Tag Archives: Horror

Fave Five: New Queer Horror

These titles were all published in 2020-21.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling

The Worm and His Kings by Hailey Piper

Red X by David Demchuk

Elegy for the Undead by Matthew Vesely

Bonus: Releasing on the 28th, Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Wicked and the Willing by Lianyu Tan

Today on the site, please welcome Lianyu Tan, who’s revealing the cover of her steamy f/f gothic horror vampire romance, The Wicked and the Willing, which has a bi femme Chinese protagonist and releases May 13, 2022! (Note: the book has a love triangle, but there is a choice of mutually exclusive endings and no cliffhangers.  Due to the mature content and dark themes, it is intended for adult readers only. It contains potentially disturbing scenes and an abusive romantic relationship between two women. Further content information is available from the author’s website.) Here’s the story:

An orphan with a shameful secret must choose whom to love: her vampire mistress or the woman trying to save her life. A provocative tale of seduction, violence, and despair from dark lesbian romance author Lianyu Tan.

1927, colonial Singapore

Monsters don’t scare Gean Choo. And there are monsters aplenty among the Europeans on sultry Singapore island, all of them running away from something—or someone.

When she starts her new job as a lady’s companion, she can’t imagine falling for the impassioned, demanding mistress of Ambrosia Hall, nor the gruff, brooding woman who serves as her lady’s majordomo.

The latter holds her heart; the former, her body, blood, and loyalty.

Both want her.

Both need her.

And one of them will die for her. 

Here’s the chilling cover with art and design by MiblArt!

Buy it: Amazon | Apple | Books2Read

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Lianyu Tan has always been fascinated by the darker side of love: obsessive yearning and monstrous desires. She usually writes dark romance with a fantastical twist, but has recently found a home in gothic horror. Her debut novel Captive in the Underworld is an F/F dark lesbian romance retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth.

Lianyu is a queer Malaysian Chinese Australian and lives with her wife in Australia. She loves to hear from readers and you can find her as @LianyuTan on most social media platforms. Subscribe to her newsletter for free bonus content and short stories: https://go.lianyutan.com/subscribe

Authors in Conversation: Julian Winters Interviews The Taking of Jake Livingston Author Ryan Douglass

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Douglass and a few other authors in a roundtable entitled “Where is the Queer Black Male Voice in YA?” The interviewees were all obvious rising stars, in my opinion, but the very next queer Black male voice to rise up in YA after that post actually belonged to an author I didn’t know yet named Julian Winters.

Fast forward to now, when Douglass has debuted on the New York Times bestseller list (and also managed to publish a volume of poetry called Boy in Jeopardy even before that), Winters is three books in with a fourth, Right Where I Left You, on the way, and both of them are here today to talk about The Taking of Jake Livingston. Here’s a little more on the book, first:

Sixteen-year-old Jake Livingston sees dead people everywhere. But he can’t decide what’s worse: being a medium forced to watch the dead play out their last moments on a loop or being at the mercy of racist teachers as one of the few Black students at St. Clair Prep. Both are a living nightmare he wishes he could wake up from. But things at St. Clair start looking up with the arrival of another Black student—the handsome Allister—and for the first time, romance is on the horizon for Jake.

Unfortunately, life as a medium is getting worse. Though most ghosts are harmless and Jake is always happy to help them move on to the next place, Sawyer Doon wants much more from Jake. In life, Sawyer was a troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school before taking his own life. Now he’s a powerful, vengeful ghost and he has plans for Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about dead world goes out the window as Sawyer begins to haunt him. High school soon becomes a different kind of survival game—one Jake is not sure he can win.

Buy it: Bookshop | B&N | IndieBound

And now, please welcome Julian Winters and Ryan Douglass!

Julian: Ryan! It’s always an honor to chat with you, but this feels especially fantastic because I’m getting to talk to Ryan Douglass, instant New York Times bestselling author of The Taking of Jake Livingston! How wild is that? One week we’re chatting on the day the book is released, then you’re a bestselling author with your debut novel!

