Tag Archives: Gay

New Release Spotlight: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

It’s such a great feeling when you read a wonderful debut and know it’s just the beginning for a fabulous new voice, especially in queer lit. YA has seen some incredible social justice books in the last couple of years, and I’m so excited that this excellent queer one is in the mix, especially since it’s Under the Gaydar and also has a really phenomenal and superqueer secondary cast as well. Do yourself and YA lit in general a favor and grab this one as soon as it releases on May 22, or better yet, use those links at the bottom and preorder it now!

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A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indie-BoundBooks-A-MillionPowell’s* iBooks *Google Play

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Better Know an Author: Caleb Roehrig

I’m wildly excited for this month’s featured author, who’s written one of my favorite gay YAs ever, which is also one of my favorite mystery/thriller novels ever, and who just released his sophomore novel on April 24. He’s also got some killer (no pun intended) work coming up and one of my favorite accounts on Instagram, so basically, yeah, he’s a good guy to know! Get to know Caleb Roehrig and you’ll become a huge fan too!

New book! New book! I haven’t gotten to read it yet, but by all accounts, White Rabbit is nooo victim of the Sophomore Slump, and you know I’m a massive fan of your debut, Last Seen Leaving. Can you tell us a little about White Rabbit and what it was like to write book 2?

34499210White Rabbit is about a boy named Rufus Holt who has one night to prove his sister is being framed for murder, with no allies to trust or count on but the ex-boyfriend who crushed his heart. The entire story unfolds over the course of about eight hours, and I call it my tribute to Agatha Christie—a murder mystery with a small pool of suspects, all of whom have something to hide.

As for writing Book 2, let me assure you that Second Book Syndrome is no joke! I actually completed a manuscript in between Last Seen Leaving and White Rabbit, but was in such a weird head space that I never felt comfortable with it. Once it was done, I shelved the project and started all over again. It was absolutely the right choice; the new story—this one—felt right from the very beginning, and I’m so excited to share it with the world!

You also recently announced a new book called Death Prefers Blondes, which I am so excited about. What can you share about it, and in what ways is it a departure from your previous work?

What I can say about Death Prefers Blondes is this: it’s my take on Hamlet, wherein Hamlet is a rebel heiress and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a pack of kickboxing drag queens. It’s a story I’ve told myself in one form or another since I was a teenager, and in many ways it feels surreal to finally have it captured in a manuscript. I tell everyone my signature content is Murder, Mayhem, & Make-outs, and Blondes has all of that in spades; but otherwise, it’s a huge departure for me. It’s less a whodunit than an action/adventure story, and I’ve never written a character quite like my protagonist, Margo—a wise-cracking, death-defying, face-punching socialite, hell-bent on revenge!

As a thriller master, you’ve got to get yourself into some pretty dark places, and do some really twisted plotting. What are your favorites ways to both get yourself into those modes and pull yourself back out as needed?

This is probably going to be an unsatisfying answer, but once upon a time, I was a professional actor; and as such, I have long experience with finding my way in and out of dark places. Acting is storytelling, of course—conjuring emotions out of words, and communicating that journey to the audience. The difference is that now I get to choose the tale that’s told, and how my reader will enter and exit the more intense scenes. To be honest, getting myself in and out of those frames of mind is easier than you might think; I get a lot of satisfaction when I feel like the mood is working right. In a way, creating misery is perversely rewarding.

Talk to me about your main characters. What do you see as common threads between Caleb Roehrig leads, and in what ways do they differ? How much do their very different romantic situations play into that?

I think my protagonists tend to be sarcastic, self-righteous, and prone to overthinking things. As for their differences, Flynn is definitely more of a joiner, and Rufus is more of A16Tc4VnzSLa proud outcast. In terms of their respective journeys, Rufus has been out for a couple of years before the events White Rabbit, while Flynn is only just embarking on that journey in Last Seen Leaving, which definitely plays into their respective attitudes.

It’s hard to explain how being closeted affects a person, but the best way I can describe it is to say that it’s like living with a ten-second delay. Every word that comes out of your mouth has to clear the censors first, to be sure it won’t give away your secret. A lot of Flynn’s actions and interests are directed by what he thinks will best help him fit in with his friend group; on the flipside, Rufus has had more time to accept and embrace what makes him different, which is, in part, what helps him find his friend group.

As a result, Flynn’s romance is complicated by the fact that he’s put so much time and effort into resisting what he really wants, so that breaking through that shell is a challenge. For Rufus, knowing what he wants isn’t enough—because the boy he wants it with runs in a different social circle, and is going through a difficult journey of his own.

