Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

Spec Shelf: Nicole Brinkley Takes You Inside Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston!

Excited to introduce a brand new monthly feature on LGBTQReads today called Spec Shelf, where Nicole Brinkley of the former Queership blog chats with authors about their queer SFF titles! Take it away, Nicole!

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Welcome to Spec Shelf, the little corner of LGBTQ Reads where I talk to authors about their queer science-fiction and fantasy books. Today, we’re peeking into Ashley Poston’s Heart of Iron, one of my favorite books to release so far this year.

Described as “Anastasia in space,” Heart of Iron follows a ragtag group aboard the spaceship the Dossier: Ana, found floating in space as a child; Di, the glitching android found with her; Jax, the pilot from an unknown planet; and Robb, a royal who needs their help.

Together, they’re crossing the galaxy to try to find a spaceship that might not exist—Robb to find his long-lost father and Ana to save Di from his glitches. Ashley’s writing reads like a movie script, as fast-paced and clear as your favorite sci-fi flick. And much like your favorite sci-fi flick, there is undoubtedly a character you will fall in love with. Favorites as a whole seem to be Jax and Di, but the character that earned my heart? The indomitable Captain Siege, pirate leader of the Dossier.

Learn a little bit about Captain Siege and her wife Talle in the excerpt below—and keep reading for an interview between Ashley and me, where we chat about Heart of Iron, asexual representation, queer pirate girls and Hogwarts houses.

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At the head of the table, beside the captain, Talle—short and thin, with black hair in a pixie cut and hands so steady she could slit a throat clean while navigating the skyways of Nevaeh—sliced a piece of bread in half with one of the dozen knives from her belt, and buttered it. Siege leaned forward and ate it out of her hand. “Sunshine! That was mine.”

“Ours,” Siege replied, kissing her, and played her hand— three twos. No one called Wicked against the captain. No one ever did. Except Talle.

Talle and Siege had been married longer than Ana had been part of the Dossier. She always wondered how they’d met, but it was a secret—like Siege’s last name.

Di once said that it seemed surprising that two people who were so opposite could fall in love, but he didn’t see that while Siege was the flame, Talle was the shadow. One could not exist without the other.

Ana wished she could explain it. She wondered, often, if he would feel the same about her if he was programmed to have emotions.

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Now here’s the interview!

Nicole: Let’s skip the whole shebang about “what is your book about” and “tell me about your characters” and dive straight into the fun stuff.

Ashley: Ugh, do I have to?

Nicole: You knew what you signed up for.

Ashley: Fine, fine, LET’S SKIP ALL THE GOOD PARTS AND GO STRAIGHT TO THE SPOILERS. SO, THE FIRST PERSON TO DIE IS—

Nicole: If you touch my favorite can-opener robot E0S, I’ll never forgive you.

Ashley: I can live with that.

Nicole: There are many incredible characters in Heart of Iron—though our resident tiny robot is likely my favorite—and many incredible character dynamics. Watching relationships shift and grow as the book goes on was one of my favorite bits, especially between Jax and Robb. I know Jax wasn’t even supposed to be a POV character, originally. What was creating their dynamic like?

Ashley: I love character interactions. I think I love writing it because of fanfiction, to be honest. Character studies and all. And I knew going into Heart of Iron, a good chunk of the story would be unremarkable (it’s a “lost royal” trope—we all know how those go), so I wanted to make the characters the story, not the trope itself. And to do that I wanted to make engaging characters. Robb was one of those characters who was an antagonist in one draft, and then a martyr in the next, but he never quite fit very well in any of those roles. He didn’t really come into himself until he met this snarky starship pilot, and then I kind of realized—oh, he’s not any of those things. He’d been screaming at me for so long that I kind of tuned him out, and then when I finally let him go he became this multifaceted character who had lost his father, and who was unsure of his future, and who wanted to do good, but he always seemed to do it wrong.

Nicole: I feel like a lot of modern media—even with all of the steps we’ve made in positive queer representation—still tend to box queer characters into this corner if being That One Thing and not a multifaceted character, especially when written by straight authors. It’s one of the things I love about reading queer SFF—and, of course, fanfiction, which fixes many of the limitations of traditional media.

Ashley: That is really true—and even as a queer woman myself I started to box my characters into one archetype or another. I think, to be honest, it’s a lazy way to earn cookie points. You can have queer rep! But they’re only ONE thing! And it’s fine. I mean, it’s fine. But there came a point in writing Heart of Iron where it wasn’t fine anymore for me. I’ve been writing this book for six years, and during those six years I grew as a person and came into myself, and you can see that through the drafts. Also, I have to add that while I’m a queer woman, I don’t assume to know the trials and tribulations of gay male characters. I had sensitivity readers on Robb and Jax, and their story isn’t about their gayness. That isn’t my story to write. They’re characters who are gay in Heart of Iron—and definitely not the only ones—but their story isn’t about their gayness.

Nicole: And the world of Heart of Iron isn’t one that fixates on their gayness, either. It’s populated by queer characters. Which brings me to my non-robotic favorite character. You know her. You love her. Captain Siege.

Ashley: THE CAPTAIN’S IN THE HOUSSSEEE. I love Captain Siege. And her wife.

Nicole: And her wife Talle! They both play hugely important roles in Heart of Iron, both as Ana’s family unit and as rational heads in a time where all of our POV characters are under extreme emotional duress. How much can you talk about them without completely spoiling your (just-announced!) second book?

Ashley: Well, I can definitely say they’ve seen their fair share of OH MY GODDESS THE WORLD IS ENDING moments, so nothing really surprises them anymore. There will be a lot more about Siege and Talle’s past, how they met, and how that factors into some of the bigger revelations in Heart of Iron.

Nicole: I love nothing more than queer pirate girls.

Ashley: Me, too. I love stories with kickass queer female role models for the main characters. I think that’s important—especially in YA where parents are either dead, MIA, or just not written on the page.

