Tag Archives: Fantasy

Gimme an R?: Underrepresentation Among the Underrepresented, a Guest Post by Author Gideon E. Wood on Recovery and Addiction

I’m asked often for fiction that deals with recovery, and I haven’t had many recs to offer; it’s not rep to take lightly. So when Gideon E. Wood approached me with a guest post about exactly that, tied to the release of his brand-new fantasy, The Stagsblood Prince, I jumped at it, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Before we get to the post, here’s a little more about The Stagsblood Prince, a gay fantasy epic trilogy opener set in a homophobia-free world:

Cover design by Lance Buckley.

Tel, handsome crown prince of Feigh, has negotiated an end to the war between his country and the strange queendom of Omela. He looks forward to an easy reign of wild parties and wilder men. The deities have other ideas, however, in this gay fantasy novel of transformation, redemption, and love.

When his father dies suddenly, Tel is outmaneuvered by his brother, losing the throne. Tel’s faith prohibits him from raising his sword and spilling blood, so he accepts the humiliation, working to temper his brother’s baser impulses. But the new king’s reign takes a dark turn, and his collaborators begin to round up undesirables, including those with a magic called the stagsblood.

Tel must decide: Flee or fight? Running means abandoning his people to his brother’s evil whims. Standing his ground means the sin of total war. He has no army and only a few allies—and his magical secret.

Caip, his closest friend and protector, brings military experience and blunt advice. Her right hand, Dar, is the picture of loyalty. Tough, battle-scarred Bin doesn’t suffer fools gladly. And Vared, a mysterious singer-turned-diplomat from Omela, speaks the truth to Tel in ways no one else can.  

Buy The Stagsblood Prince

And here’s the post by author Gideon E. Wood!

White. American. Cisgender. Male. Gay. Queer, in my more festive moments. Writer. Progressive. Cat dad. Frequent smirker. Fallen vegan. I suppose I could sit here for hours bullet-pointing my identity. With enough thought, I could get incredibly granular about it. It might even be fun. But there’s one aspect of my identity—one bullet point—before which I put all others: I’m a person in addiction recovery. If I want to be a shade more clinical about it (and why not?), I’m a person with substance use disorder in sustained remission. Fancy!

My understanding of how addiction works (booze and powder cocaine, primarily, if you must know) forces me to—mindfully and regularly—own my recovery before any other aspect of my identity. I drank-and-used myself into homelessness and suicidality, so it is quite literally a matter of life and death for me. So, more than I ponder my race and what it means, more than I ponder my nationality and what it means, more than I ponder even my dude-on-dudeness and what it means, I must ponder my addiction and what it means. This approach has served me well over the last (oh, my gods!) decade, so I have no interest in switching it up. I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to use. I don’t want to die.

When you think about our expanding string of letters (LGBTQ+ is not really an acronym, let alone LGBTQQIP2SAA+…don’t get me started), I’d ask you to imagine a superscript lowercase r—for recovering or recovery available—attached to each. We’re here. We’re queer (or whathaveyou). Even within our community, we are not yet used to it. I find this shocking.

If we take a few minutes to consider it, most of us will intuitively understand that substance use disorder runs rampant through our private and public LGBTQ+ spaces. If your own anecdotal evidence fails to convince you (and good on ya for that, really), rest assured: the research has been done. Among others, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) acknowledge significantly higher rates of substance use disorder in the LGBTQ+ population. The reasons for this prevalence are probably self-evident: trauma, rejection, domestic strife, stigma, the risk of assault, and so on. And it’s not only addiction. These factors seem to increase risk for all manner of mental or behavioral health difficulties for us.  Sadly, the science has also found serious gaps in treatment and support services for our community.

Most of us already believe representation matters. Again, the evidence is there, both anecdotally and in the research. Visibility improves our physical and mental safety, along with our feelings of wellbeing. Whatever our place in our long string of letters, our stories are not told frequently enough. In recent years, we have seen improvement on that front. We are raising our voices, finally. And some are learning to listen.

