Tag Archives: Mystery

Retelling Dracula Without Vampires: a Guest Post by Thrall Co-Author Avon Gale

Well, I’d say this is one of the coolest books I’ve heard about in a while: Thrall is a modern take on Dracula that’s both f/f and m/m, co-authored by powerhouse queer-romance authors Avon Gale and Roan Parrish. In this version, there are no vampires, and the authors are here to talk about why. But first, here’s the info on the book, which released last week!

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Happy couple Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra have begun to garner national attention for their quirky New Orleans true-crime podcast, Shadowcast. When Lucy’s brother Harker disappears while researching the popular new dating app Thrall, they’re thrown into a real-life mystery. Aided by their social media expert, Arthur, and Harker’s professor, Van Helsing, they follow the trail, hoping to find Harker before it’s too late.

When their investigation crosses the path of a possible serial killer, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur. And as they race against the app’s countdown clock, so does the line between friendship and love. What starts as a flirtatious rivalry between computer-savvy Arthur and techno-averse Van Helsing becomes much more, and Mina and Lucy’s relationship is tested in the fires of social media.

As they get down to the wire, the group discovers that nothing on their screens is as it seems—including their enemy.

Buy it: Amazon * Books2Read (All other vendors)

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And now, here’s the post by co-author Avon Gale!

One of the first things you might notice about Thrall, the modern-day take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula that I co-wrote with Roan Parrish, is that there aren’t any vampires. “How can you have a re-telling of Dracula without…Dracula?” you might ask. Aren’t vampires central to the whole story?

When Roan and I first talked about writing Thrall, one thing we wanted to do was think about the underlying themes of vampirism in the original novel, and what Dracula, as a character, represented to contemporary audiences. Then, we wanted to examine those themes and figure out what their modern equivalents would be, and how to work those into a retelling that would resonate with modern readers. To us, a good re-telling of a classic story functions both as a call-back to the original source material, and as an entertaining and complete story. Dracula has become such a common part of our cultural lexicon that we knew this wouldn’t be easy. If “the blood is the life”, as Stoker writes, and the vampire is the taker of blood that is sometimes freely given and sometimes taken without consent…what’s a good, modern translation of that concept?

We bandied about a lot of ideas, but eventually, we settled on information – and the gathering and usage thereof– as our preferred analogy. Thrall, the dating application (and our Dracula) is an insidious little application that is easily passed from person-to-person via downloads and smart phones, and it’s something that you put a lot of energy into even if you don’t want to. Thrall, as we designed it in the book, takes your information and your “bad dates” and promises to use both to find you the perfect partner….meaning you’re a bit in thrall to the potential, and willing to return again and again and willingly give up your emotional and physical energy for the chance at everlasting happiness. Just like Dracula lured his victims with the promise of life eternal, only to…well, you know what vampires do. And just like a vampire needs blood to survive, Thrall can’t function without the continual input of sweet, sweet personal information.  And the usage to which it is put isn’t always in our best interests, just like Dracula wasn’t always using that blood to romance Mina. Or Jonathan.

There’s also an aspect of social media as both a source of captivation and engagement, and we hope that, too, resonates with modern audiences. Lucy keeps counts of her Twitter followers, just like in the book she keeps track of her suitors. Social media is definitely something that both requires energy and gives it back, though not always in ways we might want – or need.

Setting the book in New Orleans was also a fun way to pay homage to the original; like turn-of-the-century London, it is a city caught between both the past and the present/future.  I have a wonderful memory of walking down the rain-misted streets with Roan in August of 2016, when I helped her move from New Orleans to Philly, and we first talked about the book and what we wanted to do. We even visited the Lafayette Cemetery (also because we’re both huge fans of The Witching Hour by Anne Rice) a location that makes more than one appearance in Thrall.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot, because it’s a mystery and no one likes to be spoiled! But we’re hopeful that you’ll enjoy our take on vampirism and what such a concept might look like in modern day, and how we’ve conveyed that through a similar format to the original. Like Dracula, Thrall is epistolary, told entirely through text messages, chats, emails and tweets. Just like the main characters in Stoker’s story find themselves caught up in a strange, alternate reality they never dreamed existed…so, too, do ours. But I’ll stop there before I spoil it!

This book is definitely a departure for both Roan and myself, and it’s one reason why we had so much fun writing it (and the reason for several three-plus hour long phone calls!). Adapting something that was technically a gothic horror into a modern-day romance was definitely a challenge, but we’re both pleased with the result and hope you’ll have fun reading it. We tried to make it accessible for those who both have read the original and those who have not, though there are many geeky references to Stoker’s book and we would LOVE to hear from readers who spot them!

