Tag Archives: Julia Ember

New Releases: June 2020

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Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (1st)

This is the UK release. It will be released in the US on July 19.

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

Buy it: The Book Depository | Bookshop

The Groom Will Keep His Name by Matt Ortile (2nd)

A riotous collection of “witty and captivating” (Bitch Magazine) essays by a gay Filipino immigrant in America learning that everything is about sex–and sex is about power

When Matt Ortile moved from Manila to Las Vegas, the locals couldn’t pronounce his name. Harassed as a kid for his brown skin, accent, and femininity, he believed he could belong in America by marrying a white man and shedding his Filipino identity. This was the first myth he told himself. The Groom Will Keep His Name explores the various tales Ortile spun about what it means to be a Vassar Girl, an American Boy, and a Filipino immigrant in New York looking to build a home.

As we meet and mate, we tell stories about ourselves, revealing not just who we are, but who we want to be. Ortile recounts the relationships and whateverships that pushed him to confront his notions of sex, power, and the model minority myth. Whether swiping on Grindr, analyzing DMs, or cruising steam rooms, Ortile brings us on his journey toward radical self-love with intelligence, wit, and his heart on his sleeve.

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Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (2nd)

Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than “I like you a great deal.”

Enter Edith. A Hong Kong–born lawyer, striking and ambitious, Edith takes Ava to the theater and leaves her tulips in the hallway. Ava wants to be her—and wants her.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong… Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Kobo

If We Were Us by K.L. Waither (2nd)

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

You Don’t Live Here by Robyn Schneider (2nd)

In Southern California, no one lives more than thirty miles from the nearest fault line. Sasha Bloom is standing right on top of one when her world literally crumbles around her. With her mother now dead and father out of the picture, Sasha moves in with her estranged grandparents.

Living in her mom’s old bedroom, Sasha has no idea who she is anymore. Luckily, her grandparents are certain they know who she should be: A lawyer in the making. Ten pounds skinnier. In a socially advantageous relationship with a boy from a good family—a boy like Cole Edwards.

And Cole has ideas for who Sasha should be, too. His plus one at lunch. His girlfriend. His.

Sasha tries to make everything work, but that means folding away her love of photography, her grief for her mother, and he growing interest in the magnificently clever Lily Chen. Sasha wants to follow Lily off the beaten path, to discover hidden beaches, secret menus, and the truth about dinosaur pee.

But being friends with Lily might lead somewhere new. Is Sasha willing to stop being the girl everyone expects and let the girl beneath the surface breath through?

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Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert (2nd)

Charming, charismatic, and effortlessly popular, Conrad Stewart seems to have it all…but in reality, he’s scrambling to keep his life from tumbling out of control.

Brilliant, guarded, and endlessly driven, Alden Roth may as well be the poster boy for perfection…but even he can’t help but feel a little broken inside.

When these mortal enemies are stuck together on a cross-country road trip to the biggest fan convention of their lives, their infamous rivalry takes a backseat as an unexpected connection is forged. Yet each has a reason why they have to win the upcoming Odyssey gaming tournament and neither is willing to let emotion get in the way―even if it means giving up their one chance at something truly magical.

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You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (2nd)

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

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Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha (2nd)

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.

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Swan Song by Lisa Alther (9th)

Dr. Jessie Drake, in her mid-sixties, following the sudden deaths of her parents and Kat, her partner of twenty years, has fled the Vermont life she has known for decades.

In an effort to escape the oppressive constancy of grief, she accepts a job from an old flame from her residency in New York City’s Roosevelt Hospital, and agrees to assist Ben as the ship’s doctor on a British liner. Jessie boards in Hong Kong, and, as the Amphitrite sails throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East, cruise ship antics ensue. Jessie is lulled back into a long-ago romance with the ship’s co-doctor, and both she and her new/old beau become enmeshed with the ship’s lead (female) singer/entertainer. Among the passengers who fling socialized behavior aside on the high seas: a former Florida beauty queen (Miss Florida Power and Light) on a second honeymoon with her husband, as she causes high-velocity scandal, while juggling onboard affairs with a suicidal golf pro, and a defrocked priest hired as one of the liner’s gentleman hosts, until she vanishes–poof!–from the ship off the coast of Portugal . . . As the ship sails through the Gulf of Aden and into a possible hijacking by Somali pirates, Jessie retreats into her lover’s journals, written during her final months, journals filled with sketches of potential characters, observations on life and love–as well as drafts of a long new poem in progress, “Swan Song,” that seems to be about being in love with someone else, someone new. As Jessie’s grief turns to suspicion about the woman she thought she knew so well, her illumination of the poem’s meaning begins to lift the constraints of the past and make clear the way toward the future.

