Today on the site I’m delighted to be revealing the cover for Out of Characterby Jenna Miller, a debut f/f YA romance releasing February 7, 2023 from Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins! Here’s the story:
If you asked seventeen-year-old Cass Williams to describe herself, she’d happily tell you she’s fat, queer, and obsessed with the Tide Wars books. What she won’t tell you—or anyone in her life—is that she’s part of an online Tide Wars roleplay community. Sure, it’s nerdy as hell, but when she’s behind the screen writing scenes as Captain Aresha, she doesn’t have to think about her mother who walked out or how unexpectedly stressful it is dating resident cool girl Taylor Cooper.
But secretly retreating to her online life is starting to catch up with Cass. For one, no one in her real life knows her secret roleplay addiction is the reason her grades have taken a big hit. Also? Cass has started catching feelings for Rowan Davies, her internet bestie…and Taylor might be catching on.
As Cass’s lies continue to build, so does her anxiety. Roleplaying used to be the one place she could escape to, but this double life and offline-online love triangle have only made things worse. Cass must decide what to do—be honest and risk losing her safe space or keep it a secret and put everything else on the line.
Jenna Miller (she/her) writes young adult books about fat, queer, nerdy girls who deserve to be seen and have their voices heard. When she’s not obsessing over words, she can be found making charcuterie boards, befriending people online, cross stitching, or adventuring in the Minneapolis area. Out of Character is her debut novel. Visit her at jennamillerwrites.com to find out more.
If you’re anything like me, you desperately pled for a queer YA version of Mean Girls, and then you read People Like Us by Dana Mele back in February 2018 and were wildly thrilled at how it delivered. If you’re not like me, you might’ve missed this vicious whirlwind of a psych thriller, so I’m here to help you remedy that mistake, especially since a sequel is reported to be coming in the nearish future.
Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.
The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.
When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide. Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…
Growing up in New York, brothers Emil and Brighton always idolized the Spell Walkers—a vigilante group sworn to rid the world of specters. While the Spell Walkers and other celestials are born with powers, specters take them, violently stealing the essence of endangered magical creatures.
Brighton wishes he had a power so he could join the fray. Emil just wants the fighting to stop. The cycle of violence has taken a toll, making it harder for anyone with a power to live peacefully and openly. In this climate of fear, a gang of specters has been growing bolder by the day.
Then, in a brawl after a protest, Emil manifests a power of his own—one that puts him right at the heart of the conflict and sets him up to be the heroic Spell Walker Brighton always wanted to be.
Brotherhood, love, and loyalty will be put to the test, and no one will escape the fight unscathed.
Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.
Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.
After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.
But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a
devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodemus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880s America.
What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears—as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.
But she won’t be in it alone.
Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by—and that Jane needs her too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.
Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive—even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.
Being a part of the resistance group La Voz is an act of devotion and desperation. On the other side of Medio’s border wall, the oppressed class fights for freedom and liberty, sacrificing what little they have to become defenders of the cause.
Carmen Santos is one of La Voz’s best soldiers. She spent years undercover, but now, with her identity exposed and the island on the brink of a civil war, Carmen returns to the only real home she’s ever known: La Voz’s headquarters.
There she must reckon with her beloved leader, who is under the influence of an aggressive new recruit, and with the devastating news that her true love might be the target of an assassination plot. Will Carmen break with her community and save the girl who stole her heart—or fully embrace the ruthless rebel she was always meant to be?
Tala Warnock has little use for magic – as a descendant of Maria Makiling, the legendary Filipina heroine, she negates spells, often by accident. But her family’s old ties to the country of Avalon (frozen, bespelled, and unreachable for almost 12 years) soon finds them guarding its last prince from those who would use his kingdom’s magic for insidious ends.
And with the rise of dangerous spelltech in the Royal States of America; the appearance of the firebird, Avalon’s deadliest weapon, at her doorstep; and the re-emergence of the Snow Queen, powerful but long thought dead, who wants nothing more than to take the firebird’s magic for her own – Tala’s life is about to get even more complicated….
Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.
Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.
Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.
