Tag Archives: Gay

Creating and Recreating in 2017: A Guest Post by Chicken Author Chase Night

I’m not gonna lie, dear readers. I did tear up at this post. It’s 2017 and it has been a literal hell of a year, and I know that for so many creators, it’s really hard to answer the question “Why keep going?” I think and hope this guest post from Chase Night, celebrating the revamped re-release of his gay YA, Chicken, helps answer that for many.

Starting December 19, a self-published version of Chicken will be available with a gorgeous new cover and several deleted scenes and other bonus material. And tonight, catch an exciting dramatization of the first chapter in “Welcome to Hickory Ditch, 2012” an episode of NPR’s Arts & Letters with J. Bradley Minnick, featuring music from some amazing artists like Daniel Martin Moore and Humming House. (Podcast link here.)

For sixteen-year-old Casper Quinn, there’s only one good thing about attending a fire-and-brimstone Pentecostal church in Hickory Ditch, Arkansas, and that’s Brant Mitchell, the pot-smoking, worship-leading golden boy he’s gone and fallen in love with. But just as the sparks between them finally start to fly, a political firestorm erupts over everyone’s favorite fast food chicken chain, Wings of Glory. Caught in the middle of the cultural crossfire, Casper and Brant will do whatever it takes to protect their secret. But feelings aren’t the only thing Brant has been hiding in this magical Southern Gothic romance, and when the truth comes out, Casper’s faith in him will be put to an unimaginable test. 

Fans of Jeff Zentner, John Corey Whaley, and Patrick Ness will devour this timely yet timeless tale of first love, fried chicken, and the things we give ourselves permission to believe in. Chicken will keep teens and adults alike swooning and swearing ’til the very last bite.

Buy it now with the original cover at Amazon, or revisit that link on December 19th to buy the brand-new one!

And now, the guest post:

At some point during the three very long years I spent writing Chicken, after I had finally let the editor who has agreed to publish it sight-unseen read a partial draft, he told me he was worried that it was going to be dated by the time I finished. He suggested cutting down on pop culture references from 2012 and setting the book in the vague future, “maybe 2017” instead.

I refused. For several story-related reasons, but also because the state of Arkansas, where I live and the book takes place, had just begun issuing same-sex marriage licenses in May 2014, becoming the first Bible Belt state to do so. That had seemed impossible on August 1, 2012 when I started writing Chicken after driving by a local Chick-Fil-A that required police presence to direct all the traffic our former governor Mike Huckabee had sent their way. So I told my editor that 2012 was non-negotiable because if things had already changed this much in two years then there was no telling how much better things would be by 2017.

*pause for everyone to look deadpan into the camera like Jim from The Office, another increasingly dated reference from  a simpler time*

After the election, like so many others, I had a crisis of faith. Stories are the closest thing I have to a religion, but it seemed they didn’t have quite the power I’d imagined. How does one read Harry Potter and still vote for Donald Trump? How do you vote for Donald Trump and then un-ironically cry during Rogue One (and not out of crushing guilt)? If some of the most heavy-handed warnings written since WWII couldn’t reach people, why bother writing stories at all?

After eighteen months of publication, I stopped trying to promote Chicken. And when its publisher announced this summer that they were closing and all rights would be reverted, there was even a moment when I thought, “Good. I can just take it down and get out of this business entirely.”

But wait.

There’s this kid. I won’t tell you how I know them, or what their gender is, because I won’t take even a tiny risk of outing them, and actually, it’s more than one kid anyway. And these kids watch the news and they hear their parents praise the President and they go to churches that blame them for everything that President hasn’t “fixed” and they sit through in-class “debates” moderated by the likes of Matt Lauer and they get shoved into lockers by teenagers already sporting Trump/Pence stickers on their bumpers and these kids are angry and they are afraid, but they wear pride buttons on their backpacks and hold hands in the hallways and there was even that time one of them punched a church girl in the stomach for saying something rude about an elderly transwoman in our town, which doesn’t make punching her okay, but you have to admit, it’s still a pretty heart-warming story.

And I’ve realized no matter how dark this thing gets, there will always be this: the first time a brush of someone’s hand turns your world upside down, the first time a friend calls you by the name you’ve picked out, the first time you kiss someone that matters, the first time they break your heart, the first time a stranger reads you with the right pronoun, or the first time someone doesn’t make you feel broken when you tell them you’re really not that interested in sex at all. I think about how many of those firsts are happening here, even in this hostile place, and I think about how many millions more are happening elsewhere, how they’re adding up, gathering strength, gaining speed, all of these kids hurtling toward that one really big first, the one that maybe matters the most.

You know the one I mean. It starts with a V.

The first time they vote in 2018.

God forbid my own despair, my own feelings of futility, convince even one of them that doesn’t matter! And so, I adjust my thinking. Let go of delusions of grandeur. Perhaps the purpose of a YA novel isn’t to win the battle for them; perhaps it’s to keep the soldiers on the front line from losing heart.

Look, here you are! Right here, pages 1 through 370. Beautiful. Brave. Beloved. Bad ass. You can do this.

Walking through a bookstore, one of these kids tells me they wish there were more books about people like them, and I say, “I know. But there’s more than you think, and I promise you a lot of people are trying to fix it.” And then I look down and spot A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I hand it to the kid, feeling like a very magical adult-type person. “Look, here’s one now!”

*****

Chase Night is an author, editor, and bookhat model, living in Arkansas with his wife and their animals. Chicken is his first novel.

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New Release Spotlight: Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler

Magic! Fantasy! Queer boys! Intrigue! THAT COVER! This is the first book in a brand-new series, but if Kahler is a new-to-you author, good news! He’s got a healthy backlist under both this name and A.R. Kahler. Check it out! 

When magic returned to the world, it could have saved humanity, but greed and thirst for power caused mankind’s downfall instead. Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.

But they are losing.

Tenn is a Hunter, resigned to fight even though hope is nearly lost. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he’s become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind.

If Tenn fails to play his part, it could cost him his friends, his life…and the entire world.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

New Releases: November 2017

 Olympia Knife, by Alysia Constantine (2nd)

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

Buy it: Amazon * Interlude

Citywide by Santino Hassell (13th)

This is a novella collection in the Five Boroughs series

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

Buy it: Riptide

Walking on Water by Matthew J. Metzger (13th)

WalkingonWater-f500When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

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Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler (14th)

When magic returned to the world, it could have saved humanity, but greed and thirst for power caused mankind’s downfall instead. Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.