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The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (9th)

Saoirse doesn’t believe in love at first sight. She definitely doesn’t believe in happy endings. If they were real, her mother would still be able to remember her name. She wouldn’t be in a care home with early onset dementia, a condition Saoirse may one day develop herself. So Saoirse isn’t looking for a relationship. She doesn’t see the point.

But Saoirse is about to break her own rules. For a girl with one blue freckle, an irresistible sense of mischief, and a passion for rom-coms.

Unbothered by Saoirse’s no-relationships rulebook, Ruby proposes a loophole. They don’t need true love to have one summer of fun, complete with every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up—and a binding agreement to end their romance come fall.

It would be the perfect plan . . . if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love for real.

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You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, ill. by Julie Maroh (9th)

Jake Hyde doesn’t swim––not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.

There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.
But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves?

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Short Stuff ed. by Alysia Constantine (9th)

It could start anywhere…

At a summer vacation at the lake, just before heading off to college. In a coffee shop, when the whole world is new. In a dragon’s cave, surrounded by gold. At a swim club, with the future in sight.

In Short Stuff, bestselling and award-winning authors dial down the angst in four meet-cute LGBTQ young adult romances.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Belladonna by Anbara Salam (9th)

Isabella is beautiful, inscrutable, and popular. Her best friend, Bridget, keeps quietly to the fringes of their Connecticut Catholic school, watching everything and everyone, but most especially Isabella.

In 1957, when the girls graduate, they land coveted spots at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Pentila in northern Italy, a prestigious art history school on the grounds of a silent convent. There, free of her claustrophobic home and the town that will always see her and her Egyptian mother as outsiders, Bridget discovers she can reinvent herself as anyone she desires… perhaps even someone Isabella could desire in return.

But as that glittering year goes on, Bridget begins to suspect Isabella is keeping a secret from her, one that will change the course of their lives forever.

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The Unconquered City by K.A. Doore (16th)

Seven years have passed since the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — but the memories still haunt Illi Basbowen. Though she was trained to be an elite assassin, now the Basbowen clan act as Ghadid’s militia force protecting the resurrected city against a growing tide of monstrous guul that travel across the dunes.

Illi’s worst fears are confirmed when General Barca arrives, bearing news that her fledgling nation, Hathage, also faces this mounting danger. In her search for the source of the guul, the general exposes a catastophic secret hidden on the outskirts of Ghadid.

To protect her city and the realm, Illi must travel to Hathage and confront her inner demons in order to defeat a greater one — but how much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

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Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht (16th)


This is the sequel to Who is Vera Kelly?

When ex-CIA agent Vera Kelly loses her job and her girlfriend in a single day, she reluctantly goes into business as a private detective. Heartbroken and cash-strapped, she takes a case that dredges up dark memories and attracts dangerous characters from across the Cold War landscape. Before it’s over, she’ll chase a lost child through foster care and follow a trail of Dominican exiles to the Caribbean. Forever looking over her shoulder, she nearly misses what’s right in front of her: her own desire for home, connection, and a new romance at the local bar.

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The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell (16th)

Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

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I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee (16th)

Skye Shin has heard it all. Fat girls shouldn’t dance. Wear bright colors. Shouldn’t call attention to themselves. But Skye dreams of joining the glittering world of K-Pop, and to do that, she’s about to break all the rules that society, the media, and even her own mother, have set for girls like her.

She’ll challenge thousands of other performers in an internationally televised competition looking for the next K-pop star, and she’ll do it better than anyone else.

When Skye nails her audition, she’s immediately swept into a whirlwind of countless practices, shocking performances, and the drama that comes with reality TV. What she doesn’t count on are the highly fat-phobic beauty standards of the Korean pop entertainment industry, her sudden media fame and scrutiny, or the sparks that soon fly with her fellow competitor, Henry Cho.

But Skye has her sights on becoming the world’s first plus-sized K-pop star, and that means winning the competition—without losing herself.

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Her Lady’s Honor by Renée Dahlia (22nd)

When Lady Eleanor “Nell” St. George arrives in Wales after serving as a veterinarian in the Great War, she doesn’t come alone. With her is her former captain’s beloved warhorse, which she promised to return to him—and a series of recurring nightmares that torment both her heart and her soul. She wants only to complete her task, then find refuge with her family, but when Nell meets the captain’s eldest daughter, all that changes.

