Tag Archives: Fantasy

Guest Post: Black Wings Beating Author Alex London on the Rise of Queer YA SFF

It’s fabulous to have Alex London back on the site today, talking about the rise of queer YA SFF to celebrate the launch of his incredible new gay YA fantasy, Black Wings Beating!

***

I don’t write portal fantasy, but I know that every book is a doorway to another world, and for queer teens, for a long time, the other worlds our fantasy books took us into were shockingly straight places. Fantasy authors—with a few exceptions—it seemed, could imagine vast histories and geographies, monsters and magic that defied the real world’s paltry science, yet could not imagine a place for queer people.

When I published my first sci-fi YA novel (Proxy, 2013), the imaginative fiction space in mainstream YA didn’t have a lot of queer heroes in it. There was Perry Moore’s superhero coming-out story, Hero, and there was Malinda Lo’s f/f Cinderella retelling in Ash and Huntress. Coda by Emma Trevayne came out around the same time as Proxy, but the bi main character’s identity slipped ‘under the gaydar’ in a lot of descriptions of the book. At that point you also had some amazing secondary characters in Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments series, and in Holly Black’s Tithe; but main characters were still in short supply. Mercedes Lackey had written The Last Herald Mage series in the late 80s, which had a gay male lead, but I hadn’t heard of it at the time. It wasn’t enough for the books to exist; they were very rarely promoted and discovering them was deeply difficult.

These days, my TBR YA Fantasy bookstack with queer main characters is bigger than I ever could’ve imagined it becoming, and bigger than I can even keep up with reading. You’ve got super heroes and urban fantasies, dystopias and steampunks, alternate histories, high fantasy, fairy-tales and space operas.  And yes, portal fantasies. And they are getting more attention in a crowded young adult marketplace than they ever have before (still not enough, but so much more…). Publishers have stepped up and sought out and promoted queer YA fantasy.

And yet the same barriers to discovery exist as have always existed. Some schools and libraries are reluctant to promote books that have overt queer content. Some libraries are forbidden from promoting the books, as a recent decision by the library system in Washington County, Utah showed. Queer books exist and keep getting better, but unless they find champions in their communities, they will not find the readers who need them. Most queer teens aren’t following Kirkus Reviews or Buzzfeed booklists.

I’ve been lucky. Librarians championed my first queer YA novel and placed it on a few state lists and my publisher promoted it the same way they would have promoted most other books at the time. They didn’t advertise the queer aspect very much, because they wanted the book to find its way into the mainstream sci-fi readership. In 2013, that was a gamble. In 2018, the queer hero of my first fantasy novel is being touted in every press release from the publisher because, in five short years, the publishing business has come to see that a gay hero does not limit a book to just a gay audience. The book is receiving the kind of publisher support I couldn’t have dreamed of in the past. The comp titles they’ve told me for Black Wings Beating aren’t just queer novels. They are the mainstream epic fantasies that I love, that I’ve always longed to see queer characters star in. And readers of all kinds have shown that they will judge an imaginative novel by the depth of its world-building, by the pacing of its plot, and the richness of its storytelling. A book can’t survive on queer readers alone, and straight readers are showing themselves more than happy to root for a wide array of queer heroes in their fantasy reads, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

There are still challenges, of course. We’re still at the point where the success or failure of every queer fantasy novel impacts the chances of every other, where the hits open the door wider for those that come next, but the books that fail to find their audience make it a little harder for the next ones to get the marketing budgets they might need. But the trends are going in the right direction.

Readers have more queers heroes in fantasy than ever before and doors are opening for authors and for stories that weren’t open in the past. As those doors open, we’re finding amazing new worlds on the other side and those worlds are queer indeed.

***

Alex London is the beloved author of the middle-grade series, Tides of War, Dog Tags, and The Wild Ones and the young adult novel Proxy, which was an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and was included in their 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults List, the Texas Lone Star Reading List, and the TAYSHAS Reading List selection, among many other state reading lists. His upcoming novel, Black Wings Beating, is an LGBTQ+ epic fantasy about legendary birds, first love, and family ties. Connect with him on Twitter @ca_london.

 

Advertisements

New Releases: September 2018

All This I Will Give to You by Dorothy Redondo (1st)

When novelist Manuel Ortigosa learns that his husband, Álvaro, has been killed in a car crash, it comes as a devastating shock. It won’t be the last. He’s now arrived in Galicia. It’s where Álvaro died. It’s where the case has already been quickly closed as a tragic accident. It’s also where Álvaro hid his secrets.

The man to whom Manuel was married for fifteen years was not the unassuming man he knew.

Álvaro’s trail leads Manuel deep into one of Spain’s most powerful and guarded families. Behind the walls of their forbidding estate, Manuel is nothing but an unwelcome and dangerous intruder. Then he finds two allies: a stubbornly suspicious police lieutenant and Álvaro’s old friend—and private confessor—from seminary school. Together they’re collecting the pieces of Álvaro’s past, his double life, and his mysterious death.