But they are losing.

Tenn is a Hunter, resigned to fight even though hope is nearly lost. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he’s become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind.

If Tenn fails to play his part, it could cost him his friends, his life…and the entire world.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer (14th)

Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it.

This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.

Buy it: Indiebound | Barnes&Noble | BAM | Amazon

Beulah Land, by Nancy Stewart (16th)

Seventeen-year-old Vi Sinclair’s roots run deep in the Missouri Ozarks, where, in some areas, it can still be plenty dangerous to be a girl who likes girls. Her greatest wish is to become a veterinarian like her boss, Claire Campbell. Fitting in at school wouldn’t be so bad, either. Only one obstacle stands in the way: She may not live long enough to see her wishes fulfilled.

With help from her only friend, Junior, Vi unravels a mystery that puts her in conflict with a vicious tormentor, a dog fight syndicate, and her own mother. Vi’s experience galvanizes her strength and veracity as she overcomes the paradox of mountain life, in which, even today, customs and mores seem timeless, and where a person can wake up dead simply because of being who she is.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Exclusive Cover + Excerpt Reveal: (Un)Masked rerelease by Anyta Sunday and Andy Gallo

Today on the site, we’re celebrating the re-release of (Un)Masked by Anyta Sunday and Andy Gallo, a gay paranormal NA romance, which was previously published by Dreamspinner Press but now has new editing and a new cover! Here’s the blurb:

Walker has two wishes: to perform the play of his dreams alongside his best friend at Wellington’s Tory Street Theatre, and to meet that special someone. Someone he’d go to the ends of the earth for. Someone who might only exist in fairy tales.

When Jay meets accordion busker Lethe Cross, it’s like living a dream come true. Lethe’s music captivates Jay, and he resolves to meet the man who plays so beautifully. But then he discovers Lethe’s life is more like a nightmare. The phrase “down on his luck” can’t begin to cover it. Determined to help, Jay does some snooping for answers—and winds up on the wrong end of a centuries-old curse. The good news is there’s a way to break it. The bad news is it might cost Jay his life.

Aaaand here’s the cover!

Buy it

But wait, there’s more! Check out this (long!) exclusive excerpt!

From the sidewalk, I spied Lethe cutting strokes through the rippling water. The gray glow of morning made it look as if he swam through satin waves. A cool breeze reminded me just how cold those satin waves would be. I zipped up my jacket, dropped the bag with my towel in it, and perched on the concrete wall.

His arms arched over his head in firm strokes, his head twisting for air on every third stroke. He stood up suddenly, whipping the water from his hair and running a hand through it. He searched the length of the beach several times before he caught sight of me.

He beckoned me over. Each move of his hands pulled me toward him.

“You’re here,” he said.

“Gristle just about killed me for waking him up so early. You always up at this time?”

“The beach is deserted now.” He glanced toward the sea, worrying his bottom lip. “Who’s Gristle?”

Flatmate,” I blurted a little too quickly. “My best mate.”

His shoulders loosened and he looked at me. “Did you come to swim or watch?”

I stripped down to my swimming trunks and tiptoed into the sea. “I should have stuck to watching.”

Lethe laughed and kicked water at me. “You would deprive your other senses of all this?”

I stared at the gently lapping water and not the rivulets of water dribbling down his bare chest. “This is quite the sensory feast.”

“Dive in before I pounce on you.”

“I’m not sure you understand how threats work, Lethe.”

“Who said it was a threat?”

My breath caught, and I waded toward his soft, beckoning smile.

When I reached him, Lethe kicked onto his back. His gaze flickered to me before landing on the clear sky above. His green eyes glittered. If one could see a soul, then his was deep, haunted yet determinedly hopeful.

It reminded me of Gristle at the zoo, living life to the fullest because he claimed death danced in his shadows.

I dove under the water, letting the shock of it numb a sudden shiver. I came up under him and tackled his waist.

Lethe twisted under water with me, bubbles bursting out of his smiling lips.

We messed about in the water for only a few more minutes before Lethe dragged us out. I’d grabbed my stuff and drifted to his towel.

Lethe scrubbed his face. “Haven’t done that for ages.” He smiled at me. “Thanks.”

I choked on my own thanks. I’d not had so much fun with anyone other than Gristle for, well, I couldn’t even remember when.

“Maybe we could do this again?” His voice wavered, and he vigorously rubbed at his hair.

“I am all about indulging in sensory feasts.”

Lethe grinned. “On the discussion of feasts. What about breakfast?” He gave me a once over, lingering at my scrawny waist. “You shouldn’t skip breakfast.”

I forced a laugh and hurriedly pulled on my top and pants. Grabbing my bag, I twisted the street. “See you, then.”

He clasped my shoulder and steered me back around. “I think it came out wrong.”

I raised a brow.

He looked at me, gaze flickering nervously from my eyes to my shoulder. “Will you have breakfast with me?”

* * *

I arrived earlier than the four previous mornings, in time to see Lethe wading into the sea. His muscles flexed with each step, and once he hit waist height, he dove under.

Dropping my bag and towel next to his, I followed after him. My body exploded in goose bumps as the first cold waves cuffed my ankles. Sand sank underfoot as the water dragged itself back in. I quickly dunked into the water and gasped from the cold.

Lethe caught sight of me and waved. I swam over. A hand glided over my back, and I jerked upright, treading water.

“Morning,” Lethe said, smiling, as he circled me. “What brings you here so early?”

You. “I wanted to repay the favor, so I made us breakfast this time. It’s more a picnic, but I wasn’t sure of your schedule. How long do you have?”

Lethe flipped onto his back. Water rippled around him, and I threaded my fingers through the tiny waves. “Have I told you the perks of working as a street musician? Other than the stellar pay?”

I laughed. “In that case, sign me up.”

Lethe splashed water on my face and pointed to the fountain. “Want to race?”

I kicked off, taking my advantage and swiftly made it to the fountain, not too far behind Lethe.

“You’re improving,” he said with a smile. “Another couple weeks, and you’ll be a match for me.” He ducked under the water, only to pop up on my other side. He sliced the top of the water with his hand so it sprayed in my face, then whacked my upper arm. “You’re it.”

