Today on the site I’m delighted to reveal the cover for yet another Neon Hemlock novella, Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver, which releases on May 17, 2022! Crowdfunding will begin on March 14th on Indiegogo as part of the 2022 Novella series crowdfunding campaign, so in anticipation of that, let’s get to the story:
In the 1920s gothic comedy Uncommon Charm, bright young socialite Julia and shy Jewish magician Simon decide they aren’t beholden to their families’ unhappy history. Together they confront such horrors as murdered ghosts, alive children, magic philosophy, a milieu that slides far too easily into surrealist metaphor, and, worst of all, serious adult conversation.
And here’s the dreamy cover, created by the amazing Marlowe Lune!
But wait, there’s more! Read on for an excerpt of Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver!
Three days after I was expelled from the Marable School for Girls, our poor Simon arrived. My mother told me to expect him, so when the bell rang, I opened the door onto a gloomy November sky, a gloomy November street, and a gloomy November of a boy. (And boy he was, only twenty years old to my sixteen.) He was short and nicely strong, wiry, with tanned cheeks and big dark eyes. Not at all like his father—but on second glance, there did lurk a spectre of Uncle Vee in his prettyish face, down which a raindrop gently rolled. He’d already doffed his hat; those slick curls of his would be ruined.“You’re Mr. Wolf,” I said. “Or is it Mr. Koldunov now?”
The car behind him hadn’t left yet. I saluted the Koldunovs’ driver, Tom, to let him know everything was well, he’d safely delivered the goods, he needn’t subject himself to the weather. Simon and I could surely handle his single, very sad suitcase. Tom returned my wave and drove away.
“Er,” said our guest. “Mr. Wolf will do. You’re Miss Selwyn-Stirling?”
“When I care to answer to it, but don’t call me miss around the Koldunovs. They’ll tease you, and not in the nice you’re-one-of-us-now way.”
“Thanks for the advice,” he said, and he continued to stand on our doorstep, looking about and letting himself be drizzled upon. I wondered why until I realised, oh no, he was waiting for me to invite him inside, at which point I decided I would walk to the moon and back for my new friend.
Grandly, I bowed him into the front hall. As he was taking off his wet things—he clutched his coat and hat until I nodded at the rack, strange boy, it was right there—Muv appeared on the first floor landing, at the top of the stairs.
You’d have thought Simon was a bird that’d biffed itself against a window instead of a student meeting his new mentor, though he wasn’t wrong to find Muv intimidating. From his point of view, I’d have seen not only a small, brisk woman whose bobbed auburn hair absolutely guillotined her jaw, whose freckles foxed her face like that rust on old books, whose black suit cut her body into clean ink lines, but the most ruthless magician England had ever borne. And she was a pretty ruthless mother, too.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Wolf,” she said. “You may address me as Lady Aloysia, my lady, or ma’am.” It was her way of trying to set him at ease, laying out the protocol, only she was always so dreadfully blunt about answering questions you hadn’t asked. More embarrassing still, Simon’s nod became a strange half-bow.
“Oh, don’t,” I groaned.
“Julia will show you around the house.” Muv fixed an eye on me. “His room first, please. You will not make him haul his luggage everywhere. Is there more?”
Simon’s hands tightened around the handle. “No, ma’am. Just the one.”
“Very well. We will meet for dinner three hours from now. Do tell me whether I’ve correctly understood your dietary needs.”
“Muv, honestly, you needn’t be the lepidopterist pinning butterflies. You can ask him these things like you’re both human people.”
She gestured for me to take the suitcase. I hefted it before Simon could object.
“I—thanks, Miss Sel—er, Lady Aloysia, ma’am, no, it’s—” Simon grasped uselessly at the air. “Thanks, but you don’t have to do all that.”
Muv tapped her elbow. “I see. Julia, after you help Mr. Wolf get settled, please inform Beth the week’s menu may remain as it is. I asked,” she continued, both addressing him and chiding me, “because I would not put it past Madam Koldunova to serve you roast pork every day.”
“It was every other day,” said Simon.
Muv blinked down at him. He blinked up at her. Silence could be loud indeed. An entire three-second opera played out as I started to drag the suitcase upstairs.
Simon’s footsteps came in a flurry after me, and, generous girl that I was, I let him take charge of his own belongings. When we reached the second floor, he turned back with a perplexed look, but Muv had disappeared into her laboratory. He couldn’t have expected hugs and smiles, not from the Lady Aloysia Stirling, not with her reputation, though I knew for a fact he’d received colder welcomes: I had the whole of it from Marie and Adele Koldunova. After three weeks with the Koldunovs, Muv ought to seem downright tropical.
“Er,” Simon murmured, “did you see—?” Though I tilted my head, yes, do go on, he shuttered himself. “Never mind.”
“These games are unnecessary, you know. You don’t have to keep secrets, and you don’t have to doubt your eyes. I can help! I did grow up here. Muv never fails to keep a thread in her needle, not that I pay her magic any mind. It is so tedious when your mother always knows where you are and what you’re thinking, but you’ll find out soon enough. I didn’t see anything. What did you see?”
“A woman,” Simon said, startled into answering. “Not your mother, but tall and blonde. A bit, er, bony. And bleeding.”
“Oh, well. I should have expected you’d be a medium. Come along!” I bounded up the stairs. “The ghosts will wait.”