Beatrice Hughes is resigned to life as the dutiful daughter. Her mother grieves for the sons she lost to war; the care of the household and remaining siblings falls to Beatrice, and she manages it with a practical efficiency. But when a beautiful stranger shows up with her father’s horse, practicality is the last thing on her mind.

Despite the differences in their social standing, Beatrice and Nell give in to their unlikely attraction, finding love where they least expect it. But not everything in the captain’s house is as it seems. When Beatrice’s mother disappears under mysterious circumstances, Nell must overcome her preconceptions to help Beatrice, however she’s able. Together they must find out what really happened that stormy night in the village, before everything Beatrice loves is lost—including Nell.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

The Sullivan Sisters by Kathryn Ormsbee (23rd)

52768177Time changes things.

That painful fact of life couldn’t be truer for the Sullivan sisters. Once, they used to be close, sharing secrets inside homemade blanket castles. Now, life in the Sullivan house means closed doors and secrets left untold.

Fourteen-year-old Murphy, an aspiring magician, is shocked by the death of Siegfried, her pet turtle. Seventeen-year-old Claire is bound for better things than her Oregonian hometown—until she receives a crushing rejection from her dream college. And eighteen-year-old Eileen is nursing a growing addiction in the wake of life-altering news.

Then, days before Christmas, a letter arrives, informing the sisters of a dead uncle and an inheritance they knew nothing about. The news forces them to band together in the face of a sinister family mystery…and, possibly, murder.

The Sullivan Sisters is an unforgettable novel about the ghosts of the past, the power of connection, and the bonds of sisterhood.

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Lot Six by David Adjmi (23rd)

Brooklyn, 1970s. Born into the ruins of a Syrian Jewish family that once had it all, David is painfully displaced. Trapped in an insular religious community that excludes him and a family coming apart at the seams, he is plunged into suicidal depression by the age of eight. Through adolescence, David tries to suppress his homosexual feelings and fit in, but when pushed to the breaking point, he makes the bold decision to cut off his family, erase his past, and leave everything he knows behind. There’s only one problem: who should he be? Bouncing between identities he steals from the pages of fashion magazines, tomes of philosophy, sitcoms and foreign films, and practically everyone he meets–from Rastafarians to French preppies–David begins to piece together an entirely new adult self. But is this the foundation for a life, or just a kind of quicksand?

Moving from the glamour and dysfunction of 1970s Brooklyn, to the sybaritic materialism of Reagan’s 1980s to post-9/11 New York, Lot Six offers a quintessentially American tale of an outsider striving to reshape himself in the funhouse mirror of American culture. Adjmi’s memoir is a genre bending Künstlerroman in the spirit of Charles Dickens and Alison Bechdel, a portrait of the artist in the throes of a life and death crisis of identity. Raw and lyrical, and written in gleaming prose that veers effortlessly between hilarity and heartbreak, Lot Six charts Adjmi’s search for belonging, identity, and what it takes to be an artist in America.

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Two Rogues Make a Right by Cat Sebastian (23rd)

Will Sedgwick can’t believe that after months of searching for his oldest friend, Martin Easterbrook is found hiding in an attic like a gothic nightmare. Intent on nursing Martin back to health, Will kindly kidnaps him and takes him to the countryside to recover, well away from the world.

Martin doesn’t much care where he is or even how he got there. He’s much more concerned that the man he’s loved his entire life is currently waiting on him hand and foot, feeding him soup and making him tea. Martin knows he’s a lost cause, one he doesn’t want Will to waste his life on.

As a lifetime of love transforms into a tender passion both men always desired but neither expected, can they envision a life free from the restrictions of the past, a life with each other?

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Freedom by E. Davies (26th)

Agoraphobe Jaden shouldn’t have let his big brother put a ticket in a blind date raffle for him. He wasn’t expecting to win. And certainly not an overnight trip to the Grand Canyon with a gorgeous stranger—and his total opposite, a hunky wilderness guide.

Henry’s excited to meet a guy he clicks with, having finally finished bottom surgery. He’s been living stealth as the man he is for years, but he’s growing tired of hiding his past. Jaden not only accepts him, he captivates Henry, who resolves to be courageous and vulnerable in the rest of his life.

Back home in Denver, Henry starts to take pride in reconnecting with the trans community, while Jaden pushes himself out of his comfort zone. But freedom always comes at a price. Can they take the plunge into their wide open future together?

