You know those cover designs that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Well this is one of them, so I’m thrilled to be revealing the re-design of Handmade Holidays by ‘Nathan Burgoine, rereleasing* on December 1! (Yes, that’s next week!) Here’s the story:
At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.
A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born. As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.
Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late. Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet.
*Handmade Holidays was originally published by NineStar Press in 2017
‘Nathan Burgoine is a tall queer guy who writes mostly shorter queer fictions, though novels do happen. He tends to write fiction with a dash of the speculative, usually contemporary, and always with queer characters. He’s published dozens of short stories, and released his first collection of short fiction, Of Echoes Born, a series of interconnected short fiction pieces tell a story greater than the sum of its parts.
At the novella length of things, ‘Nathan tends to write queer romance, including his wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey gay romance In Memoriam, a trio of holiday-themed romances: Handmade Holidays (chosen family), Faux Ho Ho (fake boyfriend), and the upcoming Village Fool (an April Fools’ Day prank gone wrong). He also co-wrote Saving the Date with Angela S. Stone, as part of the 1Night Stand series, a romance which explores surviving and thriving after a hate crime.
His first speculative fiction novel, Light (think a gay superhero, only not very good at it yet), was a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and his first YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks (a teen boy with a tendency to plan out his whole live has to scrap his plans when he develops a teleportation problem), was a finalist for the YA Prix Aurora Award. His other two novels, Triad Blood and Triad Soul (vampires, wizards, and demons, oh my!), are contemporary urban fantasies set in Ottawa.
‘Nathan lives in Ottawa, Canada, with his husband and his rescued husky. You can find him online at nathanburgoine.com.
Just in time for spooky season, we’re thrilled to be revealing the cover of RoAnna Sylver’s newest release, the second arc of horror-paranormal romance mashup Stake Sauce, which is coming from Kraken Collective Books on Halloween!
Rep within includes: Polyamorous M/M, queerplatonic F/F, gray-ace and aro-spec MC, gay and bisexual dudes, lesbian and aroace ladies, physically disabled MC, trans MC, neurodivergent/mentally ill (autistic, PTSD, depression) MC, multiple fat love interests, nonbinary major characters, and you can find out more about the story here:
Act 2, In Which: Our friends, some old and some new, must awaken a powerful, centuries-old magical force – before an old enemy gets there first…
Life for Jude is finally getting back to normal – or as normal as it gets when your new boyfriend has fangs, your old maybe-boyfriend isn’t dead after all (and has even bigger fangs), and everyone’s scrambling to adjust their lives accordingly.
There’s enough to worry about without evil, ancient vampires closing in, preparing dark rituals, and threatening to undo everything Jude, Pixie, and their loved ones have built together. But as they’ve all seen, normal doesn’t tend to last for long. And it’s hard to shake the feeling that something’s missing.
But then, it seems like everybody’s missing somebody.
I know, I know, everyone is tired of hearing how good this book is, but it’s just so much fun, so inventive, has such great representation, is one of the very few gay trans books out there, and you just know it’s written by an Author to Watch. If you’re approximately the only person who hasn’t already, check out Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas!
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
One of the most popular requests on the LGBTQReads Tumblr is for recommendations for m/m trans Romance, and I’m so thrilled to have an author of the world’s newest here to talk about it, and specifically about sexuality in it. Freedom by E. Davies releases today, so let’s take a look at the book and then get right into the author’s guest post!
Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual. But Henry’s junk does.
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?
Transition is most visibly about embodiment—but it goes so much further than this simplified explanation. In seeking a better way of physically being, we’re also embarking on a journey of hope. Transition has forced me to believe in who I can be, and to strive to embrace that potential joy, even when those around me didn’t understand; that process has been the most powerful, life-affirming experience of my life.
I’ve been on this journey for over eight years now. A lot has changed, to say the least. And yet, despite massive increases in visibility and public awareness, and the associated risks and opportunities, the progress is uneven. Visibility rarely means education, and it’s hard to find facts on many aspects of transition and trans life. One of those areas is bottom surgery options for trans men, and another is trans men’s sexuality. Where those areas intersect, it’s often impossible to find facts without seeking out one-on-one conversations—which is not always possible or practical.