About the authors: Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver live in Saint Paul, Minnesota with their two small birds. Emily is a Twin Cities bookseller whose reviews have been published in The Riveter magazine. Find her on Twitter @eudaemaniacal. Kat’s short fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine, Lackington’s, Timeworn Literary Journal, and elsewhere. She is a senior fiction editor at Strange Horizons. Her art can be found at kathrynmweaver.com and on Twitter @anoteinpink.
About the press: Neon Hemlock is a Washington, DC-based small press publishing speculative fiction, rad zines and queer chapbooks. We punctuate our titles with oracle decks, occult ephemera and literary candles. Publishers Weekly once called us “the apex of queer speculative fiction publishing” and we’re still beaming. Learn more about us at neonhemlock.com and on Twitter at @neonhemlock.
You know those covers that are just so badass you barely even need to know what it’s inside to know you need it? But then you see what’s inside and you know you need it? I present to you today exhibit A, in the form of Stone and Steel by Eboni Dunbar, which is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series and releases on September 5, 2020. Here’s a little more about it:
In Stone and Steel, when General Aaliyah returns triumphant to the city of Titus, she expects to find the people prospering under the rule of her Queen, the stone mage Odessa. Instead, she finds a troubling imbalance in both the citizens’ wellbeing and Odessa’s rule. Aaliyah must rely on all of her allies, old and new, to do right by the city that made her.
“Stone and Steel is a sharp and sexy story of love, loyalty and magic. Eboni has given us a world where Black Queerness reigns supreme, and our world is better for it.” — Danny Lore, co-author of Queen of Bad Dreams
And here is the glorious cover, painted by Odera Igbokwe and designed by dave ring!
Eboni Dunbar is a queer, black woman who writes queer and black speculative fiction. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner. She received her BA from Macalester College and her MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. She is a VONA Alum, an associate editor for PodCastle, an acquiring editor for FIYAH Literary Magazine and a freelance reviewer. Her work can be found in FIYAH, Drabblecast, Anathema: Spec from the margins and Nightlight Podcast. She can be found online at www.ebonidunbar.com and on Twitter as @sugoionna87.
Today on the site I’m pleased to present the cover for Queens of Noise, the newest in Neon Hemlock‘s 2020 novella series, releasing on March 25th. It’s got a nonbinary protag, tons of queer rep, and a battle of the bands, so by law, it absolutely has to rock. Here’s the gist:
In Queens of Noise, Mixi fronts the Mangy Rats, a motley found family of queers, crust punks and werecoyotes. Mixi and their band know they’re gonna win the Battle of the Bands final showdown, no matter what it takes. But to make that happen, they’ll also have to contend with poser goths, murderous chickens, and a bullshit corporate takeover ruining the best bar in town.
Leigh Harlen is a queer, non-binary writer who lives and works in Seattle with their partner, a very goofy dog named Anya, and a mischief of rats. Their short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies including Pseudopod, Lost Films, and Shoreline of Infinity. Their non-writing hobbies include petting strangers’ dogs and enthusing about bats. Find them online at www.leighharlen.com or follow them on Twitter @LeighHarlen.
Their novella Queens of Noise is part of Neon Hemlock’s 2020 Novella Series.
I am delighted to have Xan West back on the site today to reveal the cover of their newest Romance, which just happens to take place during Chanukah! Eight Kinky Nights is a kinky polyamorous f/f Romance releasing just in time for the holiday on December 16, 2019, and includes friends to lovers, roommates to lovers, kink lessons, seasoned romance and getting your groove back tropes, and polyamorous, gray ace, pansexual, Jewish, fat, autistic, and disabled representation. (More details in the tags.) Here’s the official blurb, with content warnings located here:Newly divorced stone butch Jordan moves into her friend Leah’s spare room, ready, at 49, to take on a new job and finally explore kink and polyamory. But moving to NYC during the holidays sends grief crashing through her, and Jordan realizes that when she isn’t solely focused on caring for others, her own feelings are unavoidable. Including her feelings for Leah.
51-year-old queer femme Leah, an experienced submissive kink educator who owns a sex shop, has recently come to terms with being gray ace and is trying to rework her life and relationships to honor that.
Leah has a brainstorm to help them both: she offers Jordan eight kink lessons, one for each night of Chanukah, to help Jordan find her feet as a novice dominant, and to create a structured space where Leah can work on more deeply honoring her own consent, now that she knows she’s gray ace.
She’d planned to keep it casual, but instead the experience opens cracks in the armor Leah’s been using to keep people at a distance and keep herself safe. Now she needs to grapple with the trauma that’s been impacting her life for years.
Can these two autistic queers find ways to cope with the changes they are making in their lives and support each other, as they build something new they hadn’t thought was possible?
And here’s the warm, lovely, kinky cover, illustrated by Hannah Zayit!
But wait, there’s more! Here’s an excerpt!
“So I had this idea and I wanted to see what you thought about it,” Leah said.
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“I was thinking about Chanukah, and had this idea for a present for you. You said you wanted to learn how to be a good dominant. I thought I could give you lessons, as your present. One lesson per night of Chanukah.”
Jordan felt her eyes go wide. She really had not been expecting that. “But, I thought you didn’t want to, so you told Iris to do it.” She hadn’t even decided to say that, had just blurted it out. It probably came out wrong. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful.”
“No, no it’s fine. I just want to make sure I understand what you meant. You thought I was rejecting you?”
