Tag Archives: Fantasy

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Moontangled by Stephanie Burgis

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have Stephanie Burgis, whose upcoming f/f fantasy romance novella, Moontangled, releases February 3rd from Five Fathoms Press and is set in her Harwood Spellbook series! We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from the story, so come see what it’s all about and then enjoy a sneak peek!

Take one ambitious politician and one determined magician with wildly different aims for their next meeting.

Add a secret betrothal, a family scandal, and a heaping of dangerous fey magic in an enchanted wood…and watch the sparks fly!

For just one moonlit, memorable night, Thornfell College of Magic has flung open its doors, inviting guests from around the nation to an outdoor ball intended to introduce the first-ever class of women magicians to society…but one magician and one invited guest have far more pressing goals of their own for the night.

Quietly brilliant Juliana Banks is determined to win back the affections of her secret fiancée, rising politician Caroline Fennell, who has become inexplicably distant. If Juliana needs to use magic to get her stubborn fiancée to pay her attention…well, then, as the top student in her class, she is more than ready to take on that challenge!

Unbeknownst to Juliana, though, Caroline plans to nobly sacrifice their betrothal for Juliana’s own sake – and no one has ever accused iron-willed Caroline Fennell of being easy to deter from any goal.

Their path to mutual happiness may seem tangled beyond repair…but when they enter the fey-ruled woods that border Thornfell College, these two determined women will find all of their plans upended in a night of unexpected and magical possibilities.

Preorder: Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | See All Stores

And here’s the excerpt!

Golden lights glimmered across the grass, lighting a sparkling path through the moonlight. Juliana, waiting with the others in the enspelled blackness of the garden beyond, held her breath as she watched Thornfell’s great doors open wide. Light streamed out from the foyer, and guests streamed out with it in a chattering, glittering crowd.

Of course she’d never glimpse Caroline among so many others and from this distance—

There.

She’d know that haughty head-tilt anywhere—and oh, that easy, confident glide, like a panther prowling across the grass. There was only one thing missing: the usual laughing, vibrant circle of friends and admirers that followed Caroline Fennell to every social event of note.

Her breath escaped in a sigh of pure relief. It would be so much easier to tempt her fiancée discreetly into the shadows without any close observers keeping watch on them. Was that—could that be why Caroline had come alone to a party, for once? If she, too, was hoping for convenient privacy…

Warmth blossomed in Juliana’s chest.

Behind her, Sujana whispered, “Ready…and…now!”

Magical fireworks showered above the grass beyond as the garden blazed into triumphant, golden life at the end of their path, a brightly-lit stage before the vast, dark woods that hulked beyond. An invisible symphony of strings, flutes, and drums filled the warm air, while victorious scenes from the nation’s past stretched across the night sky, flashing from one famous triumph to another in dazzling succession.

The crowd came to a gasping, breathless halt, every head tipping back to take in each glittering, vivid detail…

Every head except for one.

Caroline’s gaze fixed on Juliana across all the space between them—and held, as if no one and nothing else existed.

It was exactly the way she had looked at her that very first evening years ago, when the famous Miss Fennell had arrived as an invited guest to one of Juliana’s aunt’s crowded Winter Solstice house parties…and had looked straight through all the rising politicians and hopeful gentleman mages to where Juliana had stood in the shadows, hiding every passionate truth about herself for her own safety.

Caroline had seen her from the very beginning…and when Caroline looked at her like that, Juliana could almost believe that she really was as strong and as beautiful as Caroline claimed, no matter what her own aunt and father had always told her to the contrary.

She had vowed never to think about them again. She was free now, she was surrounded by friends, and Caroline still wanted her after all. The joy and relief of that was inexpressible.

She barely held herself back as the fireworks ended and Miss Harwood stepped into place between the visitors and the brightly-lit garden.

“Welcome to Thornfell College of Magic,” said their headmistress. “You are all invited to walk the garden paths—and, of course, join the dance!”

The lighted path across the grass shot outward at her words, until it formed a massive, golden dancefloor. Glasses of elven wine floated in mid-air at the sidelines, waiting.

The music shifted into a jaunty new tune. Miss Harwood reached for her tall, lean husband to lead the dance. Juliana’s fellow students surged forwards to join them—

And Juliana held Caroline’s gaze as she shifted, deliberately, out from among all of her friends to slip into the shadows.

She didn’t have to wait for long.

“Is it safe to steal a moment in private?” Caroline’s words ghosted through the darkness, sending shivers down the back of Juliana’s neck.

“This way,” Juliana whispered, and led Caroline into the woods.

***

Version 3
J. Samphire

Stephanie Burgis grew up in Michigan but now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffeeshops. She writes wildly romantic historical fantasy for adults and fun adventure fantasy novels for kids, including Snowspelled and Thornbound (also in the Harwood Spellbook series) and The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. You can find out more and read excerpts from all of her books on her website.

New Release Spotlight: The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith

Queer Middle Grade is having a banner year, and there’s no better way to kick it off than with this killer fantasy graphic novel by debut Niki Smith, about siblings who must disguise themselves as girls in order to escape a murderous, rebellious relative. But for one of them, “girl” isn’t truly a disguise, and the idea of saving the day and returning things to their original state is bittersweet, especially since girl-dom has come with a lovely new role she’s wholeheartedly embraced.

After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.

As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home.While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Better Know an Author: Tara Sim

Happy new year! We’re thrilled to be kicking off 2020 with none other than Tara Sim, author of the Timekeeper series and the brand-new series opener Scavenge the Stars, which releases on January 7! Clearly, she’s someone fans of queer fantasy have got to know, so please give her a warm welcome to LGBTQReads!

