Tag Archives: Transgender

Fave Five: LGBTQ Siblings in YA

Happy National Sibling Day!

Note: These are all books with allocishet MCs who have queer siblings. For sibling-centric YAs with queer MCs, go here.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Something Real by Heather Demetrios

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Bonus: Coming up next month, Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon

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Happy Transgender Day of Visibility!

Happy Transgender Day of Visibility! Looking for some great ways to celebrate? Here are some books and posts to check out:

Recent Releases

The Right Thing to Do at the Time by Dov Zeller

If Jane Austen and Sholem Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof) schemed in an elevator, this just might be their pitch. Ari is Elizabeth and Itche is Jane–and this Jewish, queer, New York City retelling of Pride and Prejudice is for everyone.

Ari Wexler, a trans guy in his late 20s, is barely scraping by. His family life is a mess, he feels like a failure when it comes to love, and his job at a music library is on the rocks. His relationship with Itche Mattes, his doting best friend, helps him get through the days. Then a famous actress comes to town and sweeps Itche off his feet, leaving her dreadful sidekick to step on Ari’s toes.

As Ari’s despair grows, a fascinating music project falls into his lap, and he s faced with a choice: to remain within his comfort zone, however small and stifling, or to take a risk that could bring meaning and joy to his life.

Buy it on Amazon

To My Trans Sisters by Charlie Craggs

Dedicated to trans women everywhere, this inspirational collection of letters written by successful trans women shares the lessons they learnt on their journeys to womanhood, celebrating their achievements and empowering the next generation to become who they truly are.

Written by politicians, scientists, models, athletes, authors, actors, and activists from around the world, these letters capture the diversity of the trans experience and offer advice from make-up and dating through to fighting dysphoria and transphobia.

By turns honest and heartfelt, funny and furious or beautiful and brave, these letters send a clear message of hope to their sisters: each of these women have gone through the struggles of transition and emerged the other side as accomplished, confident women; and if we made it sister, so can you!

Buy it on Amazon

Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant

Cecily lost her soulmate years ago, leaving her with nothing but the clockwork heart that once beat in Caroline’s chest. They say it’s impossible to bring back the dead, yet Cecily’s resurrection spell is nearly complete and grows more powerful by the day.

But when a cowboy she barely knows is fatally injured, the only way to save him is by sacrificing an essential piece of the resurrection spell—and all possibility of seeing her lover again.

Buy it on Amazon

Not Your Villain by CB Lee

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

Upcoming books to preorder

Little Fish by Casey Plett (May 1)

In this extraordinary debut novel by the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning story collection A Safe Girl to Love, Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman who comes across evidence that her late grandfather–a devout Mennonite farmer–might have been transgender himself. At first she dismisses this revelation, having other problems at hand, but as she and her friends struggle to cope with the challenges of their increasingly volatile lives–from alcoholism, to sex work, to suicide–Wendy is drawn to the lost pieces of her grandfather’s life, becoming determined to unravel the mystery of his truth. Alternately warm-hearted and dark-spirited, desperate and mirthful, Little Fish explores the winter of discontent in the life of one transgender woman as her past and future become irrevocably entwined.

Buy it on Amazon

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman (May 3)

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Buy it on Amazon

Books to add on Goodreads:

Guest Posts

Emi Louise Croucher Talks The Butterfly on Fire: a Novel of Being Transgender Before Transitioning

Finally Writing a Boy Like Me: a Guest Post by Devin Harnois

Rec Posts

Features with Trans/Non-Binary Authors

Previously Featured Books with Trans MCs

Guest Recs from Erin Ptah: Webcomics with Binary Trans Characters

Welcome back to Erin Ptah, who’s here with her sixth installment of webcomic recs!

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I started these recs with a set of webcomics featuring nonbinary characters, so it’s high time we got around to binary trans characters, don’t you think? Especially with Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.

As usual, I’m focusing these recs on characters whose transness has been indicated (even if only briefly) in the comic itself. Except for the first one, because it was too adorable to hold off.


(1) SpectraSpell by Lisa Harald

13 year old Vera has recently moved to the small town of Vättered, Sweden — a seemingly unremarkable place at first, but strange things are happening and everything might not be what it seems. SpectraSpell is a story about kids and magic, and what it really means to be different.

Modern fantasy, ongoing. Vera is an autistic tween girl who’s trying to figure out how much of what she does is “normal”…and “what she does” now includes seeing creepy-cool magical effects take over the scenery. The regular art is drawn in a nice clean manga style, all black-and-white lines and tones, which makes it especially striking when things switch into subtle greyscale watercolors.

Vera and her family have met a handful of locals, but so far the only other person who’s seen the magic is Linnéa — a chatty, friendly trans girl who clicked with Vera immediately. I love the way their personalities fit together, how Linnéa can be alternately pushy and gentle in a way that works really well for Vera.