Buy it: Amazon

Just Like That by Cole McCade (30th)

Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.

But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.

Professor Fox Iseya.

Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.

Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.

Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.

To find the love they’ve always needed…

Just like that.

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In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby (30th)

Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.

Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.

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Thin Girls by Diana Clarke (30th)

Rose and Lily Winters are twins, as close as the bond implies; they feel each other’s emotions, taste what the other is feeling. Like most young women, they’ve struggled with their bodies and food since childhood, and high school finds them turning to food—or not—to battle the waves of insecurity and the yearning for popularity. But their connection can be as destructive as it is supportive, a yin to yang. when Rose stops eating, Lily starts—consuming everything Rose won’t or can’t.

Within a few years, Rose is about to mark her one-year anniversary in a rehabilitation facility for anorexics. Lily, her sole visitor, is the only thing tethering her to a normal life.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon | Indiebound | Kobo

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Short Stuff ed. by Alysia Constantine

All-queer anthologies are just the most delightful place to find new voices and get a nice variety of representation, so I’m thrilled to help introduce Short Stuff, a new collection edited by Alysia Constantine and coming from Duet Books on June 9, 2020! Today we’ve got not just the cover of the book, designed by the fabulous C.B. Messer, but a little info on each of the authors and each of the stories!

It could start anywhere…

At a summer vacation at the lake, just before heading off to college. In a coffee shop, when the whole world is new. In a dragon’s cave, surrounded by gold. At a swim club, with the future in sight.

In Short Stuff, bestselling and award-winning authors dial down the angst in four meet-cute LGBTQ young adult romances.

Before we get to those stories and authors, let’s check out that lovely C.B. Messer-designed cover!

Preorder now!

 

And now, to the stories!

“Of Stars and Scales” by Julia Ember (julia-ember.com)
Trapped in a quiet, coastal town where nothing ever happens, 16-year-old warrior Fenn longs for adventure and glory. When a dragon attacks a neighboring village, kidnaps a maiden and makes its home in the sacred field of kings, Fenn begs her Aeldorman to send her to fight it. Though the fearsome dragon has already incinerated the warriors who have tried before, Fenn sees it as her duty to rescue the girl trapped deep in the burial mounds with the beast, or die trying.
But Fenn discovers that the maiden and dragon are one in the same, the result of a terrible curse. Going against her own people, she sets out to save the girl and forge a new destiny for herself.
A bisexual retelling of the medieval epic poem, Beowulf.
Julia Ember currently lives in Seattle with her wife and their city menagerie of pets with literary names. She is the author of The Seafarer’s Kiss and The Navigator’s Touch published by Interlude Press. The duology was heavily influenced by Julia’s postgraduate work in Medieval Literature at the University of St Andrews. The Seafarer’s Kiss was named a “Best Queer Book of 2017” by Book Riot, and was a finalist in the Speculative Fiction category of the Bisexual Book Awards. Her upcoming novel, Ruinsong, will be published by Macmillan Kids (FSG) in Fall 2020. Julia also writes scripts for games, and is the author of several published novellas and short stories.
“The August Sand” by Jude Sierra (judesierra.com)
 
As the eldest child in his family, Tommy Hughes always felt the weight of responsibility growing up—to his mother, who depended on him, and to his kid brother and sister, who looked up to him. But during a summer vacation to the Michigan shore, Tommy chafes to break free and to start experiencing a series of firsts before embarking for the new world of college.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist, and Pop Culture Studies. Her novels include A Tiny Piece of Something Greater (Foreword INDIES Finalist, 2019), What it Takes (starred review, Publishers Weekly), Hush, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBTQ romance set in Detroit’s renaissance which was named one of Kirkus Reviews‘ Best Books of 2016.
“I Ate the Whole World to Find You” by Tom Wilinsky & Jen Sternick (neverhaveieverbooks.com)
 
Sparks fly at the local swim club when the manager orders Will, a snack bar chef with culinary ambitions, to cook for the club’s surly Olympic hopeful, Basil, who isn’t amused when Will’s first special is called the “Basil Rickey.”  Complicated by the incompatible terminology of competitive sports and culinary arts, Basil and Will clash—until they both learn the importance of breaking out of their lanes.
Longtime friends and writing partners Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick‘s debut novel, Snowsisters (Duet Books, 2018) was the recipient of and finalist for multiple YA fiction awards, including the Foreword INDIES, the Feathered Quill, and the NYC Big Book Awards. Tom lives in New York with his partner and the world’s most beloved orange tabby cat, Newky. He likes cold weather, anything with zombies in it and old cars. Jen lives in Rhode Island with her husband, two kids and a cranky seven-toed cat named Sassy. She likes live theater, visiting any place she’s never been before, and admits to a mild Twitter addiction.
“Love in the Times of Coffee” by Kate Fierro (katefierro.com)
 