But where’s my lowercase r? Where’s the representation of queer addiction and—even more importantly, I’d argue—queer recovery? Both our guts and our sociology tell us we should be seeing those stories more than we do. We should be hearing those voices begin to rise. They are there, if we really search and listen, but they are few and far between. When I do encounter them, they tend to be in memoir or narrative nonfiction, and usually depictions of folks in the thick of it. What about after the thick of it? Especially in fiction. And I’m sorry, but I was a mess for a really long time, then I walked into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and all was well does not cut this particular mustard. As we say in recovery circles, we don’t wander into the dark heart of the wilderness for twenty years and then find ourselves safe and comfy at home the moment after we’ve realized we’re lost. It takes time. It takes work. It’s a hike. (Incidentally, I’m sure these stories are out there somewhere, so get in touch! I anxiously await your recs.)

I write fantasy with LGBTQ+ characters. When planning my debut, The Stagsblood Prince, I knew I wanted my main character to represent not just queerness but queerness in motion from active addiction to sustained recovery. Fantasy may not seem like a natural fit for such storytelling, but like all other human foibles and frailties, addiction and recovery are highlighted and brought into crisp relief when placed before a fantastical backdrop of myth and magic.

In fact, the genre may be more suited than most to lift these stories up. I had my own path to putting down substances and my own path to not picking those substances back up for a long while now. There are as many of these roadways as there are people in recovery. My approach may not work for you. We’ve found no silver bullets in the mountain of strategies, but plenty of overlap. Commonalities—shared principles—can be found among the many and varied recovery schools of thought.

Prince Tel of The Stagsblood Prince cannot walk into a Twelve Step meeting or secular support group. Such spaces do not exist in his world. He can’t Zoom with his therapist. There is no Zoom. There are no therapists. He has no psychopharmacology of which to avail himself. Inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, hospitalization? Nope.

What, then, can Prince Tel do? He can learn to practice the principles of treatment and recovery which keep millions of people (the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services says it’s about 23.5 million in the US alone) away from substances here on non-fantasy earth. Tel can tend to his physical, mental, and spiritual health in myriad ways. He can foster habitual gratitude. He can strive for honesty in all matters. He can lessen his burdens by sharing his struggles with others. He can interrogate himself and uncover the flawed thinking at the heart of his troubles. Most importantly, he can learn to ask for help when he needs it. And he’ll need it! He’s got love to find and a world in need of saving.

First and foremost, I hope The Stagsblood Prince entertains. As I see it, that’s my job. In my wilder dreams, though, at least one of you will see yourself represented in Tel and his journey. If you’re finding your use of alcohol or other substances problematic today, maybe you’ll see that recovery is possible. Believe me, the aforementioned asking for help stuff is powerful medicine. (SAMHSA and NIDA are good starting points for resources. My inbox is also always open.) If you’re already on the road, maybe Tel will keep you walking for a while.

We’re here. We’re queer. We are more likely to find ourselves in addiction. We are just as likely as anyone to recover. It’s well past time to get used to it.

***

(c) Daisy Cobb

Gideon E. Wood writes gay fantasy fiction. He has been proudly clean and sober since 2011. Second chances and transformation are at the heart of his work. Gideon lives in New England with his cat but thinks it’s important you know he isn’t a cat person.

You can find him on social media @gideonewood or email him: gideon@gideonewood.com.

Finding Myself Through Writing Queer Romance, a Guest Post by Wench Author Maxine Kaplan

Fun fact: one of the last things I did before the pandemic hit was have lunch with this author, so you can say I’ve been looking forward to this book for a loooong time. Maxine Kaplan’s Wench releases today from Amulet/Abrams, and here’s the story:

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

And here’s Maxine, with a guest post that’s very close to my heart about finding herself through writing Wench and its bi main character!

I started writing Wench with a clear and deeply-held agenda: There would be no romance.

It’s not something I talked about a lot. When I talked about the book, I talked about my simultaneous love for and frustration with classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy; I talked about how I wanted to flesh out fantasy archetypes with humor and humanity; and I mostly talked about my titular tavern wench, Tanya, and how I’d never seen that ubiquitous non-playable background character get to have her own adventure, or even a name most of the time. What I didn’t say was that I was determined to get Tanya through one (1) whole entire epic quest without the interference or influence of a love interest.

I thought of it as a secret mission. I knew how much readers, and especially readers of YA fantasy, expected at least a glimmer of romantic or sexual tension, and I didn’t want to turn them off before they even cracked the spine. But it was that very expectation of romance that bothered me. I hated the expectation that a girl couldn’t have an epic adventure without falling in love along the way. I cringed at the idea of Tanya achieving self-discovery and actualization through the medium of who she wanted to kiss. It felt wrong to me—even anti-feminist. I loathed the idea that something I wrote could reinforce the message that young people receive every day that says: You are nothing and no one until somebody wants to make out with you.