The overall plot is shaping up to be, not a traditional magical-girl story, but one that hits a lot of the same tropes and will appeal to the same fans. Not to mention fans of anything that’s utterly charming.


(2) Chroma Key by Brandon Dumas & Laura Reyes

When Kim and her friends were young, they used to watch a show called SUPER FIGHTING MIGHTY FIGHTERS. It was kitschy and brightly colored and involved a lot of dubious costume work. After ten long years of growing up and moving on, they should be too old for such things. However, when a mysterious alien creature enters their lives, offering the opportunity to live out their childhood dreams and save the world in the process, the lure of the past may prove difficult to resist.

Sci-fi, ongoing. Cute multiracial group of kids grows up into a pack of young adults with highly #relatable levels of displacement and ennui. When a pseudo-Mighty Fighters transformation watch shows up in Kim’s room, she’s immediately on board. The rest of the group is…a lot more dubious.

Presumably they’ll rethink their suspicions when they meet their first monster.

Also, Fuchsia has figured out she’s a trans woman, Parker now describes their gender as the opening riff of “Welcome To The Jungle,” and deaf/signing Emily has gone full roller-derby lesbian. Good times.

Don’t pick this up expecting to jump right into the action scenes — it’s been updating regularly for most of a year, and our heroes still haven’t seen any aliens, much less gotten into any fights. No matter how those turn out, though, I’m really enjoying it for the characters, and how well the writing is capturing this particular headspace of [queer geeky] young-adulthood.


(3) Sanity Circus by Windy

Attley is a young girl in the strange city of Sanity. Things become stranger when her best friend turns out to be not what she seems, and soon discovers that may apply to the entire city itself.

Fantasy, ongoing. It’s a city full of magic. People who can shapeshift into animals, although it wears down their ability to become entirely people-shaped afterward. Talking instruments who can shapeshift into people. And Scarecrows, a kind of fear-based soul-eater that haven’t been seen for hundreds of years. Until now, of course.

So they’re after Attley, for mysterious reasons. (Although in Posey’s case I’d bet there are un-Scarecrow-y Feelings involved.) She ends up scrambling all around the city, trying to stay ahead of her pursuers and picking up a ragtag crew of misfits who think figuring out the secrets of her past will help unravel their own. One’s a flute. Another has invisible limbs. Fletch is the trans one. He can turn into a seagull.

The comic has reached a point where some of the mysteries are being solved and hidden backstories revealed. Which is pretty exciting, even if it does keep raising new questions. Also, the art is lovely, with a warm soft coloring style and lots of neat visuals, in the little details as much as the big splashy action scenes.


(4) Sad to Gay by Phallically Impaired

A humorous webcomic about the every day struggles of being a gay trans guy.

Semi-autobiographical slice-of-life, ongoing.

Some of the strips are general one-off gags about trans feelings. Those are highly rebloggable, so if you’re on LGBTQ Tumblr at all you’ll probably recognize the art style — lineless and textured and atmospherically colored, way fancier than your average highly-rebloggable gag comic.

The one-offs are interspersed between an ongoing story about our hero, Vincent, figuring things out in therapy and coming out to friends and family. Also, chatting with his imaginary horse-to-unicorn sidekick. (The unicorn’s name is Packer. You might be able to guess that from the NSFW running gag.)


(5) Venus Envy by Erin Lindsey

Venus Envy is a typical high school romantic comedy, with the welcome addition of lesbians, crossdressers, and of course transsexuals. The story follows Zoë, a teenage male-to-female transsexual, as she comes of age, tries to keep her secret, and tackles life’s challenges. Meanwhile, she makes friends with several of Salem’s most colorful residents, including an estranged lesbian, a deep-stealth female-to-male with way too many connections, and the drool-worthy bad boy who wants to reform.

High school drama, perma-hiatus. This one is a classic — it was one of the first, if not the first, webcomics about a trans character. (Also, one of the first few that introduced me to “webcomics” as a concept. So on some level, all these rec posts can be traced back to Venus Envy.) Beginning in 2001, it ran for almost 1000 strips until the regular updates petered out around 2009.

It starts off with its own set of one-off gags about trans feelings, then quickly develops into Zoë’s ongoing story, with arcs ranging from slapstick to melodrama. At the most angsty extremes, it deals with sexual assault and attempted murder. At the fluffiest, it’s “uh-oh, these two mismatched trans kids have to take care of a baby together! Hijinks ensue.” The shadows of dysphoria, transition, and outing are never far away, but there are plenty of sweet and fun scenes in spite of them.

The early art is very rough; it goes through a couple stages of evolution as the years go on. Stick with it anyway. Mostly because the writing is solid, but also because it’s a cool look into the early years of the medium, and the recent history of trans activism.