Anyone who doesn’t follow you on Instagram might not know that you take some seriously gorgeous travel photography, and are a hell of a traveler. What are your top 3 travel spots, and what are the top 3 on your travel bucket list? (Also, so everyone can see what I’m talking about, please share a fave travel photo!)

This one is hard! I’ve been a lot of places, but mostly in Europe, because I lived there for four years. That said, I think my top three might be: Venice, Italy; literally anywhere in Norway; and Vevey, Switzerland.

My bucket list includes: Tokyo, Marrakesh, and Rio de Janeiro. And Machu Picchu. And Australia.

As for a fave travel photo, please enjoy the attached snapshot I took of Silvaplana, a town in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, while hiking the Alps!

And as long as we’re discussing travel, if you were going to set a book outside the US, where would it be and why?

Without giving too much away, there’s a sequence in Death Prefers Blondes that takes place in Europe; but as for setting an entire novel outside the US, I definitely have every intention to do so! I was so fortunate to live in Finland for a while, and to get to know that part of the world in an intimate way, and I would love to set a book there. It would mean a lot to me to bring that country alive on the page as a personal love letter.

I would also love to set something in Stockholm. It’s another of my favorite world cities, and I have kind of an affinity for Swedish culture. I’ve been low-key studying the language for the past seven years, which involves reading tons of gritty, Nordic crime fiction, and it’s been making my imagination run wild.

We’ve been seeing some more discussion lately about the importance of queer-guy YA written by queer guys, and as one of my favorite authors bringing #ownvoices gay YA to the canon, what are some books/voices you’d love to see get some more attention? And what milestones would you still like to see hit?

One of my absolute favorite #ownvoices novels is Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me, and I think it deserve more love. It’s a beautifully-written work about some very ugly emotions, and digs its fingers into some situations that are very specific to the gay experience, and which ring with an authenticity that gay readers deserve. I’m also really fond of Tim Floreen’s Willful Machines, Cale Dietrich’s The Love Interest, and Simon Curtis’s Boy Robot, all of which are SciFi/Spec Fic stories with thriller sentimentalities and queer protagonists. I am 110% here for books about kids who navigate their queerness as only one element of a more expansive plot, because that’s how it works in real life, too.

As for milestones I’d like to see hit, well…there are so many. I’d love for more queer writers to hit The List with #OV fiction, of course, but beyond that I would love to see readers really engage with queer art. When we express ourselves in our own words, we communicate truths that can get lost in translation when others tell our stories for us, and sometimes those borrowed narratives deliberately misrepresent the queer experience to appeal to non-queer readers. (I want to add here: writing outside your lane with respect and accuracy is absolutely possible, and I’ve got a list of an incredibly well-done books in that vein to rec as well!)

Honestly, I could talk for ages about this, but to keep it short, I’ll go with this: a milestone I would love to see hit is for #OV gay YA writers to earn awards and recognition based on genre as much as on category. I’d love to see readers abandon their preconceptions and embrace a fuller representation of what queerness is.

Heading back to the root of my fandom, now that you’re a ways away from publication of Last Seen Leaving, what have your takeaways been from the experience, especially with gay YA thrillers being so rare?

My experience has so far been great. It’s funny…I always thought of myself as a thriller writer, because I’ve been telling murder mysteries since long before I ever believed I could sell a book with a gay protagonist. Last Seen Leaving was actually my first attempt at an #OwnVoices novel, and when I first started it, I didn’t actually expect it to go anywhere. So it took me a while to internalize that I’m also a queer lit writer.

I’m really lucky, I think, because with one foot in the genre world and another in the growing field of queer rep for young readers, I get the opportunity to speak on a number of topics that I’m really passionate about. And what’s so great is to know that the gay YA thriller is a growing subcategory right now. I’m not sure where it comes from, but most of the gay men I know love horror movies, and I think—I hope—that more and more OV books are on their way about queer teens fighting monsters and busting crime!

For better or for worse, what’s the earliest LGBTQIAP+ representation you remember reading or seeing onscreen?

I think the very first time that I saw definitively queer rep (something more than subtext) it was in excerpts of Madonna: Truth or Dare, the controversial documentary of the 1991 music tour, Blonde Ambition. I remember these black-and-white clips being played on the news, showing Madonna sitting around with her flamboyant and unapologetically gay back-up dancers, speaking in blunt, provocative terms. Everything featured on the news was heavily censored, of course, but they were there. Madonna was one of the most influential artists in the world at the time, and I’m not sure people can really appreciate what her deliberate and highly visible acceptance of the queer community meant at the time.

Other than Death Prefers Blondes, what’s up next for you? (This is only slightly leading for an HHH plug. Really.)