Tanya was going on a quest to win back her tavern. The world I had devised and the story engine I had built didn’t need any romance to make it go. And I was determined that I wouldn’t shoe-horn in a romance (and especially not a love triangle) just to fit the market—because Tanya deserved better, damn it!

And then Tanya taught me that I was wrong. Because, despite my clear intentions to the contrary, two characters showed up who would just not stop having chemistry with Tanya. One was a boy and he was very much within my own crush wheelhouse historically speaking: smart, funny, and angry. I think I just liked writing him and, slowly, he and Tanya fell into chemistry, like real people do. It was quiet, but it was on the page. I couldn’t deny it.

The other was a girl and nothing in my own writing has ever surprised me more.

This girl was always part of the story, for sure. She had been in my outline from go. I knew she was a happy-go-lucky rogue; a thief who loved violence and smiled a lot. So that’s how I wrote her and, without my even having to try, she and hyper-competent, independent, snarky Tanya smacked into each other with the electricity of a lightning storm. Writing good sexual tension—satisfying, believable tension–is hard to do. I know it is, because I’ve tried to do it. But with these two, I didn’t have to try. I didn’t even think about it, not once. It just was.

It got to the point that my strict avoidance of any mention of romance was rendering the story legitimately confusing for any reader. That’s how clear the chemistry between these two was—the completely unplanned, unlooked for, and even unwanted chemistry. But however inadvertent the romance between the two girls was, I eventually had to own up to a simple fact: I wrote it, so I was invested in it.

I grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s as a cis female. It was a time when calling oneself bisexual had a lot of cultural connotations that I was frankly uncomfortable with. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I had a lot of internalized biphobia. I remember being “scared” that I might be attracted to girls—because, sometimes, I was. But I was also attracted to guys. I had no confusion on that score, so I quietly filed all the moments of attraction to girls away in a mental folder labeled “anomalies” and got on with my life as a straight woman.

That was a mistake. That was short-sighted. I wish that, when I was Tanya’s age, I had paid better attention to who and what I actually was: queer. And the thing is? I think that if I had been Tanya’s age today, in 2021, I wouldn’t have had that problem. Because I would have had books like the ones LGBTQReads writes about every day.

And that’s how I came around on romance in my YA. Wench is a book, at its heart, about found families and finding community, which in and of itself, is a process hardwired to identity. You can’t find where you belong without knowing who you are. And you can’t find out who you are by shutting down, or shutting out, the voices in your head telling you who you want. A good book romance isn’t about finding a partner; it’s about a character learning more about themselves, and, sometimes, a romance—whether it’s successful, disastrous, or unrequited— can help with that process. It can be a means to an end as much as it can be its own happily ever after.

The romance I found in Wench helped me remember who I was. It reminded me to honor what has always been true about me. And there’s nothing anti-feminist about that.

***

Maxine Kaplan is a private investigator and writer. Her books are The Accidental Bad Girl and Wench. She lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY, where she caters to the whims of her dim, but soulful cat. Follow her on Twitter @maxinegkaplan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Açorda à Alentejana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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

Chapter One

ELLA

The first day of school started with a funeral.

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

The whispers, especially, followed Eleanor Ashworth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, everyone except Eleanor Ashworth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Two

YUKI

Yuki Miyashiro waited for her friends in the garden.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ve been taking them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yuki’s loss was not pure.

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

Yuki wished she could watch him choke.

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

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

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

She belonged to us.

Yuki’s heart beat faster in her chest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, I am.”

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

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

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

“It’s fine.”

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

Except Reyna didn’t know.

She had no idea.

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

***

 

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

Authors in Conversation: Tessa Gratton and Rebecca Coffindaffer

Today on the site, we’re celebrating two more authors of brand-new queer YAs: Tessa Gratton, whom you might know from Strange Grace, Lady Hotspur, or any other number of queer books, and whose most recent queer YA is a standalone fantasy called Night Shinestarring a panromantic questioning protagonist and genderfluid, lesbian, and gay love interestswhich released on September 8th, and debut Rebecca Coffindaffer, whose space opera, Crownchasers, stars a panromantic and pansexual protag and demisexual love interest in an m/f pairing and releases on September 29th! Make sure you check out September’s New Releases post for info and links to both books! And now, here are the authors!