I lunged after Lethe, managing to jump on his back halfway to shore. I dunked him under the water.

A rueful grin quirked his lips when he came up gasping for breath. Barely two steps away, Lethe leaped onto my back. His knees locked around my sides and hands pressed my head under water. He didn’t hold me under long, letting go with a little tap to my shoulder. Breathing out a bunch of bubbles into the water, I came up. Lethe remained jammed against my back, his chest expanding against me as he breathed.

When he loosened his grip, I twisted and faced him. Water dribbled down his hair, over his scar, plopping on his lips. I pulled my gaze away from his mouth and combed a hand through my wet hair, pushing the locks off my face. “Up for another race?”

He stared into my eyes and my heart exploded into a gallop. I imagined him leaning in, brushing his lips against mine with the murmured words I like you too, Jay.

I slammed my eyes shut and water stirred as Lethe backed up.

He stroked toward the fountain, and I followed, the ghost of his touch still curved against my back.

“You look hopeful.” Lethe stroked over to where I clung to a jutting edge in the fountain base. He latched a hand on the same edge and pulled himself closer.

Although salt water dominated my sense of smell, I detected a hint of something peppermint and spicy coming from Lethe’s hair.

Lethe tilted his head, watching me. “Really hopeful.”

I dipped my head forward and lightly pressed my lips against his. The taste of salt flowed into my mouth; he felt softer than I’d imagined.

It lasted less than a couple of seconds before I pulled away. “Really, really hopeful.”

His breath caught and he grabbed my arm and kicked a leg around mine. His mouth met mine again. Our lips parted, and a gentle tongue flicked against mine. A gasp left me, and Lethe’s lips curved into a smile.

I let go of the fountain, wrapping both arms around Lethe, and deepened the kiss. We sank under the water, limbs entangled, gripping at each other. Salt stung my eyes as I looked at Lethe underwater. His hair swirled upward around him and light glowed around him. We broke our kiss and stared at each other. A cloud of bubbles burst from Lethe’s mouth as he laughed, and it sounded like music.

We pushed our way back to the surface and both hauled in air. I sucked in a good third breath, and Lethe splashed water in my face. I spluttered and coughed. His merry laugh taunted me and I chased after him, dunking him under when I got a good hold.

“We’d better go in.” Lethe looked back toward the shore, a frown forming between his brows. “We’ve stayed out here too long.”

Grabbing our bags and towels, we dashed for the outdoor shower. Lethe hurriedly scrubbed seawater from his hair.

I stepped under the spray with him and tentatively touched his chin, lifting his head. Water beaded at the ends of his eyelashes and trailed over the tips of my fingers. “What’s going on?”

Lethe bit his bottom lip. “Nothing.”

“Nothing doesn’t hightail out of the water every morning.”

“Which eyebrow is my scar?”

I gently drew my thumb over the cut in his eyebrow and he sighed and leaned into me.

“What are you running from, Lethe?” I whispered into his ear.

***

Anyta is a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She loves to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love. Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

Anyta writes a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian and French.

Member of Romance Writers of America.

Connect with Anyta: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Andy Gallo’s stories capture how he wished he’d spent his formative years, instead of how it really happened. Unfortunately for his characters, they find themselves infused with some of Andy’s less noble qualities.

A hopeless romantic, Andy writes seated next to a hundred year old Smith Brothers typewriter he inherited from his grandfather. He also dreams of superheroes and wizards and sees no reason why two men with superpowers can’t fall in love just like everyone else. Although not all of his stories have a paranormal bent, a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good read in his mind.

Married and living his happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days rubbing elbows with other parents as they raise their daughter. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.

Connect with Andy:  Website | Facebook

New Releases: October 2017

The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake (2nd)

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.

Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.

This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?

Buy it: Entangled * Amazon * B&N

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (3rd)

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (3rd)

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno (3rd)

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

27 Hours by Tristina Wright (3rd)

28526192Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (3rd)

51bswbsl2bbl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (3rd)

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound * Walmart

Not Your Villain by CB Lee (5th)

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Sightlines by Santino Hassell (9th)

This is the 3rd book in the Community series.

Chase Payne is a walking contradiction. He’s the most powerful psychic in the Community, but the least respected. He’s the son of the Community’s founder, but with his tattoo sleeves and abrasive attitude, he’s nothing like his charismatic family. No one knows what to make of him, which is how he wound up locked in a cell on the Farm yet again. But this time, the only man he’s ever loved is there too.

Elijah Estrella was used to being the sassy sidekick who fooled around with Chase for fun. But that was before he realized the Community wasn’t the haven he’d believed in and Chase was the only person who’d ever truly tried to protect him. Now they’re surrounded by people who want to turn them against their friends, and the only way out is to pretend the brainwashing works.

With Chase playing the role of a tyrant’s second-in-command, and Elijah acting like Chase’s mindless sex toy, they risk everything by plotting a daring escape. In the end, it’s only their psychic abilities, fueled by their growing love for each other, that will allow them to take the Community down once and for all.

Buy it: Riptide | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington (9th)

NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.

Brash and loud Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.

Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary… until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe… marriage He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta (10th)

9780763691646

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski (10th)

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (17th)

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Like Water by Rebecca Podos (17th)

In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.

That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.

Buy it: HarperCollins * B&N * Amazon * Target

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis (17th)

Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people–the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they’ve ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.

When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.

An intricately woven story told in three parts, award-winning Australian author Will Kostakis makes his American debut with this heartwarming, masterfully written novel about grief, self-discovery and the connections that tie us all together.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

City of Betrayal by Claudie Arsenault (22nd)

36199941The whole city is searching for Hasryan—some for revenge and justice, others to save their friends. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return.

Lord Diel Dathirii’s struggle to free his city from the neighbouring imperialistic enclave is far from over. Enemies gather around him, and without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres, he must place his fate in Lower City residents. Little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.

Changing Colors by Elyse Springer (23rd)

Tony Quinn has a knack for figuring people out. He likes labels, likes to be able to put everyone and everything in tidy boxes. As a theater director, it allows him to run a production without too much drama. But when he meets Gentry—“call me Gee”—in a bar one night, he discovers that some people aren’t so easily defined.