So, in addition to Death Prefers Blondes, I have a fourth book scheduled with Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, and then I’m contributing a short story to an anthology of Edgar Allen Poe retellings, entitled His Hideous Heart, edited by one Dahlia Adler! (For those keeping score, I’ll be tackling The Pit and the Pendulum.) I’m also contributing to a second anthology, which has not been announced yet, and tweaking an adult fiction project I’ve been working on for a while. So…I think I have a busy year ahead!

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Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.

New Releases: May 2018

Little Fish by Casey Plett (1st)

In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather–a devout Mennonite farmer–might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives–from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide–Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis (1st)

In this modern fairy tale, a noble prince and a brave knight come together to defeat a terrible monster and in the process find true love in a most unexpected place.

“Thank you,” he told his parents.

“I appreciate that you tried,

but I’m looking for something special

in a partner by my side.”

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, there was a prince in line to take the throne, so his parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. The three of them traveled the land far and wide, but the prince didn’t quite find what he was looking for in the princesses they met.

While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land, and all the soldiers fled. The prince rushed back to save his kingdom from the perilous beast and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince was looking for all along.

Buy it: Amazon

Ship It by Britta Lundin (1st)

Claire is a sixteen-year-old fangirl obsessed with the show Demon Heart. Forest is an actor on Demon Heart who dreams of bigger roles. When the two meet at a local Comic-Con panel, it’s a dream come true for Claire. Until the Q&A, that is, when Forest laughs off Claire’s assertion that his character is gay. Claire is devastated. After all, every last word of her super-popular fanfic revolves around the romance between Forest’s character and his male frenemy. She can’t believe her hero turned out to be a closed-minded jerk. Forest is mostly confused that anyone would think his character is gay. Because he’s not. Definitely not.

Unfortunately for Demon Heart, when the video of the disastrous Q&A goes viral, the producers have a PR nightmare on their hands. In order to help bolster their image within the LGBTQ+ community-as well as with their fans-they hire Claire to join the cast for the rest of their publicity tour. What ensues is a series of colourful Comic-Con clashes between the fans and the show that lead Forest to question his assumptions about sexuality and help Claire come out of her shell. But how far will Claire go to make her ship canon? To what lengths will Forest go to stop her and protect his career? And will Claire ever get the guts to make a move on Tess, the very cute, extremely cool fanartist she keeps running into?

Buy it: Amazon  //  Barnes and Noble  //  IndieBound

Cinnamon Blade: Knife in Shining Armor by Shira Glassman (7th)

Every time Cinnamon Blade, crime fighter making up for a bad past, rescues the sweet and nerdy Soledad Castillo from bad guys, the two women’s chemistry grows stronger. Now that she’s finally asked Soledad out, sparks fly — but is a normal date even possible in a city threatened by aliens and vampires on a regular basis?

Buy it: Amazon

 

 

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (15th)

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“I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that.”

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves (15th)

Freshman year at Harvard was the most anticlimactic year of Danny’s life. She’s failing pre-med and drifting apart from her best friend. One by one, Danny is losing all the underpinnings of her identity. When she finds herself attracted to an older, edgy girl who she met in rehab for an eating disorder, she finally feels like she might be finding a new sense of self. But when tragedy strikes, her self-destructive tendencies come back to haunt her as she struggles to discover who that self really is.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Nothing Happened by Molly Booth (15th)

This modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing takes place at the idyllic Camp Dogberry, where sisters Bee and Hana Leonato have grown up. Their parents own the place, and every summer they look forward to leading little campers in crafts, swimming in the lake, playing games of capture the flag and sproutball, and of course, the legendary counselor parties.

This year, the camp drama isn’t just on the improv stage. Bee and longtime counselor Ben have a will-they-or-won’t-they romance that’s complicated by events that happened—or didn’t happen—last summer. Meanwhile, Hana is falling hard for the kind but insecure Claudia, putting them both in the crosshairs of resident troublemaker John, who spreads a vicious rumor that could tear them apart.

As the counselors juggle their camp responsibilities with simmering drama that comes to a head at the Fourth of July sparkler party, they’ll have to swallow their pride and find the courage to untangle the truth, whether it leads to heartbreak or happily ever after.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro (22nd)

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde (22nd)

A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde’s quirky and utterly relatable novel.

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be
perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Guest Recs From Erin Ptah: Webcomics About Magical Gay Guys

Good news, folks: I finally pulled together an all-canon-mlm list of webcomic recs. Even better, it goes with the Magical Lesbians list from back in January.

Today’s theme: Webcomics about magical gay guys!

(As before, some of these characters explicitly identify as gay on-panel, and the rest are shown with exclusively male love interests. Check out other reclists for guys who are confirmed-bi, or could-go-either-way.)