Ryan: I don’t even think it’s even sunk in. It’s pretty cool and I’m so glad people have responded well to this story.

42371064. sy475 JW: Interviewing you for LGBTQ Reads is an extra special occasion for me. A few years ago, you did an interview on here that kind of changed my life as an author. The discussion you had about being a queer, Black author and writing queer Black boys as protagonists gave me the courage I needed to finally sit down and written my sophomore novel, How to Be Remy Cameron. I didn’t know if queer Black boys had the space they deserved as the protagonists in the Young Adult world until I read that interview. It made me want to ensure they did have their voices heard.

Jake’s story continues to inspire me and others to write our books where queer Black boys are at the heart. Where we can celebrate their uniqueness and joy as well as discussing their struggles.

Where did the inspiration for Jake come from? What made you jump into Horror, a genre that doesn’t often showcase Black and/or queer teens as protagonists?

RD: Thank you for saying that. I was very interested in what this book would do for representation politics at the beginning but it’s since become less of a concern. I don’t feel like I’m writing about the “Black queer experience” as much as a slice of life where the MC happens to be Black and queer. I was interested in horror because of the way it explored trauma and fear, how the psyche operates in moments of desperation and the choices people make in perilous situations. That developed as a kid before I realized what it meant to be Black, institutionally, and how the genre treats its Black characters. Later I was able to assess the injustice that occurs in media representation. I wanted to write characters that felt true to me so I put them into the genre I was interested in working in. Since it’s horror, that ends up feeling naturally subversive since the genre usually kills off its Black characters when left to white creators.

JW: I love that this book is gives me old school, paranormal horror vibes, but also looks at the real-life horror Black teens face. It’s very much The Frighteners meets Get Out and so much more. What are some of the themes you wanted to explore, both from the supernatural and real world?

RD: A big theme in the book is how whiteness invades Black consciousness when we’re trying to succeed. It erodes our cultural norms under the guise of professionalism. It’s so normalized to go to PWIs or get a corporate job and link that to merit and moving up. But what you’re doing is negotiating your culture for prestige or financial gain. We’re climbing into systems rooted in a slave system that has never been reformed, and the way we’re treated today mirrors slavery in a way that is better branded. We talk about it but we don’t change these systems in serious ways. It’s so normalized that “talking about it” is a thriving market to make money in. Jake angles into these issues by featuring a Black boy who’s been ripped out of his community and now feels he’s going insane because he can’t get whiteness (Sawyer) off his back. It’s also a book about the ways boys are raised in violence and how hard it becomes to communicate when you feel like you’re being abused and you can’t come up for air. As for the supernatural elements, they’re mostly there to supplement the contemporary issues, and they enhance this “superhero origin story” feel that the book ends up taking on. Black queer boys need superhero icons.

JW: Writing Horror is such a skilled art to me. To be honest, you had me sleeping with the lights on while reading this book! What are the challenges you faced trying to craft out such a terrifying world?

RD: A big challenge when I first chose horror was understanding how it comes to life in literature and how that may be similar or different from what you see in movies. You can’t use jump scares or make use of music and lighting, which are naturally spooky tactics in film. Evoking an unsettling atmosphere with words is the big challenge because it’s so reliant on a sense of dread and zeroing in on the darker aspects of language, imagery, and metaphor. You also have to be irreverent enough to take risks with what is psychologically comfortable.

JW: This book is told from dual POVs. Jake’s story in real time, then the antagonist Sawyer Doon’s world through his diary entries. Sawyer is a frightening character. I love that, through his entries, you explore what brought him to the point he’s at in the novel. But you do it without redeeming him. You don’t excuse away his actions. You weave a tragic story in a way that doesn’t give him exoneration but really dives deep into the psyche of someone pushed to their edge.

What was it like writing a character like Sawyer?