“Well. Yeah. I mean, I’m used to it. You never took me to kink things. You didn’t really want me to go to your class. You seemed all weird after the party.”
“Oh, fuck. I’ve made a mess of this. I’m sorry. I didn’t take you to kink things because I was trying to be respectful of your vanilla-ness. Now that I know you’re kinky…I think I’ve been playing catch-up. I don’t change how I think of things very fast, you know that about me. So…I’ve acted all weird, not because I’m rejecting you, but because I’m awkward with change.”
“That’s the only thing that’s going on? Nothing else is making this weird?” Jordan wanted to be sure.
“Well, I think that’s the main thing that’s going on.”
“Uh huh.” Jordan knew there was something else.
“There’s this other thing I’ve been dealing with, and I’m still figuring out how to handle it. It might’ve had some splash over.”
“Okay. Do you want to tell me about it?”
“I’m not sure I have the words. But yeah I would, maybe. Though not right this minute.”
“Okay. So you really want to give me kink lessons? I don’t want you to feel obligated.”
“Yes, I really want to.”
“That would actually be great. It was okay getting stuff for my toybag with Iris, and I like her and everything, but if you were up for teaching me, I think that would feel…safer, if that makes sense?”
“Yeah, I get that. We have such a deep friendship, it could make a safer place to learn.”
Jordan nodded. “I trust you, and it feels better learning from another autistic person, honestly. You won’t expect me to learn in an allistic way.”
Leah grinned at her. “I definitely will not expect that. I didn’t even consider that aspect of this.”
“It feels like a big deal, for me anyway. I haven’t had the best learning experiences. You know that, you saw how hard college was for me.”
“Yep, I remember. So I was thinking about eight lessons, one per night, though eight nights in a row might be too much, so they can always be postponed.”
“How would you feel about a structure where I do some teaching, then we do a short scene where you get to practice what we covered? And then we could do follow-up, if you have questions or want feedback.”
“So a bit like where Iris taught me some safety stuff about clips, and then I got to try it out?”
“Yeah, but a bit more formal than that. I might even make a handout for the lesson, and it would be a bit longer, probably. Not quite so quick and dirty.”
“I do better if I get to practice, and a handout would help me, actually. I also get things better if you can lead me to realizing them myself, and help me connect to other things I know.”
“Okay, I can work with that. So it sounds like this is something you want to do, then?”
Jordan took several slow breaths and held the idea for a few moments, just to be sure. “Yes. This is a really wonderful present, Leah.”
“I want to be sure it doesn’t fuck things up with our friendship. You mean so much to me, Jordan. I don’t want this to ruin what we have. So we need to keep it strictly about learning, okay?” Leah’s voice was raw.
“I don’t want us to ruin what we have, either. It’s been thirty years, darlin’. We made it this far; I really think we’ll be okay. Our friendship might change, might have new layers to it, move slightly differently. But then, that’s already started, and it seems okay so far, yes?”
Leah nodded. “I might need you to reassure me about this,” she whispered, closing her eyes.
“I can do that. We have a solid foundation. I truly believe that. We’re just adding new aspects to what we already have. Sex, kink, romance…none of that is more important than friendship.” Jordan watched Leah’s face carefully to see how she reacted to the fact that she’d snuck the word romance in there. A small tentative smile grew on Leah’s face, like she was rolling the words around in her head, wanting to believe in them. She definitely didn’t seem to object to the word. Jordan would just leave it there, for now.
Eight Kinky Nights is available for preorder from Gumroad and Amazon and releases December 16, 2019!
Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.
Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “Trying Submission,” won the 2018 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, will be rereleased soon.
After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has two other queer kink romances currently available: Nine of Swords, Reversed and Their Troublesome Crush.
Today on the site I’m excited to welcome Nino Cipri, author of the brand-new Homesick, which just released from Dzanc Books on Tuesday! It’s a short story collection that spans speculative, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, with all sorts of queer/trans rep, including queer, bisexual, lesbian, gay, transfeminine, transmasculine, nonbinary, and bigender. Here’s the official blurb:
Dark, irreverent, and truly innovative, the nine speculative stories in Homesick meditate on the theme of home and our estrangement from it, and what happens when the familiar suddenly shifts into the uncanny. In stories that foreground queer relationships and transgender or nonbinary characters, Cipri delivers the origin story for a superhero team comprised of murdered girls; a housecleaner discovering an impossible ocean in her least-favorite clients’ house; a man haunted by keys that appear suddenly in his throat; and a team of scientists and activists discovering the remains of a long-extinct species of intelligent weasels. Nino Cipri’s debut collection announces the arrival of a brilliant and wonderfully unpredictable writer with a gift for turning the short story on its ear.
We’re celebrating the release with an excerpt from the novella “Before We Disperse Like Star Stuff,” which you can learn more about here:
Three years ago, Damian Flores, Min-Ji Hong, and Ray Walker made the discovery of a lifetime: the fossilized remains of a long-dead species of intelligent weasels, who had a developed language and writing system. Their find helped redefine ideas of sentience and saved parts of Pine Ridge from natural gas extraction. Three years later, however, Damian can’t shake the suspicion that he’s a sellout, Min can’t find a post-doc fellowship despite co-discovering a non-human language, and Ray is languishing in boredom in a small Kansas college town. When an opportunity to film a documentary about their discovery arises, the three former friends must reckon with secrets, drunken apologies, baby otters, and the bullshit colonial underpinnings of archeology.