A story of best friends, Gemma and Anya, told in a series of coffee-flavored glimpses. From the first mocha at age fifteen to cups of simple instant coffee after their first night together at twenty, they laugh, love and learn, taking a scenic route to romance.
Kate Fierro spent ten years translating, editing and reviewing other people’s words before making an impulse decision to write down some of her own. She hasn’t been able to stop ever since. Kate lives in Europe and is bilingual, with more love for her adopted language than her native one. her debut novel, Love Starved, was published by Interlude Press in 2015.
Short Stuff releases on June 9, 2020 from Duet Books, and you can preorder it here.

Happy Indie Bookstore Day!

Here at LGBTQReads the sole non-donation income that keeps the site running does come from a certain website’s affiliate links, but don’t let that fool you into thinking we don’t love indies, especially the ones that carry small-press/self-pub queer books! To celebrate those very stores, here are a bunch of links to celebrate indie bookstore day the best way possible and get some amazing books in the process!

This will be an annual feature, so if a bookstore you love isn’t on this year’s list, it may be on next year’s! I obviously couldn’t feature every store or every book, but if this post sells a few books and even helps people find some signed copies of their faves, I feel good about it!

Note: I did not list a book as signed if the *listing* for the book did not say it, but many of these books were pulled from “Signed Books” lists on the sites. If you want a signed copy, double check!

Shop at…

Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville, IL)

YA

Book Culture (NYC Area)

Adult

The Brain Lair (South Bend, IN)

PB

MG/YA

Adult

Non-Fiction

Brazos Bookstore (Houston, TX)

YA

Adult

Gay’s the Word

Books of Wonder (NYC, NY)

PB

MG

YA

McNally Jackson (NYC, NY)

Adult

Little Shop of Stories (Decatur, GA)

YA

Fountain Bookstore (Richmond, VA)

PB

MG

YA

Adult

Joseph-Beth Booksellers (OH/KY)

YA

NA/Adult

Malaprop’s (Asheville, NC)

YA

Murder by the Book (Houston, TX)

Adult

Myst Galaxy Books (San Diego, CA)

YA

Adult

Northshire Bookstore (NY/VT)

YA

Adult

Oblong Books (Rhinebeck, NY)

MG

YA

Adult

One More Page Books (Alexandria, VA)

YA

Park Road Books (Charlotte, NC)

YA

Adult

Poetry

Parnassus (Nashville, TN)

MG/YA

Adult

Powell’s (Portland, OR)

MG/YA

NA/Adult

Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh, NC)

YA

The Ripped Bodice (LA, CA)

PB

YA

NA/Adult

The Strand (NYC, NY)

YA

Adult

Third Place Books (Seattle, WA)

PB

MG

YA

Adult

Nonfiction

Poetry

Trident Booksellers and Cafe (Boston, MA)

YA

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Fave Five: Sapphic Plus-Size Protagonists

Shhhh it’s really six. Tell no one.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Rainbow heart

Exclusive Cover and Excerpt Reveal: The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember!

ICYMI, Julia Ember’s The Seafarer’s Kiss is one of my favorite queer YA fantasies of literally ever, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of its companion, The Navigator’s Touch here, along with an excerpt! Here’s the story, which releases from Interlude Press on September 13, 2018:

Julia

After invaders destroyed her village, murdered her family and took her prisoner, shield-maiden Ragna is hungry for revenge. A trained warrior, she is ready to fight for her home, but with only a mermaid and a crew of disloyal mercenaries to aid her, Ragna knows she needs new allies. Guided by the magical maps on her skin, battling storms and mutiny, Ragna sets sail across the Northern Sea.

She petitions the Jarl in Djalsford for aid, but despite Ragna’s rank and fighting ability, the Jarl sees only a young girl, too inexperienced to lead, unworthy of help. To prove herself to the Jarl and win her crew’s respect, Ragna undertakes a dangerous expedition. But when forced to decide between her own freedom and the fate of her crew, what will she sacrifice to save what’s left of her home?

Inspired by Norse mythology and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, The Navigator’s Touch is a tale of vengeance, valor, honor, and redemption.

And here’s the cover!