Gee Parnell is unlike anyone Tony has ever met before. He refuses to conform—to Tony’s expectations, or to society’s gender roles. He’s sexy and flirtatious, unapologetic and unashamed. And Tony isn’t sure he’s okay with that. So he breaks things off and escapes back into his well-ordered life.

But then an attack leaves Gee bloody and bruised, and Tony realizes that he isn’t ready to lose him. Not only is the passion between them off the charts, but Gee shows him a different way of understanding people. However, an exciting new job opportunity means that Tony has to decide between hiding his sexuality and his relationship with Gee, and his newfound appreciation for the color and beauty Gee brings to his life.

Buy it: Riptide * Amazon

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns (31st)

27056577Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

There’s a glorious future in piracy…if they can survive long enough.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Excerpt Reveal: The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake

Exciting times on the site today! We’ve got an exclusive excerpt from Melissa Eastlake’s upcoming m/m YA Rapunzel retelling, The Uncrossing, which releases from Entangled Teen on October 2nd! Check this out:

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.

Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.

This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?

TBR it * Buy it

And now, the excerpt!

*****

Finally, feeling like a human tornado, he pulled out his phone and texted Jeremy: What a day

The reply took no time at all. Tired of talking about it. Tell me another joke?

He replied with the dumbest thing he could think of: Where did the general put his armies?

He waited, looking out the window at the piles of ash they’d left in the alley. The bird beat dumbly against the wall near Luke’s arm—he couldn’t control it, but it stayed close to him anyway.

The phone rang.

Luke thought, Fuck. He answered. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” He waited for Jeremy to say no. Just once, for someone else to show some sense.

“Where?” There was already laughter in Jeremy’s voice.

Luke touched the window. In the room’s weak air conditioning, the glass was warm. “In his sleevies.”

Jeremy laughed and groaned at once. “Oh, no.”

Oh, no. “Oh, yes.”

“Nope. No, no, nope.”

Stop it right now. “Yes. Say it. Say, ‘Oh, yes.’”

Jeremy was quiet for a long time. Luke opened his hand against the glass. Good, he thought. Hang up on me.

“Oh.” Jeremy paused. “Yes.”

Luke squeezed his eyes shut. “I changed my mind. Don’t ever say that to me again.”

“Yes?”

“Stop it right now. You will hang up your phone if you know what’s good for you, Kovrov.”

Jeremy didn’t hang up. “Can you not call me that?”

Luke put his forehead against the back of his hand on the window. There were lots of things he could have said, but the one he picked was, “Jeremy.”

Jeremy’s breath caught, a click through the phone. “You should hang up on me. I’m the one who, you know. All this. My family. Everything.”

“I don’t think I’m going to do that.” It had been a long day, but Luke hadn’t forgotten the beginning of it: that smile in the car. He’d known what he’d wanted before his vision and the attack, and he knew what he wanted now. “I think I’m going to kiss you.”

Jeremy was quiet. Luke could see him: gaze sliding everywhere, stretching his fingers out to tap his palm against whatever was near. His bed. Luke rolled his face up, putting his lips on the back of his hand.

“Yes,” Jeremy said.

*****

Melissa Eastlake’s debut novel, The Uncrossing, is coming in 2017 from Entangled Teen. She is a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow and lives in Athens, Georgia with her partner and their dogs.

 

 

Backlist Book of the Month: Anything Could Happen by Will Walton

One of the rarer things in gay YA is books geared toward younger teen readers. Walton’s debut is forever on my rec list for having a 14-year-old protag dealing with a crush on his straight best friend and…that’s mostly it. It’s real, it hurts, and it’s life.

When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Book Depository

 

New Releases: September 2017

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (5th)

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news is: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—an unforgettable day that will change both their lives forever.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indiebound

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin (5th)

Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Sincerely,
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.
G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic by F.T. Lukens (7th)

Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.

Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Spinning by Tillie Walden (12th)

Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.

It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point?The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren (12th)

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Target * The Ripped Bodice * Audible 

Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel (12th)

Seventeen-year-old Jaya Mehta detests wealth, secrets, and privilege, though he has them all. His family is Indian, originally from Gujarat. Rasa Santos, like many in Hawaii, is of mixed ethnicity. All she has are siblings, three of them, plus a mother who controls men like a black widow spider and leaves her children whenever she wants to. Neither Jaya nor Rasa have ever known real love or close family―not until their chance meeting one sunny day on a mountain in Hau’ula.

The unlikely love that blooms between them must survive the stranglehold their respective pasts have on them. Each of their present identities has been shaped by years of extreme family struggles. By the time they cross paths, Jaya is a transgender outsider with depressive tendencies and the stunningly beautiful Rasa thinks sex is her only power until a violent pimp takes over her life. Will their love transcend and pull them forward, or will they remain stuck and separate in the chaos of their pasts?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Initiates of the Blood by Cecilia Tan (18th)

Mira, a dom in New York City, is delighted when Clive, a one-time playmate, turns up at a BDSM party. When a fire breaks out, Mira frees Clive from captivity; they are rescued by a group of magic-workers calling themselves the Circle of Light. Skeptical, Mira must accept that magic is real when a ritual saves Clive’s life and ties his soul to hers.

Erotic play strengthens their bond and deepens their love for each other…a love they share freely with the Circle, save those who must hold themselves apart from the pleasures of the flesh. Mira’s idyll is shattered when the Circle is attacked by the Partisans of Fire, who want control over the Circle’s ancient knowledge.

Set in contemporary New York, Initiates of the Blood combines sex, blood magic, and romance into a stimulating, sensual, satisfying tale.

Buy it: Indiebound| Powell’s | Chapters/Indigo | Amazon | Google Books | Tor Books

Release by Patrick Ness (19th)

Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart.  At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Books of Wonder

Kaleidoscope Song by Fox Benwell (19th)

South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…

Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.

It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke (21st)

Fortitude Smashed 900px FRONTAfter scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.

Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N 

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale (25th)

Victoria “Vix” Vincent has only two weeks to find a replacement fiddle player for her band’s summer tour. When classically trained violinist Sawyer Bell shows up for an audition, Vix is thrilled. Sawyer is talented, gorgeous, funny, and excited about playing indie rock instead of Beethoven. Their friendship soon blossoms into romance, even though Vix tries to remember that Sawyer’s presence is only temporary.