***

TESSA: Hi! I’m Tessa Gratton, author of both YA and adult SFF novels. My new release is Night Shine, which I’m pitching as a dark, queer Howl’s Moving Castle. It comes out September 8th from McElderry Books, and as luck would have it, one of my longest-term writer friends, Rebecca Coffindaffer, has her debut novel coming out the same month. It’s called Crownchasers, and is the opening of a wild, intense space opera series. Think gender-bent Indiana Jones in space, with lots of twisty politics, a deadly scavenger hunt, and a both sweet and hot slow burn friends-to-lovers romance.

Becca—Tell me what inspired you to write Crownchasers!


BECCA: I’d say the main character, Alyssa Farshot. Her voice and this concept of sort of a gender-bent Han Solo or Indiana Jones kind of character—someone who flies fast, talks fast, takes tons of risk—all that definitely came first. And once I had her, it just became a matter of exploring everything I’ve always loved about science fiction. I grew up on Star Trek and Star Wars, I had a deep and abiding love affair with the rebooted Battlestar Galactica…I mean, if there is a book or movie or TV show set in space, I will eat it up, and I wanted to write a space opera story that embraced and combined all of my favorite tropes of the genre in some new, fun ways.

Okay, Tessa, talk to me about the initial spark behind the story that became Night Shine and how it evolved from original concept to the book that hits shelves in September.

TESSA: Here is something wild: I don’t remember the initial spark for Night Shine! The first five pages have been sitting in my “ideas” folder since about 2011, and I’ve been trying to remember what triggered them. I can’t, and it’s extremely frustrating, LOL. What I do know is why I picked now to actually write the book. It was September 2018 and Strange Grace had launched, so I wanted to try and sell a new YA. I pulled out all my in-progress notebooks and went through my ideas folder to pick something that might speak to me, that felt ready in that amorphous creative way. I landed on Night Shine because it was the only idea that felt light and fun. That’s what I needed, because I was going to be working on it during long days at the hospital while my mom was dying. Night Shine had the space for me to throw in everything I love, tropes and archetypes that delight me—with nothing to make me sad. I made the four MCs my favorite love interest/villain tropes: dark maybe-evil sorcerer; sexy wicked prince; demon in disguise; loyal beleaguered bodyguard. And I made everybody queer. I gave them unicorns and dragons, demon familiars and a spirit-infested rainforest. Volcanoes and heart-stealing and really complicated relationships. I gave them magic that is definitively non-binary.

tl;dr: the inspiration behind Night Shine was to write a joyful story for myself, for my genderqueer, shapeshifting self, in order to stay grounded and creative during a very tough time.

You mention some of your favorite SFF shows, but is there a current show you’re addicted to right now?

BECCA: I feel like you’re asking me this question because you highly suspect what my answer will be, given that you and Natalie had a hand in creating my latest scifi show obsession! 😀 The truth is, we’re living in an amazing Star Trek resurgence right now—a Star Trek renaissance. A Trek-aissance, if you will. I recently consumed the first two seasons of Discovery and the first season of Picard, all in pretty quick succession after I hit my latest deadline, and it’s absolutely my favorite thing ever to see the evolution of this universe. It’s so much more diverse, the plots are twisty and complex, they really dig into the depth of the characters, but the central driving idea behind Star Trek—that there’s hope and goodness and potential in our wildly flawed selves and in our wildly flawed society that is worth holding on to—that is still a fixed point in the stories they’re telling. They really ground all the pew-pew starship action in these characters you just love and you root for and you want to watch them connect and grow and hurt and heal as a crew together. It’s the same reason I come back to another scifi show, The Expanse—the characters bring you back and make it real, even when you’re transporting onto planets that are wildly different than Earth.

Every time you talk about Night Shine, I’m only more desperate for September to get here so I can get my hands on it. What was your process of building your magic system outside the binary and what challenges, if any, you encountered in creating it?

TESSA: YES Discovery is the BEST. I wish everybody was watching it, if only so I can talk more about how Michael Burnham is the greatest hero in modern television. (BECCA: *interjecting loudly* YES SHE IS!) Also to any fans of Amos from The Expanse in particular: you’re gonna love Hell Monkey in Crownchasers.