But in the shadows of nobility and privilege, Manuel is about to unravel a web of corruption and deception that could be as fatal a trap for him as it was for the man he loved.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Book Depository

Soft on Soft by Em Ali (10th)

Cover to be revealed on the site on September 5th!

June Bana might post nearly daily makeup looks that gain thousands of likes but Real Life June has built a wall behind which she exists with her two cats.

But with messy feelings getting in a way of an early hermit life, June begins to realize that she wants more. She wants model/actress, Sunshine Reincarnated Selena Clarke. It doesn’t hurt that Selena is amazing with cats and quiets down June’s anxiety to bearable levels.

June is given the choice of facing her anxieties about relationships to gain not only a girlfriend but also a better understanding of how far she’d go for love.

But would she take it? Would she leave her comfort zone for something softer?

Contemporary fluffy piece where one homebody and one extrovert make one hell of a love story.

Buy it: Amazon US * Amazon UK

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman (11th)

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

Buy it: Amazon * Book DepositoryBarnes & NobleBooks-a-Million * IndieBound

She Called Me Woman: Nigeria’s Queer Women Speak ed. by Chitra Nagarajan, Azeenarh Mohammed and Rafeeat Aliyu

The book is a collection of 25 first-hand accounts by women telling their stories on their own terms. This is a much-needed collection as there is very little work published about lives of LGBTQi communities in Africa. The stories challenge the stereotypes of what we assume is lesbian, bisexual, gay and trans in Nigeria and offers a raw, first-hand look into the lives and realities of those who are queer. The narrators range from those who knew they were gay from an early age to those who discovered same-sex attraction later in life. These engaging and groundbreaking narratives include stories of first time love and curiosity, navigating same-sex feelings and spirituality, growing up gender non-conforming and overcoming family and society’s expectations. What does it mean to be a queer Nigerian? How does one embrace the label of ‘woman’? While some tell of self-acceptance, others talk of building a home in the midst of the anti-same sex marriage law.

The book is edited by three women in Nigeria.  Azeenarh Mohammed is a trained lawyer and a queer, feminist, holistic security trainer. She is active in the Nigerian queer women’s movement and has written on queerness and technology for publications such as This is Africa and Premium TimesNG. Chitra Nagarajan is an activist, researcher and writer. She has spent the last 15 years working on human rights and peace building and is involved in feminist, anti-racist, anti-fundamentalist and queer movements. She currently lives and works in Maiduguri. Rafeeat Aliyu has a BA in Marketing and works in communication and research. She is particularly interested in sex and sexuality in both modern and historical Nigeria.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Book Depository * IndieBound

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton (18th)

Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.

Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.

Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker (20th)

Matchmaking? Check. Surfing? Check. Falling in love? As if.

Sunny, striking, and satisfied with her life in paradise, Theodosia Sullivan sees no need for marriage. She does, however, relish serving as matchmaker for everyone who crosses her path. As the manager of her family’s surf shop in Hanalei Bay, that includes locals and tourists alike.

One person she won’t be playing Cupid for is the equally happy bachelorette down the street. Baker Kini ʻŌpūnui has been the owner of Queen’s Sweet Shop since her parents passed away and her younger brother married Theo’s older sister and moved to Oahu. Kini’s ready smile, haupia shortbread, and lilikoi malasadas are staples of Hanalei’s main street.

However, Theo’s matchmaking machinations and social scheming soon become less charming—even hazardous—to everyone involved. And when she fails to heed Kini’s warnings about her meddling, she may be more successful than she ever intended. Theo has to face the prospect of Kini ending up with someone else, just as she realizes she’s loved Kini all along.

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Off Limits by Vanessa North (24th)

By day, Natalie Marshall is the Thorns Ladies’ Social Club’s perfect concierge: resourceful, observant, immaculate. But she turns her phone off when the night concierge arrives, and then she’s Nat: the raunchy lead singer of Vertical Smile—notorious for lewd lyrics and sexually-charged performances.

Rebecca Horvath isn’t used to asking twice—for anything. As the scion of one of Hollywood’s most powerful film dynasties, she’s waited on, pampered, fawned over—spoiled. So when she asks the cute front person of her favorite queer punk band to be her date to a charity auction, she isn’t expecting the whispered “no,” or for the singer to disappear without even thanking her for the martini.

For Natalie, two worlds colliding spells professional catastrophe–her on-stage antics definitely violate the club employees’ standards clause. For it to be Bex Horvath—a perennial gossip-pages feature—who discovers her secret is terrifying.

When the focus of a criminal investigation at work brings Nat’s double life to the attention of her employer, everything spins out of control. Bex is there to prove there’s more to this party girl than meets the eye. Nat might have to trust her with her secrets, but her heart? That’s off limits.

Buy it: Amazon * iBooks * Kobo * Barnes & Noble

Counterpoint by Anna Zabo (24th)

Twisted Wishes lead guitarist Dominic “Domino” Bradley is an animal onstage. But behind his tight leather pants and skull-crusher boots lies a different man entirely, one who needs his stage persona not only to perform, but to have the anonymity he craves. A self-imposed exile makes it impossible to get close to anyone outside the band, so he’s forced to get his sexual fix through a few hot nights with a stranger.