This is obviously aggravated by the current campaigns to stigmatize trans men’s surgeries. The abuse associated with trans bodies leads to many of us talking only behind closed doors—which is what transphobic factions want, so that they can control the conversation… and in doing so, our very hopes and dreams. Even when you do encounter information, it tends to be dry surgical factsheets that don’t really relate to everyday life. What will it feel like to actually interact with this different body in sex, while getting dressed, or in the bath? These questions tend to get overlooked in favor of the important decisions on surgeons, optimal healing, and so on. When you’re caught up in the required treadmill of waiting, chasing referrals, fighting for your rights, preparing for outcomes, and more, it’s hard to imagine the minutia of the “after”.
That’s where fiction can come in.
For cis authors, trans lives are often most interesting at their most raw: coming out, starting hormones, getting top surgery. But the focus on trans men in earlier stages of their journeys, the comparatively more easily-available information, and persistent myths and stigmas around gay trans men’s sexuality, means that romance featuring trans men tends to place them before or without bottom surgery.
When I started writing trans characters in MM romance, the questions I strove to answer in my fiction were much like those in the rest of my life: What does trans life actually look like after the moments that tend to be in the spotlight?
In answer, I’ve worked to create stories with a variety of trans men: James in Grind is struggling with debt from top surgery and has no interest in the further surgeries currently available, but packs and enjoys frot; Nic in Flaunt has had meta and is both ready to reembrace his femininity, and exploring his options for phallo now; Jake in Forever is boldly toppy, and would like a hysterectomy but wants to bear a child first. Each character tends to subvert some readers’ expectations, and each reflects an equally valid trans life.
In Freedom, I finally wrote a trans character who is post-phallo (all stages), having dated men before and during transition, but who hasn’t hooked up since then. He also has a complicated relationship with transness, having lived stealth for some years and found it liberating at first, only to feel like it began to encroach upon his freedom instead.
The conversations I wrote in Freedom came from a place of wanting to explore this different possible relationship to transness—post-dysphoria, if you like. Post-transition as a concept seems wobblier than it did when I started writing the book, and when I set out on this surgical journey myself. Nowadays, I think my relationship to myself, my past, and my community will keep on evolving for many years to come.
Throughout all my stories, I hope to show that transition is an ongoing process and series of choices, and there is no one-size-fits-all narrative. Above all, I want trans readers to see that romance can find you at any point in this journey; that they—and we—are loveable and loved no matter what. We can be as open and out or as stealth and private as we wish. Trans men are not an obscure fetish, nor are we desired only post-transition, or only desired by certain sexualities or genders, or any of the other myths. I tend to write pairings of cis gay men and trans gay men, simply because they’ve been the most common in my life experience. Even this fact often surprises people! Plenty of cis gay men do date, fuck, love, befriend, and desire trans men. If that simple fact can’t make it to any broader cultural awareness, there’s certainly an uphill battle about the complicated choices we make regarding our bodies.
When I was preparing for lower surgery, the vast majority of people in my life had no idea what was involved, what the options were, or even that it was possible to have a real, satisfying sex life—either before or after surgery! In particular, cis gay culture at the moment seems to have very little idea how to address our existence, and gay fiction often reflects that confusion and uncertainty. Yet trans men have been dating cis gay men (as well as people of all genders and sexualities) for as long as people have been around! Within broader society, there’s very few portrayals of our bodies, whether we opt for bottom surgery or not.
There seems to be an odd dichotomy of thought: either we must desperately desire surgery (leaving no space for those who are happy without it), or we must reject it, as “natural bottoms” (a deeply transphobic concept that is startlingly pervasive). If we do choose surgery, either it’s “the surgery” that grants us, overnight, a cis penis—a misunderstanding that can create painfully dysphoric interactions with friends and lovers. Or, on the other hand, we’re doomed to life with no satisfactory options.
Where’s the room for reality: that our options are broad, our outcomes not always certain but certainly not hopeless, and our lives not necessarily centered on this one narrow aspect of our selves? That the results can be more than satisfactory, and huge strides in techniques have been made, yet outdated myths tend to circulate more widely than fact? That despite this, there are huge strides in advocacy, information, and aftercare that must be made to protect and uplift us?