Nicole: That age-old trope—in both anime and YA—really open up the opportunity for teens to explore. It’s much easier without formal adult supervision around. Though Siege does try to reign Ana’s overzealous nature in where she can.

Ashley: Note: she tries. Ana’s like a bottle rocket—she’s going to fly off somewhere, it’s just a matter of where, and there’s no stopping her. I did an event the other day where I had to sort Ana into a Hogwarts House, and I instantly said Gryffindor, but then a friend shouted Slytherin and I was like… OH. She kind of embodies both? She turns, really, from one to the other.

Nicole: Her loyalty to Di could be argued as either a Gryffindor or Slytherin trait—though I think she reveals her true colors as to which House she would belong to as Heart of Iron comes to a close.

Ashley: Yeah, she goes full Hufflepuff—JUST KIDDING. Di’s the only Hufflepuff. Bless him.

Nicole: You mentioned at your launch party that Di is the character you found easiest to write, and I know you put a bit of yourself in Ana as well, though it’s not officially canon in Heart of Iron, in terms of your own queer identity.

Ashley: Well, if we’re talking about things not “officially being canon” then neither Siege nor Talle nor Robb nor Jax are “canon” because they don’t officially state, “HEY, I’M GAY!”

Nicole: Though I would love to see a rainbow flag flown outside the spaceship.

Ashley: HA! Jax would be in charge of the glitter because he’d just like to ruin everyone else’s day. But yeah, the terms for gay/straight/ace don’t exist in the world of Heart of Iron, because there was never a need to put a word to it. I wanted to imagine a world where that was never an issue, where religious reasons didn’t dictate whether you could marry or love someone of the same sex. I guess that’s wish fulfillment on my end, but I think that’s why I love fiction. You can always write the what-ifs, and impossible things are no longer really that impossible.

Nicole: I think that, when using labels in speculative fiction, it can become complicated. You don’t want sexualities to be erased, which is one of my biggest fears when it comes to aces in fantasy—it’s so easy to ignore a character coded as ace as a “shy straight person,” whatever that means—but that wish fulfillment can be incredibly satisfying and allow further headcanons to be developed, especially when you’re like me and think romantic identity is just a series of question marks because gender and sexuality have no impact on who I fall for.

Ashley: Exactly, and one thing I had to wrestle with in writing Heart of Iron. If you don’t say it, or explicitly talk about it, does it exist in speculative fiction? And then there is author intention vs. execution, and I think this is a good place to segue back to Ana’s identity. I, for the most part, fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum. And I wrote Ana to fall somewhere on there, too. (“But Ashley!” someone is bound to say—and this isn’t a spoiler—“There’s kissing!” to which I want to remind everyone that just because you identify as asexual doesn’t mean you are banned from kissing people.)

Nicole: I’m on the ace spectrum and I love kissing and cuddling.

Ashley: Same! I love kissing, and I love holding hands, and being close to someone, and Ana does that a lot. And for me, that was the only way I knew how to put a little of myself into Ana. How I could show her sexuality like I did for Robb and Jax, Siege and Talle. For me, at least, just to see a character love someone so deeply, without some of the more sexual attractions, was important. That was really, really important to me.

Nicole: All of these relationships—Ana and Di, Jax and Robb, Siege and Talle, me and resident can-opener robot E0S—shape the world of Heart of Iron. What fictional relationships shaped your own writing? Oh, yes. We’re talking ships.

Ashley: THERE ARE A LOT OF SHIPS. I am from the land of fandom and fanfics. I love characters with interesting dynamics—I think they make the strongest OTPs, to be honest. And most of my strongest OTPs are not sexually-charged in nature, but come from a place of snarky quips and electric conversation. (Oh hi baby queer Ash, here’s your clue.) Artemis Fowl and Holly Short, for instance, and Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. I also really love some non-canon OTPs, too. Yuugi and Yami Yuugi from Yu-Gi-Oh!; Hermione and her own ambition, because we know she wouldn’t settle; Rei and Makoto in Sailor Moon

Nicole: Oh, Artemis and Holly! One of our first bonding moments as friends was our mutual love of those two—and you and I have similar preferences with romantic non-sexually-charged ships. Let’s wrap this interview up before we write an entire essay: is there anything else you want folks to know about Heart of Iron?

Ashley: Ha! Hmmm, well, let’s see. Heart of Iron is a story about a lost royal princess—yes, that’s true. There’s no disguising that, really (ha!). I never went into Heart of Iron hoping to rewrite the trope. Some people will like it, and some people won’t, and that’s with anything you read, you know? I guess what I’m saying is, I wrote Heart of Iron to explore the characters within the story—Ana and Di and Robb and Jax—and how they interact. I wanted to tell a story of characters coming together, of their complex relationships, of being the good you wish to see in the world, and of being frightened to be that good sometimes. I wanted to write a story about home—about the people that make it, and the people you have to leave behind to find it, and I hope you find your home, too, in the Iron Kingdom.

Heart of Iron is available now. Buy the book from Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or Book Depository. To learn more about the book, visit Ashley’s website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

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Nicole Brinkley has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. She is an independent bookseller and blogger found most often at YA Interrobang and the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog. Like what she does? Follow her on Twitter or Instagram and support her on Patreon.

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Under the Gaydar: Hide and Gay Seek

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

This terribly titled edition is dedicated to books with gay and bi male characters, and I really am sorry for the horrible pun. And yes, some of these books are well known as queer, but part of the point of this series is to help people find books they can safely bring home. So, stock up!

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Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley – an agoraphobic boy is befriended by a girl he doesn’t realize is using him as a psych project to pad her college applications…and he’s also crushing on her boyfriend.

Proxy by Alex London – probably the best-known queer YA sci-fi duology of all time, for good reason! But there’s nothing in the blurb that suggests Syd and Knox have anything more than a business relationship…

Satellite by Nick Lake – A teen boy who was born in space makes his first trip to Earth and finds himself questioning his sexuality while he’s at it!