Sawyer’s parents think she’s spending the summer months touring Europe with a chamber ensemble. But Sawyer is in dire need of a break from the competitiveness of Juilliard, and desperately wants to rediscover her love of music. Going on tour with her secret high school crush is just an added bonus. Especially when Vix kisses her one night after a show, and they discover that the stage isn’t the only place they have chemistry.

But the tour won’t last forever, and as the summer winds down, Sawyer has to make a tough decision about her future—and what it means to follow her heart.

Buy it: Riptide

In Her Court by Tamsen Parker (29th)

Newly minted professor Evangeline “Van” Thompson’s academic dreams have turned into nightmares. She can’t wait to escape the pressure cooker of the university to spend the summer at Camp Firefly Falls with her bestie, Nate.

Unfortunately, Nate breaks his leg halfway through the season, and his little sister Willa fills in for him as resident tennis instructor. Van has fond memories of the blonde moppet, but when Willa shows up at camp, she’s not so little anymore. She’s grown into a bombshell and a menace on the tennis court—why do those skirts have to be so short, anyway?

Willa Carter has had a crush on Van Thompson since the third grade but Van’s always been more interested in hanging out with Willa’s older brother. Not much seems to have changed—Van’s managing the camp’s web presence while Willa rocks her tennis whites.

Camp will be closing in a few weeks, and Van’s barely spoken to Willa despite sharing a cabin. But when the two get thrown together to plan the last session of camp, s’mores might not be the only thing getting sticky and sweet before the season’s out…

Buy it: Amazon * iBooks * Kobo

 

Where is the Queer Black Male Voice in YA?

It doesn’t take a lot of in-depth knowledge to know that intersectionality is lacking in the current LGBTQIAP YA market, but there’s perhaps no gaping hole in it quite as glaring as that of the queer Black teen boy perspective. In the past five* years, to the best of my knowledge, there has only been one YA novel released by a major mainstream publisher with an explicitly** Black male narrator, and if you guessed it was by a white woman, you are correct.

Wanna find one by a Black male author by a major mainstream publisher***? You have to go back to Sunday You Learn How to Box by Bil Wright.

Which was published in the year 2000.

Yes, you read that right: the last YA released by a major mainstream publisher with a queer Black male narrator and written by a Black male author is itself already a teenager.

So, hey, that’s pretty messed up! It might almost make you wonder about the queer Black male authors trying to get their #ownvoices stories published, wouldn’t it.

Good news! Here are four such authors with a whole lot of wisdom, thoughts, and experiences to share.

Ryan Douglass

Ryan WilliamsI’m a 23-year-old writer from Atlanta, Georgia. I went to high school in Geneva, Switzerland, as my mom worked for the UN. I was one of two African-American students in my grade there. There were two or three others in different grades, and that includes my brother. I’ve been to nine countries, six of them in Europe. I went to college at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY where I studied theatre and creative writing. I’m a freelance writer, graphic designer and actor. I’ve worked professionally in journalism and marketing. I’ve also been a security guard and a professional dog walker. I contribute thought pieces on social politics as well as arts & culture to The Huffington Post. I’m an award-winning spoken word poet (and regular poet). I occasionally perform in the poetry cafes in Atlanta. I’m very into fitness and health. I also love rock climbing, camping, and music festivals. I’m obsessed with creepy horror moviesmy favorites are Oculus, The Conjuring, and Insidious but NOT The Conjuring 2 and definitely not any of the chapters following the original Insidious. I’m an amateur ukulele player and really into music in general.

A. Leon Walker

Isom_Anthony_ (12)A. Leon Walker spends his days assisting library patrons in his small, Midwest town by soothing their daily woes or satisfying their curious appetites. By night, he takes the stage at the historic Croswell Opera House, where he fulfills his personal frustrations and delights. Meanwhile, he’s always conjuring up some new tale for readers of all ages in hopes of someday being shelved among his favorite writers.

Brandon Goode

BrandonBrandon Goode grew up in the small beach town of Melbourne, Florida. He attended Eastern Florida State College and Florida International University. He loves to motivate and inspire others, enjoys traveling, and eats an insanely amount of sushi. Oh, and he is obsessed with all things on the Bravo network.

Kosoko Jackson

KosokoKosoko Jackson is the Digital Media Associate for Rock The Vote and manages social media accounts totaling 270K followers. He also moonlights as a paid sensitivity reader for big 5 publishers. Kosoko has taught elementary kids how to read, educated millennials about the power of voting, and held various communications positions in political organizations. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Public Health with a minor in new media communications. He lives in Washington D.C and is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Please introduce yourselves! Who are you, what do you write, and where are you in the publishing journey?  

A. Leon: Hello, everyone! Dahlia, thank you so much for this exciting opportunity. This is truly a dream come true. My name is A. Leon Walker (A stands for Anthony), I write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, and am currently unpublished.

Kosoko: Hi! I’m Kosoko Jackson. I write YA novels in every genre, but my bread-and-butter is historical fiction with POC main characters and contemporary novels. I’m currently agented and working with my agent on my debut novel.

Ryan:  I’m Ryan Douglass, I write YA horror and thriller and I’m represented by Rena Rossner of the Deborah Harris Agency. We’re still working on my manuscript.  

Brandon: Hello! My name is Brandon Goode. I’m from Orlando and I write YA Fantasy and poetry. I’m currently working on my second novel and two books of poetry. Outside of writing I can be found eating sushi while watching Degrassi reruns, shopping at the local thrift stores in Orlando, and popping into the Disney Parks when I can.

Between querying, subbing, and self-pubbing, what are you finding to be the greatest obstacles so far? Any constant refrain in responses?

Kosoko: I think querying was the hardest, but that’s more from a personal level. Agents are the first level of gatekeepers and in many situations, you have to, in your writing, query, etc, prove that your story is something that can make it through all the further gauntlets. Sometimes, it’s the real first time you have someone independently say “This is good” or “this is crap” (hopefully no one says THAT). But nonetheless, that’s hard. Many great stories don’t get published, or even get agents because of thisand sometimes you get little feedback from agents you query. Agenting, to me, is harder because it’s very cut-and-dry, with little insight, and felt, often, like stabs in the dark. I do think that sort of diligence builds a good first skin you need to be a creative POC LGBT person, though.

Ryan: Querying was definitely my biggest hurdle. I wrote three manuscripts before writing the one that landed me my agent! But I needed to write the failures to learn who I was as a writer. My rejections were varied while sending out my last manuscript but for the ones before that, I often heard the stories lacked originality (which they did).

