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.
Today on the site, we’re excited to welcome Celine Frohn, editor of Unspeakable: A Queer Gothic Anthology, out now from Nyx Publishing! This speculative collection features a wide range of identities, including gay, lesbian, bi/pan, trans and non-binary, poly, and asexual characters. Check it out here and then learn a little more about the stories that make it up!
Unspeakable contains eighteen Gothic tales with uncanny twists and characters that creep under your skin. Its stories feature sapphic ghosts, terrifying creatures of the sea, and haunted houses concealing their own secrets. Whether you’re looking for your non-binary knight in shining armour or a poly family to murder with, Unspeakable showcases the best contemporary Gothic queer short fiction. Even dark tales deserve their time in the sun.
The anthology contains stories by Claire Hamilton Russell, Ally Kölzow, C. L., Lindsay King-Miller, Avery Kit Malone, Katalina Watt, Jude Reid, S.T. Gibson, Jenna MacDonald, Eliza Temple, Katie Young, Sam Hirst, Ryann Fletcher, Heather Valentine, Jen Glifort, E. Saxey, Anna Moon, and Mason Hawthorne.
The haunted house as a metaphor is something that fascinates me. In “Leadbitter House”, the house is a proxy for the protagonist’s body, the struggles he faces throughout the story reflect a number of struggles that are common to transgender experiences. Elijah is confronted over and over by people who believe that his house must be arranged or decorated or treated in the way that they expect it to be, rather than how Elijah needs it to be, or who express outright disgust at it. The use of body horror elements in this story is another part of the gender narrative that I explore through my work. Often, it isn’t until other people read my writing and say “wow that’s body horror!” that I realise what effect the scenes I develop might have for someone who is not in my head. I try to make the ostensibly gory, horrific elements more about connection and exploration of the body, about intimacy and anxiety connected to bodily experience, in a way that uses the uncanny to interrogate that which is often assumed to be familiar and ‘normal’.
But besides all that, sometimes organ removal is fun!
“Laguna and the Engkanto” by Katalina Watt
My story ‘Laguna and the Engkanto’ takes place on a fictional island called Avelina and is inspired by Filipino folklore, specifically the engkanto: a mythical spirit of the environment. The engkanto in my story is genderless and similar to a siren or mermaid, acting as a catalyst for and symbol of sexual awakening. Laguna begins the story with a fear of the sea, and as she becomes more in tune with herself and her body, this transforms into a longing for it.
I wanted to explore the idea of queerness within the prism of a society which is highly spiritual in both the religious and folkloric sense. The characters are living under the shadow of colonialism which has brought, among other things, these new religious ideologies. Within this society and particularly for a young woman, the engkanto represents both sexual agency but also transgressive pleasure, and I wanted to play with the concept of queerness as it relates to these intersections within a culture.
“Brideprice” by S.T. Gibson
“Brideprice” is my love letter to the vampire novels and action fantasy movies like Van Helsing that got me through my teens. When I was first coming to terms with my own bisexuality, my desires felt monstrous, so stories of ravenous supernatural creatures pining away after maidens soothed me. I was enamored by the capricious, sensual, mysterious brides of D, who struck me as the perfect mix of maiden and monster, seducer and seducee. I wrote “Brideprice” to give them their own narrative voices, and to play up the queerness inherent in the source text. This undying family is re-imagined as a polyamorous unit of cis and trans men and women who simultaneously desire one another and compete with one another for power.
The Dracula myth is generally told from his perspective, or the perspective of his victims, but not the brides. “Brideprice” is my attempt to give agency back to the brides. This is why Dracula rarely speaks in the story and only exists filtered through the brides’ memories: he’s just the catalyst for their leap into immortality. Whether they’re trying to escape violence, bigotry, or poverty, he’s their dark door into a new world, but they’re the ones seizing agency and making that final choice.
“Homesick” by Sam Hirst
Writing has always been a means of exploring and expressing myself from those early days of pre-teen poetry with its paeans to blonde beauties right through the angsty self-repressing tragedies of my teens littered with sapphic ladies dying to save their beloved. Emerging from years of denial about who I was and ignorance about the words that existed to describe myself – asexual, sapphic, queer… I turned to writing to work out my confusions before I even knew what they were. And that’s where ‘Homesick’ comes from. It mixes the Gothic elements I’ve always loved – ghosts – and one of the intriguing riddles associated with – how the afterlife actually works – with an exploration of queer identity that I’ve often felt didn’t fit in any of the existing categories. Ghosts allow you to move away from the physical. Sexual attraction disappears from the world of my story, the way it is absent from my own life. Exploring life after death allowed me to imagine a world lived within sight of your past but not bound or determined by it. My ghosts are homesick because they haven’t found a home yet and my story is about them finding their way there – to the place and the people they belong with. In writing this story, I followed Marion and Sanan through a Gothic world that they made beautiful. It’s a story of hope in the end and I hope people read it that way.