When computer programmer Adrian Doran meets Dominic, he’s drawn to the other man’s quiet voice and shy smile. But after a few dirty, demanding nights exploring Dominic’s need to be dominated, Adrian wants more than a casual distraction. He has no idea he’s fallen for Domino Grinder—the outlandish, larger-than-life rock god.

Dominic is reluctant to trust Adrian with his true identity. But when the truth is revealed prematurely, Dominic is forced to reevaluate both his need for Adrian and everything he believes about himself.

Buy it: Amazon / B&N / iBooks / Google Play

Black Wings Beating by Alex London (25th)

36949994The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great

falconer–while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig (25th)

36220335A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader. The first book in a new trilogy from the acclaimed Heidi Heilig blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood. But the old ways are forbidden ever since the colonial army conquered their country, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad King has a spring that cures his ills. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues Jetta. But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

New Releases: August 2018

The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé (7th)

Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have finally split up. Or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close. Something is after her. And the only one who seems to believe her is the daughter of a local psychic.

But their first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. Whatever is haunting her, it wants everything she has—everything it’s convinced she stole. Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it thinks it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository  | Indigo 

Past Imperfect by Carrie Pack (9th)

This is the second book in the In the Present Tense series.

Now on the run from the corporation that turned him into a lab experiment, Miles finds himself in a fight for his life as he unravels the complicated relationships he shares with ex-boyfriend Adam, whom he still loves, and wife Ana, whose allegiance he cannot trust.

Meanwhile, nineteen-year-old Bethany Carter is on the run from her past and present. Having escaped the same institution that trapped Miles, she must find a way to safely manage the schizophrenia that triggers her time travel while navigating unpredictable bouts of paranoia.

As Miles’ and Bethany’s lives become more intertwined, Dr. Branagan, the man who made their lives a living hell at Longleaf Retreat, will stop at nothing to continue his research, even if it means destroying his subjects in the process.

Buy it: Interlude

Learning Curves by Ceilie Simkiss (16th)

Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Buy it: Amazon

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (28th)

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Rainy Day Books

Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller (28th)

This is the second book in the Mask of Shadows duology.

As Opal, Sal finally has the power, prestige, and most importantly the ability to hunt the lords who killed their family. But Sal has to figure out who the culprits are before putting them down. Which means trying to ignore the fact that Elise is being kept a virtual prisoner, and that the queen may have ulterior motives.

And the tales coming out of north are baffling. Talk of dark spirits, missing children, and magic abound. As Sal heads north toward their ruined homeland and the lords who destroyed everything, they learn secrets and truths that can’t be ignored.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Watermark (signed) * Book Depository

The Colorful Catalog of Chace Verity!

Welcome back to The Colorful Catalog, the LGBTQReads feature that welcomes authors of at least five works of queer fiction (beyond cis m/m) to come on the site and discuss those works with us! Today we’ve got Chace Verity, whose work (or at least covers!) you might be well familiar with by now as a reader of the site! So come check out their work and find a new fave!

***

I’m Chace Verity (she/they, though “they” is preferred over “she”), and as of this writing, I’m 30. For a person who vehemently dreaded turning 30, I’ve been embracing this year and using 30 as an excuse to really explore all the queer parts of me that I’ve been avoiding my whole life. Writing has been the best road for me to take in this particular journey of self-discovery.

As a voracious consumer of media in multiple genres, I find myself branching into all kinds of worlds in my writing. Many authors I respect greatly have a distinct focus in their branding, and maybe I will get there one day when I’m no longer 30. But right now, I’m everywhere. I’m too busy figuring “me” out to worry a whole lot about what kind of platform I’m building.

(I guess I could always make business cards that say “Chace Verity: writes whatever the hell they want.”)

The Panic Before 30

Team Phison, a geeky age-gap long distance m/m contemporary romance, is the novella that I published in the last bit of 20s I had left. I wrote it when I was 28, the same age as grumpy protagonist Phil’s ball of sunshine he finds himself shockingly in love with. I put so much of myself into Tyson, more than anyone knows.

I sat on it for a year, thinking no one had any interest in a low-drama, queer take on people who meet through a video game. Then 3 months before 30 came, and I desperately wanted to say I did something with my twenties.

Everyone around me loved Phil and Tyson. People I admire tell me they reread this novella constantly. Wow, I thought. Maybe I can really be me.

But who am I?

The Rush Of Turning 30

I’ve known I was pansexual for nearly half of my life (ID’d as bi before I discovered pan). Realized I wasn’t cis maybe two years ago, while I was channeling Tyson. Felt validated after publishing Team Phison and seeing the positive feedback. Validation feels good.

Once my birthday rolled around, I started refining older works and making them even queerer before publishing them.

My heart lies in my fantasy series, The Absolutes. This is a world that’s truly for me. Queer characters! Being open and proud! In a fantasy world! If other people enjoy it, then that’s a bonus.

