Today on the site I’m delighted to be revealing the cover for Out of Characterby Jenna Miller, a debut f/f YA romance releasing February 7, 2023 from Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins! Here’s the story:
If you asked seventeen-year-old Cass Williams to describe herself, she’d happily tell you she’s fat, queer, and obsessed with the Tide Wars books. What she won’t tell you—or anyone in her life—is that she’s part of an online Tide Wars roleplay community. Sure, it’s nerdy as hell, but when she’s behind the screen writing scenes as Captain Aresha, she doesn’t have to think about her mother who walked out or how unexpectedly stressful it is dating resident cool girl Taylor Cooper.
But secretly retreating to her online life is starting to catch up with Cass. For one, no one in her real life knows her secret roleplay addiction is the reason her grades have taken a big hit. Also? Cass has started catching feelings for Rowan Davies, her internet bestie…and Taylor might be catching on.
As Cass’s lies continue to build, so does her anxiety. Roleplaying used to be the one place she could escape to, but this double life and offline-online love triangle have only made things worse. Cass must decide what to do—be honest and risk losing her safe space or keep it a secret and put everything else on the line.
Jenna Miller (she/her) writes young adult books about fat, queer, nerdy girls who deserve to be seen and have their voices heard. When she’s not obsessing over words, she can be found making charcuterie boards, befriending people online, cross stitching, or adventuring in the Minneapolis area. Out of Character is her debut novel. Visit her at jennamillerwrites.com to find out more.
Today on the site we’re revealing the cover of Gwendolyn Clare’s speculative YA, In the City of Time, which releases from Feiwel & Friends on November 29th and stars two queer POV characters, one pansexual and polyamorous and the other a trans lesbian! Here’s the story:
In 1891, Willa Marconi’s life falls apart when her mentor at the University of Bologna unexpectedly dies, but Willa refuses to let anyone take her research away. While testing her prototype radio equipment, she detects a mysterious signal and pursues its origin.
In 2034, a cataclysmic event has rendered Earth uninhabitable, and humankind survives by living inside artificial worlds. Riley would do anything for Jaideep, who lost his family in the collapse of the Bay Area pocket universe—and “anything” includes building a time machine so they can travel back to the nineteenth century to prevent the destabilization of the planet and rewrite history.
But the experiment goes wrong. Willa is pulled forward in time, and the three find themselves stranded in a strange, seemingly abandoned city. Now they’ve got a glitchy time machine, a scary android time cop hot on their trail—dead set on preserving the current timeline—and some tangled temporal mechanics to unravel. Can they save the Earth before there’s no Earth left to save?
And here’s the electrifying cover, designed by Sarah Kaufman!
Gwendolyn Clare’s young adult novels include the steampunk duology Ink, Iron, and Glass and Mist, Metal, and Ash, set in the same universe as In the City of Time. Her short fiction has appeared in Analog, Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Clarkesworld, among others. She has a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, and a PhD in Mycology, and swears she’s done collecting acronyms. She lives in central Pennsylvania with too many cats and never enough books. You can find her geeking out over other people’s book covers on instagram @gwendolynclare and on twitter @gwendoclare.
I must confess that other than YA anthologies, I’m not much of a short story person, but I was really intrigued by Rainbow Rainbow by Lydia Conklin and decided to pick it up, figuring I’d read a couple of stories. Of course, I ended up devouring it and all its beautifully messy stories about gender and sexuality, falling in love with it, and blogging about it for Buzzfeed, and now I’m passing that love along to you in the hopes you’ll pick it up too (it releases May 31st from Catapult), whether or not you think you’re a short story reader!
In this delightful debut collection of prize-winning stories, queer, gender-nonconforming, and trans characters struggle to find love and forgiveness, despite their sometimes comic, sometimes tragic mistakes.
In one story, a young lesbian tries to have a baby with her lover using an unprofessional sperm donor and a high-powered, rainbow-colored cocktail. In another, a fifth-grader explores gender identity by dressing as an ox—instead of a matriarch—for a class Oregon Trail reenactment. Meanwhile a nonbinary person on the eve of top surgery dangerously experiments with an open relationship during the height of the COVID crisis.
With insight and compassion, debut author Lydia Conklin takes their readers to a meeting of a queer feminist book club and to a convention for trans teenagers, revealing both the dark and lovable sides of their characters. The stories in RainbowRainbow will make you laugh and wince, sometimes at the same time.