And I Darken by Kiersten White – This trilogy may be best known for the ruthless and hetero Lada, but her brother Radu very much has his own POV. And while the blurb tells the truth of him making a close friend in Mehmed, the text makes it rainbow clear that those are not Radu’s only feelings by a long shot.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera – I know for most of us, just the name “Adam Silvera” on a cover is a dead giveaway, but the cover reads like a friendship story, and it definitely is that too. (Just, you know, between a bi guy and a gay guy who totally fall for each other.)

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro – Not only is this excellent debut about a gay Black boy who’s forced to become even more political after a tragedy under the gaydar, but it is so, so inclusive in its secondary cast, it will make your heart explode in all the ways.

Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert – This is a beautiful contemporary about an artistic Asian boy named Danny whose friend group is recovering from the loss of their own and just happens to be in love with his best friend.

Coda by Emma Trevayne – This Dystopian sci-fi with a bi MC does refer to romance in the blurb, but it’s only to the one Anthem currently has with a girl. There’s no mention of the ex-boyfriend who’s still very much in his life, for better or for worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Recs From Erin Ptah: Sci-Fi Webcomics With Same-Sex Couples

Welcome back to Erin Ptah this #WebcomicWednesday, bringing us Sci-Fi webcomics with same-sex couples!

*****

More webcomic recs, because you can never have too many.

I was trying to come up with an all-m/m list, but had trouble grouping my favorites into sets of 5 that had any coherent sub-theme. So instead, here’s a mix of m/m and f/f, in a genre I could sit around reccing all day.

(As usual, if there’s a theme or topic you want to see in a future reclist, just ask! And feel free to leave your own recs in the comments.)

Today’s theme: Sci-fi webcomics with same-sex couples!


sample-buyingtime

(1) Buying Time by Casey J

When Vinnie Smalls, a lonesome welder working for the Hyperion City Core, finds he has a crush on a fellow co-worker, he must break away from his usual loner lifestyle and dive headfirst into the inner workings of the Daily Leisure Credit system.

Cyberpunk romance, complete. In a futuristic city where everything is monitored and social interactions are automatically billed, Vinnie would love to get a music career going, but finds himself working extra shifts because otherwise he literally can’t afford to talk to his crush. (Gavin would love to pick up the cost more often, but that just makes Vinnie feel even more awkward.)

Self-consciousness aside, the romance is pretty straightforward and uncomplicated, with most of the conflict coming from the worldbuilding around them. Great integrated use of Flash animation that highlights the sci-fi setting (blinking lights! glowing neon!) without being distracting.

NSFW sex scenes in the later chapters.


sample-sylvania

(2) Sylvania by Kristin Kemper

Sylvania is a story about three sisters who are members of an ancient clan of tree witches. As they learn to use the magical powers they were born with, they’ll each embark on their own path from the deepest heart of the forest into unknown adventures far beyond its borders.

Sci-fi/fantasy, ongoing. The official summary totally buries the lede, which is that it’s about witches getting recruited to help terraform Mars.

Earth has several different witch clans, including tree-witches, bird-witches, and fish-witches. There’s an existing Mars colony, but it’s populated mostly by star-witches and non-magical scientists, none of whom have the skillsets necessary for full-on terraforming. The recruitment effort gets complicated by a romance between Juniper, one of the tree-witch sisters, and a star-witch born on Mars.

Lovely soft textured art style, with special attention paid to natural details and magical special effects. It’s (deliberately?) more suited to the forest and undersea settings of the early chapters than high-tech spaceships and cities, so I’m looking forward to what it does with the Mars terrain.


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(3) O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti

Alastair Sterling was the inventor who sparked the robot revolution. And because of his sudden death, he didn’t see any of it. That is, until he wakes up 16 years later in a robot body that matches his old one exactly.

Sci-fi romance/drama, ongoing. Explores the future through Al’s new eyes, while using flashbacks to reveal the early development of robotics and his relationship with his partner, Brendan. Al’s unexpected death left a lot of unresolved conflicts (notably, how Brendan wanted to come out and Al didn’t), which makes everything extra-fraught when the apparently-perfect robot duplicate seeks him out.

During the intervening years Brendan has made his own attempts to build a replacement-Al, which is why he already has a robot with a similar personality…who thinks like a teenager and identifies as a girl. She treats Brendan as a father and Al as a kind of legendary hero come to life, which only makes his situation weirder.

Slow and deliberate pace — it’s been running for 6 years and we still don’t know who brought Al back, or why — but it reads like it was planned that way, not like it’s been dragged-out. Nice use of limited palette to distinguish the different time periods and put emphasis where the artist wants it.


sample-tryinghuman

(4) Trying Human by Emy Bitner

New York City secretary Rose catches the interest of Hue, an empathetic Grey, and his funny friend, Quazky, a Reptoid alien from a neighboring mothership. Using a device, the trying human circuit, the two friends infiltrate Rose’s life and the human world.

Sci-fi drama, ongoing. Classic Men-in-Black-and-aliens mythos, complete with flashbacks to Area-51-type shenanigans in the ’40s. Rose has a human sometimes-boyfriend and keeps getting her memories wiped, but her bond with Hue keeps reasserting itself.

While Rose and Hue are developing their ambiguously-romantic friendship (insert your own “greyromantic” puns here), Longus, a Reptoid who’s been living in disguise on Earth, ends up moving much faster with a cute young human named Don. Which is lucky for Don, because if Longus hadn’t come to the rescue he would’ve been mugged, and if Longus’ interest had been slightly different he would’ve been eaten.


sample-relativity

(5) Relativity by Beck Kramer

In the near future, Irina Novak sets off on the first manned lightspeed flight, with unexpected consequences to herself and her marriage.

Sci-fi drama, on unscheduled indefinite hiatus. It’s short, so I can’t go into much detail without spoiling all the plot that’s happened so far. Suffice to say it has time dilation, authority figures with common sense, married lesbians with an increasingly complicated relationship, and beautiful detailed realistic drawings of spacecraft.

If you like serious sci-fi and don’t mind cliffhangers, give it a look.