My Heart Is Ready is a prequel novella with f/f and m/f romantic pairings, featuring a bi heroine with secret earth magic and a queer hero who is half-harpy, half-human, and 100% into gossip. They’re exes who are best friends with some serious trust issues. Throw in a heist to steal some rare seeds, and you’ve got a serious test of friendship going on.

The first full-length novel in the Absolutes series, Your Heart Will Grow, focuses more on romance than friendship. A m/f romance with a (mostly) hetero trans soldier hero and a pansexual mermaid heroine, that stakes go up as the unlikely lovers go against a spurned prince and the possible eradication of mermaids.

Flipping back to contemporary, Just Some Things was a tiny collection of f/f shorts I put together as a freebie. It’s truly amazing to me how many people have enjoyed the weird museum cute-(re)meet, my grumpy girl with a predilection for the F word, and the college friends who have suddenly realized they’re in love.

30 isn’t scary, I realized in January. I don’t know who I am, but this number doesn’t define me.

The Calm Of 30

In my new decade, I’ve started writing really weird and queer stuff. Things without the allocishet gaze. Things I absolutely am obsessed with.

Back in February, I was really into the idea of a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but f/f and with minotaurs. And rock candy, holy moly, I love rocky candy. The Masked Minotaur came together very quickly as a novelette. It’s a unique work in that I have a version with a super explicit sex scene and a version where the sex scene fades to black. Pick your version; it’s in the same download!

My most recent release veers away from romance and focuses on friendship. The best thing I ever did for myself was find other queer people to be friends with, people who encouraged me to be myself, people who I will forever encourage to be themselves. Hard To Find is a collection of short stories with queer characters making friends with other queer characters. Half of it is contemporary, and the other half is fantasy.

I’m really in a good place now. I’m working on queer stuff and having a good time with it. I can’t wait to show you what 31 will bring. So far, there are couch hunters (enby/f main pairing), disastrous thieves (m/m), a fantasy enby/f/f tale, and more from the Absolutes involving a wishing well and pirates (m/m and m/f). I’m excited for everything beyond 31, too. You can follow me on Twitter or check out my website for all the updates of my thirties.

Will I freak out again around 39? It’s possible. But I hope I will look back at this year and remind myself everything turned out well.

***

Chace Verity (she/they) is turning 31 on September 28 and ready to help anyone else feeling down over arbitrary numbers. They are publishing queer as heck stories with a strong romantic focus, although friendships and found families are important too. Chace prefers to write fantasy but dabbles in contemporary and historical fiction as well. An American citizen & Canadian permanent resident, Chace will probably never be able to call a gallon of milk a “four-liter.”

Spec Shelf: Nicole Brinkley Takes You Inside Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst!

Please welcome back Nicole Brinkley and Spec Shelf!

***

Welcome to Spec Shelf, the little corner of LGBTQ Reads where I talk to authors about their queer science-fiction and fantasy books. Today, we’re peeking into Audrey Coulthurst’s Inkmistress, a companion novel to her debut Of Fire and Stars that includes a queer angry shapeshifting dragon girl. Yes, you read that right.

Of course, Inkmistress includes other things—a queer girl demi-god, who explores her own bisexuality throughout the narrative; a discussion of what it means to be angry, and what it means to pursue doing good; and, of course, some beautiful worldbuilding.

Take a peek at the beginning of chapter one—and a little snippet of chapter three!—below and keep reading to see Audrey and I chatting about Inkmistress, bisexual representation, and whether Audrey is secretly a Lannister.

When our story began, I thought I knew love.

Love was a mind that moved quickly from one thought to the next, eyes an inimitable blue that lay somewhere between morning glories and glaciers, and a hand that tugged me along as we raced laughing through the woods. Love was the way she buried her hands in my hair and I lost mine in the dark waves of hers, and how she kissed me until we fell in a hot tangle atop the blankets in the back of the cave I called home. Love was the warmth kindled by her touch, lingering in me long after the first snow fell and she had gone for the winter.

Love was what would bring her back to me in spring—and spring had finally begun to wake.

[And later, a peek into chapter three…]

We’d never really talked about boys. Before Ina had entered my life, I’d nursed a hopeless crush or two on handsome hunters who had come to me and Miriel for tinctures—but ever since Ina I’d had no desire for anyone else.

***

Nicole: We’re gonna do a deep dive on fantasy worldbuilding today. Are you ready to talk about dragons and gods and dragons and magic and dragons?

Audrey: Of course!

Nicole: Incredibly, I will be well-behaved and will not start the conversation with a ramble about how dragons are the best. I want to talk about the idea of demigods in your world without spoiling anything too majorly. Think we can manage?

Audrey: Yes. For a minute there I thought you were going to ask me to run a foot race. That would be very ill-behaved. And if we are being honest, dragons ARE the best.

Nicole: Where I am in New York, it is far too hot for foot races! For those who haven’t read the book yet, can you explain a little bit about how religion and gods work in your world?