Today on the site I’m delighted to welcome Maggie Horne to reveal the cover of her Middle Grade debut, Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One, which releases from Clarion Books on October 18, 2022! Here’s the story:
In this funny, feminist, and queer middle grade debut, seventh-grader Hazel Hill is too busy for friends. No, really. She needs to focus on winning the school-wide speech competition over her nemesis, the popular and smart Ella Quinn, after last year’s embarrassing Hyperbole/Hyperbowl mishap that cost her first place. But when Hazel discovers Ella is being harassed by golden boy Tyler Harris, she has to choose between winning and doing the right thing. No one would believe that a nice boy like Tyler would harass and intimidate a nice girl like Ella, but Hazel knows the truth—and she’s determined to prove it.
And here’s the absolutely adorable cover, illustrated by Luna Valentine and designed by Marcie Lawrence and Samira Iravani!
Maggie Horne is a writer and editor who grew up near Toronto, Canada. She studied at Oxford Brookes University, where she obtained both a BA in Publishing Media and a wife, which was a pretty good deal. She now lives outside of Ottawa with her family. Her writing has been featured in Catapult and on Medium’s Mental Health and LGBTQ pages. Hazel Hill Is Gonna Win This One is her first novel. Website: maggiehorne.comTwitter: @MaggieHasHornes
Today on the site, I’m delighted to reveal the cover for Errant, Vol. 1, the very first in a new novella series by L.K. Fleet, the pen name for the formidable joined forces of K. R. Collins, Felicia Davin, and Valentine Wheeler! This f/f (bi/lesbian) fantasy releases on February 15th, and here’s the story:
Aspen Silverglade used to be a force for good, but now she’s just a sword for hire. On the run from the people she once trusted most, she needs to keep her head down and keep moving.
But old habits are hard to quit. One night in a tavern, Aspen tries to save a woman from some unwanted attention. The woman, Charm Linville, is in the middle of a subtle and delicate act of thievery, and she does not appreciate Aspen blundering in.
The disastrous and public rescue-gone-wrong makes the townspeople think Aspen and Charm are a couple. This mistake sets Aspen’s bloodthirsty betrayers on Charm’s trail, tying the two of them together.
Even if Aspen can’t run from her past any longer, Charm shouldn’t have to suffer. Despite Aspen’s determination to work alone, Charm insists on helping—and she has a past of her own. The two of them don’t care for each other’s methods, but as they journey through the villages and wildernesses of Falland, solving problems and meeting magical friends and foes, Aspen and Charm grudgingly come to care for each other. Can these two guarded, stubborn women admit their feelings, or will Aspen’s enemies kill them first?
And here’s the absolutely epic cover from the epic Laya Rose!
L. K. Fleet is the pen name for the trio of authors K. R. Collins, Felicia Davin, and Valentine Wheeler. They are longtime friends who share a love of fantasy settings and romance tropes. Errant, a series of sapphic fantasy novellas, is the first thing they have written together.
As a huge fan of People Like Us, I’m thrilled to help reveal the cover for Dana Mele’s sophomore YA, Summer’s Edge, a paranormal thriller with bisexual and lesbian protags releasing May 31, 2022 from Simon & Schuster! Here’s the story:
I Know What You Did Last Summer meets The Haunting of Hill House in this atmospheric, eerie teen thriller following an estranged group of friends being haunted by their friend who died last summer.
Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.
A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.
As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.
And here’s the striking cover, designed by Lizzie Bromley with art by Nicole Rifkin!
But wait, there’s more! Read on for your first glimpse of the book in this exclusive excerpt!
SUMMER OF EGRETS
The lake house hasn’t changed in the 91 years of its distinguished existence. Solid, stately, a relic of the Rockefeller and Durant era, it has survived three hurricanes, countless termite infestations, and a flood. It’s survived death itself. A bold claim if you can make it, but in this case, it happens to be true. Last summer, it burned to ashes with Emily Joiner trapped inside, and it was simply resurrected in its own image by its benefactors. It’s indestructible. Impervious to death and all that nature and beyond can summon. I’ve always thought of the lake house as a special place, but staring up at it, risen from ruin a year after its demise, flawless, the word that comes to mind is miraculous.
Has it really been a year?
To the day.
I pull the stiff, custom-made postcard from the pocket of my faded army green capris, a pair that Emily designed herself. On the front of the card is a gorgeous snapshot of the house. It was built in the Adirondack architecture style—a million-dollar mansion with a rustic stacked-log-and-stone aesthetic, a wraparound porch featuring delicate columns of hand-carved trees with branches winding up to the roof, and a sculpted arch of briar framing the door. Out back is a killer view of Lake George, a serene little corner exclusive to the handful of neighbors scattered sparsely along the coast. Completely secluded by majestic pines, the lake house is something out of a fairytale, a lone cottage in a deep dark forest. Sometimes it almost feels alive.
