What happens when an orc priestess declines to sacrifice herself and instead runs off to learn the skills that will make her a master assassin and henchman to a powerful wizard? I suppose I could tell you, or you could just read this utterly fabulous fantasy, out today, that examines love vs. loyalty in a twisted adventure full of magic and slow-burn f/f romance. Doesn’t that sound better? Check it out:
Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
As a child, she fought the invaders who murdered her parents and snatched her as a raid prize. She fought for her place next to Thyra, the daughter of the Krigere Chieftain. She fought for her status as a warrior in her tribe: blood and victory are her way of life. But the day her Krigere cross the great lake and threaten the witch queen of the Kupari, everything changes.
Cursed by the queen with fire and ice, Ansa is forced to fight against an invisible enemy—the dark magic that has embedded itself deep in her bones. The more she seeks to hide it, the more dangerous it becomes. And with the Krigere numbers decimated and the tribe under threat from the traitorous brother of the dead Chieftain, Ansa is torn between her loyalty to the Krigere, her love for Thyra, and her own survival instincts.
With her world in chaos and each side wanting to claim her for their own, only one thing is certain: unless Ansa can control the terrible magic inside her, everything she’s fought for will be destroyed.
Being orphaned and almost kidnapped in the space of a week sent Blake Marks into hiding. For months, Blake tries to help the Calvers—a family of vigilante bodyguards—investigate the people behind the hit on Blake’s father, Isaac, but then the safehouse is compromised. Just as hired thugs storm the house to grab Blake, Daelan Calver dives into the fight, getting them both out alive.
Hiding isn’t an option anymore, but hit squads, under-the-table deals, and international espionage? Blake has no idea how to handle any of it, not even with Daelan’s family there to play teachers. The one thing Blake knows for sure is that there are only two options: keep up with the Calvers or get out of their way.
But even with the Calvers’ help and the glimmer of a possible future with Daelan giving Blake hope, chances of survival keep shrinking. The man who ordered the hit on Isaac may be dead, but his partner is viciously cold-blooded, and her plans could change the course of history. Blake wants to finish what Isaac started, but it’s looking like someone is going to die before this is over. And that someone might be Blake.
While on holiday in Toronto, Evie Whitmore planned to sightsee and meet other asexuals, not audition for a dance competition. Now she’s representing Toronto’s newest queer dance studio, despite never having danced before. Not only does she have to spend hours learning her routine, she has to do it with one of the grumpiest men she’s ever met. Tyler turns out to be more than a dedicated dancer, though—he might be the kind of man who can sweep her off her feet, literally and figuratively.
Tyler Davis has spent the last year recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. So he doesn’t need to be pushed into a rushed routine for a dumb competition. Ticking major representation boxes for being trans and biracial isn’t why he went into dance. But Evie turns out to be a dream student. In fact, she helps him remember just how good partnering can be, in all senses of the word. Teaching her the routine, however, raises ghosts for him, ones he’s not sure he can handle.
Plans change, and people change with them. Learning a few steps is one thing; learning to trust again is another entirely.
When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.
For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.
Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.
Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.
What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?
Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero. Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl.
It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.
She doesn’t have time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction.
Fifteen-year-old Aki Hunter knows she’s bisexual, but up until now she’s only dated guys—and her best friend, Lori, is the only person she’s out to. When she and Lori set off on a four-week youth-group mission trip in a small Mexican town, it never crosses Aki’s mind that there might be anyone in the group she’d be interested in dating. But that all goes out the window when Aki meets Christa.
Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! This month, the spotlight is on Erica Cameron, who’s got a whole lot of books on the shelf and in the pipeline, adding some much-needed rainbow representation to the YA canon. Come say hi!
Which of your books have LGBTQIAP+ representation, and can you tell us a little about them?
All four of my series have at least some representation. Laguna includes the least, and my upcoming fantasy might arguably include the most—based both on the world and the individual characters.
In Laguna Tides, Kody, one of the secondary characters in the first two books, is demisexual. His orientation is hinted at in the first two books and will be confirmed in book three. He’ll also get his own story told in book four.
In Dream War Saga, though there isn’t any rep in Sing Sweet Nightingale (the one thing I now regret about that book is how straight and white it is, no matter how true that demographic is to the setting), I introduce a lot of queer characters in the second book, Deadly Sweet Lies. Julian and Nadette—my two narrators—are asexual and lesbian respectively, and both of those are confirmed on page. There are other queer spectrum characters in the book, but only Nadette’s love interest has their orientation confirmed.
For the Assassins books, rep is all over the board and—over the course of both books—not confined to orientation. Asexual, bisexual, gay, panromantic demisexual, gender fluid, and intersex. Most of this is confirmed with labels on the page, but some is implied when we’re talking about the minor characters.
In the fantasy series coming in February, The Ryogan Chronicles, the story starts on the island of Shiara and focuses on a culture with a bisexual-as-normal outlook on orientations. I do also have asexual rep in the book as well as an established third gender. Also, as a point of interest, there isn’t a single white character in this series. At all.
Your next book is the first in a series all about assassins—what kind of hands-on research does that entail?
Far less than I wanted to! I did get the chance to go to the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, and that was a lot of fun. It’s unfortunately one of the few museums in DC that isn’t free because it’s privately run, but it has some great interactive features. Like a vent you can actually crawl through! I had hoped to be able to take lessons at a gun range with various weapons (I’d probably be very bad at it, but I still wanted to have the experience), but time and money got in my way. Aside from that, though, a ton of research went into this book, none of it concentrated on any one thing. Hacking, security systems, weapons, spy technology, homemade bombs, the reality behind truth serum—basically, if there is such a thing as a government watch list based on search history alone, I’m on it because of this book.