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Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon, JRPGs and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and she never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary Agency.

Connect with Avon: Twitter | Facebook | Newsletter | Instagram | Website

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Backlist Book of the Month: The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

I love detective novels in general, but they’re made so much better by the presence of witty narrators who can hold their whiskey, and all the more so, in my opinion, if they’re female, and all the more so if they just so happen to be bisexual and totally messy at romances with more than one gender. If you like crime fiction, mysteries, detective novels, anything in that genre, The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka is bound to be your jam, and the best part? The sequel, What You Want to See, is already out!

31450910Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

With echoes of Sue Grafton, Dennis Lehane and the hit podcast Serial, The Last Place You Look is the gripping debut of both a bold new voice and character.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound 

New Releases: April 2018

The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in L.A.) by Amy Spalding (3rd)

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Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?

But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Syncopation by Anna Zabo (9th)

Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band so doesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

Buy it: Amazon

Lizzie by Dawn Ius (10th)

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Seventeen-year-old Lizzie Borden has never been kissed. Polite but painfully shy, Lizzie prefers to stay in the kitchen, where she can dream of becoming a chef and escape her reality. With tyrannical parents who force her to work at the family’s B&B and her blackout episodes—a medical condition that has plagued her since her first menstrual cycle—Lizzie longs for a life of freedom, the time and space to just figure out who she is and what she wants.

Enter the effervescent, unpredictable Bridget Sullivan. Bridget has joined the B&B’s staff as the new maid, and Lizzie is instantly drawn to her artistic style and free spirit—even her Star Wars obsession is kind of cute. The two of them forge bonds that quickly turn into something that’s maybe more than friendship.

But when her parents try to restrain Lizzie from living the life she wants, it sparks something in her that she can’t quite figure out. Her blackout episodes start getting worse, her instincts less and less reliable. Lizzie is angry, certainly, but she also feels like she’s going mad…

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Past Tense by Star Spider (10th)

Julie Nolan is a pretty average girl with pretty average problems. She’s been in love with her best friend, Lorelei, ever since they met in grade three. Only Lorelei doesn’t know about it — she’s too busy trying to set Julie up with Henry, her ex, who Julie finds, in a word, vapid.

But life gets more complicated when Julie comes home to find her mother insisting that her heart is gone. Pretty soon it becomes clear: Julie’s mom believes that she has died.

How is Julie supposed to navigate her first year of high school now, while she’s making midnight trips to the graveyard to cover her mother with dirt, lay flowers and make up eulogies? And why is Henry the only person Julie feels comfortable turning to? If she wants to get through this, Julie’s going to have to find the strength she never knew she had, and to learn how to listen to both her mom’s heart and her own.

Buy it: Amazon Canada

Unmasked by the Marquess by Cat Sebastian (17th)

The one you love…

Robert Selby is determined to see his sister make an advantageous match. But he has two problems: the Selbys have no connections or money and Robert is really a housemaid named Charity Church. She’s enjoyed every minute of her masquerade over the past six years, but she knows her pretense is nearing an end. Charity needs to see her beloved friend married well and then Robert Selby will disappear…forever.

May not be who you think…

Alistair, Marquess of Pembroke, has spent years repairing the estate ruined by his wastrel father, and nothing is more important than protecting his fortune and name. He shouldn’t be so beguiled by the charming young man who shows up on his doorstep asking for favors. And he certainly shouldn’t be thinking of all the disreputable things he’d like to do to the impertinent scamp.

But is who you need…

When Charity’s true nature is revealed, Alistair knows he can’t marry a scandalous woman in breeches, and Charity isn’t about to lace herself into a corset and play a respectable miss. Can these stubborn souls learn to sacrifice what they’ve always wanted for a love that is more than they could have imagined?

Buy it: Amazon

Queer Sex: A Trans and Non-Binary Guide to Intimacy, Pleasure and Relationships by Juno Roche (19th)

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In this frank, funny and poignant book, transgender activist Juno Roche discusses sex, desire and dating with leading figures from the trans and non-binary community. Calling out prejudices and inspiring readers to explore their own concepts of intimacy and sexuality, the first-hand accounts celebrate the wonder and potential of trans bodies and push at the boundaries of how society views gender, sexuality and relationships. Empowering and necessary, this collection shows all trans people deserve to feel brave, beautiful and sexy.