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (with same-sex pairings and Sufficiently Advanced Technology) and Leif & Thorn (m/m-centric, mostly fantasy, but there’s a Space AU). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

Valentine’s Day Reads for Under $5!

You know what’s awesome about capital-R Romance? (And capital-E Erotica?) You don’t need a Valentine’s date to enjoy ’em! Here’s a shopping list of some great Valentine’s Day reads all over the map in terms of length, genre, and rep, and all under five bucksno reservations, champagne, or chocolate hearts required.

(Trans rep has been noted with a T, for those specifically looking!)

Free

Catalysts by Kris Ripper (m/m/m, contemporary)

Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price (m/m, paranormal)

Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins (m/m, contemporary NA)

Queerly Loving, vol. 1, ed. by G. Benson and  Astrid Ohletz (anthology)

$0.99

Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant (m/f, T, paranormal)

Team Phison by Chace Verity (m/m, contemporary)

My Heart is Ready by Chace Verity (f/f, fantasy)

A Night at the Mall by M. Hollis (f/f, contemporary)

In Memoriam by Nathan Burgoine (m/m, contemporary)

Daybreak Rising by Kiran Oliver (f/f, fantasy)

Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau (f/f, sci-fi)

A Special Delivery by Laura Bilo (m/m, contemporary, holiday)

Mothmen by Kaelan Rhywiol (m/m/f, paranormal BDSM)

After Midnight by Santino Hassell (m/m, sci-fi)

The Disastrous Debut of Agatha Tremain by Stephanie Burgis (f/f, fantasy)

The Cuffs, Collars, and Love series by Christa Tomlinson (m/m, price is per book)

 

$1.50-1.99

Sparks Fly by Llinos Catheryn Thomas (f/f, sci-fi)

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown (f/f, contemporary YA)

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman (f/f, contemporary)

Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans (m/nb, contemporary)

The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian (m/m, historical)

Deep Deception by Cathy Pegau (f/f, sci-fi)

Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live by Sacha Lamb (m/m, T, fabulist YA)

 

$2.99

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (f/f, contemporary YA)

A Matter of Disagreement by e.e. Ottoman (m/m, steampunk, T)

Roller Girl by Vanessa North (f/f, contemporary, T)

In Her Court by Tamsen Parker (f/f, contemporary)

The Good Listener by Delilah Fisher (m/f/f, contemporary erotica short)

Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley (f/f, contemporary YA)

HeartOn by Amy Jo Cousins (m/m, contemporary)

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (f/f, contemporary YA)

So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon (m/f, contemporary)

Fleur de Nuit by Cat Montmorency (f/f, contemporary)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver (f/f/f, SFF, T)

Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown (f/f, contemporary)

Forget Her Not by Elle Spencer (f/f, contemporary)

Shatterproof by Xen Sanders (m/m, paranormal)

Defying Convention by Cecil Wilde (m/nb, contemporary)

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall (m/m, contemporary YA)

Lipstick Stain by Cheyenne King (f/f, contemporary erotica short)

Cloaked in Shadow by Ben Alderson (m/m, fantasy YA)

No Rulebook For Love by Laura Bailo (m/m, T, contemporary)

 

$3.99

Of All the Girls by Michele L. Rivera (f/f, contemporary)

The Doctor’s Discretion by e.e. Ottoman (m/m,  historical, T)

Start Here: Short Stories of First Encounters ed. by Ronald S. Lim and Brigitte Bautista (anthology)

Coffee Boy by Austin Chant (m/m, T, contemporary NA)

Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler (f/f, contemporary NA)

True Letters From a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan (m/m, contemporary YA)

Secret Heart by Danielle Dreger (f/f, contemporary YA)

Think of England by K.J. Charles (m/m, historical)

Villains Don’t Date Heroes by Mia Archer (f/f, sci-fi)

Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker (m/m, contemporary)

Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker (f/f, contemporary)

Daring Fate by Megan Erickson (m/m, paranormal)

Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas (f/f, contemporary YA)

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis (m/m, contemporary YA/NA)

A&B by JC Lillis (f/f, contemporary YA/NA)

Just Business by Anna Zabo (m/m, contemporary)

The Final Rose by Eliza Lentzki (f/f, contemporary)

Overexposed by Megan Erickson (m/m, contemporary NA)

Wild by Hannah Moskowitz (m/f, contemporary YA)

3 by Hannah Moskowitz (f/m/f, contemporary YA)

Darkling by Brooklyn Ray (m/m, T, fantasy)

 

$4.49-$4.61

The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer (f/f, contemporary NA)

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (f/f, contemporary YA)

Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger (m/m, contemporary YA, T)

What it Looks Like by Matthew J. Metzger (m/m, contemporary, T)

 

$4.99

Style by Chelsea Cameron (f/f, contemporary YA)

Chord by Chelsea Cameron (f/f, contemporary NA)

Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn (f/f, fantasy, T)

Strong Signal, Fast Connection, Hard Wired, and Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell (m/m, contemporary)

The Butch and the Beautiful by Kris Ripper (f/f, contemporary)

The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper (m/f, contemporary, T)

Heart of the Steal by Avon Gale and Roan Parrish (m/m, contemporary)

Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon (f/f, contemporary NA)

Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo (m/m/f, contemporary)

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale (f/f, contemporary)

Hold Me by Courtney Milan (m/f, contemporary NA, T)

Illegal Contact and Down By Contact by Santino Hassell (m/m, contemporary)

Rum Spring by Yolanda Wallace (f/f, contemporary)

Queerly Loving: Volume One ed. by G. Benson and Astrid Ohletz (anthology)

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw (f/f, paranormal)

Takeover by Anna Zabo (m/m, contemporary)

Documenting Light by e.e. Ottoman (m/nb, contemporary)

Casting Lacey by Elle Spencer (f/f, contemporary)

Far From Home by Lorelie Brown (f/f, contemporary)

An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale (f/f, YA contemporary)

Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances by Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole, and Rose Lerner (has f/f and m/m stories, historical)

The Violet Hill series by Chelsea Cameron (3 f/f stories)

 

Cover + Excerpt Reveal For Sparks Fly by Llinos Cathryn Thomas

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.