Nandan’s got a plan to make his junior year perfect. He’s going to make sure all the parties are chill, he’s going to smooth things over with his ex, and he’s going to help his friend Dave get into the popular crowd—whether Dave wants to or not. The high school social scene might be complicated, but Nandan is sure he’s cracked the code.
Then, one night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot, even if that means everyone starts to see him differently.
But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. And the more his anxiety grows about what his sexuality means for himself, his friends, and his social life, the more he wonders whether he can just take it all back. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?
From Rahul Kanakia comes a raw and deeply felt story about rejecting labels, seeking connection, and finding yourself.
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Nishat doesn’t want to lose her family, but she also doesn’t want to hide who she is, and it only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic, and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat decide to showcase their talent as henna artists. In a fight to prove who is the best, their lives become more tangled―but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush, especially since Flávia seems to like her back.
As the competition heats up, Nishat has a decision to make: stay in the closet for her family, or put aside her differences with Flávia and give their relationship a chance.
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new–the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he’s never really dated before.
Until a boy asks him out, and everything changes.
Kai Sheridan didn’t expect Bryson to say yes. So when Bryson agrees to secretly go out with him, Kai is thrown for a loop. But as the days go by, he discovers there’s more to Bryson beneath the surface, and dating him begins to feel less like an act and more like the real thing. Kai knows how the story of a gay boy liking someone straight ends. With his heart on the line, he’s awkwardly trying to navigate senior year at school, at home, and in the closet, all while grappling with the fact that this “relationship” will last only five days. After all, Bryson Keller is popular, good-looking, and straight…right?
This book was previously published in the UK. This is its US cover and pub date.
Fiercely told, this is a timely coming-of-age story, told in verse about the journey to self-acceptance. Perfect for fans of Sarah Crossan, Poet X and Orangeboy.
A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
*I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.*
Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.
But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.
The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.
When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.
That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .
This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
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.
Please welcome author Taylor Ramage to the site today to talk about erasure and her recently released poetry collection, Lest I Know Your Weakness. Before we get into the post, here’s a note from the author on the book’s actual crafting:
I made this poetry collection by taking words, phrases, and letters from the 1872 novella Carmilla and reorganizing them into poems. That’s what erasure or blackout poetry is in a nutshell–transforming the content of an existing text into something new.
Although Carmilla does have undeniable lesbian representation, it was still written in 1872 by a white man and has a tragic ending like we’ve seen on some mainstream TV shows that kill off their wlw characters. But creating erasure poetry from this old text allows Laura and Carmilla’s narrative to be reclaimed and redeemed, even though it’s certainly still angsty. It’s another form of adaptation, much like the webseries “Carmilla,” only I’ve created new meanings from the original text provided on the page. I think this ability to apply a very contemporary form of poetry to old texts can result in reclaimed narratives for all kinds of marginalizations.
How cool is that?? So now, let’s get to the book and to the post!
A twisted love story told in alternating poetic snapshots. Intrigue, tension, darkness, beauty–Carmilla and Laura experience it all as they traverse the ups and downs of their relationship through poetic dialogue. Love is alluring and terrifying.
Erasure is often something that happens to us, especially if we embody marginalized identities. History, culture, someone standing in front of us, or even we ourselves will not recognize a part of our humanity, ignore our contributions, or categorize us with labels that wilt the nuances of our beings. Erasure imposes. It takes away in an instant and across a lifetime.
But what if, in one sliver of life, we could harness the power of erasure to reclaim the narratives handed to us?
This is the potential of erasure poetry, a poetic form in which you start with an existing text, then pull out words, phrases, and letters until you’re left with a poem. I used this form to create my new poetry collection Lest I Know Your Weakness. I crafted poems from the text of Carmilla, a novella written in 1872 and one of the first vampire books to exist in English literature. This story is both undeniably gay and undeniably written by a white man in a culture whose sensibilities had to align the sapphic with the grotesque and the horrific. Laura and Carmilla’s relationship is deep, eerie, strange, and haunting throughout the book, yet the frame narrative around it presents it as unnatural and tragic. Poor, innocent Laura got whisked away by this seductive monster!
And of course, the monster dies in the end.
I don’t need to repeat the litany of wlw couples who don’t get happy endings due to death or some other tragedy. That narrative runs deep in history and culture as shown with old books like Carmilla. Yet the beauty about that book being published in 1872 is that now it’s in the public domain.