Audrey: Sure. Inkmistress takes place approximately 200 years before Of Fire and Stars. In the world of Inkmistress, gods and demigods are much more a part of daily life than they are in the later book. Mortals in Zumorda worship the gods, but only demigods (the half-human offspring of a god and a mortal) and the monarch are able to use magic. The only magical ability most humans have is to take a manifest (an animal form) when they come of age, and they do this by pledging themselves to a certain god.

Nicole: And we learn what magic Asra can do very early on: writing in her blood can dictate the future. Which is both terrifying and badass.

Audrey: Yes, Asra is a demigod. The main problem is that Asra’s gift tends to have repercussions she can’t predict, and it also takes years off her life every time she uses it. So the costs are high and the benefits questionable, which makes her a bit afraid of her own power.

Nicole: But she risks using it for her girlfriend–you don’t use the word explicitly, if I remember, but I’m pretty confident in it–and it utterly backfires. Asra’s power, and her use of it for Ina, brought up feelings for me that I didn’t realize I had: how infrequently we see characters with ties to the gods identifying as queer.

Audrey: Interesting! You’re right–and I wonder if it has to do with the challenges some people have reconciling faith and sexuality. The prejudices and/or social structures we are faced with in the real world tend to bleed over into fiction, even unintentionally. I set out specifically to write a world in which queerness was a non-issue (both in Inkmistress and the Of Fire and Stars series), so that may have made for some unusual twists with regard to the interplay between faith, gods, and sexuality.

Nicole: That’s one of the things I love about your books. Queerness is normal and just comes with the same falling-in-love problems of any YA book regardless of sexual or romantic identity: it’s highly inconvenient and causes extreme angst, not because of the gender of the person you love, but because love is complicated and messy.

Audrey: Yeah, exactly. It’s a mirror of real-life experience as far as I’m concerned. Several bits and pieces of this story are sourced from people I knew and things that happened in my past (minus bloodthirsty dragons).

Nicole: Since you did not explicitly say that you don’t have the power to change the future by writing with your blood, I’m going to assume that’s based on your real-life experiences as well and fear you as the god-creature you are.

Audrey: Ha! Most of the people at my day job would be swift to confirm your fears. *smiles innocently*

Nicole: But one of the things that’s so realistic about the relationships between Ina and Asra, especially at the beginning of the book, is the fear that comes with keeping secrets. Ina from Asra, Asra from Ina–it creates a kind of tumbling, self-fulfilled prophecy situation. What do you think the appeal is, in fiction, of characters keeping secrets from each other–especially when it comes to romantic queer relationships? Do you think it allows us, as writers and readers, to explore the limits we’re willing to go… or is it just really good fodder for Emotional Feels™?

Audrey: Both, I think. And again, it’s true to life. Even when we love someone with our whole hearts, as Asra does Ina, there are pieces of ourselves that we have to keep close or choose to keep secret for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because we don’t understand those pieces completely (as Asra is unsure of the origins of her powers). Other times it is because we need to keep those secrets to get what we want (like Ina choosing not to tell Asra certain things until she feels like it might help her case).

Also, it might be worth noting that part of what inspired Inkmistress was a desire to write about a flawed relationship, one that is fundamentally lopsided, and how a character is able to come to terms with that and move on. It’s something I haven’t seen explored as often in fiction–that sometimes we love people without seeing them clearly, or without understanding that they will never return our feelings in equal measure.

Nicole: With the calls for more queer fiction prevalent in the push for diverse books, do you think that the push for Good and Happy relationships, especially in fantasy stories where anything is possible, can be detrimental to the portrayal of relationships that are more real for queer teens? I see a lot of frustration when representation isn’t Perfect, despite the fact that people–and characters–never are.

Audrey: Ooh, this is such a tricky question, and I might answer it differently as a writer than a reader. Especially when I was a teen reader, I was happy to read books where there were even secondary queer characters regardless of whether they had happy endings or not. Any representation at all was better than none. Now, as the amount of available queer literature grows, I think it’s important for readers of all ages to see that queer people can have happy, fulfilling lives and be the heroes of any story. At the same time, as a writer, writing about happy people is very, very boring. Sorry! Murder and angst is more fun.

As an aside, I do think that it’s also helpful to see toxic relationships in fiction, especially if they are adequately unpacked as such. It might help a reader recognize red flags in their own relationship and get out of a situation before their partner turns into a murderous dragon hell-bent on killing the king.

Nicole: Even though we all love murder dragons. With murder on the mind–as it always is–Inkmistress seems a much angrier story than Of Fire and Stars. I love angry girls in fiction. Is that a side-effect of the characters and time period of the world that you’re writing about? Did the real world influence that writing and worldbuilding?

Audrey: I think it was some of both. At the outset, I knew I wanted to tell a story about a character who was fundamentally kind and empathetic, and truly wanted the best for her people and her world. Asra starts out the story rather naive and once she gets out into her kingdom beyond the mountain where she grew up, the world starts kicking her in the face without mercy. To me, the story is about how she managed to take ownership of her powers and stay true to her own beliefs in kindness and goodness in spite of everything that is taken from her.