(Rep notes for anyone curious: Damian is Latinx, transmasculine, and queer. Min is a transwoman and Korean-American. Ray Walker is Lakota and bisexual. )
And here’s the excerpt!
Ray’s flat Midwest accent always made Damian think of hollow logs rolling down a hill. It was unmistakable and weirdly attractive.
“I was hoping to talk to you,” Damian answered. Ray had grown his hair out and wore it tied back in a messy bun, wavy tendrils escaping in the wind. Damian instinctively wanted to tuck them back behind Ray’s ears.
“Hell of a drive from New York City, just for a conversation,” Ray said. “Why didn’t you call?”
“You changed your number.”
Ray rolled his eyes. “Min still has my number. You could have gotten it from her.”
He hadn’t even thought of that. Why were Min and Ray still talking to each other and not to him? He was the connection between them, the common denominator. He’d assumed that they’d all lost touch at the same time, after he’d announced his book deal and they looked at him with betrayal instead of excitement. “I’ve got a proposition for you,” he said to Ray. “I figured you’d be less likely to turn me down in person.”
Ray huffed—not quite a scoff, but too annoyed to be a laugh. “Good to know you’re still a manipulative shit.”
“I guess I deserve that,” Damian said quietly. He absolutely deserved that. Even now, he was calculating how much hurt to allow into his voice and vigorously hating himself for it. He wanted to be a good person, but he wanted to do good work more. This documentary was good—ergo: all was fair.
“Come on,” Ray said. “Step into my office.”
His office was, of course, his truck, and if the sight of it had been a punch to the gut, stepping into it was like getting reverse-suplexed into the past. Same threadbare fabric on the seats. Same clatter of coffee cups rolling around the footwell. Same dusty dashboard, with the word BUTTS etched into the leather near the passenger window—a gift from one of Ray’s nephews. Ray had attempted to turn it into the word BURTS, supposedly in honor of Reynolds and Kwouk, but with meager success.
It was horrible. Damian only liked the past when it was a minimum of six hundred years old.
“The good old Buttsmobile,” he said.
“It’s the Burtsmobile, damn it,” Ray muttered. “What’s your proposition?”
“The Smithsonian wants to make a documentary about ossicarminis.”
“Adapt your book, you mean?”
“Not just the book,” Damian said. “They optioned it as an actual documentary about ossicarminis, finding and identifying them, the whole thing with NEOCO.” He wasn’t going to go into the Space Weasels. He could only have one crisis of conscience at a time.
“And what happened after? Our falling out? Or only the part of the story that makes you look good?” Ray asked. He’d always been blunt. Damian used to like that about him.
“Is that what you call it?” Damian asked, honestly interested. “A falling out?”
Ray shrugged. “That’s what other people call it when they’re trying to ask me what happened.”
“Falling out,” Damian said again, testing the words. Like it was natural law, rather than two stubborn assholes roleplaying an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
“I told them I wouldn’t do it without you and Min,” Damian said. It wasn’t quite a lie; assuring Annika that Ray and Min would definitely sign onto the project was basically the same thing. “The two of you are the story. More than me. I just got lucky by falling in a cave.”
“Ossicarminis is the story,” Ray said. “I—I don’t—”
Damian waited him out, toying with the iron pendant his mother had made him in a smithing class.
“I don’t want to rehash the whole thing, man,” Ray said eventually. A nice blush was spreading across his cheek. “Not what happened between us. That stays off camera and in the past.”
“I am one hundred percent okay with that,” Damian said, and knew it was a lie as soon as he said it. He had fallen into a fast, consumptive love with this nerdy asshole and his terrible khakis, his probably lethal caffeine habit, and his utter disinterest in being tactful. Their so-called falling out hadn’t changed that. He had planned on avoiding Ray forever, but he’d come around to the idea that this could be his second chance. That’s why he’d actually driven to this godforsaken prairie infested with Elvis-themed restaurants. They’d wanted the same thing, after all: to spread the word about ossicarminis, to make people understand the gravity of this discovery. They had disagreed loudly and angrily on how to do that, and Ray had dumped him.
And then he’d grown out his hair, which just seemed unfair.
“You grew out your hair,” Damian said, like the lovesick dumbass he was.
Ray ran a self-conscious hand over it. “I told myself I would when I got tenure. When they couldn’t fire me for looking ‘unprofessional.’” The word dripped with sarcasm. “Not sure if that meant too gay or too Indian. The chair never specified. Both, probably.”
The familiarity was a physical ache; Damian thought of the feeling of taking off his binder after a day of wear, stretching his shoulders back after hunching them for hours. It was unfair, it was exquisite, and it felt like pressing hard on a bruise that he’d successfully ignored for the past year and a half.
“So?” he asked. “Documentary?”
Nino Cipri is a queer and trans/nonbinary writer, editor, and educator. They are a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and earned their MFA in fiction from the University of Kansas in 2019. Their fiction collection Homesick won the Dzanc Short Story Collection award, and their novella Finna–about queer heartbreak, low-wage work, and wormholes–will be published by Tor.com in 2020. A multidisciplinary artist, Nino has also written plays, screenplays, and radio features; performed as a dancer, actor, and puppeteer; and worked as a stagehand, bookseller, bike mechanic, and labor organizer.
One time, an angry person on the internet called Nino a verbal terrorist, which was pretty funny.