Congrats on the new release! Scavenge the Stars is built around the ultimate revenge fantasy, which is just so much fun. What was your favorite part of it to right, and what was way harder than people would imagine?

42248816Thank you! I think my favorite part to write was any situation in which Cayo was utterly useless. There’s a chapter toward the end of the book where he does something kinda stupid (I won’t spoil it, of course) and that was honestly my favorite chapter to write out of the whole book.

The thing that was hardest to write was anything involving money laundering. I know how a character should stab another in ten different fatal ways, but that was the thing that tripped me up most.

Queerness is part of Scavenge the Stars for both main characters in very different ways. Could you share a little about both Amaya and Cayo’s identities and writing them in the context of your world?

Writing queerness in fantasy books is always a little difficult when it comes to terminology, because you don’t want to throw the reader out of the setting. That being said, I wanted a world where homophobia just never came up/wasn’t an issue, so there are nonbinary and trans folks who can present however they want to without fear.

I wrote Amaya as demisexual, partly because it reflected my desire to see more demi main characters and partly because it just felt right for her. She doesn’t feel attraction for people right away; she needs time to break down her barriers and to work toward trusting the person first. On the flipside, Cayo is bisexual and not discreet about it at all. I wanted to write a character who knew how to flirt and be charming without playing into harmful bisexual tropes.

Of course, you have an entire queer fantasy series already under your belt. For those who might just be getting to know you through your new book, can you fill people in on the world of Timekeeper?

34138465._sy475_Timekeeper is my debut trilogy about an alternate Victorian world where clock towers literally control time. If a tower breaks or runs faulty, time does too. Enter Danny, my grumpy Ravenclaw gay clock mechanic, who gets assigned to an out-of-the-way clock tower only to discover a cheerful sunshine boy who has an even more curious connection to time than he does. Shenanigans and explosions ensue.

Even people who are well aware of your novels might not be aware that you have another queer story out this year, which is pretty badass! What inspired your story in Color Outside the Lines and how did you find writing short fiction compared to full-length novels?

Just another step in taking over the world, obviously.

My story in Color Outside the Lines is an f/f retelling of Hades and Persephone, which is a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, so I’m not entirely sure where the initial inspiration came from. Loving Greek myth, I suppose. Writing short fiction, to me, is much harder than writing long form! I tend to ramble and have chatty characters, so confining myself to just 7,000 words was a challenge.

Writing Desi identity has been a part of all your work to this point, though it takes different forms. Could you share a little about that and how your background bleeds into your work?

40960763I’m half Indian but white passing, which has led to a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about my identity over the years. For the longest time I was afraid to write desi characters or anything with the aesthetic because I worried people would think I had no business doing so, or that my own experience within my culture wasn’t enough.

Writing Chainbreaker, the second book in my Timekeeper trilogy, was the first time I wrote Indian characters–and wrote about India itself, for that matter. One of the main characters, Daphne, is half Indian and white passing like myself, and I poured a lot of my own turmoil into her arc.That was a doorway opening for me, making me braver in exploring my identity and how I could portray it in different ways on the page.

In Scavenge the Stars, it’s a secondary world, but Amaya’s father comes from a country I modeled after India, and most of her knowledge of that country comes from her father’s stories. In my short story in Color Outside the Lines, Persephone is called Parvani, and she comes from an India-esque kingdom suffering under a harsh ruler. I really enjoy exploring different ways for characters to interact with their identities, whether it’s diaspora or national pride.

What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you recall coming across in media, for better or for worse?

You know, I think it might have been fanfiction. But in terms of mainstream media, I can’t fully recall my first instance–my memory is awful–but I do remember being impacted by Brokeback Mountain when the movie came out. I saw it in theaters and it felt like a sucker punch. Looking at the movie now just makes me sigh, but back then it meant a lot, even if I didn’t completely understand why.

As queer fantasy seems to be on the rise, what are some titles you’ve loved and some you’re especially looking forward to?

Some queer SFF I’ve loved recently are Gideon the Ninth, Wilder Girls, Crier’s War, The Never Tilting World, and Reverie. Some upcoming titles I’m excited for are Bonds of Brass (already read it but it’s great), Infinity Son, Burn Our Bodies Down, and The Unspoken Name (again, already read it but it’s great!).

What’s up next for you?

Something really cool that I can’t talk about yet (gah), as well as working on Scavenge’s sequel. Also, keep an eye out for more short stories from me in the upcoming anthologies Out Now: Queer We Go Again and WNDB’s Fantastic Worlds.

***

Author Photo_Tara SimTara Sim is the author of SCAVENGE THE STARS (Disney-Hyperion, 2020) and the Timekeeper trilogy who can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, murder, and explosions. Follow her on Twitter at @EachStarAWorld, and check out her website for fun extras at tarasim.com.

New Release Spotlight (+Interview!): Reverie by Ryan La Sala

Honestly, I’m not sure what I can say about Reverie that’s going to top the very fact of its containing a drag queen sorceress, but in five words, this is The World’s Gayest Fever Dream, so I hope that helps any reluctant readers over the fence! It also happens to be a B&N book club pick, so bonus points for being able to participate in that after you read! And now, onward to the blurb and buy links!

Reveries are worlds born from a person’s private fantasies, and once they manifest they can only be unraveled by bringing their conflicts to resolution. Reveries have rules and plots, magic and monsters, and one wrong step could twist the entire thing into a lethal, labyrinthine nightmare. Unraveling them is dangerous work, but it’s what Kane and The Others do.

