Tag Archives: Julian Winters

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Running With Lions by Julian Winters

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Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them. 

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And now, the excerpt! 

Sebastian is almost ninety-eight percent certain that teenagers should be banned from making decisions during the summer, especially teens bored out of their skulls at night, like him. Summer should be a thought-free zone. No school. No extra brain usage. He should be on house arrest, not climbing through Emir’s window on a Wednesday night.

Of course, most of this is Willie’s fault. They were in their cabin, marathoning Stranger Things on Netflix. Free-for-all pizza was for dinner, so Willie conked out after the second episode. The guy can put away some Hawaiian pizza.

Sebastian can also blame some of his bad decision-making on the fact that summer is ticking down. Camp is almost over; less than two weeks are left.

The vault inside is almost perfect, but Sebastian smacks his shoulder on the floor. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s embarrassing. “So, so,” he stutters. Blood rushes to his head. His view of Emir perched on his bed is upside-down. He rolls over, laughing. “You weren’t sleeping, right?”

The lamp is still on. An open book sits in Emir’s lap. Ink- dark hair falls around his temples instead of standing in its usual sleep-mussed disaster.

“Nope. Just finished my Isha’a.”

Sebastian stands. He dusts off his ripped jeans, fixes his checkered flannel shirt. “Ish- what, now?”

“Isha’a,” Emir repeats. “It’s the last of the salats, daily prayers we do as Muslims.”

These reminders about Emir’s religion and his life at home light memories that flicker through Sebastian’s brain like tiny paper lanterns in the wind. He remembers the adults in Emir’s family fasting during Ramadan and a small backyard gathering to celebrate a feast day Sebastian can’t remember the name of, but he recalls the beautiful clothing, the music, and Emir’s parents passing out gifts to the children. And he remembers the giant, toothy smile Emir wore while pressed to Sebastian’s side on a sticky June evening.

“Is this a bad time? Should I go?”

“No.” Emir closes the book, carefully placing it on the desk by his bed. “It’s okay.”

“Okay.”

Sebastian’s snuck in here every evening lately. After dinner, he crawls in to find a space left for him on Emir’s bed. Sebastian talks nonstop with his head on Emir’s chest. His fingers trace the shape of Emir’s mouth. Sometimes, Emir talks, shedding his shyness. Eventually boring conversations turn into making out.

“Hey!” Tonight Sebastian came with a plan. He tosses Mason’s keys in the air, then catches them. He didn’t steal them; Mason always hands them over during the week so he doesn’t lose them. Being the token “good guy” has its advantages. “You wanna get out of here?”

“Are we allowed to leave?” Emir asks. “Didn’t bother checking the rule book.”

Emir runs a hand through his hair; his fingers catch on the tangles. He says, “You wrote the rule book.”

It’s not an attack on Sebastian, but he still flips Emir off. He blames his lack of a solid comeback on the way the bridge of Emir’s nose crinkles when he snorts.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Sebastian says. His mind has been drifting lately, more than usual, wondering what this thing with Emir is or isn’t. “I dunno, I just want to get out of here. Just me and you.”

“Okay.”

“You’re sure?” Sebastian squeaks in an unnaturally high voice.

Emir shrugs and stands. “Yes, Bastian,” he says. He grabs his beanie, pulls on a pair of slightly wrinkled black skinnies, grips a hoodie—

The sight of Sebastian’s last name in blocky gold letters across Emir’s back is mesmerizing.

JulianWinters

Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

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The Magic of Friendship in LGBTQ YA Books: a Guest Post by Julian Winters

I’m delighted to once again have on the site Julian Winters, author of the upcoming bi YA sports romance Running With Lions! In case you missed his last post, Julian interviewed webcomic creator TJ Ryan, and today, he’s back to do some book recommending!

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In Running With Lions, the main character Sebastian has two things he believes he’ll never survive without: soccer and his friends. He’s in his last year of high school, faced with the choices of what lies next for his future, and trying to navigate a troublesome re-connection with his ex-best friend, Emir. The only thing he can fall back on is his friendships. I thought it’d be fun to look at some of my favorite YA books that tackle coming of age, hardships, humor, and romance, but also my favorite topic: “How much do our friendships help shape people we become?”