True fact: I get a lot of requests for angel/demon books on the LGBTQReads Tumblr, so how utterly delightful is it to be revealing the cover for one on the site today?? Rom and Yuli by Amara Lynn is a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy novella take on Romeo & Juliet with a male/non-binary pairing, which sounds pretty freaking cool. Wanna learn more about it? Good news: here’s the blurb!
A war between angels and demons has left Earth desolate and ruined.
Rom struggles to support his father and sister in the patch of wasteland they’ve claimed as home. Feeling restless, Rom takes to exploring when he can, and is shocked when he stumbles across another survivor.
Years of isolation have left Yuli feeling despondent. That all changes when they encounter Rom, who is unlike anyone they’ve met before, a brilliant light of hope in this mostly extinguished world.
As Rom and Yuli grow closer, both gain a renewed hope for something more in this desolate land.
But in this dangerous world, trust comes hard and demons are never far away.
Amara Lynn has always been a quiet daydreamer. Coming up with characters and worlds since childhood, Amara eventually found an outlet in writing. Amara loves anything to do with pirates, villains and superheroes, angels and demons.
Amara is addicted to music and gets the most inspiration from moving songs and lyrics. When not writing, Amara usually reads, listens to podcasts, watches anime, plays a video game here and there (but mostly collects them), and takes way too many cat pictures.
Amara is non-binary/enby and queer and uses they/them pronouns.
Today on the site we have an exclusive excerpt reveal from Carrie Pack’s The Lights, a YA horror novella releasing on December 11 with an f/f couple at its heart. Come check it out!
It’s winter break and Molly Monroe is content to enjoy her town’s annual Festival of Lights with her girlfriend Chelsea at her side. But almost immediately after the lights go up, the town’s children begin to act strangely, especially Molly’s own brother, Roger. When their next-door neighbors are killed in a grisly double homicide, Molly begins to suspect the incidents are linked. Now she must convince her parents and the rest of the town to take down the Christmas lights before everyone gets killed.
As I cut out tree and reindeer shapes from the dough, I stole sideways glances at Dad as he worked on the frosting for the decorations. I decided to take my chance and broach the subject of Roger’s behavior.
“Dad, have you noticed anything weird with Roger?”
Apart from the blank staring, he’d also stopped playing video games and begging to know which of the wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree were for him. And since the Van Atters’ murder, he had watched me with piercingly cold eyes. Dad didn’t seem to notice how weird he’d gotten.
“I think he’s still a little under the weather.” Dad licked a dusting of sugar off his thumb. “And I’m sure that business next door didn’t help.”
“Yeah.” I scooped up the delicate shapes and placed them on a baking sheet. Even with Roger’s odd quirks, the murder was more disturbing. “Is Mom okay?”
Dad made an uneasy hum that landed somewhere between agreement and a question. “That detective gave me the number of someone for her to talk to. I’ll call after Christmas.”
“Maybe call tomorrow,” I suggested.
I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up to find Roger standing next to Dad.
“I want to see the lights,” he said.
Dad smiled at him. “Sure, kiddo. Right after Molly and I finish up these cookies we’ll go.” He ruffled Roger’s hair. “Why don’t you go see if your mom wants to tag along?”
Roger’s expression didn’t change, but he went upstairs.
A few minutes later Mom shuffled downstairs with Roger in tow. She looked awful, with dirty hair framing her thin and pale face. Dark circles marred the skin under her eyes and she wore an old pair of Dad’s sweat pants and an oversized, stained sweatshirt. But it was the first time she’d been out of bed since the murders. So we all piled into the car and drove downtown.
With less than a week until Christmas, the streets were crowded with shoppers and visitors who had come from neighboring towns to look at the lights. People stood in wonder at the bright colors and sounds coming from every direction. Some of the children stopped to stare just as they had after the processional, while their impatient parents tugged at little mittened hands. The stress of the season was getting to everyone it seemed.
The more lights we passed, the more Roger became entranced, and the more children we saw. It seemed every family with small children was out on this night, and they were all here looking at lights. By the time we reached the town square, dripping in lights as it was, Roger had begun to mutter to himself from the back seat. When we passed under the sparkling, blue “Happy Holidays” sign, Roger smiled like he had a secret and whispered, “It’s time to kill.”
I turned sharply to face him, but he continued to gaze out the window. His face, backlit by the blue of the lights overhead, gave off an eerie, ominous glow. But it seemed I was the only one who had heard him. I glanced toward the front seat where Dad sang along with the radio, which was blaring Christmas carols and Mom stared out the window, both unaware of the terror now coursing through my veins. I looked back at Roger, but his expression seemed normal. Perhaps it had just been the strange glow from the new LED lights. Perhaps I had imagined his creepy whispering. Perhaps I was overreacting. Again.
It felt good to be doing something kind of normal, even if it was only a moment or two. So I let my worries fall away and tried to enjoy myself. But I didn’t take my eyes off my brother.
When Roger asked to go back out the following night, I refused to go. Even if I had imagined his strange behavior and the blue glow, I was not interested in reliving it.
“Oh, come on, kiddo. Where’s your Christmas spirit?” Dad leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, “Besides, I think it will do your mother some good to get out again.”
I shrugged. “We went last night. I don’t need to go again. Besides, Roger’s the one obsessed with the lights, not me.”
“I think it’s sweet,” Dad said.
“I think you mean creepy.”