Brandon: I think the one thing I have found to be the greatest obstacle so far was spreading the word about my novel. The Secrets of Eden was released in March of this year and I had to do everything on my own since I self-published this novel. So take that and add in the disaster of a year that 2017 has been so far with social issues, and that’s why it’s been a great obstacle. Twitter has been a great tool in spreading the word and getting my novel out there, but of course I feel like more could’ve been done.

A. Leon: Querying used to be my biggest hurdle. These days, drafting seems to be the beast to conquer. It’s one of the reasons I’ve committed to writing a short story collection; for one thing, I’ve dreamed since I was 20 years old and first read Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things of composing my own cohesive collection but it has also proven rather useful in keeping me writing. Due to my day job, the one that pays the bills, I’m blessed to afford a four-day weekend every other week, which I spend writing my stories. I’ve a novel building in the subconscious, which will hit the page when I come to it.

So far, two of my shorts have been rejected. I’ve a third on submission. Fingers daily crossed until I hear back.

Even as we start to see more intersectional YA on shelves, the intersection of Blackness, queerness, and masculinity is probably the rarest in the category, especially by queer Black men. Why do you think that is?

Brandon: I think it’s rare first of all because of the stereotypes to be honest. Black men have so many stereotypes about us, that sometimes the truth is rarely given the time of day by a proper audience. Growing up, I couldn’t really identify with many novels that were on the shelves because the characters weren’t black or gay, and I wish there were more novels. I can only speak for myself, but growing up I was taught to never cry. To always “man up” and be tough.

Masculinity is something that was shoved down my throat by my mother and father. My dad was never really in the picture, but the times I did see him it was the same masculinity hype over and over. Being black and gay and trying to be “masculine” in the eyes of my family was tough and was something that I have shut away in the past. I’ve evolved into the person I’m supposed to be through all of those experiences, but for those who don’t know what it’s like they can’t try to fake it in literature. I honestly think that even within certain corners of the black community, queerness is still a taboo topic. I always found it hypocritical for those within all communities, especially the black community, to turn their nose up at queerness. Everyone in this country, one way or the other, has faced some sort of inequality a time in their life. The Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Suffrage, etc. all happened in American history and someone on the other side had to believe in those movements in order for equality to blossom. That same support needs to be given to the LGBTQIAP community. Until these conversations start happening more frequently, allowing those who are growing up or surrounded by it the proper push to share their voice, then those types of YA won’t exist. Even for those who are adults now, until they feel that their voice will be received then those books won’t come.

There’s a moment I remember breaking out of what I thought was a hold on me from being myself, but not everyone is surrounded with love and support being Black and queer. That’s why YA is important to share those stories. That’s why we have to cultivate this platform and provide the necessary support to those who aren’t receiving it.

Ryan: It’s hard to get Black stories in the mainstream publishing sphere and for queer, Black stories it’s even harder. Maybe the industry doesn’t think the stories will sell. On the writers’ side, there’s a strong possibility Black, queer writers are afraid to tell their own stories because they have no examples of their stories on shelves yet. It can feel like compromising your chances of success as a writer to write something there’s no precedent for. I used to think I had to write about straight, white people or I couldn’t be an author. But we won’t know if the stories will sell until we give them a chance, will we? There is also still a lot of pressure on Black men in the community to be masculine and heterosexual. Some Black writers could be closeted and writing about straight characters, which is okay and how I wrote my first two books.

Kosoko: I think, honestly, it’s because of the number of intersections. It’s easy to say “no” in the publishing world. The data is just starting to back the statement that “POC/LGBT stories have a place in our canon”. That’s because of successes like Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Nic Stoneand people like Adam Silvera. For each success, it’ll get easier, but there are still many reasons to say no from the publishing side. The whole conversation has to be shifted from “what sold before” to “what is needed now.” YA literature should reflect the times and the need of the youth who read it and as our society becomes more and more intersectional, we need more intersectional literature. That should, in my opinion, be reason enough.

A. Leon: My thoughts on this subject are too voluminous to sum up here; I’ll do my best to keep things brief. While masculinity, in and of itself, bears great privilege in all of society, therefore dominates the literary landscape despite the overwhelming female presence of the YA category and the romance genre (both outsell every single genre in the business, including thrillersa male-driven genre), add anything to that algorithm other than white or hetero and issues abound. Black male, queer male, black queer maleeach requires some deterioration to the male ego before your audience even begins engagement. Because we’ve all met black men, right? We’ve all met queer men? We’ve all met queer black men? Okay, then: we know how they act. There they must stay. Black men, you get to be Native Son and Invisible Man. Queer men, you get to be Boy Meets Boy and A Little Life. Black queer men, you get to be Giovanni’s Room. So when people read, unless you happen to disturb the male algorithm in some way, you don’t really ask yourself questions such as: Where all the black folks at? Where all the black queers at? This, of course, is just the beginning; to ask such questions means you’ve done little more than left the tarmac. Action, particularly on the part of writers and reviewers and critics, is due. Overdue, in my opinion.

Obviously, we’re seeing a tremendous push for diversity from advocates. How much do you feel like that’s making a difference? What actions do you feel would make a difference, and like to see more people engaging in?

Ryan: I feel like it’s making a difference in the types of books the community is paying attention to. For a long time black stories were relegated to the “black section” and gay ones to the “gay section”, et cetera, as if those stories could onIy be appreciated by those groups. I see these stories being normalized now and more people are open to reading them. I would love to see more people engaging in conversations about the content of books by marginalized authors and what is being taught through these narratives. In the YA community it can feel dangerous to admit you don’t know or understand something about an experience outside of your own because you risk being called problematic. But I think what we’re doing in writing books about our experiences is teaching, so it’s normal to learn and discuss a changed perspective. I think we should approach these conversations in open ways.