When it comes to the Night Shine magic system, it’s more accurate to say I built it inside the binary. I wanted the magic itself to be explicitly non-binary, to exist in between dualities like night and day, life and death, “man” and “woman,” and I started by making a culture that emphasizes and appreciates contrast in all things. From cuisine to architecture, fashion and religion. Their fashion, for example, insists upon stark contrast—colors that clash impressively, and if you have light skin you might dye your hair black or maroon, if you have dark skin you might use pale makeup, and manipulating contrasts to draw attention to your beauty. The dualities they adhere to aren’t valued against each other, so this isn’t a place where women or men are devalued, or day and night preferred, it’s the binary that matters. Anything non-binary is marked as Other, whether that’s the priests in their pastel robes or witches in shades of gray, both of whom work with forces dangerously outside life and death. This is why the Empress has two consorts, a man and a woman, and when there’s an Emperor, he also has two consorts, a man and a woman, so as not to put value on one gender over the other. This brings me to the magic! I wanted magic to be the way to challenge dualities—to prove binary thinking is flawed. So I made magic an energy that connects everything—like shadows, like dawn and dusk, like tendons. In order to use it, a person must step outside of contrast and duality in some way, to exist near liminal space, either becoming a priest (who deals with ghosts and gods) or a witch (who deals with spirits and demons). But the greatest magic uses are the rare sorcerers, who must break entirely free of duality and binary thinking in order to exist entirely AS liminality. They move beyond life and death (usually with the aid of a great spirit or great demon familiar), beyond physical form, becoming literal shapeshifters themselves.

The biggest challenge was language! Moving beyond binary thinking is a struggle when the language you’re using is inherently gendered. Modern English has it baked into the core—did you know that Old English had gendered nouns? Masc, fem, AND neutral. Anyway, while I’ve written books with a variety of gender indicators and pronouns both English and fantastical, in this book the various nonbinary and genderfluid people and creatures stick with he, she, and they pronouns (with the occasional demonic it) because I wanted Night Shine to have the same problems as English. That’s the work: challenging binary thinking (in myself and) in this world.

Ok, Becca, next time lob me an easy one! But first tell me your favorite and least favorite things about working with a whole galaxy of world building.

BECCA: Hey, I didn’t come to play here. I signed on for VERY SERIOUS discussions about OUR BOOKS.

I feel like my favorite and least favorite things are kind of tied up together because I loved brainstorming different planets for my main character Alyssa to visit and different peoples she can encounter—what do they look like? how do they interact with their planet or with the empire? what customs do they have and how do they fit in the wider universe? I could really burn weeks just fleshing out all of these questions, and that’s definitely fun for me. I like playing with those sorts of questions. At the same time—and I guess this is where we get to the least favorite thing and almost a self-critique of sorts—it’s very easy to default to shortcuts when imagining other species and other planets and it’s a challenge to push your brain beyond those limitations. It’s kind of the Star Trek effect, right? Where you go to all these “strange new worlds,” but it turns out most of them are peopled by bipedal humanoid creatures that breathe and have blood and generally share mammalian characteristics. We do this because it’s pulling from what we know, what’s familiar, and also because it makes adapting it for film a lot easier! But one thing I want to keep working on in my writing is breaking down those familiar shortcuts in my brain and challenging myself to conceptualize stuff what outside the realms of our own human society.

All right, here’s one that’s (maybe) a little less intense than my last: Which character in Night Shine was your favorite to write? And which do you most relate to? Or maybe are they the same character?

TESSA: They are not the same! My favorite character to write was Esrithalan the unicorn. As I mentioned above, I really gave myself permission in Night Shine to throw in everything I wanted. To only write fun stuff. So at a certain point I needed a story beat, I wasn’t sure what, to connect two important scenes. It had to be a delight, or I couldn’t do it. That was the rule. I was playing around with various types of riddle-demons or the weirdest air spirit I could think of, when I remembered a throw-away line from one of the characters’ origin stories: it involved a unicorn. OBVIOUSLY that was the answer. A unicorn. Only, I was going to make it a little gremlin of a unicorn. Small, hairy, wise, disinterested in the problems of teenaged maybe-girls, with flashes of beauty. It’s an avatar of the Queens of Heaven so of course it has to be strange. It was only one scene, but I relished every second of it.