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(1) What Happens in Carpediem… by Piggy Ho Ho

Welcome to Carpediem, the world of the massively popular MMORPG. When Naoto and Chris set out to find a strong attacker for their party, Kurogawa is not quite what they expected…

Fantasy RPG, ongoing (ish). The magical MMO setting is all kinds of cute and fun in general. (They hatch an 8-bit bird from a legacy version of the game! Its name is Mr. Feathersworth. That arc alone is worth the whole read.) And the game mechanics include bonuses if Naoto gets “married” to another player, including mutual HP restoration when they kiss.

So of course his hot new party companion, Kurogawa, marries him in-game for the stat bonuses, and the level-grinding and item-winning gets interspersed with immersive-vertual-reality making-out. But complications in the real world mean that Kurogawa-the-avatar isn’t quite what he seems. It’s going to take some work (and help from crossplaying BFF Chris) to sort out who Naoto’s really falling for.

Reads right-to-left, manga-style. There’s at least one NSFW scene, featuring whiteout censoring (also manga-style). On a long hiatus, but it’s come back from multiple long hiatuses in the past, so I live in hope.


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(2) Gloomverse by CrayonQueen/loverofpiggies

She was just a regular, unwanted kid, until she was lucky enough to get a job under the best magician in the world! Unfortunately for her, her new boss is a self absorbed jerk.

Fantasy comedy-drama, ongoing. The Assistant (she has a name, but hasn’t managed to say it without getting interrupted) is one of the few people in Gloomverse who hasn’t developed magic by age 17. She gets hired by Wallis Gloom — who in spite of the official summary is a sympathetic and caring guy under the surface, and it doesn’t take much at all to bring it out.

Pretty soon Assistant is deep into a mess of international politics, historical mysteries, scholarly clashes over the nature of magic itself, and possibly an honest-to-goodness Dark Lord. Also, an attack from Wallis’s previous assistant, using a giant golem made of cake. It’s the kind of comic that slides effortlessly between “edge-of-your-seat intrigue” and “ridiculous crack.”

There isnt much active romance over the course of the comic, but two of the male main characters are eventually revealed to be exes. (Full disclosure, one of them has some issues with denial that could ultimately mean he’s bi. Or it could just mean he doth protest too much.)


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(3) Tobias and Guy by Daryl Toh Liem Zhan

The misadventures of Tobias the demon and his human boyfriend.

Fantasy comedy, complete. Lonely Guy accidentally summons a hot bara demon, and they start an interspecies relationship with lots of entertaining culture clashes. They also earn the approval of Guy’s sweet elderly godmothers, who get married themselves partway through.

Sometimes it deals with death and depression. Sometimes it gets NSFW (modified with strategic angles and conveniently-placed objects). Sometimes it just deals with pet hellhound antics. The whole thing is short, so it’s a quick read.


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(4) The Young Protectors by Alex Woolfson, Adam Dekraker, and Veronica Gandini

Young heroes. Deadly villains. Guys kissing.

Superhero drama, complete. Has the typical mix of fantasy/supernatural and “this has a high-tech scientific explanation, we swear.” Closeted young hero Kyle finds himself getting hit on by a silver-fox supervillain. Is the man’s interest genuine? Or is it part of a secret evil plot? Or is it part of a secret world-saving scheme disguised as an evil plot?

There are other m/m flirtations on Kyle’s mostly-young-male superhero team, and he does actually end up in a more, uh, age-appropriate relationship in the wake of the final climactic fight sequence. (I won’t spoil you for what happens with the villian.)

Another one with conveniently-censored mature content, and there’s a more explicitly-NSFW short sequel.


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(5) Transformed! by Al Neun

Transformed! is the story of Kay, a young trans man, who finds a strange ring that changes his life forever.

Magical-boy drama, ongoing. Kay is a closeted pre-everything trans boy; he has a thing for his gay best friend, who has him firmly in the friendzone on the belief that he’s a straight girl. Then he picks up a mysterious ring that transforms him into a much-more-visibly-masculine alter ego, just in time to fling around some magic and fight off a monster…and the best friend develops a crush on that form.

So now Kay has to get the hang of his new powers and figure out where these monsters are coming from, while hopefully making some new friends in a trans-teen support group and getting to a point where he can shed one layer of his secret identities.

There’s a whole subgenre of genderbender mahou-shoujo webcomics out there, so you’d think there would be plenty to choose from where the main character is trans! But off the top of my head, this is the only one I could name.