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

29904219Superheroes? Check. Girl crushes? Check. A band of uncertain teens taking on a corrupt agency while trying to keep their own friendships together? Double check. This book (and series) is a fun and wonderfully diverse with a great look at how friendships change when secrets are involved. And it’s impossible not to fall in love with the main character, Jess Tran or her genius little brother and their MonRobot, Chả.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

23228.jpgIn a town where the quarterback is the homecoming queen, cheerleaders ride motorcycles at pep rallies, and being LGBTQ+ is like wearing a T-shirt and jeans, Paul faces more important things than his crush on the new guy, Noah. He’s torn between being the ultimate best friend to Tony, who lives in a town where he can’t be openly gay, and trying not to meddle in his other friends complicated drama. The ever-changing dynamic in Paul’s circle of friends takes a toll on his life and asks all the right questions about how far we can go for friendships.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

35960060.jpgDaniel’s senior year of high school isn’t exactly what he thought it’d be. Yes, he’s been accepted into his dream art school, but the rest is a journey through dark family secrets, pining over his best friend, standing up against policies, and dealing with loss. But Daniel’s complicated relationships with his friends is an honestly raw look at what we’ll do in the name of friendship and to amend for mistakes we’ve made in the past.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

12000020Aristotle Mendoza doesn’t have friends. Or, at least, he doesn’t set out to find any. He’s fighting his own battles with family secrets, identity, and anger from an unknown place. And then there’s Dante—the squeaky-voiced boy who loves his parents and swimming (and Aristotle), but struggles with his heritage. Their journey is a magnificent and sometimes painful exploration of friendship and how it heals wounds we never see. How friendship can also unlock pieces of ourselves we’ve unconsciously fought against.

The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

31246717Abby’s goals aren’t like her friends. She’s not interested in romance. She wants to rule the fashion world and she’s not missing an opportunity to get her start by interning at her favorite boutique. Abby refuses to be the queer, fat girl sidekick in her own story. This book is filled with humor and delightful girl crushes and empowerment. It also never shies from letting friendships take centerstage. Abby’s on an unexpected journey of self-love but leave it to her friendship with Jax (and their quest for the best burger) to sweeten this already wonderful summer book.

Openly Straight/Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

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Exploring sexuality and identity is not an easy thing to do when your miles and miles from home. Especially not at an all-boys school where Rafe is struggling to closet himself again and Ben is navigating his own questions about sexual identity. Packed with humor and honest questions, both books have a unique cast of friends that help both main characters understand themselves. It’s those friendships that are just as pure and lovable as Rafe and Ben’s clumsy, complicated (and sometimes non) relationship.

Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski

26176756.jpgQuirky best friends Meg and Linus have hit their share of bumps in the road, mainly a break-up and an unrequited crush. But they have each other. For the most part. This fun friendship book is a must-read. Are the things we do for others really in the name of friendship? Can we fly solo without the one person we’ve always depended on? How do we stay true to ourselves when everyone else wants us to be something else? You can’t help but geek out with this sweet duo.

The Weekend Bucket List by Mia Kerick

37802033Sometimes it’s hard being the “good apple.” The one that never steps out of line. Never does anything outrageous. But Cady and Cooper are in their last days of high school, unsure of their place in the world, and ready to take the plunge with a bucket list of things to accomplish. This book isn’t about romance; it’s about finding yourself amidst an evolving friendship and life choices. It’s about redemption when those roads we thought we should walk turn out to be the wrong one. Those changes aren’t easy, but Cooper and Cady’s journey (along with dropout Eli) makes for a wonderful story.

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

94072Russel Middlebrook believes he’s the only gay kid in school. But he’s not. There’s a soccer player, the all-star baseball jock he’s crushing on, and a few more, including one of his best friends. Funny antics follow Russel everywhere, including awkward dates with a girl to help his other best friend’s romantic woes. At the heart of this book is Russel’s struggles with coming out, the hurtful choices he makes, bullies, and being himself in the face of who his friends think he is.