Or did, until one of The Others purged Kane of his memories. But now Kane is back, and solving the mystery of his betrayal is the only way to unite his team and defeat reality’s latest threat: Poesy, a sorceress bent on harvesting the reveries for their pure, imaginative power.

But what use might a drag queen sorceress have with a menagerie of stolen reveries? And should Kane, a boy with no love for a team that betrayed him, fight to stop her, or defect to aid her?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Indigo | Book Depository

Now, as you may know, dear reader, the whole staff of B&N Teen Blog, including yours truly, was let go with approximately no warning, and I had a bunch of interviews lined up as part of my Get to Know a YA Author series, including one by Ryan La Sala himself! And so, I’m gonna go ahead and continue the delight here so you can Get to Know Ryan La Sala!

Describe your new release in 5 words.

I need at least six.

As this is a book blog, let’s hear three recommendations for favorite queer YAs!

We Set the Dark on FireTehlor Kay Mejia – a gorgeously written, compelling story that I return to again and again. The queerness is central to the plot, and the world is incredibly rendered. I adored.

Black Wings Beating  – Alex FREAKING London!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a mind, what an imagination. Proxy was the first book of his that I read, and I would have been a life long fan with just that. But lucky for humanity, he consistently is delivering excellent books. We are so blessed.

The Wise and the Wicked – Rebecca Podos — Wow did I adore this book. It’s creepy, grim, fantastical, and has one of my fav recent romances. I actually didn’t know much going in, and I’m glad. I hope you read it, and love discovering it as much as I did.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing or reading?

Anybody who’s been to my house could answer this: arts and crafts. I have a constant need to create stuff using my hands. Along with drawing, I’ve recently been doing a lot of bedazzling and fabric work. My second book is all about arts and crafts, and specifically cosplay, and it’s directly inspired by my own fascination with using materials to shape an idea into something tangible, cool, and a little magical.

I also go to the gym a lot. Maybe you think that means working out, but it actually means sashaying on a treadmill to Broadway dance numbers, at very high speeds, until a get flung backwards all at once.

Where’s your dream Book Tour stop?

The Vatican. Wouldn’t that be just wild? But the Pope and I haven’t texted in years. So instead I’ll say: DragCon. It’s a massive drag convention organized by RuPaul, and I would love the opportunity to meet many of the queens that inspired me to write Poesy, my own queen in Reverie. It would also give me a chance to talk to young, queer readers, who are the people I’m most interested in reaching with my work.

If you could retell any story as a YA novel, what would it be and why?

I have major aspirations of digging into some of my favorite, old operas and doing YA retellings. In operatic fantasy, there are simply no rules. Just none. It all comes down to the drama, the performance, and the emotion. And I love applying that same production to my books.

That, or CATS, for all the same reasons.

What’s your favorite way to reward yourself for publishing a book?

For any of my achievements, I tend to lean heavy into retail therapy. But not like, “Oh I want this cute sweater” retail therapy. I mean, “decide I’m now a person who cannot bear to sit on a couch that’s not made from crushed velvet” retail therapy. I think it’s because I spend so much time being an anthropomorphic crab person on my way towards publication, what with all the writing and shut-in-tendencies and all that. By the time I actually hit a milestone, I’m ready to husk off my entire self and just reinvent me. And usually the most expedient way to do that is to buy something so bizarre to your everyday life that it feels like an ejection.

What are you working on now?

Between you, me, and the entire internet? A sequel. 🙂

(c) Lauren Takakjian

Ryan La Sala grew up in Connecticut, but only physically. Mentally, he spent most of his childhood in the worlds of Sailor Moon and Xena: Warrior Princess, which perhaps explains all the twirling. He studied Anthropology and Neuroscience at Northeastern University before becoming a project manager specialized in digital tools. He technically lives in New York City, but has actually transcended material reality and only takes up a human shell for special occasions, like brunch, and to watch anime (which is banned on the astral plane). Reverie is Ryan’s debut novel. You can visit him at ryanlasala.com.

New Releases: December 2019

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Collie Jolly by Leigh Landry (1st)

Ashley’s never owned a dog, much less trained one. But she’s not about to let that little detail stop her—especially during the holiday season—from applying for this dog training job. Her new gig is the perfect way to survive the recession while strolling the festive streets of New Orleans with a cute pooch. The biggest challenge? Heeling a growing attraction to her stunning shut-in of a boss.

When her girlfriend died a year ago, Madison found herself overwhelmed by grief and her girlfriend’s rambunctious puppy. Now the dog is an unmanageable, attention-starved reminder of everything Madison has lost. She’s still afraid to face the world, but her vibrant new dog trainer—with the help of a furry sidekick—is determined to bring light, laughter, and Christmas cheer back into Madison’s life.

Buy it: Amazon | iBooks

This Will Kill That by Danielle K. Roux (3rd)

District City is full of monsters. Not the kind that appear particularly vile from the outside. The kind who murder innocent people for no apparent reason. Abandoned houses are haunted by wayward spirits. Leaders of rival Colors clash over the secrets of a brutal past.

After the Plague thinned out the population, Rin Morana figured people would have stopped killing each other. No such luck. Her parents disappeared, and now she is set to take over as the new Lady Morana, head of the Green faction. To be a leader, Rin must contend with her relationship to her rival, Lady Amaya, as well as her own history of violence.