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where a magical bi guy is responsible for most of the plot) and Leif & Thorn (where Thorn has a magic sword and Leif is bound by magical compulsions). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

The Courage of a Single Book: a Guest Post by There Goes Sunday School Author Alexander C. Eberhart

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to have a guest post from Alexander C. Eberhart, a debut novelist whose gay YA, There Goes Sunday School, releases from 7 Sisters Publishing on June 4th. This is a post about how a single book bolstered him to write the books he wanted to see in the world, and what better topic is there for a queer lit blog than one on the power of existing queer lit? (And what better day to post it than on the release date of Leah on the Offbeat, the companion novel to Simon??)

Before we get to the post, here’s the deal with There Goes Sunday School:

In sixteen-year-old Mike Hernandez’s life, only one thing is clear: Gay is NOT okay. His family’s life revolves around the church, a church run by the vocally intolerant Pastor Myers, so Mike has resolved to spend his life in the closet. His only escape—besides the occasional, anonymous gay make-out session—is his art. He pours his complicated emotions into risqué drawings he keeps in a secret sketchbook. A sketchbook he carries everywhere.

When his sketchbook goes missing in the middle of Sunday school, Mike is sure his life is over. He’s going to be outed, ostracized by their community, condemned by the pastor, maybe even homeless. What’s worse, the pastor’s son, Chris, suddenly seems hell-bent on adopting Mike and his friends and he has no idea why.

When an awkward confrontation with Chris leads to an unexpected kiss instead of a much-expected punch, Mike’s world is turned upside down. As their friendship grows and faith is questioned, Mike may be forced to choose between the comfortable life he’s always lived and a chance at the love he never thought he deserved.

Buy it: Amazon

And here’s the post!

It’s 5:00am. I look at my phone a second time just to verify I’m reading it correctly. How did it get so late? What am I doing here, half twisted in bed sheets and flipping page after page of this YA book I ordered from Amazon. I started reading thirteen hours ago, and now I’m ravenous. I devour each chapter, desperate to reach the culmination of this work of teenage angst. One question sears itself into my mind—Who the hell is Blue?!

The book I was so voraciously enjoying was none other than Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, more popularly known now for it’s movie adaptation, Love, Simon. If you’ve had the immense pleasure to enjoy Becky’s masterpiece, whether on the screen or off the page, then I know you’ll empathize with me when I say that this story changed how I viewed YA books. Not only that, it was everything I had been searching for in fiction since I was an awkward, Harry Potter fan-fic reading, pimple-ridden thirteen-year-old. Finally, a love story for people just like me!

While reading Simon’s tale of Oreos and secret emails, a question occurred. Why aren’t there more books like Simon on the shelves?

When the last page fell, and the early morning sun had started peeking through my curtains, this newly developed question buried itself deeper into my subconscious. You see, at this point in my life, I’d more or less hit a rock bottom. I was in between jobs, my passion for writing had shriveled over the summer as weak plots collapsed under the weight of my own insecurities. I was desperate for a sense of direction. Little did I know, my mind was only collecting these scraps of discarded stories, storing them like kindling until the spark of inspiration could ignite them into a blaze.

It was 6:00am when I grabbed my laptop and started sifting through the rush of ideas rising from the inferno my mind had become. By midmorning, I had mapped out the plot for three new projects, all centering around protagonists that I wish I could have known ten years prior.

One of those projects grew to become There Goes Sunday School, my debut novel, in which I poured everything that I needed to hear as a gay teen growing up in the south. This story became so special to me, that I almost didn’t submit it to be published, fearing it would lose its power if it were watered down. Fortunately, I was not the only person itching to tell these stories, and I found a publisher that not only supported me as an author, but whose mission is to bring diverse stories to light.

Now, I get the privilege to fill the shelves with all the stories I wished for growing up. Now, I strive to create characters that show young adults that they can be proud of who they are. Now, I’m ready to keep progressing the world of YA.

And it all started with a little red book and really late night that changed my life forever.

ALEXANDER grew up in the Metro Atlanta Area his entire
life, moving from suburb to suburb, just on the outskirts of the city. He’s always had a passion for writing, even from a young age. He still lives on the cusp of Atlanta, inching his way ever closer to finally becoming the City Dweller he’s always wanted to be.

In the meantime, he spends his days writing stories with queer characters and drinking an unfathomable amount of coffee. When he isn’t crafting quality queer fiction, you can find Alexander most likely curled up alongside his boyfriend, watching a movie or another equally lazy task.

Fave Five: LGBTQA MCs with Eating Disorders

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (bi YA)

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller (gay YA)

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves (queer YA)

Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown (f/f)

Empty Net by Avon Gale (m/m)

Bonus: For a romance that reads demisexual but isn’t officially so on the page, try Second Position by Katherine Locke.