As far as the real world, I wrote Inkmistress when I had moved to Los Angeles after ten years in Austin, TX. It was a hard, lonely transition, as I’d left behind all my closest friends. So every time I was grumpy or sad, I just murdered more people in the book to cheer myself up.

Nicole: Murder solves all problems–well, fictional murder, at any rate. I think people–fictional or real–choosing to be kind and care in a world that doesn’t want them to is the bravest thing they can do. Is that an ideology you carry next to your own heart?

Audrey: Right now it’s an especially timely ideology to share and promote, I think. Some hard things are happening in the real world that are forcing people to take stock of who they are, who they support, and how they work to influence change. I thought about that a lot while writing the book, and how important it was to share the message that the cruelty of the world doesn’t have to defeat us, even when it seems like everything is impossible.

Nicole: Speaking of impossible things: there’s no way to please every reader. There have been a couple books that come under fire in the past year for portraying bisexual ladies ending up in relationships with dudes. Without spoiling too much of the book, Inkmistress is one of the titles. Bisexuality seems to be a difficult line to walk in fiction: ladies ending up with ladies is blanketed as lesbian, while ladies ending up with dudes is considered queer erasure. What do you think of the situation? How can we improve the discussion of bisexuality in fiction?

Audrey: I think you nailed it with “there’s no way to please every reader.” That’s so true on so many levels and for so many reasons. Even very beloved books have readers who didn’t enjoy them or weren’t able to connect with the characters. I am a passionate believer that we need to see a lot of different kinds of bisexual representation to start breaking down the negative stereotypes and/or erasure that are so common in both the queer community and more broadly.

At the same time, I recognize that there are a lot of readers out there who really want f/f content because they can find m/f content so much more easily. It’s a tough line to walk between accurate representation, because bisexuals do sometimes end up with male-identifying people and it doesn’t invalidate their sexuality, and helping expand the kinds of stories available to readers. It has meant a lot to me to hear from the bi readers who were so enthusiastic to read Inkmistress and who wrote to tell me that they finally felt seen and validated. To improve the discussion of bisexuality in fiction, I think we just need to see more and more stories. The conversation will keep growing and expanding as the diversity of bisexual representation increases. I’d love to live in a world where the gender of one’s partner isn’t taken as an indication of a person’s sexuality, so I strive to create that world in fiction and hope that open-mindedness slowly makes its way into reality.

Nicole: Before we go, I want to talk about manifests! We learn what they are really in the book: they’re animals that bond with humans in a way that allows the human to take their form. That’s why Ina is a murder dragon: her manifest was a dragon. We obviously know my manifest would be a kind, plant-loving dragon. It definitely exists. Somewhere. What do you think yours would be?

Audrey: Honestly, probably a cat. Much like my feline friends, I’m fundamentally lazy, aloof with strangers, and bitey-scratchy if touched without permission.

Nicole: Fundamentally lazy, says the writer of three incredible queer fantasies with more on the horizon. Maybe you’re a mountain lion: totally adorable, bitey-scratchy, able to take on way more than you think and destroy your enemies in the process.

Audrey: Ha, at my day job I have been known to use Cersei gifs to represent myself once in a while. And mountain lions are awesome. I’m down with that.

Nicole: If I’m a dragon and you’re a lion… what an unexpected Targaryen / Lannister alliance for this interview! Thank you so much for chatting with me, Audrey. Is there anything else you want people to know about Inkmistress and your work generally?

Audrey: Haha! I’m pretty sure if I lived in the world of Game of Thrones, I’d be the fantasy equivalent of a Red Shirt–doomed to an unceremonious death. As for my own books, readers might be comforted to know that while I’m always going to include queer female characters in my work, they will be free from my murderous tendencies. ‘Bury your gays’ and ‘the promiscuous bisexual’ are two tropes I’d like to see as infrequently as possible, so I do my best to avoid them in my work. Thank you so much for interviewing me today and for your wonderful questions!

Inkmistress is available now. Buy the book from Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Book Depository. To learn more about the book, visit Audrey’s website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

***

Nicole Brinkley has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is an independent bookseller and blogger found most often at YA Interrobang and the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog. Like what she does? Follow her on Twitter or Instagram and support her on Patreon.

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: Birthing Orion by Dax Murray!

Today on the site we’ve got a gorgeous new cover, this time for Birthing Orion by Dax Murray, which is a queer (f/f) space fantasy poetry collection releasing on October 9! Here’s a little more info on the book:

The relationship between two goddesses, one the embodiment of a galactic creation and the other of cosmic destruction, is tempestuous at best. They create and they destroy and then they do it all over again. Seya and Mia use their divine magic to make pulsars and nebula, to set planets spinning around stars and bind a galaxy together with a central black hole.

But when one of Seya’s favorite stars goes missing, she blames Mia. What was once a symbiotic cycle of life and death becomes a game of broken hearts and promises betrayed. These tensions and insecurities are explored in sonnets and villanelles; the arc of their love tracked in meter and verse. These poems touch on queer love, betrayal, trust, acceptance, and forgiveness cast against a backdrop of stardust and celestial detritus.