And here’s the cover! 

Sparks Fly Cover - Llinos Cathryn Thomas

Buy it!

Excerpt 

The door opened. ‘Ms Gordon?’

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.

Connect with her on Twitter and Tumblr!

 

New Releases: December 2017

If the Fates Allow, ed. by Annie Harper (1st)

During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Lynn Charles, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson, and Lilah Suzanne share their stories about the magic of the season.

“Gracious Living Magazine Says It Must Be a Live Tree” by Killian B. Brewer
Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.

“True North” by Pene Henson
Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.

“Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille” by Erin Finnegan
As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

“Halfway Home” by Lilah Suzanne
Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.

“Shelved” by Lynn Charles
When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.

Buy it: Interlude Press

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (5th)

The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.

At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.

To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.

If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.

Buy it:  Apex * Amazon * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords

Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron (5th)

The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.

Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive, and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.

Buy it: Entangled

Cloaked in Shadow by Ben Alderson (5th)

Zacriah Trovirn is concerned with two things in life: hunting and dodging Petrer, the boy who broke his heart.

Heartbreak becomes a distant concern when Zacriah is taken to the Elven capital of Thessolina, where he is forced into King Dalior’s new legion of shapeshifters. But Zacriah isn’t a shapeshifter. In truth, he doesn’t know what he is.

Zacriah joins forces with new friends and they soon find themselves embroiled in a clash between the three Elven continents. With war looming on the horizon, Zacriah must learn to use his latent power to fight and protect those he loves before they are destroyed.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Tailor-Made by Yolanda Wallace (12th)

Before Grace Henderson began working as a tailor in her father’s bespoke suit shop in Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn, she established a hard and fast rule about not dating clients. The edict is an easy one for her to follow, considering the overwhelming majority of the shop’s clients are men. But when Dakota Lane contacts her to commission a suit to wear to her sister’s wedding, Grace finds herself tempted to throw all the rules out the window.

Dakota Lane works as a bicycle messenger by day and moonlights as a male model. Her high-profile career, gender-bending looks, and hard-partying ways garner her plenty of romantic attention, but she would rather play the field than settle down. When she meets sexy tailor Grace Henderson, however, she suddenly finds herself in the market for much more than a custom suit.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Freed by Flame and Storm by Becky Allen (12th)

Revolution is nigh, and one seventeen-year-old girl stands at the head of it all.

Jae used to be a slave, laboring with the rest of her people under a curse that forced her to obey any order she was given. At seventeen, she found the source of her people’s lost magic and became the only person to break free—ever. Now she wants to use her power to free the rest of her people, but the ruling class will do anything to stop her.

Jae knows that breaking the curse on her people would cause widespread chaos, even unimaginable violence between the castes, and her caste would likely see the worst of it. Many would die. But to let them remain shackled is to doom them to continue living without free will.

How is one girl, raised a slave and never taught to wield power, supposed to decide the fate of a nation?

(Note: this is a sequel to a non-LGBTQ book, and contains f/f romance)

Buy it: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Penguin Random House *IndieBound

Right Here, Right Now by Georgia Beers (12th)

Accountant and financial advisor Lacey Chamberlain doesn’t consider herself a control freak. She’s merely a planner—orderly, neat, and content in her tidy little life. When a marketing firm moves into the empty office next door, the loud-music-playing, stinky-food-ordering, kickball-in-the-hall staff make Lacey crazy.

Marketing expert Alicia Wright is spontaneous, flies by the seat of her pants, and lives in the moment—all the things Lacey is not. She’s also gorgeous, thoughtful, and seems determined to make Lacey like her.

They say opposites attract, but for how long? And is that really a good idea?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo (18th)

Buy it: Riptide

Three Sides of a Heart, ed. by Natalie C. Parker (19th)

These top YA authors tackle the much-debated trope of the love triangle, and the result is sixteen fresh, diverse, and romantic stories you don’t want to miss.

This collection, edited by Natalie C. Parker, contains stories written by Renee Ahdieh, Rae Carson, Brandy Colbert, Katie Cotugno, Lamar Giles, Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagan, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, EK Johnston, Julie Murphy, Garth Nix, Natalie C. Parker, Veronica Roth, Sabaa Tahir, and Brenna Yovanoff.

A teen girl who offers kissing lessons. Zombies in the Civil War South. The girl next door, the boy who loves her, and the girl who loves them both. Vampires at a boarding school. Three teens fighting monsters in an abandoned video rental store. Literally the last three people on the planet.

(Note: this is not an LGBTQ anthology, but a significant number of the contributions are. Representation includes but is not limited to lesbian, bisexual, genderqueer, and polyamorous.)

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

New Releases: October 2017

The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake (2nd)

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.

Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.

This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?

Buy it: Entangled * Amazon * B&N

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (3rd)

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore (3rd)

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno (3rd)

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

27 Hours by Tristina Wright (3rd)

28526192Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera (3rd)

51bswbsl2bbl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Even gods can be slain

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (3rd)

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

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

Not Your Villain by CB Lee (5th)

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Sightlines by Santino Hassell (9th)

This is the 3rd book in the Community series.

Chase Payne is a walking contradiction. He’s the most powerful psychic in the Community, but the least respected. He’s the son of the Community’s founder, but with his tattoo sleeves and abrasive attitude, he’s nothing like his charismatic family. No one knows what to make of him, which is how he wound up locked in a cell on the Farm yet again. But this time, the only man he’s ever loved is there too.

Elijah Estrella was used to being the sassy sidekick who fooled around with Chase for fun. But that was before he realized the Community wasn’t the haven he’d believed in and Chase was the only person who’d ever truly tried to protect him. Now they’re surrounded by people who want to turn them against their friends, and the only way out is to pretend the brainwashing works.