I relate the most to Kirin Dark-Smile. He’s ambitious, but driven by love—all his greatest moments and biggest mistakes stem from that. He’s also genderfluid, and comfortable being so—at least when he’s alone—while at the same time he’s spent most of his life hiding his gender for both politics and his ambition. I relate most strongly to the fact that he knows exactly who he is, but that doesn’t make it easier to share himself with the world, or with his loved ones.

Where did you put the most of yourself into Crownchasers?

BECCA: I’m so down for all of this, but especially please let this usher in more unicorns in YA. All the unicorns. Many and sundry unicorns.

I think where I put the most of myself is in Alyssa Farshot’s voice and her internal narrative. To be honest, there is not a lot that she and I have in common on the surface—she’s pansexual and I’m very much gray asexual, she’s a major risk taker and I am professionally risk averse, she’s an explorer and I’m a homebody, she’s extremely brave and confrontational and I wouldn’t credit myself with either of those qualities. But writing her came so easily—she’s got a wry, often self-deprecating sense of humor that is very much like mine and she often reaches for a joke to deflect from herself. And while I didn’t necessarily grow up in a floating imperial spaceship or anything, I did grow up fairly sheltered and so did she. There’s a naiveté underneath all her snark and fast-talking, and a lot of her arc—this unspooling awareness of the bigger picture around her, her awareness of it, her realization of her own power and responsibility within it—definitely mimics my own experience in early adulthood. It helped me a lot to ground her character and give her depth beyond the initial concept of “fast-talking hotshot ace pilot.”

LIGHTNING ROUND!

TESSA: Dragons or space ships???

BECCA: Spaceships by a millimeter. Which would you rather have in your house: the Enterprise computer or Calcifer?

TESSA: I have so many questions about how Calcifer got into my house. Favorite childhood book:

BECCA: The Redwall books. Favorite current TV show:

TESSA: Star Trek: Discovery, LOL! Flight or Telepathy?

BECCA: HA! I can’t even handle climbing ladders, so telepathy. Han Solo or Poe Dameron?

TESSA:

Before we descend fully into gifs maybe we should pull this thing together! Thank you so much for chatting with me! I can’t wait for my copy of Crownchasers. Coming to all of us September 29th!

BECCA: This was a lot of fun—thanks, Tessa! And everyone, don’t miss out on claiming a copy of Night Shine for your very own, out Sept. 8th!

New Release Spotlight: Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo

Magic in Appalachia? Rival families working against each other? An intersex protagonist? In Middle Grade Fantasy?? There are so many reasons to check out Cattywampus by debut author Ash van Otterloo (who already has another queer MG, A Touch of Ruckus, on the books for 2021! But first, let’s get to the book at hand!

In the town of Howler’s Hollow, conjuring magic is strictly off-limits. Only nothing makes Delpha McGill’s skin crawl more than rules. So when she finds her family’s secret book of hexes, she’s itching to use it to banish her mama’s money troubles. She just has to keep it quieter than a church mouse — not exactly Delpha’s specialty.

Trouble is, Katybird Hearn is hankering to get her hands on the spell book, too. The daughter of a rival witching family, Katy has reasons of her own for wanting to learn forbidden magic, and she’s not going to let an age-old feud or Delpha’s contrary ways stop her. But their quarrel accidentally unleashes a hex so heinous it resurrects a graveyard full of angry Hearn and McGill ancestors bent on total destruction. If Delpha and Katy want to reverse the spell in time to save everyone in the Hollow from rampaging zombies, they’ll need to mend fences and work together.

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

Under the Gaydar: F/F YA Fantasy

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This edition is dedication to F/F YA Fantasy, which has blown alllll the way up in 2020 and is the perfect way to enjoy the queer lit you need in an environment that might not be safe for it. (Or just to find more stuff you never knew was rocking the rainbow – whatever your situation!)

