar to Every Heart A Doorway, Featuring Asexual characters: a Guest Post by Claudie Arseneault & Lynn O’Connacht

I am so psyched today to bring you this guest post by asexuality authors and advocates Claudie Arseneault and Lynn O’Connacht, bringing some stellar recs for ace SFF. They’ve got plenty of wisdom on the subject between the two of them, so I’m just gonna tiptoe off and let them take it away! (But not before reminding you that you can obviously also find great ace stories by supporting these two authors; links to their websites are in their bios at the end of the post!)

*****

On August 11, 2017, Every Heart a Doorway, the most visible traditionally published story with explicit asexual representation won the Hugo Awards for Best Novella and, with it, a clean sweep of SFF’s most prestigious awards. Yet the discussions we’ve seen surrounding asexual representation in fiction since Every Heart a Doorway was published usually seem to ignore many great stories with asexual representation. There is so much more out there, and a lot of what’s out there is ownvoices.

Asexual indie and short story writers have been producing a wealth of stories involving ace spectrum characters for years now, and it’s always a pleasure to share their work. These are talented folks who tend to go unnoticed, but their stories are varied and gut-wrenching. We can only hope that the light shined on asexual representation by Every Heart a Doorway will reach other deserving authors.

As ace spectrum readers and indie author the idea that there are only a handful of books that include characters on the asexual spectrum out there hurts so much. True, there aren’t anywhere near as many as we would like, but there’s so much more out there than these discussions suggest. We’ve selected just five stories that we feel are similar to Every Heart a Doorway not just because they feature ace-spec characters, but also because we feel that the story has some overlap with narrative elements in McGuire’s novella. All of the authors on this list are ownvoices and somewhere on the asexual spectrum. We hope you’ll enjoy the books!

Nkásht íí by Darcie Little Badger is a short story rather than a novel or a novella, but if you’re looking for something that captures that sense of eeriness and creepiness that’s at the core of Every Heart a Doorway‘s mystery plot, you’ll love this. The story follows two Lipan Apache friends as they try to unravel the mystery behind a car crash, and the family a man lost in it. Josie, the narrator, is aromantic and asexual. If you wanted a more in-depth look at a ‘death world’ like Nancy visited, Nkásht íí also has you covered. It’s deliciously scary and invites rereading to gather more of what’s happening in the text.

The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey may seem like a strange book to recommend to readers of Every Heart a Doorway, as its heart is more caper-heist than gruesome mystery, but readers will find that the mystery Theo gets drawn into by his sister has some very dark undertones. Together, he and Bridget will have to discover who is the traitor who’s been abducting orphan children from the streets and why. Readers looking for a panromantic asexual lead in an established and adorable relationship will love the representation in this book. (Blogger’s Note: You can read an excerpt of The Traitor’s Tunnel here!)

Good Angel by A.M. Blaushild is a great pick if you were disappointed by the way Every Heart a Doorway stopped following Nancy’s attempts to adapt to life in our realm and make friends at school. In Good Angel, Iofiel is a newly created angel who goes off to university to become a guardian angel, but after deciding to help an imp with his studies, she finds herself unsure of her place in the world. Good Angel is the first novel in a humorous duology, and features a curious angel who isn’t quite sure where she fits onto the spectrums of asexuality and aromanticism. It features classes, studying and making friends with people who the environment of the school finds… a little less than ideal.

Stake Sauce by RoAnna Sylver is an urban fantasy webserial/novel and will appeal to readers of McGuire’s work in general. Like, Every Heart a Doorway it’s got several unexpected twists (which we won’t spoil, of course!). Jude is a demiromantic asexual former firefighter with PTSD, and no one believes him when he insists there are vampires about until he meets Pixie, an adorable punk vampire who needs help with bigger, meaner vampires. In turns weird, dark, and delightfully hopeful, Stake Sauce contains one secret ingredient… love. No, really!

The Stake Sauce webserial runs on Patreon and the full story will be released as an ebook on October 31, 2017.

Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari is a YA science fiction novel with two protagonists on the asexual spectrum. Nadin is asexual and sex-repulsed and Isaak is demisexual. We recommend this one for its at-times punch-in-the-gut representation of asexuality, and because much like Every Heart a Doorway it features teens trying to solve a mystery (a Mars archeology one!) and two distinct worlds, so if you enjoyed the idea of portal fantasy set forth this explores such a narrative in more depth. Nadin and Isaak are worlds and years apart, but when Isaak finds an ancient coin, they’ll have to work together to save both their planets.

And there you have it. Five stories that feature asexual characters just as prominently as Every Heart a Doorway does and that also have narrative overlap for you to enjoy. These aren’t all the asexual stories out there by a long shot. If you’d like a larger range of options or more detailed information on the representation in the stories we mentioned, check out Claudie’s database of asexual and aromantic characters in SFF. If you’d like non-SFF recommendations (or recs for games and tv/film as well) as well, there’s also Fuck Yeah Asexual’s database here. Happy reading!

*****

Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic-spectrum writer hailing from the very-French Québec City. Her stories focus on non-romantic relationships and often feature large queer casts. The latest, City of Strife, is the first of a political fantasy trilogy released in February. Find out more on her website!

Lynn O’Connacht has an MA in English literature and creative writing, but wouldn’t call herself an authority on either. She currently resides on the European continent and her idiom and spelling are, despite her best efforts, geographically confused, poor things. Her latest book is a companion collection to her asexual retelling of The Little Mermaid, Sea Foam and Silence. Find out more on her website!