A series of riddles take Amaya Verity out of her isolated room in the Blue compound and into the hidden spaces of the City. Running away from captivity, Amaya takes shelter with Rin at the old Sydis house. There she meets two young men with demons of their own to contend with and abilities to match. Alan who is hiding out from his abusive ex, and Kazuki who might be the only person in the City that remembers the events of the Plague.

As they dig deeper, Amaya and Rin must decide whether to fight monsters or become them.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Reverie by Ryan La Sala (3rd)

Reveries are worlds born from a person’s private fantasies, and once they manifest they can only be unraveled by bringing their conflicts to resolution. Reveries have rules and plots, magic and monsters, and one wrong step could twist the entire thing into a lethal, labyrinthine nightmare. Unraveling them is dangerous work, but it’s what Kane and The Others do.

Or did, until one of The Others purged Kane of his memories. But now Kane is back, and solving the mystery of his betrayal is the only way to unite his team and defeat reality’s latest threat: Poesy, a sorceress bent on harvesting the reveries for their pure, imaginative power.

But what use might a drag queen sorceress have with a menagerie of stolen reveries? And should Kane, a boy with no love for a team that betrayed him, fight to stop her, or defect to aid her?

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | IndieBound

Runemaker by Alex R. Kahler (3rd)

This is the final book in the Runebinder Chronicles

Tenn thought the spirits wanted him to find his fellow Hunter, Aidan, to win the war against the undead. But with Aidan on the brink of self-destruction and Tenn reeling from his lover’s spite, their fated convergence seems far from promising.

Especially because Aidan no longer appears to be fighting for the living.

With the Dark Lady whispering commands and Tom‡s guiding his hand, Aidan slips deeper into darkness. And while the world rallies for its final battle against the Dark Lady’s minions, Tenn finds himself torn between saving the boy who’s slipping away and fulfilling a prophecy he can’t understand—one that will require him to harness the most powerful magic the world has ever seen: the Sphere of Maya.

And depending on who unleashes its power, that magic could either save humanity…or erase it.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Hot Ice by Elle Spencer, Aurora Rey, and Erin Zak (10th)

In Ice on Wheels by Aurora Rey, all’s fair in love and roller derby. That’s Riley Fauchet’s motto, until a new job lands her at the same company—and on the same team—as her rival Brooke Landry, the frosty jammer for the Big Easy Bruisers.

In Private Equity by Elle Spencer, Cassidy Bennett spends an unexpected evening at a lesbian nightclub with her notoriously reserved and demanding boss, successful venture capitalist Julia Whitmore. After seeing a different side of Julia, Cassidy can’t seem to shake her desire to know more.

In Closed-Door Policy by Erin Zak, going back to college is never easy, but Caroline Stevens is prepared to work hard and change her life for the better. What she’s not prepared for is Dr. Atlanta Morris, her new professor whose tough demeanor is no match for Caroline’s burgeoning confidence.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West (16th)

A femme kink expert who recently realized something new about her own sexuality…

Leah, a 51 year old fat Jewish queer femme, is an experienced submissive who recently came to terms with being gray ace and is trying to figure out how to rework her life and relationships in a way that more fully honors her gray aceness: as a kink educator, as a sex shop owner, and as a polyamorous kinky person with multiple ongoing play relationships.

A newly single butch who wants to finally explore her dominance…

Her best friend Jordan, a 49 year old fat disabled Jewish pansexual stone butch with PTSD, is newly divorced, has just gotten an awesome new job, moved to NYC and is subletting a room in Leah’s apartment. After years of vanilla monogamous marriage, Jordan wants to explore kink and polyamory. Jordan devoted her adult life to parenting her younger sister and building a home with her wife, and now she is going after what she wants, which may even include making a move on Leah after all these years.

Eight kink lessons between friends…

Leah offers Jordan eight kink lessons, one for each night of Chanukah, to help Jordan find her feet as a novice dominant, certain that they can keep it friendly and educational. After all, she’s been keeping her kink life casual for years. Why would this be different?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Kill Club by Wendy Heard (17th)

Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.

Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.

All she has to do is kill a stranger.

Buy it: Amazon | IndieBound | B&N

Mangos and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera (23rd)

Kiskeya Burgos left the tropical beaches of the Dominican Republic with a lot to prove. As a pastry chef on the come up, when she arrives in Scotland, she has one goal in mind: win the Holiday Baking Challenge. Winning is her opportunity to prove to her family, her former boss, and most importantly herself, she can make it in the culinary world. Kiskeya will stop at nothing to win , that is, if she can keep her eyes on the prize and off her infuriating teammate’s perfect lips.

Sully Morales, home cooking hustler, and self-proclaimed baking brujita lands in Scotland on a quest to find her purpose after spending years as her family’s caregiver. But now, with her home life back on track, it’s time for Sully to get reacquainted with her greatest love, baking. Winning the Holiday Baking Challenge is a no brainer if she can convince her grumpy AF baking partner that they make a great team both in and out of the kitchen before an unexpected betrayal ends their chance to attain culinary competition glory.

Buy it: Amazon

 

 

 

Better Know an Author: K.A. Doore

I’m so excited to have K.A. Doore on the site as this month’s featured author, because frankly, a lot of the books that make it onto this site are thanks to her working to increase visibility for them, making her one of my favorite authors to follow on Twitter. But in addition to being an A+ advocate for queer books and for queer adult SFF in particular, she is also, of course, an author, who happens to have just released the second book of the Chronicles of Ghadid series. She’s joining us to talk about the books, SFF, discoverability, and more, so take a seat and get to know K.A. Doore!