Better still, where’s the room for fantasy: that we can set aside all our reality for an afternoon and just enjoy a story? That we can have a perfectly wonderful sex life where the differences between our junk and the expectations placed on cis guy’s are minimal, or even celebrated? This is what was so deeply enjoyable about writing Freedom—having Jaden simply accept Henry’s body, embrace the advantages, and focus on learning what makes Henry, specifically, feel good. It’s not a fantasy that’s so far away from real life. In my experience, that’s how relationships tend to work, yet we often aren’t granted this fantasy on the page. Sensual moments are often used for predictable narrative tension, as if we can’t simply exist, fuck, and love it.
Not that there isn’t a place for those stories—trans lives are messy, real, and diverse. Even within Freedom, with my optimistic outlook and aims, there are moments where Henry struggles to remember that his learned habits about his body are outdated now.
Romance books are a tremendous place to explore how our many lives and loves can look. The diversity in trans bodies and lack of education regarding them can throw off readers sometimes. But that very lack of expectation is also an opportunity! Because no person should be expected to enjoy or desire sex, to fit naturally into any role, or to be interested in any particular sex act, gender, or person. Yet too many norms of society are structured around these rigid, artificial ideals.
In rewriting the rules of expectation, trans people can show a path to sexual liberation for all. At the end of the day, sex—between fictional characters or in real life—ought to be about finding what each person involved desires, and looking for the points of intersection where both (or more) can find what they want and need.
One thing’s for certain: sex, sexuality, and transness isn’t neat and tidy, but it is full of hope and possibility. And that’s something that will never grow old.
Since 2013, E. Davies has crafted feel-good stories of men in love–stories that are brimming with hope, found families, and realistic guys next door getting their modern fairytale endings. As for hobbies: rescuing bees, dancing badly, traipsing through meadows, and studying photos of cute guys for research totally count, right?
I’m so excited to have two of my favorite gay YA sophomores on the site today, chatting about their newest books! Lev Rosen is the author of Jack of Hearts (and other parts)and Camp, the latter of which released this past Tuesday (along with Jack‘s redesigned paperback), and Cale Dietrich is the author of The Love Interest and the upcoming The Friend Scheme, which releases on July 28! Make sure to check out all four of those titles, and to read on below for their conversation about the books, toxic masculinity, internalized homophobia, and more:
Lev: Hi Cale! I’m so excited to talk to you about your forthcoming novel, The Friend Scheme, and my new novel, Camp, which came out on Tuesday. I really loved your last book The Love Interest, so getting to read The Friend Scheme was very exciting! And I love the setup – closeted son of a mafia family falls for a guy who he knows is the son of the rival mafia family who may be seducing him to destroy his family. Love, lust, trust, betrayal, family loyalty. Who could say no to all that? But let’s get this out of the way: There’s a minor character named Lev in The Friend Scheme, and he’s a shmuck. Should I be deeply insulted or merely offended?
Cale: Hi Lev! First up: DEEPLY OFFENDED. Obviously. Just kidding, that schmuck Lev has nothing to do with you, because I adore you. Jack and Camp are two of my all time favourite-YA books, they’re so smart and really explore the modern queer identity while being fun and romantic. I love them. I’m so happy I get to talk to you about Camp! One of the things I loved most about it was its exploration of masculinity, and the complicated relationship it has with being queer. Was this something you’d always wanted to explore in a novel, or did something inspire you?