Dad laughed it off. He said when I was Roger’s age I beheaded all my Barbie dolls and strung them up around the house like piñatas. “It’s just a phase,” he said. “He’s testing his boundaries just like you did.”
“Well, it’s a creepy phase and I’m not going,” I told him, folding my arms across my chest.
Dad sighed. “And one day my sweet Roger will go through this belligerent teenager phase,” he said, mostly to himself. He kissed me on the cheek and slipped on his coat. “Why don’t you make us some cocoa for when we get back?”
“Sure,” I said.
I watched as Dad pulled the car out the driveway. Mom was curled in on herself, like she had been since the Van Atters were killed, but Roger stared back at me, a blank look on his face, and it occurred to me that it wasn’t my brother. Someone else was looking out at me from behind his eyes.
Carrie Pack is an author of books in multiple genres and a recipient of two Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year Bronze awards: in 2016 for In the Present Tense (science fiction) and in 2017 for Grrrls on the Side (young adult). Grrrls on the Side was also a finalist in the Bi Book Awards. She also hosts the BiSciFi podcast and is creator of the #BiSciFi Twitter chat.
In a nuclear arms race, you’d use anything for an edge. Even magic.
Ilse and Wolf Klein bear many secrets. Genius Ilse is unsure if her parents will ever accept her love of physics. Her brother Wolf strives for a quiet life, though he worries that there’s no place in the world for people like him. But their deepest secret lies within their blood: with it, they can work magic.
Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.
When Wolf’s plane is shot down, his entire mission is thrown into jeopardy. Wolf needs Ilse’s help to develop the magic that will keep him alive, but with a spy afoot in Ilse’s laboratory, the secret letters she sends to Wolf begin to look treasonous. Can Ilse prove her loyalty—and find a way to help her brother—before their time runs out?
Loyalties and identities will be tested in this sweeping fantasy and a fast-paced thriller that bravely explores the tensions at the dawn of the nuclear age.
Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bone setting—or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.
A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh; and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.
But then a small window of hope opens. Doctor Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician that Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to opening old wounds, she also has no money to make the trip.
Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid. In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that will lead her from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.
Plunged into a crumbling world of foreign politics that is desperate for a leader, Eros chooses a loyal prince to help him navigate the hostile sands of Safara. But not everyone is happy to see a half-blood become the most powerful person on the planet. A queen must restore her nation.
In power once more, Kora faces new challenges and a difficult decision that puts someone close to her in mortal danger. The wrong choice could destroy her relationships, her right to rule, and her life.
A rebellion is brewing.
With their world collapsing around them, new threats spreading across the globe, and their loved ones at risk, the people of Safara―Sepharon and human alike―depend on Eros and Kora to fix their bleeding world. But with generations of hate stacked against them, the two young monarchs may be doomed to fail.
An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.
Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.
An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.
Inspired by real historical evidence that Abraham Lincoln was in love—romantic love—with another man, this debut YA novel was too controversial for traditional publishing. Crowdfunded in six days with a successful Kickstarter campaign that ultimately 182 backers supported, QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL asks LGBTQ teens (and everyone else), What if you knew a secret from history that could change the world?
Wyatt is 15, and nobody in his homophobic small town of Lincolnville, Oregon, knows that he’s Gay. Not even his best friend (and accidental girlfriend) Mackenzie. Then he discovers a secret from actual history: Abraham Lincoln was in love with another guy! Since everyone loves Lincoln, Wyatt’s sure that if the world knew about it, they would treat Gay people differently and it would solve everything about his life. So Wyatt outs Lincoln online, triggering a media firestorm that threatens to destroy everything he cares about—and he has to pretend more than ever that he’s straight. . . . Only then he meets Martin, who is openly Gay and who just might be the guy Wyatt’s been hoping to find.
In this heartwarming picture book, a big sister realizes that her little sister, Jackie, doesn’t like dresses or fairies-she likes ties and bugs! Will she be able to accept that Jackie identifies more as “Jack”?
Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can’t wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn’t want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack.
Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance.
Alan Cole is not a coward. Not since he stood up to his brother. Not since he let his friends Zack and Madison into his world. And deﬁnitely not since he came out at his school.
But Alan’s got a new host of problems to face. His biggest one: Ron McCaughlin. Ever since Alan revealed he’s gay, Ron has been bullying Alan with relentless fury. Yet Alan can’t tell his parents why he’s really coming home with bruises — because they still don’t know the truth. And now Alan’s father wants him to take June Harrison to the upcoming Winter Dance. Never mind that he has two left feet, does not like girls, and might be developing feelings for a new boy at school.
Between trying to understand the complex art of text ﬂirting, learning how to subdue his bullies, and ﬁnding his identity beyond the labels people put on him, Alan has a lot to sort through — and lay out — on the dance ﬂoor.
In this follow-up novel to Alan Cole Is Not A Coward, Eric Bell returns to the Unstable Table with Alan and his friends as they tackle middle school in another poignant and laugh-out-loud tale about friendship, family, and the many meanings of bravery.
Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army, the horrors of war cause her to question everything she knows.
Thousands of miles away, the exiled and cursed warrior Barsalyya Shefali undergoes trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to O Shizuka.
As the distance between disgraced empress and blighted warrior narrows, a familiar demonic force grows closer to the heart of the empire. Will the two fallen warriors be able to protect their home?
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
Courtney “Coop” Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.
Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .
When James’s boyfriend killed himself, no one questioned what happened. A foster kid with a checkered past and a history of suicide attempts, Ash was just another number in a system that failed him. But to James, Ash was never just a number, and the facts around his death no longer stack up so neatly.