RD: I always sigh with relief when I hear that because a big worry of mine was that he might come off as redeemable or else too evil to for a normal person to tolerate reading from his perspective. Writing Sawyer was all about achieving the right balance. I had to constantly ask myself how much distance I wanted to keep from any vulnerabilities this character might have. That then opens questions of how much distance this character keeps from himself. What about him disturbs himself, and what about his surroundings have disturbed his way of thinking? That’s when I got into the meat of where this character comes from in a way that felt like it wasn’t softening him too much but centering an exploration of how empathy and connection comes into his world as this fleeting object but the crux of him is evil.

JW: Besides all the scary imagery you describe so perfectly, another part of this novel I love is the way you explore queer Black boys like Jake and their relationships with others. Specifically, Jake’s older brother, Benji.

What were some of the things you hope readers get from their relationship, along with the one Jake has with his mother?

RD: I like these boys because they ring true as Black boys without there being any performative emphasis on how “Blackity Black” they are. I want readers to get a slice of human experience without the primary mission being to convince white people that Black people are people too. When the mission is not saying to the reader “hey guys, Black people are actually human”, we’re able to dive into intracommunity issues like the relationships between straight Black men and queer Black men, how straight Black women may support homophobic actions of their straight Black partners at the expense of the queer boys or men in their lives. There’s the issue of whiteness but at the center of Jake’s trauma are the issues he dealt with at home. The experience of living in his identity is having layers of trauma to work through. I think readers who are not of that experience or of an intersectional experience can learn from that.

JW: Let’s talk about Allister! From the moment he appeared on the page, I felt like Jake—like I could breathe again. He’s this amazing addition in Jake’s life. Someone who doesn’t question who Jake is, what he’s going through, nor does he brush off Jake’s struggles. And let’s be real—their romance made me swoon.

Who is Allister to this book and why was it so important for you two show that kind of relationship between two queer Black boys?

RD: Allister serves as a breath of fresh air to the narrative. I didn’t have a lot of time to develop his relationship to Jake because I was trying to develop other things in a time crunch during edits. But I ended up liking how simple it was. I like that Jake has someone in his life that doesn’t feel untrustworthy or overly complicated. I don’t know if boys as perfect as Allister exist, but I think it’s important that gay teens are able to see what healthy love looks like.

JW: As an avid fan of yours, I know you love music! I get some of my best recs from your social media posts. If (or when?) this book becomes a movie, who would be on the soundtrack? What songs or artist would best accompany Jake’s story?

RD: I’m a big fan of the artists that come out of NUXXE, which is Shygirl’s record label. It’s gritty, often spooky experimental pop. I’d want Shygirl, Sega Bodega, COUCOU CHLOE, Y1640 and similar sounding artists to be on the soundtrack. I think their sounds really mirror the tone of the book.

JW: People are gobbling this book up! I know I did. We all have to know: What can we expect next from Ryan Douglass?

RD: I’m working on another YA horror currently. I’ve been trying several genres in recent years, from historical fantasy to paranormal romance to rom-com. I want to tap into so many genres but teen horror and dark academia come naturally. I’m good at that so I’m developing in that genre as a writer for now. Later I plan to spread out to other things.

Ryan Douglass was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, where he currently resides, cooking pasta and playing records. He enjoys wooden-wick candles, falling asleep on airplanes, and advocating for stronger media representation for queer Black people.

Julian Winters is the best-selling author of contemporary young adult fiction. His debut, Running With Lions (Duet, 2018), won accolades for its positive depictions of diverse, relatable characters. A former management trainer, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta where he can be found reading, being a self-proclaimed comic book geek, or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer. How to Be Remy Cameron is his second novel.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Stake Sauce, Arc 2: Everybody’s Missing (Somebody) by RoAnna Sylver

Just in time for spooky season, we’re thrilled to be revealing the cover of RoAnna Sylver’s newest release, the second arc of horror-paranormal romance mashup Stake Sauce, which is coming from Kraken Collective Books on Halloween!