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Guest Recs: Five Queer Rocker Romances from Syncopation Author Anna Zabo

You may recall Anna Zabo as being last month’s featured author. Well, today, they’re back on the site to celebrate their newest release, a rock star romance called Syncopation, by recommending some more queer rock star romances!

First, here’s the dirt on Syncopation:

Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band sodoesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

Rare rep note: Zavier is aromantic pansexual.

And here are Anna’s recs!

To be honest, when writing Syncopation, I didn’t read too many rockstar romances beforehand, but I have read a few over the years, which probably informed some of my writing.

These are in no particular order, and I cheated with one of them.

Running with Scissors by LA Witt (m/m)

One of the things I loved about this book was the nitty gritty of touring, and also how band members can break apart and come together. It’s a redemption book of sorts, too.

Body Rocks by A. M. Arthur (m/m)

A hookup that leads to two members of rival bands falling for each other… heavy on the angst, but that’s rock stars for you!

Rock N’ Soul by Lauren Sattersby (m/m)

Road trips, a sarcastic ghost of a rock star, and love? What more could you ask for? This was a fun book.

Out Of Rhythm by Shona Husk (f/f)

Lovely novella about an Australian rock band back home from their first tour and struggling to develop their next album. Gemma Field is caught between the band, her parents thinking she should get a “real” job, and trying to mend her long-time friendship with Kirsten Vincent, who Gemma’s hopelessly in love with.

Perfect Imperfections by Cardeno C. (m/m)

Gentle romance between a very sheltered rock star and a bartender/adventure seeker who ends up playing the part of a fake boyfriend. Road Trip mixed with Out For You mixed with Fake Relationship!

Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.

Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. As a child they were heartily disappointed to discover that they couldn’t grow up to be what they wanted (a boy, a cat, a dragon), so they settled on being themself whenever possible, which may be a combination of a boy, a cat, and a dragon. Or perhaps a girl, a knight, and a writer. Depends on whom you ask. They do have a penchant for colorful ties and may be hording a small collection of cufflinks. They can be easily plied with coffee.

Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Fave Five: LGBTQ Siblings in YA

Happy National Sibling Day!

Note: These are all books with allocishet MCs who have queer siblings. For sibling-centric YAs with queer MCs, go here.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Bonus: Coming up next month, Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Rainbow heart

Backlist Book of the Month: At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill

Just a little late for St. Patrick’s Day, this month’s Backlist Book of the Month is gay Irish Historical Fiction, set in 1915, the year preceding the Easter Uprising. At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill was a massively lauded debut when it released in 2002, and it’s a serious “can’t miss” in queer Irish fiction.

Jim Mack is a naïve young scholar and the son of a foolish, aspiring shopkeeper. Doyler Doyle is the rough-diamond son—revolutionary and blasphemous—of Mr. Mack’s old army pal. Out at the Forty Foot, that great jut of rock where gentlemen bathe in the nude, the two boys make a pact: Doyler will teach Jim to swim, and in a year, on Easter of 1916, they will swim to the distant beacon of Muglins Rock and claim that island for themselves. All the while Mr. Mack, who has grand plans for a corner shop empire, remains unaware of the depth of the boys’ burgeoning friendship and of the changing landscape of a nation.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Spec Shelf: Nicole Brinkley Takes You Inside Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston!

Excited to introduce a brand new monthly feature on LGBTQReads today called Spec Shelf, where Nicole Brinkley of the former Queership blog chats with authors about their queer SFF titles! Take it away, Nicole!

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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 Ashley Poston’s Heart of Iron, one of my favorite books to release so far this year.

Described as “Anastasia in space,” Heart of Iron follows a ragtag group aboard the spaceship the Dossier: Ana, found floating in space as a child; Di, the glitching android found with her; Jax, the pilot from an unknown planet; and Robb, a royal who needs their help.

Together, they’re crossing the galaxy to try to find a spaceship that might not exist—Robb to find his long-lost father and Ana to save Di from his glitches. Ashley’s writing reads like a movie script, as fast-paced and clear as your favorite sci-fi flick. And much like your favorite sci-fi flick, there is undoubtedly a character you will fall in love with. Favorites as a whole seem to be Jax and Di, but the character that earned my heart? The indomitable Captain Siege, pirate leader of the Dossier.

Learn a little bit about Captain Siege and her wife Talle in the excerpt below—and keep reading for an interview between Ashley and me, where we chat about Heart of Iron, asexual representation, queer pirate girls and Hogwarts houses.

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At the head of the table, beside the captain, Talle—short and thin, with black hair in a pixie cut and hands so steady she could slit a throat clean while navigating the skyways of Nevaeh—sliced a piece of bread in half with one of the dozen knives from her belt, and buttered it. Siege leaned forward and ate it out of her hand. “Sunshine! That was mine.”