What’s a particularly conscious choice you’ve made in your representation?
Well, more of it, definitely. I come from a place of privilege, and even though I’ve grown up in an area that forced me to be aware of that privilege in certain ways, I was still ignorant of many aspects of that same privilege when I wrote Sing Sweet Nightingale. Yes, the book is set in a very small town in northern New York that is based loosely on the town my father grew up in, and yes, that town is still to this day predominately white and straight and incredibly insulated from the reality of the world, but I didn’t have to recreate it so exactly. I could have made it a more realistic—more representative—version of the same place. With each book since then, as I learn more and more about respectful inclusion, the representation in the stories expands. Hopefully it will continue to do so.
That being said, incidental diversity is very different from a story about some aspect of the diverse experience. I will do my best to include as many non-white, non-straight, non-cisgender characters as possible—with a somewhat selfish focus on making sure every one of my series includes an asexual-spectrum character—but I will likely never ever tell a story about what it is like to be non-white, non-straight, or non-cisgender. Even if I were to attempt writing a book about what it’s like to be a white, cisgender female, heteromantic asexual, I’d still be nervous. And that’s writing exactly from my experience. I don’t have the gall to try telling someone else’s story. Not in that way.
You’re an ardent advocate for asexual representation in media, and a frequent user of the #DontErasetheAces hashtag. What are some things allosexual people, especially authors, can keep in mind in order not to contribute to ace erasure?
Erasure is also one of the reasons I prefer MOGAI—marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex—instead of LGBTQIAP+. First, it’s easier to say, but more importantly, it never changes. Letters, and therefore people, don’t get dropped. With an acronym as long as LGBTQIAP+, the end almost always disappears. A lot of people who aren’t deeply involved in the community have a hard time remembering any of the letters past Q, and have an even harder time remembering what those extra letters stand for. The belief that A is for ally is still pretty pervasive. It’s also one of the few letters that stands in for multiple sections of the community—asexual, aromantic, and agender—so even when the A is included in LGBTQIAP+, people don’t always agree on who is being represented.
What can authors do? Incorporate characters who fall on the asexual spectrum, even if they’re secondary characters. Give them full lives and interests outside of sexual relationships and give us the word in black and white. Make readers go look it up if they don’t know what it is, but don’t give them any wiggle room on interpretation. Don’t leave it implied. Find a way to work the word into the text, whether it’s demisexual, graysexual, asexual, or any other orientation under the ace umbrella. The solidity of that kind of representation is so important right now. Awareness is key to changing the way asexuality is viewed by the world.
What’s something you still dream of contributing to YA lit? (Can be as general or as specific as you like!)
At least one book that lives a lot longer than I do. It’s literally impossible for me to know if this will happen, but I sincerely hope that it does.
What’s the first ace representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
I wish I could remember the name of the book…so I could warn people away from it. Unfortunately, since I returned it right away, and I didn’t write the title down anywhere, I don’t have it. This story, while otherwise interesting, had a main character (we’ll call him Bill) who told the second (let’s call him Ted) that he was asexual. It was the first time I remembered ever seen a character say that in a book, and definitely the first time since I had discovered the orientation for myself. The noise I made upon seeing that in print was basically inhuman. But then the story continued. It was clear very quickly that Bill was not asexual. Bill was afraid of intimacy for various (very real) reasons, a virgin, and mistrustful of Ted. Due to all of those factors, Bill basically lied to Ted about being asexual. He used it as a stalling technique to give himself time to think.
It was the first representation of my orientation I saw, and it was used as a trick to keep someone else at bay. It was a lie. Bill was “fixed” with sex. It was awful.
It also strengthened my resolve to include as many different aces as I could in my own books.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
The way the community rallies. Whether it’s to promote a new story that is exceptional or to protect an author being harassed or to call out discrimination or awful representation when it’s presented as “good enough,” this community—especially in YA—is a beast. In the best way. It’s the dragon in a fantasy story that will curl up with the human who raised it and smilingly burn a would-be assailant to a stick of over-charred meat. I love the support I’ve seen and that I’ve gotten from this community, and I’m so happy to continue contributing to it.
What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?
The first I ever remember reading was in Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic series. I was thrilled because Daja—who already reminded me of my best friend at the time—became even more of an accurate representation for my friend after she started crushing on girls. Sadly, it took a long time after that before I found any sort of representation that wasn’t a snarky, fashion-conscious Gay Best Friend character.
Recent years have made me so happy. I fell in love with books like Martyr by Alex Kahler (which is being relaunched in brilliant new form soon!) and None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio. I get to be champions of books like 27 Hours by Tristina Wright and bounce in anticipation of books like Timekeeper by Tara Sim, Marion by Ella Lyons, and Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. This is a very exciting time to be part of the YA community and I can’t wait to see what the next few years will look like!
Where can people find more of your work on asexuality?
The first time I really wrote in detail about my asexuality was on DiversifYA in a great interview I did after meeting Marieke Nijkamp at RT 2015, but the piece I am pointing everyone to right now is the essay I recently wrote. Don’t Erase the Aces is a very personal story about my late discovery of asexuality and what not having access to that label meant in my life. On my site there is also an Asexuality Awareness page with useful links to both things I have written and outside sites with valid and valuable information. I am hoping to do a lot more in the future (I’ve applied for a TED Talk, so here’s hoping that happens). Honestly, I will likely spend the rest of my life talking about this, and I’m very okay with that.