Rep within includes: Polyamorous M/M, queerplatonic F/F, gray-ace and aro-spec MC, gay and bisexual dudes, lesbian and aroace ladies, physically disabled MC, trans MC, neurodivergent/mentally ill (autistic, PTSD, depression) MC, multiple fat love interests, nonbinary major characters, and you can find out more about the story here:

Act 2, In Which: Our friends, some old and some new, must awaken a powerful, centuries-old magical force – before an old enemy gets there first…

Life for Jude is finally getting back to normal – or as normal as it gets when your new boyfriend has fangs, your old maybe-boyfriend isn’t dead after all (and has even bigger fangs), and everyone’s scrambling to adjust their lives accordingly.

There’s enough to worry about without evil, ancient vampires closing in, preparing dark rituals, and threatening to undo everything Jude, Pixie, and their loved ones have built together. But as they’ve all seen, normal doesn’t tend to last for long. And it’s hard to shake the feeling that something’s missing.

But then, it seems like everybody’s missing somebody.

And here’s the cover, designed by the author!

Preorders come with the first Stake Sauce book and an exclusive bonus collection of short stories, so make good use of this link!

Fave Five: New Queer Halloween Reads

This doesn’t include any of the titles recently posted under Queer Necromancy, Ghostly Queer YA, or New and Upcoming Witches in YA, so definitely check those out too! And make sure you catch up on older Halloween reads as well!

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (YA Horror)

His Hideous Heart ed. by Dahlia Adler (YA Poe Retellings)

Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve (Paranormal YA)

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (Adult Fantasy)

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (Adult Horror)

Bonus: It’s a smaller POV, but the character of Poe’s muse Lenore in The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters is definitely into the ladies!

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

I am delighted to welcome Caleb Roehrig back to the site today for an exclusive cover reveal of his upcoming paranormal romance The Fell of Dark, releasing July 14, 2020 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan and helping usher vampires back into YA!

Caleb himself had some words to say on that, so before we get to the cover you’re all here to see, let’s give the book some context, shall we?

(Okay, fine, I’ll tease it a little first. Happy now?)

But now, for real, is Caleb Roehrig:

***

Ten years ago, I read an interview with a literary agent that said: “Unless your manuscript has vampires, werewolves, or shapeshifters, you can’t get published in YA.” This was actually okay with me. I was part of the original cult following for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I longed to craft stories that had the same blend of thrills, humor, and emotional impact.

I wrote a novel about a girl, bitten and left for dead, who gradually develops abilities and cravings she doesn’t understand. She had a gay best friend that didn’t do much—because it was implicitly understood that gays had to be polite and peripheral if they wished to take up space—and she was caught between the attentions of two gorgeous vampire boys. I intended it as the first in a series of five novels…but, of course, it was never published. By the time I realized vampires were a popular trend, it was already far too late to jump on the bandwagon—a lesson I learned the hard way. But I’d sketched the entire series out, including some dramatic twists I could never quite get out of my head, and privately I hoped that someday I’d get the chance to raise my vampires from their untimely graves.

The Fell of Dark is a book that took a decade to see the light of day. I altered most of the plot and all of the players, the main character changing from a straight girl to a gay boy—because that was the story I had really wanted to tell all along—and I condensed my planned five-part series into a single novel that is stacked to the rafters with thrills, humor, action, pathos, magic, mayhem, and make-outs. This cover by Rich Deas evokes the pulp horror underpinnings of the gritty side of my vampire tale, where the stakes are nothing less than the end of the actual world—while still also managing to convey the cheeky humor and apocalyptic frustrations of a gay teen’s first attempt at romance. It’s perfect, and I can’t wait for readers to dive in.

The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town.

Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it.

An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.

Preorder now!