With Chase playing the role of a tyrant’s second-in-command, and Elijah acting like Chase’s mindless sex toy, they risk everything by plotting a daring escape. In the end, it’s only their psychic abilities, fueled by their growing love for each other, that will allow them to take the Community down once and for all.

Buy it: Riptide | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington (9th)

NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.

Brash and loud Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.

Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary… until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe… marriage He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta (10th)

9780763691646

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

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

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski (10th)

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (17th)

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks

Like Water by Rebecca Podos (17th)

In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.

That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.

Buy it: HarperCollins * B&N * Amazon * Target

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis (17th)

Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people–the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they’ve ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.

When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.

An intricately woven story told in three parts, award-winning Australian author Will Kostakis makes his American debut with this heartwarming, masterfully written novel about grief, self-discovery and the connections that tie us all together.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

City of Betrayal by Claudie Arsenault (22nd)

36199941The whole city is searching for Hasryan—some for revenge and justice, others to save their friends. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return.

Lord Diel Dathirii’s struggle to free his city from the neighbouring imperialistic enclave is far from over. Enemies gather around him, and without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres, he must place his fate in Lower City residents. Little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.

Changing Colors by Elyse Springer (23rd)

Tony Quinn has a knack for figuring people out. He likes labels, likes to be able to put everyone and everything in tidy boxes. As a theater director, it allows him to run a production without too much drama. But when he meets Gentry—“call me Gee”—in a bar one night, he discovers that some people aren’t so easily defined.

Gee Parnell is unlike anyone Tony has ever met before. He refuses to conform—to Tony’s expectations, or to society’s gender roles. He’s sexy and flirtatious, unapologetic and unashamed. And Tony isn’t sure he’s okay with that. So he breaks things off and escapes back into his well-ordered life.

But then an attack leaves Gee bloody and bruised, and Tony realizes that he isn’t ready to lose him. Not only is the passion between them off the charts, but Gee shows him a different way of understanding people. However, an exciting new job opportunity means that Tony has to decide between hiding his sexuality and his relationship with Gee, and his newfound appreciation for the color and beauty Gee brings to his life.

Buy it: Riptide * Amazon

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns (31st)

27056577Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

There’s a glorious future in piracy…if they can survive long enough.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Better Know an Author: C.B. Lee

I am beyond psyched to have this month’s featured author on the site, because ICYMI, I am a pretty tremendous fangirl of Not Your Sidekick, and in case you’re not familiar with C.B. Lee, she’s a seriously kickass human. Not Your Sidekick actually first crossed my radar at the Romantic Times conference in 2016, where every Interlude Press author was also handing out swag for this title; it was clear she was an author they wanted to support! So of course, I had to check it out, and if you haven’t yet read it, please put this series on your to-read list: it’s so much fun, the romance is adorable, the characters and their friendship is great, and the representation is diverse and amazing.

But enough of listening to me babble; please welcome C.B. Lee!

It’s been so much fun seeing how much love and attention Not Your Sidekick has gotten! (See: Gay YA Book Club, WoC in Romance book club, Bisexual Book Awards, Lambda Awards…) What was the coolest part of your publication experience and what was your biggest surprise?

I was so overwhelmed to the response to the book being announced! It was kind of incredible how the original cover reveal with the summary really took offover the first weekend on Tumblr it hit over 5000+ notes and I was just like whoa! I’d looked through the tags and it was really such a response: people were excited Jess was Asian American, people were excited that the romance was between two girls, and I was just stunned and just so happy and grateful.

Publishing Not Your Sidekick has been an amazing journey. I think the readers are the best part of the experience, from meeting readers at book festivals and conventions to readers reaching out to me personally to talk about how much the story resonated with them, whether it was Jess feeling like not quite one or the other in terms of being Chinese-Vietnamese American, to her being the middle child and being overshadowed by her siblings, to being bisexual, and the story in general.

The biggest surprise was just seeing people respond to the novel! I had no idea it would become a thing, and I’m so happy people are enjoying it. I was really honored to be nominated for the Lambda Literary Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, too!

I am so excited that the gang will be returning for a sequel called Not Your Villain. What can you tell us about it?

 It’s been so much fun to write in Bells’ perspective! Not Your Villain actually starts off a little before the timeline when you meet Jess in the first novel. I’m really excited to finally share what was going on during Not Your Sidekick when Bells kept disappearing on Jess and Emma. We’ll learn all about his superhero origins and more about the inner workings of the Heroes’ League of Heroes, and then we move forward with Bells and his friends as they start off on a mission to find the Resistance and deal with things that they think the adults aren’t prioritizing.

More info on Not Your Villain at my website!

For those who are just finding you now via Not Your Sidekick, can you describe your previous novel, Seven Tears at High Tide, in five words?

Selkies, magic, bisexuals, first love!

You keep some great writing tips on your site. What’s been the best source of craft education for you, and what’s some of your favorite advice?

I think there’s something to learn from everyone, and the Internet is such a great resource. As far as research goes in facts and worldbuilding, it makes it easy to search for anything and learn all about it, from how popular a word was in a historical era and to seasons in countries and anything and everything in between.

As far as craft, I think writing is different for everyone, so writing tips will vary. What will work for some people won’t work for other people, and it’s easy to get disheartened if you see a piece of writing advice, especially if it’s not your style and doesn’t work for you and to see other people swear by it. But as far as any advice goes, I would say to read broadly because there are so many resources, and just pick and choose what works for you. I’ve reblogged and organized a number of different writing posts on my Tumblr, and have also written a few ideas as well, but I don’t think there’s an end-all-be-all of writing advice in terms of craft.