Doesn’t it look fabulous with the first book?? (Which you can buy via Interlude, Amazon, B&N, or IndieBound if you’re not yet caught up!)

But wait, there’s more! Check out this excerpt!

The sunlight faded to a dim shimmer, as the forest grew so dense we could barely pass between the trees. We dodged between low branches and tangled roots. The ground was a blanket of pine needles. The air smelled of evergreen and damp earth.

Ersel stopped to touch one of the trees. Her eyes widened as she ran her fingers over the gnarled bark. It was an ancient foxtail with a trunk the width of three men. Lacey frost clung to its bark and ice made fragile icicles at the end of each needle. Ersel plucked one of the crystals and cupped it in her palm, transfixed as it melted in her hand.

When she noticed me watching her, she shrugged. “Plants in the sea don’t grow anything like this. It reminds me how far I am from home.”

I plucked one of the crystals and popped it into my mouth. The fresh water soothed my dry tongue. The water was faintly sweet, infused with sap from the pine. Ersel laughed and took another icicle from the tree. She placed it on the edge of her tongue cautiously, then a grin stretched her cheeks.

For a few blissful minutes, I forgot about the men, the ship, and the invasion. We ran around the tree, gathering the sweet crystals and sucking on them until our foreheads ached and our teeth tingled.

Behind us, Smyain cleared his throat. He was a quiet man, who mostly kept to himself and was one of the few who didn’t seem to hang on Torstein’s every word. Ersel turned to him, and he pressed a frost-covered pinecone into her hand. She turned it over and then held it to her nose. She inhaled deeply, as if committing the crisp scent to memory.

“All of these trees start out like this,” Smyain said. He peered down at her shyly. “If you plant this in the ground, in a hundred years you’ll have a tree like this one. You should take it with you. You can start a forest anywhere.”

Ersel tucked the pinecone into the pocket of her dress. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Smyain didn’t meet my eye. He blushed and scuffed his foot on the wet ground.

I scowled. We’d been foolish to let our guard down. What had I been thinking? Running about, gathering sweets like a child? I couldn’t afford to let any of them see me like that. Taking Ersel by the arm, I steered her straight ahead. I walked quickly to put distance between us and the crew.

And of course you can preorder The Navigator’s Touch via Amazon or B&N!

Julia Ember lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her partner, two cats and an adorable pony. In 2016, she published her first novel, Unicorn Tracks, with Harmony Ink Press. She has subsequently published three further works for young adults. The Navigator’s Touch is the sequel to The Seafarer’s Kiss, which was released by Interlude Press in May 2017. It was heavily influenced by Julia’s postgraduate work in Medieval literature at the University of St. Andrews.

Website: http://www.julia-ember.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jules_chronicle

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/juliaemberya

 

New Releases: August 2017

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (8th)

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When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Buy it: Amazon B&N IndieBound

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell (15th)

34346381New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

Buy it:  Penguin | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks | Goodreads | Google Play

Team Phison by Chace Verity (15th)

For 55-year-old Phil Hutton, finding a new boyfriend is tough, especially since he’s still hurting from his ex leaving him for a younger man. Online dating has been a soul-crushing experience for the restaurant owner. Too many meat-haters interested in microbreweries or something called geocaching. His matches in the multiplayer for his favorite video game have been equally sucky too.

One night, he encounters a newbie who is so helpless, Phil can’t help showing him the ropes. It doesn’t take long for Phil to become interested in his enthusiastic teammate. 28-year-old Tyson Falls from Georgia loves working as a server in a rinky pizza joint and sees the best in everything. As Phil’s online dating matches get worse and his in-game matches with Tyson get better, he finds himself wanting to pursue the easygoing chatterbox with a thick, sexy drawl.

But Phil can’t get past the fear that Tyson couldn’t possibly want a fossil like him. If his brain doesn’t stop being so damn insecure, it might be game over for his heart.

Buy it: Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | Nook

The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember (22nd)

Tashi is a spy and killer—an elite warrior known as an inhabitor—taught from a young age to use their bond with the tiger Katala. When an enemy force captures the city, Tashi has no option but to escape. Their safety doesn’t last long, however. Soon the conquering army arrives at the secluded monastery where Tashi is hiding, needing a place to treat their wounded. It’s not long before their leader, Xian, takes an interest in Tashi.

Xian is cold, ambitious, and even cruel—at least at first glance. But Tashi is skilled at watching and reading people, and they find a softer side to the young commander—one that intrigues them.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens (29th)

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

Buy it : Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

New Releases: May 2017

Concourse by Santino Hassell (1st)

30364779Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka.

Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.

When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelope himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.

Buy it: Riptide | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks

The Wishing Heart by J.C. Welker (1st)

With a book in her bag and a switchblade in her pocket, Rebel’s been thieving her way through life while hoping for a cure to fix her ailing heart.

But when the bejeweled vase she just tried to hawk turns out to be a jinni’s vessel, Rebel gets lost to her world and dragged within another. Now every magical being in the city wants the vase for himself.

Thrust into a game of cat and mouse in a world she never knew existed, Rebel must use her uncanny skills to find a way to free Anjeline the Wishmaker.

But wishes have consequences. And contracts. Anjeline’s freedom could unravel a love like Rebel has never known, or it could come at the cost of Rebel’s heart…

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

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (2nd)

howtomakeawishAll seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate (2nd)

noteworthyIt’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped … revered … all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Notes on a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin (2nd)*

*Release is of a new translation of the Chinese

Set in the post-martial-law era of 1990s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile depicts the coming-of-age of a group of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan’s most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, Qiu Miaojin’s cult classic novel is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and countercultural icon.

Afflicted by her fatalistic attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman who is alternately hot and cold toward her, Lazi turns for support to a circle of friends that includes the devil-may-care, rich-kid-turned-criminal Meng Sheng and his troubled, self-destructive gay lover Chu Kuang, as well as the bored, mischievous overachiever Tun Tun and her alluring slacker artist girlfriend Zhi Rou.

Buy it: Amazon

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember (4th)

32890474Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Buy it: Amazon * Book Depository * Wordery * Interlude

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy (9th)

31449227Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

It’s Not Like it’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (9th)

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Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich (16th)

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Rough Patch by Nicole Markotić (16th)

31944911When fifteen-year-old Keira starts high school, she almost wishes she could write “Hi, my name is Keira, and I’m bisexual!” on her nametag. Needless to say, she’s actually terrified to announce—let alone fully explore—her sexuality. Quirky but shy, loyal yet a bit zany, Keira navigates her growing interest in kissing both girls and boys while not alienating her BFF, boy-crazy Sita. As the two acclimate to their new high school, they manage to find lunch tablemates and make lists of the school’s cutest boys. But Keira is caught “in between”—unable to fully participate, yet too scared to come clean.

She’s also feeling the pressure of family: parents who married too young and have differing parenting styles; a younger sister in a wheelchair from whom adults expect either too little or too much; and her popular older brother who takes pleasure in taunting Keira. She finds solace in preparing for the regional finals of figure skating, a hobby she knows is geeky and “het girl” yet instills her with confidence. But when she meets a girl named Jayne who seems perfect for her, she isn’t so confident she can pull off her charade any longer.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (22nd)

Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to come up with new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…

Add it on Goodreads

The Wrong Woman by Cass Lennox (22nd)

As an independent filmmaker, Katie Cherry is used to difficult shoots—but a band’s music video in a tiny lesbian bar is proving worse than most. Stress-busting, expectation-free sex with Zay, the calm, gorgeous bartender, seems just the ticket. But then she and Zay discover the band’s lead singer beaten into a coma in the bar bathroom. They need an alibi, but playing girlfriends is a role Katie’s never excelled at, so she can’t see this ending well.

Zay Fahed-Smith finally getting her life back together after her junkie ex broke it apart. She’s working part-time while pursuing her dream of being a lawyer, and definitely keeping things chill on the girls front. Of course, that’s when a crime happens in her bar and her ex shows up wanting to try again. “Dating” Katie seems like the best way for Zay to keep her head down and teach her ex a lesson.

Except pretty soon, the charade begins to feel less and less like acting. And when the attacker turns his attentions toward Katie, they have to cut through the lies to discover what’s real.

Buy it: Amazon

Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer (29th)

33976926Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.

Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.

They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.

Buy it: Amazon

Excerpt from Julia Ember’s F/F YA Little Mermaid Retelling The Seafarer’s Kiss!

Title: The Seafarer’s Kiss
Publisher: Interlude Press (Duet)
Date: May 4 2017
32890474Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.
*****

I’d never been particularly pious, but praying to Loki before the ceremony had seemed to help. Or at least, it had eased my anxiety even if the god of lies had had nothing to do with the ceremony’s outcome. I didn’t like the idea of adopting the trickster as my patron god, but if ever I needed a trick or two, it was now. The words of a remembered prayer tumbled from my lips. Everything inside me felt too frozen to make up my own plea.