Buy it: B&N *Amazon

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (24th)

31180248Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * BAM * IndieBound

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (24th)

Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life.

It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta!

I am so excited to help reveal the cover of Amy Rose Capetta’s Echo After Echo, a theater-centric f/f YA love story coming this October from Candlewick Press! (And not just because the cover is gorgeous!) Before you see the beauty, here are a few words from author Amy Rose Capetta!

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This book came out of two things: being a lifelong theater kid*, and falling in love. I spent a solid fifteen years of my life going from show to show, green room to backstage to onstage, always living for the next cast list, or waiting for the incandescent moment when my work as a playwright was put on its feet. This story started with a beautiful theater, and a girl who loved it. A voice keep dropping words into my ear when I was supposed to be writing something else. The reason I kept coming back, even though I was afraid this story would never find a readership outside of my own head? I was going through a time of serious uncertainty in my own life, and I needed to write a queer love story to give myself hope. It felt like epic love was never allowed for two girls, unless it was tragic. And while it turns out a theater is a ridiculously convenient setting for a mystery, I think the real reason I returned to it for this novel is that I learned to use my voice in the theater, just like the main character, Zara. It’s where I trained to become someone who infuses stories with honesty and truth. And this truth I had—this glowing certainty that tragic endings could be changed and new stories written—drove me to write Echo After Echo. Zara and Eli’s love story was a life-changing experience for me. Now it’s the most important time: when the lights dim, and the audience gets to see what happens.

*A few highlights of my theater life: being in a Shakespeare troupe for four years, performing a monologue on roller blades in front of Kurt Vonnegut (true story), writing a play set entirely in a supermarket, and being a lowly intern at a workshop of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical!

And now, the cover!

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Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—or Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

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Amy Rose Capetta studied theater at the Stella Adler Studio as a teenager before spending four years in a Shakespeare troupe. Echo After Echo is her first book with Candlewick Press. Amy Rose Capetta lives in Michigan with her partner and their son. You can find her on Twitter at: @AmyRoseCapetta and on Facebook: /AmyRoseCapetta

Fave Five: American Politics-Themed LGBTQ Novels

Willful Machines by Tim Floreen (gay YA Sci-Fi)

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (genderfluid contemp YA)

Coffee Boy by Austin Chant (m/m trans Romance)

Kneel, Mr. President by Lauren Gallagher (m/m/f Romance)

Dust by Ann McMan (f/f Mystery)

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Backlist Book of the Month: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Since this month contains Bisexual Awareness Week, I had to choose one of my (and pretty much everyone’s) first and favorite bi books, Far From You by Tess Sharpe! Sharpe’s debut nails so much: addiction, recovery, chronic pain, grieving, and, of course, attraction not being limited to a single gender, no matter how unfriendly local circumstances are.

18296034Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

Buy it: Amazon I IndieBound I Powell’s I Book DepositoryBarnes & Noble (US)
Waterstones I WHSmith I Book Depository I Amazon (UK)
Amazon (Germany)

Under the Gaydar: Heartbreaker Edition

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This week we’re looking at some f/f YA heartbreakers – books that will totally kill your soul, but are so good, you need to read each and every one anyway.

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Far From You by Tess Sharpe Part murder mystery, part tragic love story, and a whole lotta excellence in Sharpe’s debut. Not only does main character Sophie possess one of the only (very well-done) examples of invisible disability in YA, but she was also the first character many current readers had ever seen self-ID as bisexual in a YA novel. (Also one of very few examples of an on-page sex scene in YA between girls. Basically, this book broke a lot of molds, and we’re very grateful for it!)

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp – Plenty of people are aware of This is Where it Ends; after all, it is a New York Times bestseller, and it’s kiiiinda hard to ignore that cover. That tagline. That premise. That…everything. But not everyone knows that two of the four POVs present in the book belong to two halves of a lesbian couple, Sylv and Autumn, and they’re at the center of the hunt.

Paperweight by Meg Haston – When people argue about sexuality being a spoiler, this is the kind of story I imagine they mean, but at this point, if you haven’t picked this one up, then allow me to use this to steer you in its direction, because I also know it to be one of the best representations of an Eating Disorder in YA.

Beautiful by Amy Reed – Cassie is in a major downward spiral, shifting into a life of popularity and beauty in her new town that’s as alien to her as her new skin, her new friends, her new capacity for adventure. And in that journey, Cassie only truly gets close to one person, but Sarah is every bit as full of pain and not quite as thoroughly numbed.