Lev: WELL! I shall be deeply offended then. Let me get out my burn book…
And yeah, Camp is so much about navigating patriarchal gender nonsense as a queer man, and how somehow, even when we’re out and proud, that straight mindset can creep in and cause a lot of pain. But the original inspiration was actually old Doris Day/Rock Hudson 60s screwball sex comedies. And, if I’m being honest, the post-modern redo of those movies, Down With Love. That was the big inspiration – I wanted a contemporary queer YA version of those movies, because I love those movies. I love Down With Love. But of course, those movies center around the idea of “the battle of the sexes” – very 60s. And making that queer wasn’t going to work quite right, until I realized it could be battle of the masc/femme. And once that occurred to me, everything fell into place – masc4masc stuff, the summer camp setting. I always love exploring post-coming out stuff, though, so I imagine something would have snuck in there eventually. I just knew it needed to be in a queer space to work. If you’re out in the world with this, straight people are going to seriously interfere and try to tell you that masc gays are better, or femme gays are more fabulous, really try to put you in a category. In an entirely queer space, the characters can play with these ideas of gender performance and it can be seen as just exploring identity. Straight people seldom let queer kids do that. And queer community was so interesting to me in your book, The Friend Scheme, as well, because it’s Matt’s lack of queer community that really kind of puts him in this impossible situation – he’s closeted and has no queer friends, so the first one that comes along becomes his everything, his entire community, and he has to rely on that one person so much that it becomes dangerous. I was wondering if that was intentional? Like, did you go into this wanting to show the dangers of being an isolated queer person?
Cale: AHHH. I wonder who else is in that burn book!
INTERESTING. You mention that the straights in relation to saying masc gays are better, or femme gays are more fabulous etc, but what do you think about the pressures of being masculine coming from within the gay community itself? To me it feels like there is a lot of pressure on social media and the like within the gay world to live up to a certain standard of masculinity, (which is really rubbish). I understood why Randy decided to act more masc to attract Hudson – scroll Instagram and you’ll see a specific type of gay sexuality continually heralded as the most attractive – the buff, masc gym gay. I’m just wondering where you think the pressure on gay guys to be masculine is coming from — is it from straight people, or is it from other gay men?
As for TFS and Matt being isolated, absolutely! I think we were both trying to explore queer masculinity in two different ways, which I think is so great and I’m so bummed we no longer share a release date so we could be a double feature! To me, Matt’s whole story is about him not living up to the kind of man his father wants him to be, and a lot of that has to be with his masculinity. As much as he tries to push himself into the guy that his family set out for him, he only really finds happiness once he starts accepting he isn’t the kind of guy his dad wants him to be. I was trying to explore that feeling through a genre story. And to answer your question: it was intentional! I did want to show how that lack of support and community can be incredibly painful, especially when you’re cut off from them by being closeted. I ratcheted things up to fit the genre, but mostly I was trying to explore how that feels. I don’t want to spoil anything but hopefully the epilogue shows how things can improve once you’ve found a queer community!
Lev: The Burn Book is large and long. Top of the list right now is whoever is responsible for the pre-9AM jackhammering directly outside my window during all this social distancing. They are a terrible human being.
And yeah, Camp deals with that internalized homophobia, too, the way the community can essentially take part in that! But I think that problem isn’t exactly exclusive to the gay community. It’s a problem of patriarchy and toxic masculinity – being queer doesn’t save you from that. It can even make it worse; when Hudson starts to explore why he values masculinity so much, it comes out that it’s a form of protection. A lot of “masc4masc” guys think it makes them better because it makes them pass as straight, it makes them acceptable to straight people – which is something I don’t think queer people need to be worrying about. Because while being queer doesn’t save you from the patriarchy, it gives you an opportunity to sidestep it. Being gay is a gift. When you come out, you have a chance to step aside from all that nonsense and look at patriarchy and say “okay, so I’m not into ladies like they want me to be, which makes me less of a man, supposedly, but… what if all those ideas were nonsense? What if everything is meaningless and behaviors we attribute to genders are made up? What if I get to be whatever I want, and fuck gender conforming?” Being given that opportunity – and I genuinely think its a lot harder for straight people to be given it – is a gift. Sadly, its not one a lot of gay people unwrap because coming out is so traumatic for them that they cling to the patriarchy even harder than straight people do, hoping it will make them not actually straight again (well, probably some of them), but make them essentially “count as” straight in the eyes of society. And that sucks so hard for them. There’s nothing wrong with being “masc-acting” and queer (in Camp, Brad fills that role, that’s just who he is, there’s no performance). But to be trapped feeling like you have to be masc acting, like it effects your value as a human being? That’s awful. So I actually feel sorry for those guys on instagram. I mean, I have no problem with a guy who’s built and bearded or whatever (I, myself am bearded, and I DO have a build). But a guy who says he’s “manly” or “masc” – that’s where it gets sad for me. And those guys being more praised for their masculinity by the community makes me sad, too. Like… we were all given this gift guys. Unwrap it.