Better Know an Author: Sam J. Miller

Sci-fi fans undoubtedly need no introduction, but I’m gonna go ahead with one anyway and welcome Sam J. Miller, YA and Adult author, to the site! It’s been quite a past couple of years of awards and category-jumping, and I’m thrilled to have landed him the month of the release of his sophomore YA, Destroy All Monsters. Come get to know Sam J. Miller!

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Congrats on the new release! Please tell us a little bit about Destroy All Monsters, and especially about Solomon!

Destroy All Monsters is the story of Ash, a regular teenager in the real world, who is trying to save her best friend Solomon from a mental health crisis. But it’s also the story of Solomon, a gay teenage photographer who lives in a city full of monsters and magic, who is trying to save his best friend Ash – the Refugee Princess – from a conspiracy trying to destroy all magic. As their quests progress, these two worlds begin to collide. There’s some of me in all my characters, but Solomon definitely has a big piece of my heart – a gay Jewish boy trying to make art and make sense of the world around him while struggling with mental illness.

I’m selfishly so happy to have you back in YA; I was afraid we might’ve lost you back to adult SFF for good with Blackfish City, but you manage to juggle both so well! In sci-fi, a genre that always seems to be a bit more nebulous than others when it comes to what age means, how do you decide what’s a YA story and what’s an adult story?

Well thank you for that, but YA will never lose meas a reader and as a writer I spend a lot of time here! In a lot of ways, I don’t really see a difference. It’s not about “mature content”I feel like my YA has more sex than my non-YA! And it’s not just about the age of the protagonist, although that’s a big factor. I guess if the story can be told exclusively through the eyes of young people, it’s probably YA. But if I need to get into the heads of lots of people to tell it, and venture into the lives and concerns of folks who are older, it might not be. But who knows! I’m still figuring out the rules of genre, and marketing categories. I wrote a story I thought was science fiction, and they gave me a horror award for it, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Speaking of Blackfish City, it’s been so thrilling watching it sweep up so many accolades! For those who aren’t familiar, can you give us a quick sum-up of the story, and then tell us what it was like to get nominated for eleventy different awards for it??

In a post-climate-change future, where rising sea levels and wars for resources have transformed the globe, floating cities are constructed in the Arctic, where polar melt has opened up the interior for resource exploitation. Qaanaaq is one of those cities, essentially a giant oil rig where a million people live, and one day a woman arrives in town with a polar bear and an orca, on a mission… maybe of bloody revenge. And wackiness ensues! As for the award nominations, that was pretty surprising to me, because – like a lot of artists from marginalized communities – I spent a long time being told that my stories were not universal stories, that they would only resonate within my own community, and if I wanted to get a broad audience I’d need to step outside the ghetto of “gay stuff.” My work has always been extremely queer, and so no matter how many accolades it gets, I never ceased to be shocked that folks respond positively to stories about oversexed irresponsible gay boys, lesbian grandmas, gender nonbinary folks, and so on.

Of course, you came onto my radar with your YA debut, The Art of Starving, which is so marvelous and powerful, I knew immediately you were an author to watch. What made you decide to dip into YA at that point and with that story, and what has reaction to it been like?

I’ve always adored YA, going back to getting totally messed up by The Chocolate War when I was twelve. Just like Disney movies, I never understood why they have this reputation for being juvenile or saccharinelike Disney movies, they’ve always been dark and terrifying and sad. And while I’d written a YA novel already at that point, it was pretty closeted (and not so great)I thought I’d never be able to publish the dark queer edgy sexy stories I wanted to tell. Luckily I studied under Holly Black and Cassandra Clare at the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop, and they convinced me that folks were really pushing the envelope for queer rep in YA, and that I should do what I want, tell the stories I needed to tell. And I did! And people were into it! And I’m still kinda shocked.

Queer Adult SFF is a spot of ignorance for me, so whenever I have an expert here, I must ask for recs. What are some of your major faves, and who are some authors to watch, in your opinion?