Blue light shimmered against the back wall of my cave. It was pale and strangely electric and reminded me of watching lightning strike the sea from fifteen arm-lengths below. I swam to my crevice’s mouth. Peering out into the gray water, I squinted at the source of the strange glow. The light became so intense I had to look away. It radiated from a little ball I could hardly see. All of a sudden, it blinked and dimmed. A green and yellow sea turtle glided toward me. The electric blue light glowed from his eye sockets, and he stared right at me. A shiver ran up my back, and my blood cooled.

Above me, the patter of hail echoed through the ocean, followed by the crack of thunder. I wondered if I should scream for help. Was stress making me imagine things? Sea turtles couldn’t survive here, could they? With their cold blood, they needed the summer currents to survive. I shook my head to clear the image, blinked, but the turtle still swam toward me. If I screamed and there was no turtle, the king would think I was losing my mind, and I’d have less chance of defending myself against the things Havamal could say. Plus, I didn’t want to wake Mama. I took a deep breath. My heart felt raw and exposed, blistered and stinging, like a wound cleansed with ocean salt. I wasn’t ready to talk to her.

The turtle drifted peacefully toward me, like a moving lullaby propelled by the tide. The creature’s bright eyes dimmed further, and it cocked its head, winking at me as it coasted through a school of silver fish. Then it began to paddle rapidly; its thick flippers pumped faster and faster until its whole body became a green blur. Overhead, the hail and thunder intensified—almost as if Thor himself surfed across the waves. A bolt of lightning struck the sea and a fiery purple and yellow aurora of fiery diffused over the waves.

When I looked up toward the lights, the turtle slammed into me, knocking me back into the cave. Before I could scream, a hand covered my mouth: a hand that was pink, warm, and strangely dry.

The creature spun me around to face them. Their turtle shell had transformed into a billowing cloak of sparkling greens and golds. Caribou antlers covered with strips of fur stuck out on either side of a silver helmet; each antler was tall enough to scrape the ceiling of my little cave. Blue, electric light emanated from their very skin. A sea snake the color of dying coral wound about their waist. Their form was slim and elegant, androgynous. High cheekbones and pursed midnight-blue lips set off hooded, bright eyes, deep-set in their chiseled face.

I wanted desperately to swim away from them, to hide behind my kelp curtain, but they gripped my shoulders so hard I could feel bruises forming under my scales.

“Do you know who I am?” they demanded, raising a turquoise eyebrow.

The blue light shining from them made my scales glow as if I lay under the sun. A bubble of dry air formed in the ice cave and expanded until it filled the space. A warm feeling crept up from the tip of my tail, even while my stomach sank in fear. The horns reminded me of images from our legends that had been carved into the ice sculptures decorating our central hall. The statues in the hall had frozen their stories into our collective memories.

I swallowed. I was seeing the same face I’d seen every day since I was a child, engraved above me in the dining hall.

“You’re Loki,” I whispered. Why would the trickster god choose to help me? This was only the second time in my life I’d prayed to them. From everything I’d heard about Loki, my situation should have amused them. Maybe they were here to taunt me, to mock me for praying to them concerning a ceremony I didn’t care about and wasting whatever favor my birth season entitled me to.

They nodded, but their eyes never left my face.

“Are you here to mock me?” I asked, my voice trembling. It wasn’t a polite thing to ask a god, but after what I’d been through today, I didn’t have energy left for courtesy.

Laughing, Loki shook their great horned head. Their cackle was high and cruel, but then their eyes softened into something that seemed like affection. That look of care on their pale face was even more terrifying. They rested their warm hand on my back. I imagined their nails filled with poisonous venom and pulled away to avoid getting their toxin on my scales.

But Loki only smiled. “I’ve been watching you for a while, Ersel. It’s not normal for your kind to interact so closely with the human world. You’re curious and intelligent and you don’t follow orders like a sheep. I value all those things.”

I didn’t know what a sheep was, but I nodded at the compliment nonetheless. Their fingers played with the edges of their blue eyebrow. “I want to make a deal with you.”

My scales stood up on my back. Whenever the storytellers talked about Loki, they cautioned against making deals with the god. I cursed myself for carelessness, for letting Havamal follow me. If I hadn’t been such an idiot, maybe I wouldn’t have to decide between angering the god standing in front of me or doing what all our legends warned against: making a deal with the being who invented the lie.

 

*****

Interlude Press: http://store.interludepress.com/collections/the-seafarers-kiss-by-julia-ember