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Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

Julian Winters Interviews TJ Ryan, Creator of Witchy Webcomic Quinn, Dreaming

I am super excited about this matchup today, because rarely do novelists and comic artists cross in this space but today you’ll get to meet both! Julian Winters is the author of the upcoming YA sports romance Running With Lions, releasing from Interlude Press on June 7, and TJ Ryan is the creator of Quinn, Dreaming, a webcomic that, to quote their Tumblr, “follows Charles August Quinn, a dream witch trying to make it to graduation with minimal incident, and failing spectacularly.” Sound like a dream combo? Just wait until you read this interview…

First, let me express how excited I am about this. As a comic book geek, I have always wanted to pick the brain of my favorite artists—now I have the opportunity! Quinn, Dreaming is such an interesting take on magic, sexuality, friendships, crushes, and what things represent. Tell us about how Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” inspired the comic/story.

6cae9ff3-5aa0-431f-a473-830904a8ad48Thank you so much! I’m really excited too! I had been shuffling around a story of magic and witches in my mind for a while, but there wasn’t any sort of organization that I could create out of those thoughts. I was listening to Fleetwood Mac (as one does) and really focusing on the lyrics. The lines “It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and, have you any dreams you’d like to sell?” were really what started it all. I knew I wanted it to center around a dream witch who sold dreams but also sort of lived in his own.

I’m a really musical person so I get inspired by it constantly.

Can you tell us anything about the companion novel, Citrus Witches?

Citrus Witches was actually the working name for Quinn, Dreaming. It followed Arthur as a main character rather than Quinn, and really strayed far and wide from the story I ended up using for the comic. That draft exists in all its rough glory on AO3 under the Citrus Witches title. Enjoy my old Merlin fanfic too if you decide to go snooping.

The companion novel to it that I’m currently writing takes place in their first year of college and involves a whole new set of adventures, that will set it apart enough from the webcomic so that people who didn’t read it can still enjoy it, and the folks who did follow the comic will get new shenanigans with the same characters.

How far do you plan to take the webcomic?

The plan is to follow Quinn and the crew until the end of senior year. They’ve only just made it to the end of October so still lots more to come!

While I absolutely love the wonderfully awkward romance between the main characters, Quinn and Sorrel, the diverse cast of supporting characters truly lends to creating a well-shaped story. Will there be more of them in the book?

Absolutely! The book actually follows Sorrel as the main character. There’s definitely tons of awkward romance with Quinn, Arthur to lend to his bad ideas, Statice to film it, and Daphne to talk them out of it.

I’m a big fan of epic platonic loves, and Arthur really is that for Sorrel. There’s a lot of him in the story, really existing as a solid part of Sorrel’s life. I spent a lot of time exploring Sorrel’s relationship with his twin sister, Statice, as well.

There’s some fun new people too!

There’s a subplot that looks at trying to “cure” people of magic. Is this a metaphor to anything in real life?

22e98fe0-df04-40d9-a726-40090b3dc8c4Creating a “cure” for magic in a world where magic exists in everyday life started from a very personal place and spread to something I think is really universal. Growing up bisexual and nonbinary, I always heard “Well have you tried not being this way?” or “You should see a therapist/doctor/psychiatrist, I bet they could fix it” because I grew up in a very small conservative town. But you see it on the news and online and on talk shows all the time. People questioning the validity or the sanity of other people based on something that’s just a part of them.

Magic is just simply a part of these witches. It’s as simple as Quinn having brown eyes or freckles. He’s a dream witch, but now there’s this entire organization that’s dedicated themselves to trying to ‘fix’ that and prove it’s something dangerous. I just felt like it was a storyline that a lot of readers could find themselves relating to.