And yes! Friend Scheme is all about a very old school, very blunt form of masculinity. I keep thinking “murder is masculine,” so you should see if that can be the tagline of your novel. I think, in fact, Matt’s whole story is about having that gay gift I talk about – his queerness is what allows him to see himself outside this mold they try to put him in, this future they want for him. And I love how you somehow manage to combine that exciting mafioso action with what is essentially a really sweet romance. You did it in The Love Interest, too. And they’re both about how these guys know they’re not who they’re supposed to be and fall for a guy who they know they can’t trust. It makes me think about dating in the closet, how you want to be with this person but also by being with them you’re kind of giving them the power to destroy your life. Is that why that theme comes up for you? Do you think dating as a queer person is more fraught with issues of distrust?
Cale: This is such a good answer!!! I agree with everything you say. It’s such a complicated issue, and I’m so happy that you explore it in Camp, as I think it’s a question that’s extremely relevant to modern queer people. I’m such a fan of yours!! Ah!
Omgosh, “murder is masculine,” is the perfect tagline for TFS! I love it! And I totally agree about Matt having the gay gift that you talk about – it is 100% what I was going for! I wanted to explore exactly what you talk about in your answer — I feel like being queer does force you to have these sorts of conversations with yourself, and makes you see yourself outside of the mold people try to put you in. That leads to a lot of questioning and growth. As for the danger of dating in the closet – that has appealed to me as it just made sense for the characters and the stories I was trying to tell – it definitely adds a layer of distrust and danger and that’s what my books are sort of built on! But my book three hero is out and proud, so I think I’ve explored closeted characters as much as I would like to (for a while, anyway).
I’m really curious, what would be your response to someone who says that they have a preference for masc guys?
Lev: I mean, I think I’d say that’s fine. Randy clearly is into Hudson is who is masc… but I think it’s also worth interrogating your own desires. Some people are like “that’s my type, tee-hee, don’t need to think about it,” but if your type is hyper-specific, it worth taking a moment to wonder why. Are you attracted to guys like that because society has always told you to be? Because they represent something you want to be? Because you think being seen with them in public, or by your parents, is what will make people accept you? Is your lust determined by societal approval? Lust isn’t just lizard-brain. Or it can be, but then it gets tempered. I think a lot of about guys who are into plus size women, but never ever admit it. It’s a different issue and I’m not the one to talk about it, but it’s something that happens a lot and at least part of the reason why has to do with societal pressure to punish women for being fat. Likewise, there’s a lot of societal pressure to punish gay men for not being a certain way. And sometimes that effects desire. So if you’re into muscles cause you’re into muscles, cool. But if you’re into “straight-acting” guys, or even just full on straight guys (and many of us have been at some point), ask yourself why. Why do you want someone you know will never want you? Why do you want someone who represents something you’ll never be but which culture is constantly telling you to be? And this can be applied to more than just “masc.”
That being said, I did want to show a character whose masc-ness wasn’t about performance and trying to be the “special gay” who isn’t like those other gays, all in your face, etc. That’s why Brad is there. He’s just as butch as Hudson, but it’s not an entire identity for him. He lets the guy he likes put nail polish on him because it makes that guy happy, he doesn’t care about what his partner is like, socially – even if he clearly likes a man with body hair. And I think that’s the distinction. Are you into a type of guy because of something physical only, or are you into a guy because of something social – some conception of things? A lot of stuff can end up being either, so it’s really about YOU. (and in case anyone is wondering, saying you’re not into a guy because they’re a certain race is always a racist social thing). So yeah, I’d say to a guy “why?” and see what he says. Especially since ‘masc’ is one of those terms that can mean different things to different people. There, that was a long meandering way of getting to the answer. But hey, long meandering way of getting to the answer is just another word for novel.
But I think on that note our word count here is probably becoming perhaps too long and meandering, so I just wanted to say thank you again for talking with me! It was a lot of fun and I’m so excited for people to get their hands on The Friend Scheme. It’s a really fun, sexy novel.
Cale: No, thank you for talking to me! Camp is such a wonderful, important and fun book. I’m so happy teens (and everyone else) will be able to get it starting today!