Congrats on the release of The Impossible Contract! As we all know, the second book, especially of a series, can be a complete nightmare, so what was the process of writing it like and what was the absolute best moment?

43263188Thank you!!

I have to admit I kind of cheated on my second book, in that The Impossible Contract was actually the book I wrote first. It was supposed to be a standalone, but when I was presented with the opportunity to write more in that universe, I jumped on it. I just, maybe, jumped a little backwards.

The Perfect Assassin turned out to be my second book, as well as the first in the series, which was its own specific kind of nightmare. I had to figure out how to write a book that felt like it had always come first, that was in some ways quieter, that laid the foundation of the worldbuilding done in the now second book without overshadowing it, that had its own stakes and characters and all tied up neatly enough to work on its own and also lead into the next book.

Hard, yes? And then do that all in nine months with a newborn.

That was the most difficult part, but that was also the best part. Having the chance to explore the world in greater detail, to dig into the myths and lore I hadn’t had the space to in the now second book, to share the roots of the family and the traditions of their world – I can’t imagine writing the series any differently now.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Chronicles of Ghadid series, how are the books, which have different main protagonists, connected? And can you tell us a little about both Amastan and Thana?

39863314They’re thematically connected, each building upon the others’ answers – and questions – about what it means to be a family, what it means to take a life, and what it means to do the right thing, even when it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. They’re also, ultimately, a story about a city and its people and its history, and how each generation tells its own story about that history, deriving a separate but still valid identity from it.

I’m a historian at heart – if not quite on paper (does a Classics degree count?) – so exploring the ways the history of a people changes and shifts over time and is used for various purposes became the main thread of the story, and why ultimately this series is about the city of Ghadid more than it is about any individual person.

But it is still about Amastan and Thana and their fellow cousins. Those two are opposites in a lot of ways. Amastan is meticulous and highly risk-averse, preferring a quiet afternoon with tea and scrolls to any excitement. Whereas Thana wants to make a name for herself, she wants to stand out from her cousins and become a legend. I love them both and I loved exploring their stories and the way they feed off of each other – mostly for good, occasionally for bad.

The final book in the trilogy, The Unconquered City, releases from Tor on June 16th. What familiar things can established fans expect to see, and what can you say about it that should make clear to readers it’s time to get in on the ground floor?

47902772._sy475_Many familiar faces return in the third book and the story of a city and it’s magic that I’ve been not so subtly hinting at all along comes to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion. A lot of questions raised about the nature of spirits and what happens to them, as well as what, exactly, it means to be a healer and how that talent developed in a far-flung city like Ghadid are answered as well.

While The Perfect Assassin and The Impossible Contract both work well as standalones, The Unconquered City draws heavily on themes, events, and characters from both. I did have one beta reader go in cold and they still enjoyed the story, but I wouldn’t advise it. TUC is a story about overcoming trauma and resilience and rediscovering hope, a story I needed during a particularly hard time in my own life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written.

But it’s also full of fights and magic and conflagrations and angry arguments in jail cells. In a way, it’s more of the same, if under a different light. But it’s also an ending to a trilogy that has been bittersweet and hopeful throughout, and it stays true to both.

It’s no secret I’m not a huge adult SFF reader, so I am undyingly grateful to you for your incredible enthusiasm for queer adult SFF and your championing it all over the place. Where do you find about new queer SFF, and how do you recommend readers stay on top of new books?

My secret is that I’m friends/acquaintances with a lot of awesome queer authors who know other awesome queer authors and are good about tipping me off to forthcoming books. Beyond that, I keep an eye out and read reviews (Tor.com is very good about explicitly saying when a book is queer, thank goodness) and then use lists other people have put together to try and fill in the gaps. Even with all that, I still miss some. I’m only one person and I’m only human, so it’s inevitable.

I would advise readers follow blogs and accounts that are dedicated to spreading the word about queer books – like LGBTQ Reads :), but also Reads Rainbow. A little bit more time intensive, but I’d also advise checking out publisher’s catalogues and reading the advance reviews on those books, since oftentimes reviewers will mention the representation they saw. You will start to notice those reviewers who are very good about spotting queer books in advance, as well as talking about the queer books they’ve noticed. Follow them.

Speaking of incredible enthusiasm for queer adult SFF…what are some of your all-time and recent favorites, and what are you most looking forward to in upcoming titles?

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett comes out March 3, 2020 and is basically lesbian Anastasia on ice. It’s fun and smart and thoughtful and deliciously queernorm and it tackles such lofty topics of power, corruption, dictatorships vs republics, and fetishizing the other in a way that never feels like browbeating. Plus, it’s Bartlett, so you’ve got that exquisite, vivid writing as well and the softest f/f relationship ever.

I also really loved The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht and Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, two novellas put out by Tor.com this summer, each delicious and well-written, each queer af. The former is gory and sharp, dark as all get out and just as sumptuous, while the latter is… not exactly a happy ending, but a lot softer, a gentle hug of a book with a fierceness at its heart.

In addition to your novels, you also write short fiction, which is wonderfully available on your website with Ao3 tags and all. What is it about short fiction and long-form novels that each speak to you, and what fandom is it that brought you to Ao3?

I have to first admit that I was only ever briefly on Ao3 – I cut my fandom teeth on fanfic.net way back in the day. Sailor Moon was initially what brought me in and taught me the ropes of writing a story that was season-length, aka novel-length, if by ropes you mean writing and rewriting and rewriting the same story but never actually finishing it. While I haven’t written fic for a long time now, I still love that particular art form (and yes, it is an art form) and if I ever have time again, look forward to swimming through comfort-fic.