Now James has plenty of questions, and the one person who might have held the answers—Ash’s older brother, Elliot—has left town. And if anyone knows where he is, they aren’t talking. As James searches for Elliot and uncovers the tangle of lies and false alibis he left in his wake, he grows suspicious of what really happened on Ash’s last day.
In the aftermath of her mother’s death, Angela struggles to recover and re-enter the world. When she meets Steve, who works in the café across the street, she feels able to take a step out of her grief-filled home. With Steve, she hopes to do D/s as a way to take a break from the pain consuming her, but discovers that in doing kink, you bring all of who you are with you, including grief.
Then Steve’s best friend is in a tragic car accident, and winds up in a coma, and Angela longs to offer support to Steve, as well as receive it.
In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.
In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.
When Ren wakes from his life-threatening injury on the Star Stream, he learns that Asher has left with the Phoenix Corps and that the Corps believes Ren to be dead. Despite the opportunity to disappear, Ren is determined to fix his mistakes. He convinces the crew to join him for one last mission—find Asher, free Liam, and escape from the Corps’ reach. But a war is brewing between two formidable armies, and, despite his wish to flee, Ren is drawn into the conflict. With his friends by his side, Ren must make a choice, and it will affect the future of his found family and the cluster forever.
The deepest of them make up intricately interconnected stories. Damaged survivors finding each other, stitching their lives together in the harshest of places, forging precious bonds amidst the flames. Gradually growing trust, love, and understanding between found families. But there’s no escaping this place, its deadly realities, or its predators. A brutal capture. A hellish withdrawal and fragile recovery. A harrowing escape. A breakneck sprint across a haunted, poisoned wasteland.
Life and death, trust and betrayal, choking smoke and breaths of fresh air—all of these are just part of life within Parole.
Literary, lyrical, and cuttingly satiric, Mother India is a brilliantly original novel about Jews who go to India to find transformation and eternal release from the sufferings of life. Narrated in luminous prose by Meena, a Jewish American lesbian who has claimed India as her home, the novel is vividly populated by the darkly comic universe of three generations of women along with other family members, as well as by the Indians whose world they seek to penetrate. There is Meena’s religiously observant mother, Ma, whose desire to remove herself from the wheel of life plays out in a Faulknerian funeral procession and cremation on the banks of the holy river Ganges; Meena’s daughter, Maya, a misunderstood child coming of age in an emotionally treacherous household; her ex-wife, Geeta, a privileged and hedonistic Indian woman who enters their world with devastating consequences; Meena’s twin brother, Shmelke, a charismatic rabbi turned guru and international fugitive; and the Indian servant, Manika, whose loyalty to the family both sustains and shackles them.
ldentifying with the humanity of its characters, the reader is drawn into a vast, tragicomic, and fascinating epic, Homeric in scope, drama, discovery, and surprise. Universal yet intimate, brutal yet tender, satiric yet sympathetic, Mother India evokes reactions–intellectual, emotional, visceral–that are complex, even contradictory, containing the might and bite that our current cultural hubris and self-involvement deserve. In Mother India, Reich offers us her most poignant and astonishing novel to date.
Princess Galina’s father has set her a difficult task: persuade a peasant named Elena to reveal the secrets behind her magical powers. Difficult, and maybe impossible, given that Elena is stubborn to a fault and has no respect for authority—especially the kind that wears a crown. And the more time passes, the less Galina cares about doing her duty and more about simply Elena herself.
The relationship between two goddesses, one the embodiment of a galactic creation and the other of cosmic destruction, is tempestuous at best. They create and they destroy and then they do it all over again. Seya and Mia use their divine magic to make pulsars and nebula, to set planets spinning around stars and bind a galaxy together with a central black hole.
But when one of Seya’s favorite stars goes missing, she blames Mia. What was once a symbiotic cycle of life and death becomes a game of broken hearts and promises betrayed. These tensions and insecurities are explored in sonnets and villanelles; the arc of their love tracked in meter and verse. These poems touch on queer love, betrayal, trust, acceptance, and forgiveness cast against a backdrop of stardust and celestial detritus.
Benjamin Lewis has created a life for himself as one of the most respected silversmiths and engravers in New York City. For Benjamin, his work is his passion and he has never sought out companionship beyond the close ties of family. Stumbling across dresses sew by his late mother, however, reawakens painful memories from his past. Now he is determined to forge something beautiful from the remains of the life and identity he left behind. In the process, he discovers stunning and fiercely intelligent Miss Quincy who might just have the power to tempt him out of his quiet isolation.
Remembrance Quincy’s talent is as undeniable as her needlework is exquisite. She has made a name for herself crafting quilts and embroidery pieces for all the wealthiest ladies in the city. When soft-spoken, yet charming, Mr. Lewis comes to her with a particular project in mind she is intrigued both by his artistic design and by the man himself. He treats her like an equal, values her work and makes her smile, but Remembrance already gave her heart away once, now can she risk doing it again?
For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.
All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.
Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.
Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.
A fresh, charming rom-com perfect for fans of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Boy Meets Boy about Nathan Bird, who has sworn off happy endings but is sorely tested when his former best friend, Ollie, moves back to town.
Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings.
Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.
Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.
After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?
Pretty Little Liars meets Dan Savage in this modern, fresh, YA debut about an unapologetically queer teen working to uncover a blackmailer threatening him back into the closet.