OMG SO MUCH GREAT STUFF!! JY Yang, Carmen Maria Machado, Lara Elena Donnelly, Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane Anders, Ruthanna Emrys, Ellen Klages, Indra Das, Richard Bowes, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Kai Ashante Wilson… I know I’m leaving out tons of folks and IT IS KILLING ME. We really are living in a beautiful moment where tons of queer SF/F/H is being writtenand published!by tons of incredible diverse writers.

Shifting away from your written work for a minute, you’re one of my favorite people to follow on social media because I feel like I just never know where you’re gonna suddenly pop up with some gorgeous photograph, especially throughout New York. What’s your favorite travel spot and why?

Awwww, thank you! I love to travel, and have lots of favoritesThailand, India, Iceland, the Dominican Republic. But even here in NYCa friend of mine told me that I photograph my home city like I’m a visitor here, and I kinda love thatwherever you go, even your own back yard, there’s tons of weird wild shit to capture if you just try to look for it.

Please explain “He got married in a guerrilla wedding in the shadow of a tyrannosaurus skeleton” from your longform bio on your website. Immediately. 

Well, gay marriage became legal in New York State in 2011, and my husband and I had been together for almost ten years at that point. We decided to get married, but we wanted to honor our rebel queer heritage with a guerrilla wedding, without permission, that incorporated elements of direct action. I’m a community organizer, after allorganizing protests is what I do. And we both love dinosaursA LOT. So on our tenth anniversary, we decided to go to the Natural History Museum here in NYC and get married under the tyrannosaurus rex. I told my mom, wear comfortable shoes, we might need to run from the cops. I also trained one of my friends in how to be a police negotiator in case security rolled up on us, so he could buy us some time to get through the ceremony. Security did roll up, but they thought it was awesome.

What’s your first memory of LGBTQIAP+ rep in media, for better or for worse?

It was definitely for WORSE, even though it’s a musical I adore: A CHORUS LINE, which we saw on Broadway at some point in the 1980s. There’s a gay character in it, and his father kicks him out of the house. I was young, under 10, and it had literally never occurred to me that something could make my father love me less. I remember it made me super sick to my stomach. As it happened, I didn’t need to worrymy father responded with nothing but love and support when I came out to himbut the shame and suffering I’d seen gay characters suffer in A CHORUS LINE and other media did make my coming out so, so much more difficult. Which is why I’m so committed to providing positive representation and emotional validation in my own work, and supporting it in the work of others.

What’s up next for you?

My fourth novel will come out in 2020it’s called The Blade Between, and it’s not YAit’s a supernatural thriller, sorta like a House of Cards as told by Stephen King, about folks fighting gentrification in a small town while being manipulated by people they don’t know are ghosts… of whales. Still editing it, and it’s super exciting. So, that, and SHORT STORIES! I love them, and I miss them. Noveling takes up a lot of time.

***

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a best book of the year for Vulture, The Washington Post, Barnes & Noble, and more – and a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). A recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Sam’s work has been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, John W. Campbell and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. A community organizer by day, he lives in New York City.</p>

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: The Lights by Carrie Pack

Today on the site we have an exclusive excerpt reveal from Carrie Pack’s The Lights, a YA horror novella releasing on December 11 with an f/f couple at its heart. Come check it out!

It’s winter break and Molly Monroe is content to enjoy her town’s annual Festival of Lights with her girlfriend Chelsea at her side. But almost immediately after the lights go up, the town’s children begin to act strangely, especially Molly’s own brother, Roger. When their next-door neighbors are killed in a grisly double homicide, Molly begins to suspect the incidents are linked. Now she must convince her parents and the rest of the town to take down the Christmas lights before everyone gets killed.

 Buy it: B&N * Amazon* Kobo* iTunes

And now, the excerpt! 

As I cut out tree and reindeer shapes from the dough, I stole sideways glances at Dad as he worked on the frosting for the decorations. I decided to take my chance and broach the subject of Roger’s behavior.