And here’s the beautiful cover, designed by Merilliza Chan!

But wait, there’s more! Excerpt below!

Proto

We were denser than some of the rest,
we accumulated, we shared gravity –
we were many atoms all compressed.
We collapsed into stars: majesty.

But we burned too brightly, too fast;
we were gone before we could even start.
It was all too good to endlessly last,
but we continued, rather than depart.

Collapsing, dying, globular cluster
and rotating disk; attracting more.
We were not lackluster
repeating all that had happened before

gas, dust and dark matter: a protogalactic cloud
we wore our newness as a shroud

Binary

I made them for you,
they share a common center

just like me and you
two stars, one orbit

always so close
to each other

I had not considered
that these twin stars

would only touch each other when they explode

perhaps this was not the romantic gift I envisioned for you

Journey

I could never figure out if we came
before Time. I could never figure out
how to quantify or count, there was no
unit of measurement that I could find

to calculate how long I spent breathing
you in, vibrating so fast in hopes that
I might cease to be me, and start to be
you. No longer two goddesses; but one

essence. One force on a journey beyond
these boundless stars, so true and deep a bond.

Stars

You told it to collapse
so it did

I told it to churn
hydrogen into helium

we held it between us,
hot and radiative

convective heat transfer
me to you

we made it dense, highly pressurized
to keep it from collapsing further

you and I, we made the stars

Preorder Birthing Orion here!

Dax Murray is a software engineer by day but fights demons writes queer fantasy and science fiction by moonlight. Dax writes worlds where being queer is not remarkable, and futures are held in the hands of the many instead of the few. Dax can often be found listening to the same seven songs on repeat, watching Revolutionary Girl Utena, reading Howl’s Moving Castle (again), or playing Rachmoninoff on feir flute. Dax is owned by three cats, two ball pythons, and one Brazilian rainbow boa. Dax studied political science, music, and creative writing at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. Fey currently resides in Washington, DC with feir spouse. You can find them on the web at daxmurray.com, on Twitter @DaxAeterna, or sign up for feir newsletter.

New Releases: July 2018

Criminal Intentions: The Cardigans by Cole McCade (8th)

This is the first episode in a brand-new serial. You can also get it via the author’s Patreon.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

When a string of young queer men turn up dead in grisly murders, all signs point to the ex-boyfriend—but what should be an open-and-shut case is fraught with tension when BPD homicide detective Malcolm Khalaji joins up with a partner he never wanted. Rigid, ice-cold, and a stickler for the rules, Seong-Jae Yoon is a watchful presence whose obstinacy and unpredictability constantly remind Malcolm why he prefers to work alone. Seong-Jae may be stunningly attractive, a man who moves like a graceful, lethal bird of prey…but he’s as impossible to decipher as this case.

And if Malcolm doesn’t find the key to unravel both in time, another vulnerable young victim may end up dead.

ABOUT THE SERIES

Baltimore homicide detective Malcolm Khalaji has his own way of doing things: quiet, methodical, logical, effective, not always particularly legal. He’s used to working alone—and the last thing he needs is a new partner ten years his junior.

Especially one like Seong-Jae Yoon.

Icy. Willful. Detached. Stubborn. Seong-Jae is all that and more, impossible to work with and headstrong enough to get them both killed…if they don’t kill each other first. Foxlike and sullen, Seong-Jae’s disdainful beauty conceals a smoldering and ferocious temper, and as he and Malcolm clash the sparks between them build until neither can tell the difference between loathing and desire.

But as bodies pile up at their feet a string of strange, seemingly unrelated murders takes a bizarre turn, leading them deeper and deeper into Baltimore’s criminal underworld. Every death carries a dangerous message, another in a trail of breadcrumbs that can only end in blood.

Malcolm and Seong-Jae must combine their wits against an unseen killer and trace the unsettling murders to their source. Together, they’ll descend the darkest pathways of a twisted mind—and discover just how deep the rabbit hole goes. And if they can’t learn to trust each other?

Neither will make it out alive.

Buy it: Amazon

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (10th)

This is the third and final book in the And I Darken series.

22817368Haunted by the sacrifices he made in Constantinople, Radu is called back to the new capital. Mehmed is building an empire, becoming the sultan his people need. But Mehmed has a secret: as emperor, he is more powerful than ever . . . and desperately lonely. Does this mean Radu can finally have more with Mehmed . . . and would he even want it?

Lada’s rule of absolute justice has created a Wallachia free of crime. But Lada won’t rest until everyone knows that her country’s borders are inviolable. Determined to send a message of defiance, she has the bodies of Mehmed’s peace envoy delivered to him, leaving Radu and Mehmed with no choice. If Lada is allowed to continue, only death will prosper. They must go to war against the girl prince.

But Mehmed knows that he loves her. He understands her. She must lose to him so he can keep her safe. Radu alone fears that they are underestimating his sister’s indomitable will. Only by destroying everything that came before–including her relationships–can Lada truly build the country she wants.