But novels are where I started and novels are where I stayed. I’ve always naturally gravitated toward longer form, since it gives me more room to layer worldbuilding and play with characters. The pay-off of a particular moment that has been subtly – or not so subtly – foreshadowed for most of a book is one of my favorite things about writing, along with the way characters continue to surprise you, two things I find are much more difficult to do satisfactorily in short form.

Short form is also, in my opinion, a whole lot harder to write than novels. Which is probably why it took me so long to even dip my toe into that particular pool. In fact, I thought I was incapable of writing them up until this year, when I needed to work on something in between edits on The Unconquered City. I wasn’t ready to leave Ghadid, and I didn’t have the brain power to begin building a new and separate world, so I played with shorts. They helped me tie up loose ends and begin to move on from a story and world I’d been immersed in for the better part of five years, as well as realize that maybe, maybe, I could learn to do this short story thing after all.

People often think of SFF as an “escape from reality,” but in truth, it can be some of the best ground for exploring topics such as identity and bigotry (including the internalized kind), as you well know. What do you think it is about working outside the bounds of “reality” that makes such a great setting for discussing some of the hardest parts of our reality, especially in the current political climate?

It’s the ability to imagine a different reality, and in so doing come to realize it can be our reality. I write queernorm worlds – that is, worlds where homophobia isn’t a thing – because being able to imagine a place and time where we don’t have to worry about our identities, where it simply isn’t an issue and society works with us can help us believe that such a reality, or a form of that reality, is obtainable here. And that first step – believing it’s even possible – is how we obtain it.

It’s also, generally, easier for fantasy to take on such large ideas and truths because the reader is having a fun time and often doesn’t realize that their worldview is shifting along the way. A fantasy adventure makes it easier to internalize truths like treat others well, corporations are inherently selfish, and maybe people are just… people. Of course, the flip side of this is that fantasy can propagate harmful stereotypes and ideas just as easily.

If anything, while writing fantasy I’ve realized I have to be a lot more conscious of the ideas and truths floating just beneath the surface of my world and story, of what I’m saying if I make the antagonist a queer woman or the oppressive power structure a matriarchy. If I do make the antagonist a queer woman, then I’d better make sure there are other queer women in the story doing positive things. If I do make the oppressive power structure a matriarchy, then I’d better make it damn clear the oppression is because of humans being humans, not because of their gender.

Fantasy is the most powerful tool we have to imagine a better future, and thereby a better now.

Your kickstarter for the anthology Silk & Steel is seriously killing it! What was the process of putting that together like, and how can people help it come to fruition?

That is all Macey and Django’s doing! They are the architects behind the scenes, setting up the Kickstarter and organizing a literal cat-bag of writers. I just volunteered my services and yelling and the amazing writing community has boosted it from there.

As with all things queer and fiction-related, the best thing any single reader or excited patron can do is yell about it. Share it with your friends. Your coworkers. Your enemies. Being loud and obnoxious about the things you love is in, dontcha know.

What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you recall encountering in the media, for better or for worse?

Does Xena count? Xena should absolutely count, although I don’t think I quite connected the dots until later. But her relationships were all pretty queer and even baby!Kai could read between those lines.

Once the series is over, what’s up next for you?

I have a few things in the works, and they’re all pretty queer, but nothing yet set in stone. I’ve got some potentially big life changes coming up, so no guarantee there will be anything soon, but whatever comes next will continue to be queernorm fantasy. 🙂

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K.A. Doore grew up in Florida, but has since lived in lush Washington, arid Arizona, and cherry-infused Michigan. While recovering from climate whiplash, she’s raised chickens, learned entirely too much about property assessment, photographed cacti, and now develops online trainings while writing fantasy and wrangling a small child, none of which has anything to do with – or perhaps has everything to do with – her BA in Classics.

The Chronicles of Ghadid is her trilogy debut, beginning with The Perfect Assassin from Tor Books.

Fave Five: Queer Southeast Asian Fantasy

Note: These are books that all contain strong Southeast Asian elements, which in some cases combine with elements from East Asia as well.

In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

Wicked as You Wish by Rin Chupeco

The True Queen by Zen Cho

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of a YA debut I’ve been highly anticipating, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron, which releases from Bloomsbury on July 7, 2020! Of course, you may better know this book from its perfectly succinct deal announcement, which described it as “queer black girls team up to overthrow the patriarchy in the former kingdom of Cinderella,” but here’s a fuller picture of the story:

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

And here’s its beautiful cover, designed by Manzi Jackson!

Preorder: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

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Black Forest Photography

Kalynn Bayron is a debut author and classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family.

Backlist Book of the Month: Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria

The policy here for what constitutes “backlist” is that it has to be a year old. So did I literally put Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria into my schedule to promote the very single month it became eligible, even though it’s technically kind of the author’s frontlist? Sure did! Because it is great and underread and has gay, bi, and ace rep and it’s “friends on a quest” which is my favorite kind of contemporary (think Finnikin but gay!) and if you haven’t yet read it, you absolutely should!

In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

Better Know an Author: Rin Chupeco

You’ve been seriously busy these past couple of years! But let’s focus on your newest release first: the fabulous The Never Tilting World, your YA fantasy that released on October 15 and has been billed as Frozen meets Mad Max: Fury Road. What drew you to this story, and were either of those movies in fact inspirations?