“Lady of Letters; or, the Twenty-First Century Homunculus” by Heather Valentine
Lady of Letters came from an idea I’d been toying around with for a while about fake profiles and alternate accounts in the mid-2000s era of early social media. I’d played a few games that were either set in that era or touched on the ideas I was interested in – Cibele takes place in a fake MMORPG, and spoke to my experiences of playing Phantasy Star Universe while having arguments with my soon-to-be-ex high school boyfriend in the private chat; and Simulacra takes the idea of the sentient profile in a far more cosmic horror direction.
Seeing the call for stories for Unspeakable, I realised that the key to exploring these ideas on the page was the Gothic. Taking the genre’s sometimes-features of narratives framed through letters and recordings; the all-encompassing emotions its heightened settings allow its protagonists to have without that teenage shame of feeling too much; the idea of a ghostly romance, but making the spectre a digital one.
I think the way that classic Gothic writing explores and remembers is past is something we can use to explore our own much more recent history, as people and as communities.
“Hearteater” by Eliza Temple
Hearteater is a story about a woman who lives alone in a decaying manor house named Scarlet Hall. One dark and stormy night, a stranger named Kat turns up at the house looking for shelter. Lady Scarlet invites her inside, and they grow close, despite each insisting on their own monstrosity.
My initial idea for Hearteater was to explore how Gothic preoccupations with virginity would work when applied to queer sex, but literally none of that made it into the final draft because I got preoccupied by my own issues. Both Lady Scarlet and Kat refer to themselves as monsters throughout the text; they literally are, in the sense of being supernatural and nonhuman, but they also live in a heteronormative society which could consider them monstrous for not being attracted to men. When Kat comes to Scarlet Hall, both women find community in each other—not only are they both lesbians, but their respective supernatural powers complement each other. I wrote Hearteater at a time when I didn’t really have any friends who were also gay women, so the heart of the story is the joy and comfort that comes from finding someone like you, when before you were all alone.
“Taylor Hall” by Jen Glifort
I’ve always loved haunted houses—the dilapidated buildings, the secret passages, the unpredictability of a house’s temperament. But what if the house was benevolent, rather than threatening? I wanted to explore what it would be like to live in a haunted house that was devoted to its owner and wanted to help them.
I thought Taylor Hall would be the ideal environment for a character like Kit, who struggles with gender identity and all the insecurity that comes with it. I’ve questioned my own gender identity my whole life, and feel like I’ve only recently started coming to terms with that. In my experience, suppressing those feelings can cause them to express themselves in unexpected ways (although they’ve never resulted in my house misbehaving in the middle of the night). I wanted to see how something like having a crush on a new roommate could bring up those emotions for Kit.
Setting this story in a haunted house gave me a chance to play with the concept of home. I loved the idea of someone who found a loving, nurturing home that caters to their needs while still trying to find a home in themselves.
“The Dream Eater” by Anna Moon
What if an asexual person is faced with a succubus or incubus? That was my initial inspiration for “The Dream Eater”, where the ace protagonist, Dan, comes across a genderless entity that drains people’s life force. I wanted to write a story where asexuality and queerness allows the main character to relate to the supernatural in a different (and positive) way, and at the same time show an ace person in a happy relationship with an allosexual person (his girlfriend, Elise). The Gothic, and a threatening presence that looms in the space between dream and reality, seemed like the perfect lens through which to explore sexuality, identity, and what it means to be human.
“The Ruin” by E. Saxey
“The Ruin” is a romance, with two guys falling in love through their shared interests: ruined buildings, end-of-the-world fiction, incredibly old poetry. These are also a few of my favourite things. I wanted to explore, through a love story, a nagging doubt I have: are these hobbies actually unsavoury? Is Ruinenlust – so fundamental to the Gothic – also fundamentally dodgy? I can tell myself that I’m interested in how people used to live, or how they’d survive in an apocalypse, but I spend a lot of time (imaginatively) in dark crumbling places. Maybe it’s the continuity of the human experience that delights me, but I suspect it’s the continuity of me, posing solo against the background of all these wonderful ruins.