This means anyone can do whatever they want with the text without any copyright restrictions. It’s why we have the Carmilla web series that adapts the story into a contemporary college setting and reclaims it from the tragic spectacle it originally was.
I’ve done something similar with my poems. Now, the original words of the book are reorganized and reframed into poems that alternate between Laura and Carmilla’s perspectives. I approached this old text with the entire context of my life and sensibilities, and chose what to take and form into a new(ish) story.
I did set some limits for the sake of following a form. For instance, I took screenshots of the text to give myself “pages” that restricted the words I could pull from for any given poem or idea. The sentence or two I got from each page became entire poems or stanzas that I later grouped together.
While I engaged with the old language of this book and pulled out what appealed to me, I also harnessed the power of erasure to reclaim the narrative of this couple. It can be strange, angsty, and a tad spooky. But it doesn’t have to be yet another tragic queer story.
The potential for applying such a contemporary form of poetry like this to old texts creates endless opportunities for people with marginalizations of all kinds to recenter stories written about them. A Native American poet could create erasure poems from Lewis and Clark’s journals, or a black poet could make poetry from texts written about abolition during the Civil War. In fact, Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith has written erasure poems from texts like the Declaration of Independence, evoking this very concept of reclaiming the past.
Erasure poetry allows us to actively engage with ideas of the past while creating new meanings from them. The public domain is filled with thousands of old stories. Source material is bountiful and waiting to be erased.
Taylor Ramage is the author of two poetry collections, Forgive Us Our Trespasses and Lest I Know Your Weakness. She also writes fantasy, enjoys stories in all forms, and leads an active, healthy lifestyle. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorRamage and Tumblr at taylorrama.tumblr.com. You can also catch her writing updates on her WordPress blog.
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.
It’s Reverb‘s release day, and I’m thrilled to welcome Anna Zabo back to the site to celebrate! Reverb is the third book in the Twisted Wishes series, and it stars a pansexual cis woman named Mish and a queer trans guy named David who just happens to be her bodyguard through a stalking incident. Here’s the official book info:
Twisted Wishes bass player Mish Sullivan is a rock goddess—gorgeous, sexy and comfortable in the spotlight. With fame comes unwanted attention, though: a stalker is desperate to get close. Mish can fend for herself, just as she always has. But after an attack lands her in the hospital, the band reacts, sticking her with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want.
David Altet has an instant connection with Mish. A certified badass, this ex-army martial arts expert can take down a man twice his size. But nothing—not living as a trans man, not his intensive military training—prepared him for the challenge of Mish. Sex with her is a distraction neither of them can afford, yet the hot, kink-filled nights keep coming.
When Mish’s stalker ups his game, David must make a choice—lover or bodyguard. He’d rather have Mish alive than in his bed. But Mish wants David, and no one, especially not a stalker, will force her to give him up.
When I set out to write David in Reverb, I knew two things for sure: I would not be dead-naming David, and his being trans wouldn’t be the focus of the story.
I wanted to write about a trans guy being a guy and getting his HEA without wallowing in trans trauma before we got to that HEA, as if the only reason trans people have HEAs is if they go through some unbelievable crap and the one lone golden cis person pops out to save them from misery.
There’s a lot more and varied and beautiful trans experiences other than that!
Yes, there are microaggressions and little moments that grate when you’re trans, and some of those things made it into Reverb. There are also moments of humor and just…moments of being trans. Those are aspects I tried to include in the novel.
I did not want to focus on trans pain. I didn’t want to write a story about understanding trans people from a cis point of view. There are enough of those books out there already.
So if you’re going into Reverb wanting some great moment of angst about David being trans…there isn’t any. It’s not an issue. It’s really about Mish and David and touring with the band and the awful stalker who won’t leave Mish alone.
Personally, what I would like to see more of are books about trans joy. About the settled nature of living the life you want to live. About the happiness of gender euphoria. About life being life with all its foibles and fun and sadness too, but not have that coupled with being trans. About growing older as a trans person. That’s what I want to see more of in trans romance. The conflict of a romance not centering around being trans.