“Ours,” Siege replied, kissing her, and played her hand— three twos. No one called Wicked against the captain. No one ever did. Except Talle.

Talle and Siege had been married longer than Ana had been part of the Dossier. She always wondered how they’d met, but it was a secret—like Siege’s last name.

Di once said that it seemed surprising that two people who were so opposite could fall in love, but he didn’t see that while Siege was the flame, Talle was the shadow. One could not exist without the other.

Ana wished she could explain it. She wondered, often, if he would feel the same about her if he was programmed to have emotions.

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Now here’s the interview!

Nicole: Let’s skip the whole shebang about “what is your book about” and “tell me about your characters” and dive straight into the fun stuff.

Ashley: Ugh, do I have to?

Nicole: You knew what you signed up for.

Ashley: Fine, fine, LET’S SKIP ALL THE GOOD PARTS AND GO STRAIGHT TO THE SPOILERS. SO, THE FIRST PERSON TO DIE IS—

Nicole: If you touch my favorite can-opener robot E0S, I’ll never forgive you.

Ashley: I can live with that.

Nicole: There are many incredible characters in Heart of Iron—though our resident tiny robot is likely my favorite—and many incredible character dynamics. Watching relationships shift and grow as the book goes on was one of my favorite bits, especially between Jax and Robb. I know Jax wasn’t even supposed to be a POV character, originally. What was creating their dynamic like?

Ashley: I love character interactions. I think I love writing it because of fanfiction, to be honest. Character studies and all. And I knew going into Heart of Iron, a good chunk of the story would be unremarkable (it’s a “lost royal” trope—we all know how those go), so I wanted to make the characters the story, not the trope itself. And to do that I wanted to make engaging characters. Robb was one of those characters who was an antagonist in one draft, and then a martyr in the next, but he never quite fit very well in any of those roles. He didn’t really come into himself until he met this snarky starship pilot, and then I kind of realized—oh, he’s not any of those things. He’d been screaming at me for so long that I kind of tuned him out, and then when I finally let him go he became this multifaceted character who had lost his father, and who was unsure of his future, and who wanted to do good, but he always seemed to do it wrong.

Nicole: I feel like a lot of modern media—even with all of the steps we’ve made in positive queer representation—still tend to box queer characters into this corner if being That One Thing and not a multifaceted character, especially when written by straight authors. It’s one of the things I love about reading queer SFF—and, of course, fanfiction, which fixes many of the limitations of traditional media.

Ashley: That is really true—and even as a queer woman myself I started to box my characters into one archetype or another. I think, to be honest, it’s a lazy way to earn cookie points. You can have queer rep! But they’re only ONE thing! And it’s fine. I mean, it’s fine. But there came a point in writing Heart of Iron where it wasn’t fine anymore for me. I’ve been writing this book for six years, and during those six years I grew as a person and came into myself, and you can see that through the drafts. Also, I have to add that while I’m a queer woman, I don’t assume to know the trials and tribulations of gay male characters. I had sensitivity readers on Robb and Jax, and their story isn’t about their gayness. That isn’t my story to write. They’re characters who are gay in Heart of Iron—and definitely not the only ones—but their story isn’t about their gayness.

Nicole: And the world of Heart of Iron isn’t one that fixates on their gayness, either. It’s populated by queer characters. Which brings me to my non-robotic favorite character. You know her. You love her. Captain Siege.

Ashley: THE CAPTAIN’S IN THE HOUSSSEEE. I love Captain Siege. And her wife.

Nicole: And her wife Talle! They both play hugely important roles in Heart of Iron, both as Ana’s family unit and as rational heads in a time where all of our POV characters are under extreme emotional duress. How much can you talk about them without completely spoiling your (just-announced!) second book?

Ashley: Well, I can definitely say they’ve seen their fair share of OH MY GODDESS THE WORLD IS ENDING moments, so nothing really surprises them anymore. There will be a lot more about Siege and Talle’s past, how they met, and how that factors into some of the bigger revelations in Heart of Iron.

Nicole: I love nothing more than queer pirate girls.

Ashley: Me, too. I love stories with kickass queer female role models for the main characters. I think that’s important—especially in YA where parents are either dead, MIA, or just not written on the page.

Nicole: That age-old trope—in both anime and YA—really open up the opportunity for teens to explore. It’s much easier without formal adult supervision around. Though Siege does try to reign Ana’s overzealous nature in where she can.