So while I’m fond of both the characters in “The Ruin”, their relationship isn’t ideal. While the narrator’s interest in the end of the world is purely imaginative, his partner may have a more hands-on approach. Or is that just paranoia?
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.
As a well-documented fan of music coming out of PNW in the 90s, I’m so thrilled to revealing the cover on the site today for Shine of the Ever by Claire Rudy Foster, a collection of short stories that “explores what binds a community of queer and trans people as they negotiate love, screwing up and learning to forgive themselves for being young and sometimes foolish.” The stories feature a whole rainbow of representation, including people who identify as queer, bisexual, gay, lesbian, binary transgender, non-binary transgender, polyamorous, asexual, pansexual, and genderfluid.
NOW, is there any better format for mashing the best things together like a mix tape?? And that’s what makes this cover, designed by C.B. Messer, so perfect!
Shine of the Ever comes out on November 5th, 2019 from Interlude Press
But wait, there’s more! In addition to the cover, we have an exclusive excerpt from the short story that gave the collection its name, “Shine of the Ever”!
We spent most of the winter in and around my apartment, which overlooked a boring section of southeast Belmont, before the cafes and PNW-inspired restaurants moved in. My rent back then was five-hundred-fifty dollars a month. It had hardwood floors, a bedroom, pocket doors, and a view of Mount Tabor. My neighbors were older people who had been there since the 1980s. I was the youngest person in the building, young enough that I was the only one who didn’t have a player for the tapes the other tenants swapped in the laundry room “library.” I only had a binder of CDs. I didn’t buy a lot of music, because at the time the rent I paid was considered kind of high. Since then, it has more than tripled. I’m pretty sure my old neighbors are all out in the Numbers now. I’m just saying. I don’t live there anymore. Nobody I know does, but there’s never a vacancy. Explain how that works. Where the hell do all these new people come from? At least the weather hasn’t changed. That winter with Ada, it mostly rained, but one day snow piled like popcorn in the gutters, and on another morning a white fog, so muffling that we couldn’t even see the mattress company storefront across the street.
We were a we, an actual couple. We did relationship things. Ada went to her classes at Portland State, and I went to my library job, but we always met up at the end of the day. She didn’t want to spend time with anyone else, and I wasn’t bored yet, so it worked. She served me free beers when she picked up shifts at the Crow Bar. When school got too busy, she quit, and started bringing over a bottle of whiskey a couple times a month.
She didn’t want me to ever feel deprived or like I was missing out, she said. She didn’t want me to have a reason to go anywhere but home.
We went to places that are other places now. We shared beers at Blue Monk, which was a bar and music venue where you could hear actual good hip-hop and jazz musicians who didn’t play that gooey, elevator shit. The Blue Monk is called something else, and there’s a line out front with a doorman and a velvet rope. The people waiting are all dressed up. Lines were never a thing, back then. I associate never waiting with that time of my life, because the timing was always just magically perfect. Anything you wanted, you could have right then: brunch, beer, a turn in the horseshoe pit. Delayed gratification didn’t exist, when I was twenty-three.
Ada and I kissed in bars that are too clean for me now and too expensive. It’s bizarre, when I go back now and try to approximate the proportions of the places I used to know so well. I went to one of my old dives a few years after it closed, and only the ceiling was the same. Pipes and drywall, peeling paint, that was all. Everything else, from the lighting to the tinted mirrors over each booth, was styled. The weird thing was, the place was styled to look like Old Portland. My Portland. They spent a fortune trying to do it too. The matching frosted globes that hung from the exposed rafters would run at least four hundred apiece. A matched set in such good condition must have cost a mint. The tables were tropical salvage. I had that feeling I was in a movie set of my own living room, where every object looked exactly like my personal possession, but nicer, cleaner, and more appealing. I hate it. These designers put in a lot of effort to make things seem natural, but I think the only people who believe it are the ones who never saw the original. They don’t understand that this isn’t Portland anymore: it’s Portlandia. A theme park of the places we used to love.
If you have no point of reference, you are very easy to fool.
Claire Rudy Foster is a queer, trans single parent in recovery. Their short story collection, I’ve Never Done This Before, was published to warm acclaim in 2016. With four Pushcart Prize nominations, Claire’s writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, and many other journals. Their nonfiction work has reached millions of readers in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Narratively, among others. Claire lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.