A. Leon: A greater sense of urgency, in terms of lacking queer voices, couldn’t hurt. Not only black queerness but Muslim queerness & Latin@ queerness & Biracial queerness & Asian queerness & international queerness. More & more & more & more. Variety, depth, nuance. This isn’t just dependent upon writers. It begins with critics & reviewers. We need thinkpieces, Op-Eds, reviews pointing out the absolute absence of diverse queer representation, even (or especially) within books written by white gays. Let’s look at the greater culture for a moment here as an example: Moonlight was the first-ever QUILTBAG+ film to win Best Film at the Academy Awards, although Brokeback Mountain got snubbed. This is significant. But why aren’t we hearing about it in droves? How many more people preferred La La Land because it was the one they saw as opposed to genuinely believing it the superior film? Writers of all forms need to take a closer probing glimpse at this lack, question and force others to question why we’re still stuck on white maleness as the paradigm within an already oppressed community.

Brandon: I think it’s great to have diversity! This world is one giant melting pot, and if there isn’t representation then people are excluded which isn’t right. I think that it’s a great idea, but I want to see more authors of color getting their recognition and their works published and publicized. I feel that authors who aren’t of color get more recognized for “diverse” stories as opposed to those who really should. There should be more LGBTQIAP authors and authors of color getting their moments in the spotlight as well. I think in order to further make a difference, pushing diversity needs to be championed more. I love things like #DVPit, Diverse Book Bloggers, etc. that are opening the doors for diversity, but there should be resources for diverse authors. Diversity isn’t a gimmick and people need to remember that.

Kosoko: Overall, the trends are slowly moving towards more representative societal reflections in literature, in my opinion. That doesn’t mean it’s happening fast enough. Outspoken advocates like Justina Ireland, Dhonielle Clayton &  L.L. McKinney have really helped us push the conversation and narrative forward, but I think sometimes that get’s lost in the mix. We think because the conversations are happening on Twitter, and the likes/retweets are high, there’s actual change going on, and there isn’t…not in the way we need.

Nicole Brinkley has a great thread on twitter where she shows the Publisher’s Weekly sales and compares the POC sales to the POC percentage of the US. It’s usually about 66% lower than the percentage of POCs in the US.

If you asked me one way to change that? I’d say we need more POC/LGBT people in publishing. Not just more agents, we need more editors and more POC/LGBT people in all positions. We need these people in the room where it happens (ha, Hamilton), and our presence to be reflective of society. I’d also like to see more POC LGBT writers, writing their own stories. I struggled with that for years–about 3–and though I’m not saying they HAVE TO, or should be forced to, I certainly think there should be a bigger push to have those stories. But that’ll only happen when there is a safety feeling in the YA community…

…and safety in YA is a COMPLETELY different topic.

What’s really important to you in the publishing staff that works with you and your books, especially you work that features queer Black boys?

A. Leon:  First and foremost: all my work features queer Black boys. It’s the one subject I cannot avoid, despite how hard (in the early days, especially) I’ve tried. That being said, a deep understanding of the great necessity for wider, deeper, more nuanced representation within queer literature is something publishing staff working with my oeuvre must understand. Otherwise, they’re not going to get it. Most beta readers who’ve not addressed these questions within themselves tend not to sit well with my work. They say things like, “This is good. Really good, in some places. But can’t you write about something other than gay sex?” Or they’ll say, “You don’t believe in writing stories with white guys or straight guys in them, do you?” I need desperately NOT to work with publishing staff who even consider questions like this as valid.

Kosoko: To me, it’s important to find like-minded individuals in the publishing world who understand that the single narrative of POCs, Queers, and that intersection isn’t the only story…and continuing to perpetuate that single story, does more harm than good. It’s important queers of color see a wide range of authentic stories that reflect a wealth of backgrounds. Personally, I’m a queer POC who hasn’t faced the disownment of my family that is so commonly associated with the story of queer POCs. I don’t relate as strongly to that sense of story, but I identify stronger with stories where the character has to struggle with the split identity of self. Someone else will say the reverse. Having publishers and those in the industry who understand, champion, and advocate this is important.

I think it’s also important POCs, and queer POCs, are given the same leeway as our white, straight counterparts. Think about the “quiet” YA novels. That same freedom isn’t often given to queer POCs, and that’s a disservice to the community as a whole.

Brandon: I think allowing the authenticity of an experience or story that you want to incorporate into your novel to stay intact. Being a gay Black male, I have experienced many things from pitfalls to triumphs, heartbreaks and falling in love, and anything else of the like that I can morph into a plot line for a novel to motivate someone is very important to me. I want my voice to be a voice that they can trust, and that comes from being real and vulnerable with my work.

Ryan: It’s so important to me that my work is not sanitized to push an agenda for what queer Black boys (or just Black boys or queer boys) should look like. I think there’s pressure when writing marginalized characters to make them paragons of nobility because a lot of people think victimhood makes someone inherently noble and likable. My characters are imperfect because they’re human. They’re also victims. I don’t want my work censored. The harshness of what happens to my characters is very important to me because it’s realistic, and my work usually has elements of horror to it, so it’s supposed to be uncomfortable. I really don’t want to see that damaged.

There’s been some really incredible success for authors of color in the past couple of years, including Black authors Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, Tomi Adeyemi, and Nicola Yoon. Is there a deal or award or other event that really stuck out to you as being an inspirational kick in the butt?

A. Leon: Two things: N.K. Jemisin winning the Hugo Award two years in a row for her best work to date. She’s the first black author to do so, despite the current wealth of black SF out there right now. So that’s been hugely inspiring! Also, encountering the work of Kai Ashante Wilson, whom everyone should read. Like, right now.

imagesRyan: Angie Thomas’s 13-house action and Tomi Adeyemi’s 7-figure movie deal were inspirational for me because it appeared publishers were looking for black stories. I also loved seeing Everything, Everything on the big screen because we don’t get to see black teens leading movies very often. I’ve been reading and admiring Jason Reynolds for some time now.

Kosoko: This is small, but being Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything as a movie meant a lot to me. Seeing a black girl on a poster, was something I never really saw before unless it was about some gang movie or some violent movie. To see black kids having that kind of inspiration; to be happy, to live their authentic lives, and to take chances and risks for their own happiness? That mean’s a lot to me. When I was younger, seeing something like that on the big screen would have influenced my writing, and been pivotal to becoming an author. I have a feeling it’ll do the same for other kids, and movies like The Hate U Give and Children of Blood and Bone will have similar results. And I’m so excited for that.

I mean, hellthey inspire ME.

What’s the first book you ever remember reading with a queer Black character? What about other media?