I do think it gets lonely. I would.
The house is in its own little world, buffered from civilization by the wilderness and a strict back-to-nature philosophy—no internet, no cable, no Netflix, satellite, or cell service, just peace, quiet, sun, swimming, boating, and plenty of misbehavior. It’s been our summer haven for the past ten years. Me, Emily, our best friend and my ex-girlfriend Kennedy, Emily’s twin brother Ryan, his best friend Chase, and as of two years ago, Chase’s girlfriend Mila. Last year should have been the last year because that was the year of the fire. The year we took things too far. The Summer of Swans. The year Emily died.
But then, the postcard came.
I flip it over and read it again. It’s a hot day and my car is like an oven. It only takes the interior of a car about half an hour to reach a deadly temperature when it’s in the mid-sixties outside. The gauge on my dashboard reads 81. I pull back the dark frizzy curls clinging to my neck and twist them into a bun on top of my head, yank the keys out of the ignition, and kick the car door open. A cool breeze sweeps off of the lake and touches my face, fluttering my t-shirt softly against my skin. It’s like a blessing from the lake gods. The sound of wind chimes rings softly, an arrangement of notes both strange and familiar, like a music box song. I imagine the sound of my name in my ear, a whisper in the breeze. I am home. I take my sunglasses off and close my eyes, shutting out the light, and allow the delicious air to wash over me. The scent of pine and soft earth. The promise of cool, clear water on my skin. The taste of freshly caught fish, charred on the grill, gooey marshmallow, melted chocolate, Kennedy’s lips, sweet with white wine. Our voices, laughing, swirled around bonfire smoke.
Jesus. I open my eyes and the bright sunlight makes me dizzy. Charred. Smoke. Just thinking the words gives me a sense of vertigo, even now. My mouth feels bitter, full of bile, and the phantom smell of smoke stings my nostrils and makes my eyes water. How could I think about fire in that way, here of all places, today of all days? Where Emily died. Where her bones were burned black.
I don’t know that for a fact. She may have asphyxiated. The rest of us were assembled on the lawn, in shock, immobile, separated from Emily. My parents wouldn’t let me know the details. I haven’t been allowed to find out for myself. It’s been a nightmare of a year. A year without my friends. A year without any friends. Any fun. Of seclusion, doctors, fucking arts and crafts and therapy animals. Which, yes, they’re cute, but it’s insulting. Five minutes petting a golden retriever before he’s ushered away into the next room does not repair an unquiet mind.
And witnessing your best friend die because of something you did—or didn’t do—is as disquieting as it gets.
You’re asking, okay, yeah, why go back then?
The answer is opening the door.
Dana Mele is a Pushcart-nominated writer based in the Catskills. A graduate of Wellesley College, Dana holds degrees in theatre, education, and law. Dana’s debut, PEOPLE LIKE US, was published in 2018 and shortlisted for the 2019 ITW Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel. A second YA thriller, SUMMER’S EDGE, is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster in Summer 2022, followed by TRAGIC, a graphic novel retelling of Hamlet from Legendary Comics.
Today on the site we welcome Becca Spence Dobias, author of On Home (releasing August 24th), to talk about writing queer lit against the backdrop of a hometown you fear won’t accept it and weighing the claim of #ownvoices against the potential resulting hostility. First, here’s a little more about On Home:
When tragedy strikes, Cassidy, a cam girl living in Southern California, must return to the small West Virginia town she left behind. Cassidy likes her job getting naked for men on camera, though she prefers sex with women. She never came out to her family or friends back in her home state―not about her sexuality and certainly not about her sex work. Now, she must figure out how to hold on to the life she’s built for herself while picking up the pieces of her fractured family.
As Cassidy’s story unfolds, we glimpse into the lives of the strong, complicated women who came before her: Jane, the sheltered daughter of farmers, escapes West Virginia for Washington, DC to work as a Government Girl for the FBI during World War II, until a fateful mistake threatens her future. Paloma, a Fulbright Scholar, journeys to newly Westernized Prague―only to fall for an idealistic but safe man from West Virginia.
Though worlds and generations apart, all three search for meaning as they face impending motherhood and the pull to return home to rural Appalachia.