I love the aesthetics involved in Mad Max: Fury Road, and wanted to construct a world where those aesthetics would feel right at home. There’s a lot of sparseness to Fury Road that I wanted to emulate, and what strikes me is that the lack of any specific settings never detracted once from the story. In fact, the absence of any concrete locations is what helps propel the story – all Furiosa knows is that she must make it to the mythical Green Place, and is disheartened to find that it’s long gone. For the same reason, both Odessa and Haidee are trying to get to the Great Abyss, the center of Aeon where the worst of the destruction had happened, because they believe there’s something there that will help them figure out how to heal the world. Their hope is what pushes the story forward, too.

TNTW is a little different from Frozen in that, while it’s a story about two sisters, both Haidee and Odessa haven’t even met each other yet. Both begins their travels with an idealized idea of what their sister must have been like, what kind of a family they could have been, and it’s their motivation to try and make the world a better place, because its destruction is what tore them apart in the first place. And it’s a great way to highlight their similarities and their differences with each other before they even meet, so readers get an idea of what kind of relationship they could have as they barrel toward the story’s climax!

There are four characters who really take center stage in The Never Tilting World, including an f/f couple. What one character in the group would you trust to take you to the end of the world, and why?

Right off the bat, it’s not going to be Arjun. We are too similar in personality, which is why I know I can’t trust him for crap. His only advantage is that he’s got a better sense of direction than I do, but we are going to drive each other wild snarking on each other and ignoring all the warning signs and wind up getting eaten by a monster goldfish or something.

Odessa’s a bit too sheltered to understand how the world works at the book’s beginning, and Haidee will be too distracted by the possible automata she could be building en route, and also she will be absent-minded enough to bring helpful inventions to aid on the trip, but not enough food and water. So it’s definitely Lan I’m going to trust, because she’s a responsible leader who is also an excellent healer, scout, fighter, and tracker…. as long as we’re not making the journey on a ship.

You had another work out just before autumn hit, which happened to be in His Hideous Heart, an anthology I know a little bit about. “The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay” is such a cool and different take on one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories, and one you completely made your own, including setting it in the Philippines. Can you share some details about it that are especially meaningful to you?

Boracay was where I, four months pregnant with my first kid, was when Typhoon Haiyan hit. It was one of the first places in the Philippines where it made landfall, and considering that it was a super-typhoon – well, you can only imagine the destruction we saw, and the destruction we barely managed to avoid. Boracay had always been my safe place, in a way – it’s a gorgeous beach, I know how to avoid all the noisy party areas and where to go so it feels like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. That’s where my mind goes when I feel stressed and want to recharge. But that changed a lot after the typhoon, and I started to look at it as a place where bad things could and do happen, even though it’s still one of my most favorite places in the world. Edgar Allan Poe is a huge inspiration to me, and I thought it would be great then to marry a tribute to him with the one place that I know best. Most of the locations in the story are actual places in Boracay, down to the drinking challenges at the bars and the cafe where you can get calamansi cupcakes (although of course, I wish there were eldritches and fairy beer there, too!) One of the murders in my story though, was based on an actual murder of a trans girl by a US marine that made national news (and I can’t really say much else beyond this, because spoilers!).

But wait, there’s more! In just a few months, you have another queer YA fantasy coming, this one with a gay male MC. What can you tell us about Wicked as You Wish?

WICKED AS YOU WISH was seven years in the making, and it’s about a Filipina teen descended from the Filipino mythical heroine Maria Makiling, who winds up helping a young Avalon prince defend his kingdom against the Snow Queen. It’s my “what if fairy tales were real historical events” storyline that I’m really proud of.

My deuteragonist is Alexei Tsarevich, a prince with a HUGE chip on his shoulder, mostly because he’d witnessed his parents’ murder, had to flee his own kingdom when he was five years old, had to watch his kingdom freeze for twelve years, making it inaccessible to all and worrying about any survivors still inside, and had been bouncing from one hiding place to the next, because many governments are searching for him and the powerful spelltech patents his family own. (because yay, capitalism.) To make things worse, he also has a curse where everyone he kisses turns into a frog – excepting Tala, and he cries when he realizes there’s at least one person in the world he couldn’t hurt. He’s kind and loyal and supportive, but he also harbors a lot of survivor’s guilt, and also guilt for many other things he’d had to do to survive. He’d always believed his family’s most powerful weapon, the firebird, had been destroyed decades ago – so when it comes for him on his eighteenth birthday, he now has to deal with suddenly being given the power to change his destiny for the first time in twelve years. Sometimes he does that poorly, and often a little too aggressively to make up for the feelings of vulnerability that had been a constant to him over the years, but I think this is also why I like him very much. Like Lan and also like me, he deals very poorly with trauma, and I wanted to emphasize the different ways people process that, because those ways have happened to me.

One of the most interesting things about watching your career is seeing you thrive thousands of miles away from the so-called center of YA publishing. What’s it like building a career in American publishing from Southeast Asia, and what’s the bookish scene like in the Philippines?