Okay, I love all the magical components of the story and a few of the dark themes, but let’s talk about all the humor and adorableness—I’m looking at you, Sorrel Seong—that is featured. Also, Quinn has this shy, uncertainty about himself and his powers. It speaks so well to how sometimes people see this admirable quality about us that we often overlook because of self-doubt. Are those the kinds of elements you always try to incorporate into your artwork/writing?

Sorrel is literally and metaphorically the light of my story!

I always try to work self-doubt into at least one character in my story, because it’s such a human trait. I know with my art I’ve often looked at other artists’ work and been hung up on how amazing they all are and how I’ll never compare. Quinn’s sort of a low-level dream witch surrounded by all these powerful witches with ‘cool’ powers, and that leads to him really shrinking in on himself. He learns though that no one else is going to do magic like Quinn does magic, and that his powers can be really beautiful and unique. It’s something we all need to learn about ourselves.

You have a tremendous following, especially from authors. Is this intimidating? Inspiring?

Both! It’s incredible. I would’ve been happy if Quinn, Dreaming had gotten five followers, but it took off and people constantly interact with me about it on Twitter, Tumblr and now on my Patreon. Having so many authors in my corner has been a dream though. You all inspire me with your creativity and your story telling so much. Ultimately, it’s what pushed me to finally start a webcomic in the first place. I’m a librarian—my first big love will always be reading. Knowing that I have these incredible authors that I respect and have welcomed me to come live in their worlds for a while, really pushes me to create something worth hanging out in as well.

You’ve done a lot of amazing artwork for other books—S.J. Goslee’s Whatever, Tara Sim’s Timekeeper series, Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. Are there any books or LGBTQ+ characters you’ve wanted to draw but haven’t yet?

I drew Aiden and Shannon once from Taylor Brooke’s Fortitude Smashed, but I’m itching to draw Daisy and Chelsea from the sequel Curved Horizon. I’m weak for the southern sorority girl and punk princess relationship. I need to do some serious art for the Wicker King by Kayla Ancrum as well, because that book was absolutely beautiful, and it stirred up my imagination from start to finish.

Your artwork is so loveable. The way you capture characters is fun but precise, too. Are there any current webcomics or artists that inspire you?

Check Please! Is always the first webcomic I tell people about. It’s so fun and sucks you right in. I binge read it in a Denny’s while I was in college. I couldn’t leave my booth until I was done. It’s just so good. I’m a huge fan of Noelle Stevenson and her comics Nimona and Lumberjanes. I’ve been reading Rainbow Rowell’s latest work on The Runaways. There’s a webcomic on Patreon called Constellation Grimm by Gibslythe that’s a really amazing fantasy with some of the best art as well.

Outside of Quinn, Dreaming, can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on?

I am currently finishing up writing a book about a Canadian vampire named Steven Pancake. He decides he’s going to make the most of his afterlife and buys himself a canoe. His camping trip goes awry, he meets a broody handsome 17th century Romanian vampire named Nicolae, wacky woodland hijinks ensue! There’s werewolves, aliens, some rednecks, and kissing!

Want more TJ Ryan? Here’s where you can find them:

Weebly — https://tjryanart.weebly.com

 

JulianWintersJulian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

Around the Blogosqueer: Queer Black Sites, Books, and Posts

On this final day of Black History Month of 2018, here are some books, sites, and posts to read, enjoy, promote, support, review, and share:

Sites

Sistahs on the ShelfSotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!

WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!

Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.

The Brown Bookshelf – this is a site dedicated to Black kidlit; here are the posts that come up if you search LGBT.

2016-18 Books

Middle-Grade

Young Adult

Adult

Adult (Speculative)

Books You Can Add on Goodreads

Young Adult

Not yet on Goodreads, but take note:

(Electric Literature editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and Iowa Writer’s Workshop fellow Brandon Taylor’s REAL LIFE, a novel of unexpected intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, and a story collection, to Cal Morgan and Riverhead, in a pre-empt, by Meredith Kaffel Simonoff at DeFiore and Company.)

Posts

Where is the Queer Black Male Voice in YA Lit?

Black History Month Roundtable via Autostraddle

Have more to share? Add them in the comments!