“Dad, have you noticed anything weird with Roger?”

Apart from the blank staring, he’d also stopped playing video games and begging to know which of the wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree were for him. And since the Van Atters’ murder, he had watched me with piercingly cold eyes. Dad didn’t seem to notice how weird he’d gotten.

“I think he’s still a little under the weather.” Dad licked a dusting of sugar off his thumb. “And I’m sure that business next door didn’t help.”

“Yeah.” I scooped up the delicate shapes and placed them on a baking sheet. Even with Roger’s odd quirks, the murder was more disturbing. “Is Mom okay?”

Dad made an uneasy hum that landed somewhere between agreement and a question. “That detective gave me the number of someone for her to talk to. I’ll call after Christmas.”

“Maybe call tomorrow,” I suggested.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up to find Roger standing next to Dad.

“I want to see the lights,” he said.

Dad smiled at him. “Sure, kiddo. Right after Molly and I finish up these cookies we’ll go.” He ruffled Roger’s hair. “Why don’t you go see if your mom wants to tag along?”

Roger’s expression didn’t change, but he went upstairs.

A few minutes later Mom shuffled downstairs with Roger in tow. She looked awful, with dirty hair framing her thin and pale face. Dark circles marred the skin under her eyes and she wore an old pair of Dad’s sweat pants and an oversized, stained sweatshirt. But it was the first time she’d been out of bed since the murders. So we all piled into the car and drove downtown.

With less than a week until Christmas, the streets were crowded with shoppers and visitors who had come from neighboring towns to look at the lights. People stood in wonder at the bright colors and sounds coming from every direction. Some of the children stopped to stare just as they had after the processional, while their impatient parents tugged at little mittened hands. The stress of the season was getting to everyone it seemed.

The more lights we passed, the more Roger became entranced, and the more children we saw. It seemed every family with small children was out on this night, and they were all here looking at lights. By the time we reached the town square, dripping in lights as it was, Roger had begun to mutter to himself from the back seat. When we passed under the sparkling, blue “Happy Holidays” sign, Roger smiled like he had a secret and whispered, “It’s time to kill.”

I turned sharply to face him, but he continued to gaze out the window. His face, backlit by the blue of the lights overhead, gave off an eerie, ominous glow. But it seemed I was the only one who had heard him. I glanced toward the front seat where Dad sang along with the radio, which was blaring Christmas carols and Mom stared out the window, both unaware of the terror now coursing through my veins. I looked back at Roger, but his expression seemed normal. Perhaps it had just been the strange glow from the new LED lights. Perhaps I had imagined his creepy whispering. Perhaps I was overreacting. Again.

It felt good to be doing something kind of normal, even if it was only a moment or two. So I let my worries fall away and tried to enjoy myself. But I didn’t take my eyes off my brother.

When Roger asked to go back out the following night, I refused to go. Even if I had imagined his strange behavior and the blue glow, I was not interested in reliving it.

“Oh, come on, kiddo. Where’s your Christmas spirit?” Dad leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “Besides, I think it will do your mother some good to get out again.”

I shrugged. “We went last night. I don’t need to go again. Besides, Roger’s the one obsessed with the lights, not me.”

“I think it’s sweet,” Dad said.

“I think you mean creepy.”

Dad laughed it off. He said when I was Roger’s age I beheaded all my Barbie dolls and strung them up around the house like piñatas. “It’s just a phase,” he said. “He’s testing his boundaries just like you did.”

“Well, it’s a creepy phase and I’m not going,” I told him, folding my arms across my chest.

Dad sighed. “And one day my sweet Roger will go through this belligerent teenager phase,” he said, mostly to himself. He kissed me on the cheek and slipped on his coat. “Why don’t you make us some cocoa for when we get back?”

“Sure,” I said.