Why There’s No Sex in My Book: a Guest Post by Dianna Gunn, author of Keeper of the Dawn

Why There’s No Sex in my Book

(It’s not the reason you think)

by Dianna Gunn

When a lesbian romance emerged partway through Keeper of the Dawn I found myself faced with a difficult decision: do I include sex?

This was a tough decision for many reasons, but none of them were fear of censorship. I have always believed my fiction should challenge boundaries and that having your book banned is a great marketing tool (seriously, there are entire banned book reading challenges). I also come from a fairly liberal family who won’t disown me if they find out there are lesbians or sex or even lesbian sex in my book.

I also believe it’s important to have sex in YA fiction, and not just the fumbling first time or the regrettable one night stand induced by underage drinking. As a preteen, I learned almost as much about sex from fanfiction as I have learned from sex in the intervening years. This fanfiction—primarily written by older women, at least on the archives I frequented—taught me about enthusiastic consent, about how to please different lovers, and even about various fetishes. I believe YA fiction is an opportunity for us to teach these same lessons to the people who need them most, because they certainly won’t learn it from mainstream porn.

What bothered me was the idea of writing a sex scene between these two specific characters. At first I thought it was mainly because I personally have no interest in sex with women, and the technicalities of writing a lesbian sex scene are rather daunting from my angle. I prepared myself to go out and read more (probably fanfiction, let’s face it) sex scenes between two women, even started looking at lists—

And then I realized it wasn’t about the technicalities at all. It was about my characters, specifically the main character, Lai. I already knew Lai had never been attracted to anyone but Tara (yes, she is named after a Buffy character), but as I continued writing I realized Lai wasn’t attracted to Tara in a sexual way. In fact, Lai is asexual.

I knew Lai for years before I came to this realization, but it certainly wasn’t a surprise. The only reason it took me so long to discover Lai’s asexuality is that when I originally wrote Keeper of the Dawn, I had no idea what asexuality was. It’s a concept that only came into my awareness about two years ago, which is crazy considering that I’ve been hanging out in queer communities since I was 15.

The world Tara and Lai live in has no word for asexuality, but I have worked hard to make it clear that Lai is asexual. I’ve been lucky enough to have a publisher who insisted I make it even clearer instead of trying to suppress this part of her personality.

With or without the label, I hope Keeper of the Dawn will show readers that romantic relationships can be powerful without sex.

*****

ABOUT KEEPER OF THE DAWN

KeeperoftheDawn_FrontCoverSometimes failure is just the beginning.

All Lai has ever wanted is to become a priestess, like her mother and grandmother before her, in service to their beloved goddess. That’s before the unthinkable happens, and Lai fails the trials she has trained for her entire life. She makes the only choice she believes she can: she runs away.

From her isolated desert homeland, Lai rides north to the colder, stranger kingdom of Alanum—a land where magic, and female warriors, are not commonplace.

Here, she hears tales about a mountain city of women guardians and steel forgers, worshiping goddesses who sound very similar to Lai’s own. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple. She is determined to make up for her past failure, and will do whatever it takes to join their sacred order.

Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.

Keeper of the Dawn is a tale of new beginnings, second chances, and the endurance of hope.

*****

EXCERPT

Lai practiced until well after dark, ignoring the call for supper. She tore a massive hole into one of the dummies with a training sword in her rage, but it didn’t make her feel better. She had spent most of her life training for this day, and Kaiden ruined it with a few words about their father.

Eventually she gave up and collapsed in a heap on the ground, pulling her knees up to her chest so she could rest her chin on them. She forced herself to breathe deeply, using all her willpower to push the rage into the ground. Bit by bit it drained into the soil around her, dispersing harmlessly.

She sat like that in the clearing until clouds engulfed the stars and rain started pouring, one of the last rains before the dry weeks of summer. Lifting the hood of her robes to cover her head, she rose and hurried towards the temple.

Her left foot caught on something and Lai flew through the air, losing her grip on her sword and landing face first in a puddle. Her nose shattered when it smashed into the tough ground, and when she grabbed it to feel the damage her hand came away covered in equal parts mud and blood. Her stomach churned as she picked herself back up, her whole body aching.

Something sharp pierced her back, tearing into her skin and muscles like sharp fire. She screamed and fell face first to the ground. She caught herself on her forearms, avoiding bashing her head against the rocky path.

Lai’s attacker pulled the knife out of her shoulder. She screamed as warm blood flowed freely down her back, mixing with the rain. Fiery agony filled her body, blurring her vision. She gritted her teeth and flipped over to face her attacker.

She froze at the familiar sight of white robes with golden cuffs. Another initiate. Her hood hid her face completely.

Lai gathered her strength with a deep, ragged breath and reached for her training sword. The initiate kicked Lai in the back then stomped on her wrist, grinding bone under her boot, sending sharp waves of pain up Lai’s arm.

“You understand, it has to be me.”

Lai knew that voice, but she couldn’t focus on it through the pain, couldn’t remember who it was.

The initiate seized a clump of Lai’s hair and yanked her head backwards. She knelt and raised her knife towards Lai’s exposed throat.

Something knocked the initiate into Lai’s back. Black spots appeared at the edges of her vision as agony surged outward from her wound. The other initiate didn’t move, suffocating Lai with her weight. Lai tried to lift herself up with her elbows, but a fresh wave of pain knocked the wind out of her. She col­lapsed onto her stomach and closed her eyes, willing her body to die quickly.

*****

Headshot-TouchedUpDianna Gunn is a freelance writer by day and a fantasy author by night. She blogs about writing, creativity and books athttp://www.thedabbler.ca. You can also follow her on Twitter @DiannaLGunn or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dlgunnauthor/.

 

BUY KEEPER OF THE DAWN

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Ebook: http://amzn.to/2nHgqNN
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