Claim the throne. Demand the crown. Rule the world.

Buy It: B&N * Amazon 

Concerto in Chroma Major by Naomi Tajedler (12th)

Alexandra Graff, a Californian living in Paris, is a stained-glass artist whose synesthesia gives her the ability to see sounds in the form of colors. When she’s commissioned to create glass panels for the new Philharmonie, she forms a special bond with the intriguing Halina Piotrowski, a famous Polish pianist. As their relationship develops, Alexandra shows Halina the beautiful images her music inspires. But when it comes to a lasting future together, will Halina’s fear of roots and commitment stand in the way?

Buy it: Interlude Press

Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie (17th)

33382313Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother.

Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past.

In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide, and the two must learn to work together–a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity.

With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Over And Over Again by Cole McCade (24th) 

OverandOverAgain6x9A ring of braided grass. A promise. Ten years of separation.

And memories of an innocent love with the power to last through time.

When Luca Ward was five years old, he swore he would love Imre Claybourne forever. Years later, that promise holds true—and when Luca finds himself shipped off to Imre’s North Yorkshire goat farm in disgrace, long-buried feelings flare back to life when he finds, in Imre, the same patiently stoic gentle giant he’d loved as a boy. The lines around Imre’s eyes may be deeper, the once-black night of his hair silvered to steel and stone…but he’s still the same slow-moving mountain of a man whose quiet-spoken warmth, gentle hands, and deep ties to his Roma heritage have always, to Luca, meant home.

The problem?

Imre is more than twice Luca’s age.

And Luca’s father’s best friend.

Yet if Imre is everything Luca remembered, for Imre this hot-eyed, fey young man is nothing of the boy he knew. Gone is the child, replaced by a vivid man whose fettered spirit is spinning, searching for north, his heart a thing of wild sweet pure emotion that draws Imre into the compelling fire of Luca’s frustrated passions. That fragile heart means everything to Imre—and he’ll do anything to protect it.

Even if it means distancing himself, when the years between them are a chasm Imre doesn’t know how to cross.

But can he resist the allure in cat-green eyes when Luca places his trembling heart in Imre’s hands…and begs for his love, over and over again?

Buy It: Amazon

Fave Five: Sapphic Plus-Size Protagonists

Shhhh it’s really six. Tell no one.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Rainbow heart

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst!

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst was one of the first traditionally published f/f YA fantasies, so there’s no question it’s made its mark in queer book world, especially with its heavy emphasis on romance and lightness and a Happily Ever After. But if you’ve been dying for even more Denna and Mare, you are so in luck: today we’re revealing the cover for the sequel, Of Ice and Shadows!

OfIceandShadows_JKT

Princesses Denna and Mare are in love and together at last—only to face a new set of dangers.

Mare just wants to settle down with the girl she loves, which would be easier if Denna weren’t gifted with forbidden and volatile fire magic. Denna must learn to control her powers, which means traveling in secret to the kingdom of Zumorda, where she can seek training without fear of persecution. Determined to help, Mare has agreed to serve as an ambassador as a cover for their journey.

But just after Mare and Denna arrive in Zumorda, an attack on a border town changes everything. Mare’s diplomatic mission is now urgent: She must quickly broker an alliance with the Zumordan queen to protect her homeland. However, the queen has no interest in allying with other kingdoms—it’s Denna’s untamed but powerful magic that catches her eye. The queen offers to teach Denna herself, and both girls know it would be dangerous to refuse.

As Denna’s powers grow stronger, Mare does her best to be the ambassador her kingdom needs. Her knowledge of Zumorda and its people grows, and so too do her suspicions about the queen’s intentions. With rising tensions and unexpected betrayals putting Mare and Denna in jeopardy and dangerous enemies emerging on all sides, can they protect their love and save their kingdoms?

***

And now here’s the cover, designed by Michelle Taormina with art by Jacob Eisinger and guaranteed to look stunning next to the first book!

OfIceandShadows_JKT.JPG

Of Ice And Shadows will be released on March 5, 2019. Pre-order it today at B&N, IndieBound, or Amazon!

***

ACauthorphoto2.jpg
Evrim Icoz Photography

Audrey Coulthurst writes YA books that tend to involve magic, horses, and kissing the wrong people. When she’s not dreaming up new stories, she can usually be found painting, singing, or on the back of a horse. She lives in Santa Monica, California. http://audreycoulthurst.com/

 

Backlist Book of the Month: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Zoraida Cordova’s fabulous second novel in the Brooklyn Brujas series, Bruja Born, might not be queer, but the first one sure is, and it’s fabulous! The perfect rec for fantasy fans who love magic, f/f, happiness, present family, zero queer-related angst, and, yes, love triangles done well, whether or not you plan to pick up Bruja Born tomorrow, definitely pick up Labyrinth Lost today!

(Left to right: Hardcover, Paperback, Paperback redesign)

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone. 

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound * iTunes * Kobo * Audible