I watched as Dad pulled the car out the driveway. Mom was curled in on herself, like she had been since the Van Atters were killed, but Roger stared back at me, a blank look on his face, and it occurred to me that it wasn’t my brother. Someone else was looking out at me from behind his eyes.

***

Carrie Pack is an author of books in multiple genres and a recipient of two Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year Bronze awards: in 2016 for In the Present Tense (science fiction) and in 2017 for Grrrls on the Side (young adult). Grrrls on the Side was also a finalist in the Bi Book Awards. She also hosts the BiSciFi podcast and is creator of the #BiSciFi Twitter chat.

New Releases: December 2018

Reciprocity by Sean M. Locke (1st)

All Kaeri Hawen wants is a peaceful life in the Lower Terrace. No more collecting debts. No more breaking kneecaps.

But then the Boss’s loose cannon of a son massacres a dozen rival gangsters with a single pull of the trigger. Kaeri’s quiet retirement is off the menu—for now. If she wants out of her life of crime, she’ll have to stop Kasper and his devilish weapon first.

Maria Cantabile is a clever young noblewoman with a knack for tinkering and a devastating right cross. She’s descended into the Lower Terrace to retrieve two precious possessions: her delinquent little sister, and the stolen prototype of her reciprocating repeater carbine.

Kaeri knows just where to find both—the girl and the gun sit in Kasper’s greedy, bloodied hands.

The deadly noblewoman and the gold-hearted gangster will have to work together to stop a city-wide bloodbath. They’ll have to break their own rules, and betray their own families. They’ll have to risk falling in love. Do they have what it takes to save the Lower Terrace, and save each other?

Buy it: Amazon

Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks by Nathan Burgoine (11th)

Being the kid abducted by crazy old Ms. Easton when he was four permanently set Cole’s status to freak. At seventeen, his exit plan is simple: make it through the last few weeks of high school with his grades up and his head down.

When he pushes through the front door of the school and finds himself eighty kilometers away holding the door of a museum he was just thinking about, Cole faces facts: he’s either crazier than old Ms. Easton, or he just teleported.

Now every door is an accident waiting to happen—especially when Cole thinks about Malik, who, it turns out, has a glass door on his shower. When he starts seeing the same creepy people over his shoulder, no matter how far he’s gone, crushes become the least of his worries. They want him to stop, and they’ll go to any length to make it happen.

Cole is running out of luck, excuses, and places to hide.

Time for a new exit plan.

Buy it: Bold Strokes Books

The Lights by Carrie Pack (11th)

It’s winter break and Molly Monroe is content to enjoy her town’s annual Festival of Lights with her girlfriend Chelsea at her side. But almost immediately after the lights go up, the town’s children begin to act strangely, especially Molly’s own brother, Roger. When their next-door neighbors are killed in a grisly double homicide, Molly begins to suspect the incidents are linked. Now she must convince her parents and the rest of the town to take down the Christmas lights before everyone gets killed.

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

The Stars May Rise and Fall by Estella Mirai (11th)

Teru came to Tokyo with dreams of making it big in the glam-metal visual kei scene, but three years later, all he has to show for it is a head of hot pink hair and some skill with an eyeliner pencil. He may look the part, but he doesn’t sound it, and constant bickering among his bandmates has him worried about his future. When he finds a mysterious business card in his bag, he’s willing to take any help he can get.

Help comes in the form of Rei, a crippled, disfigured composer whose own career was ended by an accident before it had really begun. With Teru’s voice and looks, and Rei’s money and songwriting skills, both of their dreams seem about to come true – but a forbidden kiss and a late-night confession threaten to tear it all apart. Now Teru, who has spent most of his life denying his attraction to men, and Rei, who vowed long ago never to love again, must reconcile their feelings with their careers – and with their carefully constructed ideas of themselves.

Buy it: Amazon

The Disasters by M.K. England (18th)

32469736Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

Buy it: B&N * AmazonOver the Moon (signed) * IndieBound