I do have a favorite piece of advice from Erin Bow:

“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”

This is really reassuring to me, about how your efforts efforts are not wasted. In writing a lot of work goes unseen: first drafts with huge chunks thrown out, paragraphs deleted, characters rebuilt from the ground up. Everything you do, whether it’s writing character bios or imagining them in alternate universes, or writing almost entire drafts one way and having to do it another way,  it’s part of the learning process and just adds to your overall skill and ability as a writer.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

I think the message of hope is a persistent one I’ve seen across genres, and I think that’s so important. The fact that these novels exist and readers can identify with the characters and say I’m here, I’m seen and just have all kinds of stories is so powerful. And I love that I’m starting to see more and more people who want stories with happy endings, stories that are fluffy and cute, stories where the main conflict has nothing to do with their identity.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?

I have so many favorites! Malinda Lo and Benjamin Alire Saenz are two authors whose works I love, and as far as recent favorites, I really adored FT Luken’s The Rules and Regulations of Mediating Myths and Magic. It’s a hilarious read and has a wonderful bisexual coming-out story as well as wonderfully complex and dynamic friendships and family relationships. (There’s also werewolves and Bigfoot and the end of the world, but it’s wonderful.

A few novels I’m looking forward to this fall include It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura, They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by EK Johnston, Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke, and A Line in The Dark by Malinda Lo!

What do you wear, listen to, read, and/or watch when you need to feel a little more like a superhero?

I love movie soundtracksPacific Rim has to be my all time favorite, I always feel ready to take on aliens and get in a giant robot when I listen to it, although it’s usually my writing action soundtrack. Other soundtracks that make me feel like a hero: Wonder Woman, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.

I also really love my leather lace-up boots. I would definitely go hero-ing in them.

You’ve got a lot of really beautiful representation in Not Your Sidekick, and I’m sure in Seven Tears at High Tide as well. What’s something it’s really important to you to show in your books?

It’s really important to me to show characters from different marginalized communities have adventures and fall in love and just do all the things straight white characters do.

Is your full name a total secret, or will we someday know the meaning behind “CB”? 

Carrie Beatrice!

Any idea what’s up next after Not Your Villain?

The next part of the adventure will be told from Emma’s perspective in Not Your Backup! I can’t say much other than the stakes will be raised! I’m also planning two short novellas within the universe, so look out for those!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! You can find me at the following:

*****

Preorder Not Your Villain

Interlude PressAmazonBarnes & NobleMysterious GalaxyTarget

C.B. Lee is a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American writer who also works in outdoor education in Los Angeles for low-income youth.

NOT YOUR SIDEKICK was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist for Best In YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction. SEVEN TEARS AT HIGH TIDE is the recipient of a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fantasy Romance and also was a finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards in the YA and Sci-Fi/ Speculative Fiction categories.

CB has been featured at literary events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Lambda Litfest’s Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience at the Chinese American Museum, YALLWEST and Pasadena Litfest as well as a guest at  popular panels and discussions such as DragonCon’s “LGBTQIA in YA” , “BiScifi: Queer Heroes in Science Fiction and More”, “The Craft of Dystopia”,  “Magic and Worldbuilding,”, WonderCon’s “Sisterhood of the Self-Sufficient,” Emerald City Comic Con’s “Diversity in Publishing,” and San Diego Comic Con’s “Super Asian America” and “Into the Fanzone!”

 

Shopper’s Delight: New LGBTQ YA Sales

Guessing at least most of these sales will only last until the end of the month, so get ’em while you can! (All links are Amazon affiliate.)

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Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler ($1.99)

Marian by Ella Lyons ($1.99)

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown ($1.99)

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson ($1.99)

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie ($1.99)

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate ($2.99)

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate ($2.99)

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake ($3.99)

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger ($3.99)

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore ($8.25, hardcover)

Better Know an Author: Laura Lam

This month’s featured author is the lovely Laura Lam, the brilliant mind behind several SFF series with queer main characters, spanning both YA and Adult categories. If you haven’t already read her work, now’s the time to learn more about it and pick it up!

It’s been quite the busy year for you! Multiple releases, loads of events across Europe… If you stand back for a second and take a breath to think about it, what’s been your favorite bookish moment of the year so far?

It has been an uncommonly busy year! I’ll never have this many releases in so short a space of time, I don’t think, as a few were due to delays as a result of changing publishers. I think my favourite bookish moment was going to Dutch Comic Con in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It was my first convention as an invited guest, and I also got to meet Gates McFadden (Doctor Beverly Crusher from Star Trek TNG). I gave her a copy of False Hearts and she ended up reading it, liking it, and now she follows me on Twitter. Win! It was also just a nice, friendly con and me, Zen Cho, and Vic James were all really well treated by The American Book Center, who helped organize our events.

You got your start with your Micah Grey trilogy, which was pretty unlike anything publishing had seen at the time, and also had a bit of a bumpy publication process. For those who don’t know about the process of getting all three books into the world, can you share that experience? And what was the reception to the series like from readers?

Micah Grey stars an intersex, bisexual, genderfluid lead. Back in 2012, there was fewer books that investigated the gender binary—in just a few years we now have so much more, and that’s brilliant! Most of them are still in contemporary YA, whereas the Micah Grey books are gaslight fantasy in a secondary world. I wrote it, not really thinking about how it might be hard to get published. I was very lucky in that it sold to the first and only publisher who saw it—Angry Robot Books, who were just about to start Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint. Pantomime came out a year later in 2013, and it had really nice reviews and a decent amount of buzz. I wrote the second book, Shadowplay, which came out in 2014, but a few weeks after it was released, my trilogy was cancelled and I was pretty devastated.

I’d always thought that the hardest part of writing was finishing the book, then getting a book out there. But actually, staying published and being able to have regular releases is a much greater challenge. I’d wondered if that was it. If I’d wasted my shot. I kept getting lovely messages from readers, many of whom were queer and/or investigating their own gender identity, and each one made me burst into tears as I was so sad because I didn’t know if the series would be finished. I kept trying to write it, but I was still heartbroken. I figured at some point I’d self-publish.

So I wrote something else—False Hearts. And I threw everything I had into it. It’s more violent so I channelled that frustration. It sold, and then my agent was like “well before you self-publish, let’s see if Tor UK want your trilogy too.” Turns out they did. I cried so, so many tears when I found out. It’d been like I’d been holding my breath for almost two years at that point. Now all three books are out and I’m just very grateful. I had to fight for it, but it was worth fighting for.