In the first draft of my novel, On Home, my character’s sexuality was ambiguous. I left her relationship open-ended, telling myself it could be read as a very close friendship, though early readers all told me they read it as romantic. I didn’t mention this aspect of the book at all when I crowdfunded it through Inkshares, as I didn’t want to turn off potential supporters. Now I’m preparing to launch a full-on #ownvoices queer book and am reflecting on the journey.
I grew up in a small town in rural West Virginia where very few queer people were out. In my high school, there was a token lesbian and a token gay guy, but everyone else was closeted—and with good reason—the two out teens were harassed constantly. Even without being out, anyone “weird” was called “faggot”—beaten up, made fun of, attacked in the hallways. It made sense, that as someone who was unsure of her sexuality, it was safer to follow what felt like the dominant part of it and pursue guys. A girlfriend and I flirted, talking about our fantasies, but it never felt like something we would actually pursue. It really didn’t even feel within the realm of possibility in the place and time where we grew up.
When I moved to North Carolina for college, my eyes began to open as I met more queer folks. I was so naive that when I found out a friend was a lesbian, I stared at her stunned for a moment and asked, “Like a full lesbian?”
“A full lesbian,” she confirmed, laughing at me. I was both impressed and intimidated.
Though I still only dated men, I experimented with women. My first time with a woman, I reflected that it was like “cake frosting”—almost too sweet and good. I hadn’t experienced sex purely for the physical pleasure of it before; I’d always been too wrapped up in my own head about what the sex meant.
I couldn’t shake my internalized homophobia though. I was fine with other people being queer, but it still felt embarrassing when I was thinking or talking about myself. It didn’t help that my first experiment with coming out went poorly.
I’d graduated college and signed on as an AmeriCorps VISTA. At our end of the year celebration, I was enjoying dinner and drinks with other VISTA volunteers from across California, where I’d moved. We were in California, we were all progressive. I felt comfortable and tipsy enough to share that I “wasn’t exactly straight.” The supervisor, a man in his fifties, was also tipsy. “Yeah!” He exclaimed, and gave me a high five. It felt gross and objectifying. He liked the idea of hot lesbians. I didn’t want anyone else to think of me as a sexual person, so I didn’t talk about it for a long time, especially not with people from home, who I wanted to see me as a successful hometown girl—accomplished, smart, definitely not sexual.
Still, at the suggestion of my editors, I made the next drafts’ relationship explicitly romantic. It felt truer this way—less wishy washy. Literature is often a kind of wish fullfilment. If we don’t have things in real life, it can be nice to read about them and in a way, live them vicariously. Writing is like this sometimes, too. I don’t wish for my life to be different. I am happy I ended up with the partner I have and in the place where I am. I have a happy marriage, friends, a wonderful community, and a beautiful loving home. But by writing On Home, and fully embracing West Virginia and a sapphic relationship, I’m able to have those too, in a different way—a way that will forever be precious to me. Once I embraced my book’s queerness, it became more than a book; it was a different way my life could have gone, wrapped into a neat package that I can keep with me, like a stone in my pocket.
Still, I was determined it not be marketed or labeled a “queer book.” I told myself this was about keeping my audience broad, but looking back, it was about my own insecurities about my sexuality. I would keep my distance from it—I’d be an ally, but certainly not someone who had sexual desires or preferences myself. As an adult—a bi woman in a heterosexual marriage—it was easy to continue to pass as straight. I still had work to do—external and internal.
Soon after, writers began to come under scrutiny for writing queer literature without being visibly queer, and I wondered again if I should come out. I fretted about what calling it an #ownvoices book would mean for my hometown in West Virginia, who had rallied around me to crowdfund the book without knowing it was queer at all. The decision felt like a pull between authenticity in the book community or scandalizing the people I grew up with. I hemmed. I hawed. I chose authenticity.
Finally, I came out in a book launch video for Pride month. No one seemed shocked or surprised. I was nervous it might alienate some of my audience, and perhaps it still will, when the book comes out, but I’m no longer hindered by this fear.
Now my book’s queerness is one of its main marketing points. My hometown has been supportive, or at least quiet about this move. Though I’ve received homophobic comments on Facebook ads, they’ve been from strangers.
Though the #OwnVoices movement is (rightly) under scrutiny for this exact reason—it’s intrusive, sometimes harmfully so, in my case, and my novel’s, it was a gift. The book’s story is the one it was meant to be, and I’m more my authentic self too. We will both find our people.
Becca Spence Dobias grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Southern California with her husband and two children. On Home is her first novel.