Ashley: Note: she tries. Ana’s like a bottle rocket—she’s going to fly off somewhere, it’s just a matter of where, and there’s no stopping her. I did an event the other day where I had to sort Ana into a Hogwarts House, and I instantly said Gryffindor, but then a friend shouted Slytherin and I was like… OH. She kind of embodies both? She turns, really, from one to the other.

Nicole: Her loyalty to Di could be argued as either a Gryffindor or Slytherin trait—though I think she reveals her true colors as to which House she would belong to as Heart of Iron comes to a close.

Ashley: Yeah, she goes full Hufflepuff—JUST KIDDING. Di’s the only Hufflepuff. Bless him.

Nicole: You mentioned at your launch party that Di is the character you found easiest to write, and I know you put a bit of yourself in Ana as well, though it’s not officially canon in Heart of Iron, in terms of your own queer identity.

Ashley: Well, if we’re talking about things not “officially being canon” then neither Siege nor Talle nor Robb nor Jax are “canon” because they don’t officially state, “HEY, I’M GAY!”

Nicole: Though I would love to see a rainbow flag flown outside the spaceship.

Ashley: HA! Jax would be in charge of the glitter because he’d just like to ruin everyone else’s day. But yeah, the terms for gay/straight/ace don’t exist in the world of Heart of Iron, because there was never a need to put a word to it. I wanted to imagine a world where that was never an issue, where religious reasons didn’t dictate whether you could marry or love someone of the same sex. I guess that’s wish fulfillment on my end, but I think that’s why I love fiction. You can always write the what-ifs, and impossible things are no longer really that impossible.

Nicole: I think that, when using labels in speculative fiction, it can become complicated. You don’t want sexualities to be erased, which is one of my biggest fears when it comes to aces in fantasy—it’s so easy to ignore a character coded as ace as a “shy straight person,” whatever that means—but that wish fulfillment can be incredibly satisfying and allow further headcanons to be developed, especially when you’re like me and think romantic identity is just a series of question marks because gender and sexuality have no impact on who I fall for.

Ashley: Exactly, and one thing I had to wrestle with in writing Heart of Iron. If you don’t say it, or explicitly talk about it, does it exist in speculative fiction? And then there is author intention vs. execution, and I think this is a good place to segue back to Ana’s identity. I, for the most part, fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum. And I wrote Ana to fall somewhere on there, too. (“But Ashley!” someone is bound to say—and this isn’t a spoiler—“There’s kissing!” to which I want to remind everyone that just because you identify as asexual doesn’t mean you are banned from kissing people.)

Nicole: I’m on the ace spectrum and I love kissing and cuddling.

Ashley: Same! I love kissing, and I love holding hands, and being close to someone, and Ana does that a lot. And for me, that was the only way I knew how to put a little of myself into Ana. How I could show her sexuality like I did for Robb and Jax, Siege and Talle. For me, at least, just to see a character love someone so deeply, without some of the more sexual attractions, was important. That was really, really important to me.

Nicole: All of these relationships—Ana and Di, Jax and Robb, Siege and Talle, me and resident can-opener robot E0S—shape the world of Heart of Iron. What fictional relationships shaped your own writing? Oh, yes. We’re talking ships.

Ashley: THERE ARE A LOT OF SHIPS. I am from the land of fandom and fanfics. I love characters with interesting dynamics—I think they make the strongest OTPs, to be honest. And most of my strongest OTPs are not sexually-charged in nature, but come from a place of snarky quips and electric conversation. (Oh hi baby queer Ash, here’s your clue.) Artemis Fowl and Holly Short, for instance, and Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. I also really love some non-canon OTPs, too. Yuugi and Yami Yuugi from Yu-Gi-Oh!; Hermione and her own ambition, because we know she wouldn’t settle; Rei and Makoto in Sailor Moon

Nicole: Oh, Artemis and Holly! One of our first bonding moments as friends was our mutual love of those two—and you and I have similar preferences with romantic non-sexually-charged ships. Let’s wrap this interview up before we write an entire essay: is there anything else you want folks to know about Heart of Iron?

Ashley: Ha! Hmmm, well, let’s see. Heart of Iron is a story about a lost royal princess—yes, that’s true. There’s no disguising that, really (ha!). I never went into Heart of Iron hoping to rewrite the trope. Some people will like it, and some people won’t, and that’s with anything you read, you know? I guess what I’m saying is, I wrote Heart of Iron to explore the characters within the story—Ana and Di and Robb and Jax—and how they interact. I wanted to tell a story of characters coming together, of their complex relationships, of being the good you wish to see in the world, and of being frightened to be that good sometimes. I wanted to write a story about home—about the people that make it, and the people you have to leave behind to find it, and I hope you find your home, too, in the Iron Kingdom.

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

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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.