You’ve since jumped from YA to Adult, and fantasy to sci-fi, with your Pacifica series, beginning with False Hearts. Do you find your heart is in any one category and/or genre, or do you see yourself continuing to jump around, and why?

False Hearts was freeing because it was so very different to what I’d written before. I used to think I’d be rubbish at writing science fiction and thought my heart would always be with fantasy, but it turns out I was wrong and I love both equally. They each have different rewards and challenges. I don’t think I’ll ever write the same genre forever. I have ideas for more science fiction, a science fantasy duology, a time travel historical fantasy, and a book that’s not science fiction or fantasy at all. I like to keep trying new things.

Bisexual representation is something I think we can all agree is lacking in genre fiction, but definitely not in your books! Can you share a little bit about your bisexual characters, and how their sexuality fits into their worlds?

Pretty much all of my protagonists are bi. Micah Grey is bi, and so is his love interest, Drystan. Taema and Tila from False Hearts are bi. Carina’s love interest in Shattered Minds is a trans man, and though I don’t state her sexuality outright, I don’t think she’s straight. I am not sure if I know how to write a 100% straight protagonist. *shrug*

In Micah Grey, the world is very repressed and Victorian-inspired, so there is more hesitation and secrecy around sexuality there. In Pacifica, the world of False Hearts and Shattered Minds, it’s about 100 years in the future, and I made the deliberate choice to have all forms of sexuality and gender identity be no big deal whatsoever. There’s still some bigoted people, sure, but they’re fairly few and far between. It was nice write that. While there’s many things about that world I wouldn’t want to actually come true, I do hope that does.

You publish in both the US and UK, which means different pub dates, different covers…it almost looks like two totally different experiences. How do you balance doing promo and having publishers on both sides of the pond?

Only False Hearts and Shattered Minds have two different publishers. Micah Grey at the moment, only has a UK publisher but they distribute copies to the US, hence the slight delayed release of them (so there was time to ship). Balancing the promotion is definitely hard. Usually I end up doing two blog tours. I’m not able to get out to the states very often, though I’m going out this August and will be doing at least one event at Borderlands. I’m glad I have a presence on both sides of the pond, both where I grew up and where I live now.

In addition to your full-length novels, you’ve also published short fiction. What can you share about it?

I wrote the Vestigial Tales, which are prequel short stories and novellas in the same world, to teach myself how to self-publish back when I thought that was the way it was going to go. Writing them also helped me keep the love for that series alive as I recovered and wasn’t sure what the heck was going on with my career. They’re all prequels set in the same world. “The Snake Charm” is about one of the secondary characters, Drystan, in the Circus of Magic before Micah joins. “The Fisherman’s Net” is a short fable about a mermaid and the dangers of greed. “The Tarot Reader” is another character, Cyan’s, story in the circus she worked in before she’s introduced in Shadowplay, book two. “The Card Sharp” is another story about Drystan, about him being a Lerium drug addict and card sharp before joining the Circus of Magic. “The Mechanical Minotaur” I released this year, and it’s sort of like a non-racist Indian in the Cupboard meets Boy Cinderella, and doesn’t really feature any characters from the main series (but is still best read after Masquerade as a cap to the series).

Friends helped me edit, another friend made the covers (Dianna Walla, who was my childhood pen pal!), and I formatted them myself. The first Vestigial Tale is permanently free if anyone wants to check it out and it can be read before Pantomime.

On your blog, you share monthly posts about what books you’ve just read. What have your favorites been so far this year, and what are you really looking forward to for the remainder of 2017?

I try to read about 100 books a year, though I don’t always make it. I feel like reading a lot is a valuable part of market research. Plus it’s just really good for my soul.

Some of my favourites this year:

  • Duke of Shadows – Meredith Duran
  • Ghost Talkers – Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Tiny Pretty Things – Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra
  • The Seafarer’s Kiss – Julia Ember
  • Nasty Women – edited by 404 ink (disclaimer: I do have a story in this)
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal – Meredith Duran
  • Parable of the Talents & Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
  • The Space Between the Stars – Anne Corlett
  • Assassin’s Fate – Robin Hobb
  • The Radium Girls – Kate Moore

I’m very bad at planning what I’m going to read over the rest of the year. I know I really want to read Want by Cindy Pon! I’m also searching for a first person past tense book with an unreliable narrator to use for my First Person Module I teach at Napier, so next I’m reading His Bloody Murder by Graeme Macrae Burnet and The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ media that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

I internalised a lot of the biphobic things I saw in media. I thought I couldn’t be bi because I’ve only dated my boyfriend/now husband. The number one thing that annoys me is when they dance around saying bisexual. Certain people don’t want to put labels, and that’s fine, but every time I see a character who is clearly by say “oh I don’t like labels,” I do grind my teeth a little. I put “I’m bi” in False Hearts and have had almost 20 people email me thanking me for putting those two letters of B and I in a book, so I don’t think I’m the only one who feels the frustration. I want to see bi characters who are just as awesome and interesting as any other character.

What’s up next for you?

Who knows? That sounds flippant, but I’m in that awkward in between stage where I’ve finished my current contract but can’t quite pitch for more just yet as they’re waiting for False Hearts paperbacks sales (so buying a copy would be loooovely if the premise interests you!). I’m editing two books and hoping I can sell them in autumn.

*****

Photo credit: Elizabeth May

Originally from sunny California, Laura Lam now lives in cloudy Scotland. Lam is the author of BBC Radio 2 Book Club section False Hearts, the companion novel Shattered Minds, as well as the award-winning Micah Grey series PantomimeShadowplay, and Masquerade. Her short fiction and essays have also appeared in anthologies such as Nasty WomenSolaris Rising 3, Cranky Ladies of History, and more.  She lectures part-time at Napier University in Edinburgh on the Creative Writing MA.