Jack has a lot of sex–and he’s not ashamed of it. While he’s sometimes ostracized, and gossip constantly rages about his sex life, Jack always believes that “it could be worse.”
But then, the worse unexpectedly strikes: When Jack starts writing a teen sex advice column for an online site, he begins to receive creepy and threatening love letters that attempt to force Jack to curb his sexuality and personality. Now it’s up to Jack and his best friends to uncover the stalker–before their love becomes dangerous.
Today on the site we’ve got a new cover reveal for an f/f romance novella set in space! Come check out Sparks Fly by Llinos Cathryn Thomas!
After twenty-five years of single-minded determination, Marianne Gordon has finally achieved her ambition and been promoted to Principal of the Vesper School for Zero-Gravity Artistic Display.
But her moment of triumph is cut short when she discovers that she must share her position with Josephine Knight, a celebrated zero-gravity performer who doesn’t know the first thing about teaching. Deeply insulted, Marianne does her best to carry on as though Jo isn’t there, but Jo has a way of making her presence felt.
When the future of Marianne’s beloved school is threatened, Jo may be the only person who can help – but only if Marianne can learn to let her in.
Sparks Fly is a novella-length F/F romance in space.
Marianne had seen Josephine Knight on the arts casts, an athletic figure in form-fitting Z-GAD flight gear, and in pictures taken at glittering after-show parties, in dresses or suits with her chin-length hair stylishly arranged. In person, she was not as tall as Marianne had imagined, her hair was a tangled ash-blond mess that flopped over her eyes, and what Marianne could see of her expression was hesitant. She leaned in the doorway for a second, waiting for confirmation.
‘Yes, yes,’ said Marianne impatiently. ‘Do come in.’
Ms Knight crossed to the desk – with a bit of a limp, Marianne noticed – and extended her hand.
‘Jo Knight,’ she said. ‘Looking forward to working with you.’
‘I’m sure,’ said Marianne, taking the offered hand and shaking it for the briefest moment she could get away with. Her ire at this entire situation was strong enough that when they touched, she felt an almost physical jolt, like electricity passing between them. She tried to squash down her annoyance.
‘That’s your desk over there,’ she said, pointing across the office.
‘Thank you,’ said Ms Knight.
Marianne relented slightly. ‘I suppose someone’s already shown you to your rooms?’
‘They have, thank you. I just came from there. But I haven’t seen anything else of the place. I don’t suppose you have the time to give me a bit of a tour? I almost got lost on the way down.’
‘I’ll transfer you a map,’ said Marianne.
‘Not really my strong suit, map reading,’ said Ms Knight.
Did she really think Marianne had nothing better to do than waste her afternoon showing her around?
Be nice to her. For your own sake.
There had been more than a bit of an implied threat in Bisley’s words. She wasn’t nearly established enough in her position yet to openly defy the board’s wishes.
‘Come on, then,’ she snapped.
If it hadn’t been for the accident, Marianne would have stalked ahead at her usual brisk pace and left Ms Knight to keep up as best she could, but in the circumstances it seemed unnecessarily cruel even for someone who had turned up and casually ruined everything for her.
Instead, she vented her spite secretly by giving a perfunctory and passionless tour – she’d lived and worked at this school for twenty-five years and she knew every bit of history, every quirk of architecture, every thrilling story of things that had happened in its corridors and rehearsal rooms, and she could have told them all if she’d wanted to.
‘This is the staff room,’ she said instead. ‘This is the rehearsal room.’
They walked down the long corridor with the photographs and holo-sculptures of famous performances, and although Marianne could see Ms Knight peering curiously at them, she didn’t say anything, even though it was almost physically painful not to share what she knew.
‘What’s this one?’ Ms Knight asked, stopping at a piece Marianne loved. ‘It’s wonderful!’
Marianne seethed inwardly – what right did Ms Knight have to like her favourite picture? – but she plastered on a polite expression.
‘That’s a photograph of a performance of The Wild Hunt that the Vesper Company gave almost thirty years ago.’
‘I’ve seen the recordings – you choreographed it, didn’t you? It was magnificent.’
Marianne looked up. Ms Knight was smiling at her with what seemed like sincere admiration. Her stomach jolted.
‘I… yes, I did. Um… thank you.’
‘You were an incredibly promising choreographer – what made you decide to switch to teaching?’
Marianne almost winced. It was like prodding a bruise. ‘Nothing I want to discuss,’ she snapped.
‘Oh. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t…’
‘Anyway,’ said Marianne, firmly. ‘We should move on. It’s almost lunchtime. We teachers eat in the communal dining hall with the students and mechanics. I hope that’s not too plebeian for the famous Josephine Knight?’
‘Not at all. And it’s Jo.’
Marianne ignored that, and led the way to the dining hall.
Llinos Cathryn Thomas comes from North Wales and lives in London with her wife and their books. She likes dragons, spaceships and cake. She writes about pretty much those same things.
Okay, is this not basically the greatest thing you’ve ever seen? Bearly a Lady is about a freaking bisexual werebear named Zelda who’s trying to advance in the magazine industry, date her high school crush, and handle a monster crush (see what I did there?) on her coworker. (She’s got a vampire roommate, too!) If you’ve been dying for some queer paranormal fluffy fun, this novella is a must have for the month!
Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it). The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month. Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to? Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague. What’s a werebear to do?