We don’t center romances around the trauma of being cis or how hard it is for a trans person to come to accept that their partner is cis. It seems counterproductive to expect every story with a trans main character to follow that pattern, too.
I’d also like more non-binary main characters in romance. Not every person falls into a gender binary. And, I’d love to see more romances about trans people falling for trans people. And older trans characters! David is forty-three in Reverb because I’m in my forties. And you can still be sexy, badass, and trans in your forties.
Basically, I believe we need more stories about trans love and trans joy, not just trans survival. Not just trans acceptance. Trans people deserve to see themselves in books as happy, joyful, fulfilled human beings at all ages.
Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.
Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. They can be easily plied with coffee.
Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.
Anna uses they/them pronouns and prefers Mx. Zabo as an honorific.
You may remember Alex Harrow from their awesome recent cover reveal on LGBTQReads, and today they’re back with one of our favorite topics: found families! In this case, they’re specifically talking about found families in queer spec fic, so I’ll step aside and let Alex take it away, but not before noting that info for their new book, Empire of Light, is at the bottom of the post, so check it out!
Found families top the list of my favorite tropes ever to write. Probably because to me, like many queer authors and readers, found families will always have a special place in my heart. We all create our own found families for a variety of reasons: whether it’s because we’re far away from our biological family, both physically and/or emotionally, or simply because most of us have that tendency to meet others we just click with and decide, “Yes, you’re my people.”
Found families almost always form by accident instead of by blood and that’s what make them so powerful: there’s choice involved here. That conscious (or maybe in some ways unconscious) choice toward connection and community.
Found families are the ones we’ll happily set the world on fire for or just show up with ice cream and rosé at ungodly hours of the morning. They’re the ones that will totally send an extraction team to get you out of a bad date and might not bother getting out of their PJs to hang out with you.
In fiction, especially queer fiction, just as in life, found families are very much the backbone of queer people. They might be cobbled-together, they might be messy, but that just makes us love them even more, because no one exists in a vacuum.
Which is the second reason why I love found families so much: they’re an excellent remedy for tokenism, because when was the last time you’ve ever seen a queer person in isolation? Yeah, I can’t remember either. Even if you are writing a coming out story, I find it very hard to believe that your main character would be the only one. And let’s not forget that creating found families around our characters give so many opportunities to create characters all across different spectrums of identity, sexuality, and so many intersections thereof. There is so much potential in found families, why not use it?
Speaking of, found families aren’t always clear cut, nor should they be: they can be as messy as any other family and friend groups because everyone is different. So, yes, found families can be excellent character motivation, along with backup and community, but they can also be fantastic sources for conflict. How many of us always get along with our friends and family members? Relationships are in constant flux, and this is such a great way to explore change and growth in them. Just because characters stick together and would go through fire for each other doesn’t necessarily mean they always have to like each other, after all.
As both a reader and an author, I’ve always admired writers who manage to weave complex found families together because they allow readers to identify with so many more characters than just their main characters. Found families can and do absolutely become the backbone of stories, just as they become a backbone of our own lives. But in order to do so, they have to be complex, multi-layered, and yes, often messy, because if everything is smooth sailing, where’s the story and conflict in that?
Finally, let’s not underestimate the ways in which found families create homes, both for characters and for readers, because to many of us, that’s exactly what they are. Found families create a microcosm of belonging and an environment for characters to just be themselves and to so many of us, that feeling right there, is everything. It makes all the other stuff absolutely worth it. That’s why I dedicated Empire of Light to found families everywhere: because of all these reasons and more.
Empire of Light
Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.
Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.
To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As Aris slips away from Damian and his control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on. Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one minute and kiss him the next.
With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.
Alex Harrow is a genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual author of queer science fiction and fantasy. Alex’ pronouns are they/them. When not writing queerness with a chance of explosions, Alex is a high school English teacher, waging epic battles against comma splices, misused apostrophes, and anyone under the delusion that the singular ‘they’ is grammatically incorrect.
A German immigrant, Alex has always been drawn to language and stories. They began to write when they realized that the best guarantee to see more books with queer characters was to create them. Alex cares deeply about social justice and wants to see diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ protagonists, in more than the stereotypical coming out story.
Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexHarrowSFF or visit their website at alexharrow.com.