The writing community in the Philippines is a lot similar to the one in the US, I think, albeit in a smaller scale. A big difference though, is that many writers prefer local publishing, which I find personally disheartening. There’s a lot of good stories here waiting for an international audience, but I also think colonial mentality plays a big part in the reluctance. We’re used to looking at the US as something infinitely grander, so we tend to think the works that we do pale in comparison to the works abroad, and that’s not the case at all. This was the mindset I had to unlearn because it’s very prevalent here, but that might also be because I had big dreams and wanted to write for a living, which would not have been possible with the local publishing industry. As odd as it sounds, my name is probably recognizable in the US pub field, but not in my own country. So many people have assumed I’m American simply because I published abroad, and most local panels I’ve done always inevitably wind up with people coming up to me and going “wait what, you’re Filipino?! You’re not visiting from the US, you actually live here?!” There’s a lot of other factors, too (my books are too expensive for many, I don’t look like a typical Filipino and my last name is more of a Chinese-Filipino hybrid, looking down on children / teen books – yes, this isn’t just an American thing – or looking down at books written in English and not in Tagalog) but what IS heartening is the number of writers here who do know me and started querying agents because they saw it was possible. That’s what I want to encourage more of!

What other books do you recommend for queer Southeast Asian rep? What would you still really love to see?

I can’t answer this question without talking about Gail Villanueva and My Fate According to the Butterfly, because I think it gives the best perspective on Filipino culture and issues, primarily the drug war here, and there are some relationships between Sab and important people in her life, including gay supporting characters, that breathe life into her work. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo is about trying to define your own Filipino-American identity along with also being queer. For other Southeast Asian but not queer-centered, there’s also Hanna Alkaf and her gorgeous poem of a book, The Weight of Our Sky, and I can’t help but tear up just thinking about this. But speaking specifically for Philippine gay rep though – as I mentioned before, that’s the most frustrating part. There’s so many LGBTQ+ books here in the Philippines, many of which try to navigate being gay while at the same time still being Catholic – and often in humorous tones, because Filipinos find a lot of solace in humor – but they’re virtually unavailable to most people outside of the country. There’s Tagalog books written to make people laugh, like Happy Na, Gay Pa (“Not just Happy, But Also Gay”) by Danton Remoto, or something that explores the issue more seriously, like Don’t Tell My Mother by Brigitte Bautista, but as a whole it’s not something people outside of the Philippines can very easily find.

What’s your first recollection of LGBTQIAP+ representation in the media, for better or for worse?

I don’t think there’s been any one specific recollection that I remember, because I grew up with LGBTQ+ prevalent enough in local media. While that sounds like a good thing, considering that the Philippines is a very highly conservative country that doesn’t even have divorce laws yet, much less abortion rights or marriage rights for same-sex couples, it’s also very problematic. You’ll see a lot of gay celebrities and gay representation in TV series, but the mindset seems to be treating them for their entertainment value, not for them as people. You’ll also see problematic depictions of them (the one I remember most clearly as a kid was this movie called Barbie: Maid in the Philippines, which is a pun. A straight cis man pretends to be a female maid because he’s on the run, and gets into hijinxes. It’s like a weird combination of Some Like It Hot and Mrs. Doubtfire. They shot this movie across from my house, and I actually have old pics of toddler me being held by some of the actors, so I remember it well.) So it’s “you can give them rights in movies and other media, but you can’t make that official in law”, which has always been the strangest thing to me. I’ve seen some LGBTQ+ people enforce this opinion even, like “I shouldn’t be given rights because it’s against the Bible and so it can’t be officially legal – but as long as no one’s stopping me personally to be the way I am, it’s fine”. There’s a lot of Catholic guilt to unpack.

I know fandom and gaming are big parts of your life. What in particular are your great loves?

I feel like I’ve been in every major 90s and early 2000s fandom that’s ever been made, from Buffy to Harry Potter to Deadwood to even the really niche ones like Kindred the Embrace or Harvey Birdman. Star Trek is my first and biggest love, but I think the one with the really biggest impact to my life is probably anime, simply because so many people here were into it. Almost everyone in the Philippines with a working TV know what anime is, and we love it. (There was this popular variety program / gag show that has one frequent skit that satirizes televangelist Bible readings, and they used the Voltes V theme song as their ‘religious’ song to open, and it’s hilarious how so many people here can sing it from memory. Heck, we celebrate a Naruto Day.)

Anime was really the gateway drug that opened me up to gender fluidity. Ranma 1/2 in particular was very eye opening, but not necessarily the way I wanted it to be. This is about a martial artist who falls into a cursed spring, and now he turns into a girl when he gets hit with cold water, but turns back into a boy with hot water. The whole plot is about him trying to find a way to undo the curse, and I always wind up mentally screaming at him. Like – “You can TURN into a man or a woman! That’s a BLESSING! Why are you trying to get rid of this blessing?! I would kill for this power!” And that opened doors into understanding deeper definitions of fluidity beyond just the binary, for me. Anime really made me understand the gay parts of me I didn’t realize I had. I was defined by series like Gravitation (which was really gay boy porn for girls and it’s so embarrassing to remember how teen me was so hot for the main character, who was also an angsty brooding traumatized bisexual AUTHOR) and Revolutionary Girl Utena (lesbian swordfighting! personally, I believe Utena walked so that Gideon the Ninth could run). Video games really emphasized that too, particularly with my favorite category, mmorpgs / multiplayer rpg – I could subsume myself into the personality of a male berserker instead of being limited to say, a female healer. I was always the main (male) tank / defense for group runs with friends, for example, and that grew to be my trademark class.

As we stare into the abyss of 2020, what upcoming queer titles are you most excited for?

Is it too early to be super-excited for Harrow the Ninth??? Also, Reverie, The Gravity of Us, and Belle Revolte! I’m still only just starting on amazing 2019 titles as it is, including Crier’s War and Her Royal Highness, just because I’ve been so busy!

author

 

Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and did many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fairy tales but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She was born and raised in the Philippines and, or so the legend goes, still haunts that place to this very day. Find her at rinchupeco.com.