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)

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski – In more 2020 glory, my fave YA fantasy author also has a new f/f out this year, and yep, it is freaking excellent. Get to know and love the rakish Sid and morally complex Nirrim in this series opener, and then take a seat six feet away from me and let’s mourn the wait for book 2 together. (Bookshop)

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco – You probably already know this book as Frozen meets Mad Max: Fury Road, but you may not know that one of the two goddesses mentioned in the blurb is super gay and in an f/f romance! Want my specific feelings on this book? Good news: I blurbed it! “Complex, brutal, romantic, and terrifying. With a phenomenal cast of characters who stick to your bones and vivid worldbuilding that shows up in your dreams, this is a book that demands to be experienced.” (Bookshop)

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – Yep, more Melissa Bashardoust glory! The romance in this one takes a backseat to the incredibly done stepmother-stepdaughter relationship in this Snow White-inspired fantasy, but it’s still sweet and great and undeniably queer. (Bookshop)

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia – As a caveat, this is the first book in a duology, and the second book does have clear queerness in the blurb. But if you’re good to venture in under those conditions, this is a timely enemies-to-lovers story about immigration and revolution in a highly stratified society, (Bookshop)

New Release Spotlight: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Is anyone on earth still unaware of how much I loved this Persian mythology-inspired bisexual f/f YA fantasy? Probably not, but if you thought I was going to miss a huge chance to recommend it every day of the month, you were sorely mistaken! If you are at all into YA fantasy, Sapphic books, mythology, or Things That Are Very Good, I think I’ve said all I need to say. Go do yourself a favor.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

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

4 New June eBooks for Under $5!

Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian (m/m historical romance, $3.99)

Just Like That by Cole McCade (m/m contemporary romance, $4.99)

Her Lady’s Honor by Renée Dahlia (f/f historical romance, $4.99)

Freedom by E. Davies (trans m/cis m contemporary romance, $4.99)

Links are Amazon affiliate, which earn a small percentage for the site with each purchase.

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

You know when you’re already so excited for a book, and then you see the cover and you just gasp with joy at both its beauty and the fact that the premise has externally been done justice? If you love that feeling as much as I do, you’re definitely going to want to keep reading to learn more about A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha, a debut f/f YA Fantasy Romance coming December 1, 2020 from Entangled Teen. Here’s the pitch:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

And here’s the spectacular cover, designed by Entangled’s Art Director, Bree Archer!

But wait, there’s also a heartbreakingly romantic excerpt!

Hearing her name in Fatyan’s lips heated her cheeks further, and her closeness breathed wonder into her lungs. No stranger had come so near her, and she almost stepped away—but then her eyes found Fatyan’s and the tender curiosity reflected upon them, and the enchantment of it all rooted her in place.

“I need your help,” Yzabel said.

“I know. I need yours, too.” A slight tilt of her head. “What would you ask of me?”

Yzabel tensed, her fingers matching the white of her dress as she clutched it. “You have to promise not to tell anyone. Even after we leave this place.”

“Is it the sahar?”

“Sahar?”

“Magic.” She motioned toward Yzabel’s left hand still glowing as though someone had spread embers under the skin. “It’s what woke me up, even though you were far away.”

The curse had been reacting to Fatyan’s. Yzabel’s lips fell open. “Can you tell me why it turns all the food I touch into flowers?”

Intrigue drew Fatyan’s lips into a pout and her fingers to her chin. “You’ve been cursed?”

“Yes. That’s why I came to find you.” Yzabel looked at Fatyan from under her brown eyelashes, and her tongue darted to wet her mouth. “I need it gone.”

Pensive eyes studied her. “I need to feel your sahar better.” Fatyan caught her hand before it touched Yzabel’s skin, left it to hover above her jaw. “May I?”

An answering nod came without Yzabel’s command, and she stepped forward so Fatyan’s fingers brushed her cheek. The moura closed her eyes as she fully cupped the side of Yzabel’s face, and she wasn’t certain what spell had her enthralled so completely, if it was the stone’s or the moura’s, but her heart was racing, and an odd feeling forming in her stomach, so much like hunger and yet not.

The magic inside her surged, and heat spread from where their skin touched. Yzabel’s heart tried to climb up her throat. When she swallowed it back down, the throb rose to her ears, deafening her to anything that wasn’t Fatyan.

A crease appeared between the moura’s brows as she opened her eyes, and her hand moved across Yzabel’s jaw, down the slope of her neck, mesmerized as they trailed her own gesture. Yzabel looked down when the moura stopped at her shoulder and gasped at the sight before her.

Under Fatyan’s touch, Yzabel’s skin came alight, as though she had candles underneath her flesh and Fatyan’s fingers were the flame that lit their wick.

“This is no curse,” Fatyan said under her breath. She trailed her hand down the inside of Yzabel’s arm, and it was like watching a storm cross her skin.

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

(c) Catarina Dagmar Leal

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