Laf1Kosoko: This was the question that took me the longest to answer. I don’t think I ever remember reading a queer black character (that may be on me, but also another reflection of the society we live in). TV wise, that’s not the same. I’d like to say Lafayette Reynolds from True Blood was the first I ever saw. And that really meant a lot to me because of how bad ass and genderfluid in some senses he was, which is something I’ve grasped with in some aspects of my life.

Ryan: I think it was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda! The first one I saw on TV was Lafayette from True Blood. I was obsessed with that show back in the day.

A. Leon: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin. The book with the most significant impact on me was Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. Sorcerer of the Wildeeps stars a gay black wizard in probably the deepest read about masculinity I’ve ever read; A Taste of Honey is a fantasy romance of epic proportions, addressing queerness of all types and including women in the conversation of masculinity. Obviously, Moonlight was an impactful film; my best friend from high school refers to me as Titus Andromedon (from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt); and there’s a great gay black cop with a beautifully complex perspective in HBO’s Six Feet Under.

Brandon: The first book I read with a queer Black character was If This World Were Mine by E. Lynn Harris.  Mr. Harris has many books on my bookshelf because growing up, there really weren’t any other books featuring Black queer characters that I could find or have access to. Thinking back to other media, the one show that sticks out for me is Noah’s Arc from creator Patrik-Ian Polk. It was like the black and gay version of Sex and the City. This show provided me with some of the inspiration I needed to become comfortable in my own skin and to live life to the fullest!

Of the LGBTQIAP YA that exists right now, what book(s) is closest to your heart?

Ryan: More Happy Than Not changed my life and what I thought was possible in LGBTQ fiction. It felt like receiving an undeserved present to have a gay character who was also a character of color and from a lower class background. But it is deserved. Everyone should be able to see themselves. I think that’s the first time I experienced that feeling of immediate connection that straight white people are getting when they read the majority of books.

Brandon: The book that is closest to my heart is Hero by Perry Moore. I read this book my senior year of high school and I have a tradition now of reading it once a year. This book really showed me that we could have YA novels where a gay character was the main character and not supporting. This novel also tackled topics of acceptance, family, loss and it touched me so much that I actually reached out to Perry Moore and had the honor and privilege of interviewing him before he passed away. Because of this experience, this novel became a part of me.

A. Leon: What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson. There’s a beautiful relationship at the center of that novel between the main white gay character and his PoC boyfriend. That shower scene makes me want to have sex in the shower, even though I hate sex in the shower. I read that book every year. (Not just for the sexy shower scene.)

Kosoko: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich, Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, and Looking for Group by Rory Harrison. Each of them has things I love in books and things I can identify with in my own life. I also won a preorder give away of They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, so I’m pretty excited for that!

What’s your dream conference panel to sit in on? To be on?

Brandon: I would LOVE to sit on a #BlackBoyJoy panel for YA literature. I think it would be neat to sit alongside other black male authors, whether LGBTQIAP or not, and share our stories and successes to inspire the next generation of authors and readers. Adversity is an obstacle that many may feel that they can’t overcome, but showing them that light always triumphs over the darkness will help push them  forward in their individual journeys.

Kosoko: I’d LOVE to be on a panel at FlameCon or World Con, especially since World Con 2019 is in Dublin, Irelandone of my favorite cities in the worldand speaks heavily to my desire to make more LGBT POC YA stories international. It kills 2 birds with one stone. FlameCon would be amazing because it’s so many awesome LGBT creators in one space of all types.

A. Leon: I want to play the 92Y. Roomful of deeply thinking people waiting to hear my deep thoughts. Yeah, that.

Ryan: I’d love to be on a panel with other queer writers of color, any of the wonderful authors I’ve connected with on Twitter, or any of my influences. Neal Shusterman is my biggest influence but if I shared a panel with him I would not be able to talk or breathe.

What’s on your bookish bucket list, i.e. something book/publishing-related you dream of achieving at some point?

Kosoko: I don’t know if one exists but I’d love to sit on a panel/be on the steering committee devoted to POC creators in the creative arts (if there is onetell me if not; I’d love to work with someone to create it). Conversations and topics are different when they center around POCslike the POC version of Sirensand I think that space really is needed. So I’d love to be a part of that, steering committee, etc.

A. Leon: Bestseller. And a whole shelf of books written by me that readers adore, whether they sold well or not. Some prize-winners in there, or at least nominated. Prize of choice: Michael Printz Award. Also, I just want to keep writing and publishing. I wish to leave behind shelves of books across all ages, platforms, techniques.

Ryan: International book tours because I love to travel and talk about myself.

Brandon: One day I hope to have one of my works produced for either television or film. I understand that not everyone enjoys reading, and some prefer watching great stories instead of reading them. So in order to reach that audience, a show or movie would do just that.

Got any words of inspiration for aspiring queer Black authors out there, and/or for your future readers?

Ryan: To queer, Black authors: write your stories. Don’t be afraid to write them. Write boldly and without fear. Include the ugly, the sexy, the awkward, the scary, the honest. We need your vulnerability! Things are changing and people are starting to listen. If you’re not ready to be open about your sexuality, write whatever you want.

To readers: I write what I know and do my best to make a narrative compelling and characters relatable. Everyone’s experience is different but marginalized people are often treated as a monolith and a lot of pressure is put on us to write for the whole community. I hope we can all give writers space to write their individual stories without having to speak for everyone at once.  I hope you like my creepy work because it’ll only get creepier.

Brandon: If I could give any words of inspiration it would be, “Love yourself more than anyone else. YOU are the most important person in your life and you and your dreams DO matter. Never give up until you reach the finish line, and even when you do that, drink more water and keep going!”

Kosoko: As a POC you have to work twice as hard as your white counterparts. As someone LGBT, you have to work twice as hard as your straight counterparts. As both? You need to work four times as hard. Don’t let that deter you. The harder the opposition, the more reason for you to keep sweating, keep shedding blood, and most of allcontinuing to write.

A. Leon: Read others’ work. Write your work. Be relentless.

***

*It was actually more than five years ago, as the Stonewall Honored Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz was published in April 2012.

**Proxy and Guardian by Alex London feature a dark-skinned male character one who might absolutely be read as Black, but it is not explicitly stated as such. Ditto Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. And yes, still white authors.

***Of course, it always behooves to support authors who are publishing through other means, so while you wait for these authors to grace your shelves, note that you can already buy The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode and check out the work of Craig Laurance Gidney.