Erin Ptah likes cats, magical girls, time travel, crossdressing, and webcomics. She’s the artist behind But I’m A Cat Person (where a previously-questioning character who talked about dysphoria in 2012 has finally figured it out) and Leif & Thorn (which has an MtF vampire hunter and an FtM vampire, thankfully never in the same room). Say hi on Twitter at @ErinPtah.

Fave Five: LGBTQ Novels Inspired by Greek Myth/History

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block (YA Apocalyptic)

The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer (YA Fantasy)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Fantasy)

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry (YA Speculative)

Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi (YA Fantasy)

Bonus: Rick Riordan’s The Heroes of Olympus series (MG Fantasy) features some major characters under the LGBTQ umbrella

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New Releases: March 2018

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy (6th)

34499228In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.

Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst (6th)

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Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.

Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (6th)

35604722When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (6th)

29736467Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Boomerang by Helene Dunbar (6th)

Michael Sterling disappeared from his Maine town five years ago. Everyone assumed he was kidnapped. Everyone was wrong.

Now, at seventeen, he’s Sean Woodhouse. And he’s come “home,” to the last place he wants to be, to claim the small inheritance his grandparents promised him when he graduated high school, all so he can save Trip, the boy he developed an intense and complicated relationship with while he was away.

Sean has changed, but so has his old town and everyone in it. And knowing who he is and where he belongs is more confusing than ever. As his careful plans begin to crumble, so does everything he’s believed about his idyllic other life.

Told in gorgeous prose, Boomerang is an honest, authentic exploration of coming to terms with who you are, what you want, and how vast the distance can be between the two.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Parnassus * Book Depository

Curved Horizon by Taylor Brooke (8th)

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In the sequel to Fortitude Smashed, navigating the ins and outs of love is hard enough as strangers, but now Daisy and Chelsea must find a way to transform their friendship into something more. Meanwhile, Shannon and Aiden’s year-long relationship is put to the test when a horrific accident puts Shannon’s life at risk.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Kim Reaper: Grim Beginnings by Sarah Graley (13th)

35941643The first collection of Kim Reaper comics, contains issues 1-4! 

Part-Time Grim Reaper. Full-Time Cutie!

Like most university students, Kim works a part-time job to make ends meet. Unlike most university students, Kim’s job is pretty cool: she’s a grim reaper, tasked with guiding souls into the afterlife.

Like most university students, Becka has a super intense crush. Unlike most university students, Becka’s crush is on a beautiful gothic angel that frequents the underworld. Of course, she doesn’t know that.

Unaware of the ghoulish drama she’s about to step into, Becka finally gathers up the courage to ask Kim on a date! But when she falls into a ghostly portal and interrupts Kim at her job, she sets off a chain of events that will pit the two of them against angry cat-dads, vengeful zombies, and perhaps even the underworld itself. But if they work together, they just might make it… and maybe even get a smooch in the bargain.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones (13th)

35737829Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she’s too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves—his friend, David.
Things go from bad to worse as Shane’s dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together.

With deep insight into the life of Indigenous people on the reserve, this book masterfully portrays how a community looks to the past for guidance and comfort while fearing a future of poverty and shame. Shane’s rocky road to finding himself takes many twists and turns, but ultimately ends with him on a path that doesn’t always offer easy answers, but one that leaves the reader optimistic about his fate.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Book Depository

The Right Thing to Do at the Time by Dov Zeller (15th)

If Jane Austen and Sholem Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof) schemed in an elevator, this just might be their pitch. Ari is Elizabeth and Itche is Jane–and this Jewish, queer, New York City retelling of Pride and Prejudice is for everyone.

Ari Wexler, a trans guy in his late 20s, is barely scraping by. His family life is a mess, he feels like a failure when it comes to love, and his job at a music library is on the rocks. His relationship with Itche Mattes, his doting best friend, helps him get through the days. Then a famous actress comes to town and sweeps Itche off his feet, leaving her dreadful sidekick to step on Ari’s toes.

As Ari’s despair grows, a fascinating music project falls into his lap, and he s faced with a choice: to remain within his comfort zone, however small and stifling, or to take a risk that could bring meaning and joy to his life.

Buy it: Amazon

The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (27th)

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Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she’s ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.

Writer Vanessa Montoya-O’Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she’ll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.

Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn’t mean it’s her passion. Since her parents’ divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.

When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (27th)

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Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

New Release Spotlight: All Out ed. by Saundra Mitchell

All historical, all queer, all out! This new anthology, edited by Saundra Mitchell, just released from Harlequin Teen and contains a host of queer historical stories by so many faves! (And also me!) Thankfully, many of those faves agreed to share a little about their stories here, so check it out, make good use of those buy links, and enjoy!

(Photographs are mine.)

35140599Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Powell’s * Book Depository

I’m delighted to have a number of the contributors sharing a bit about their stories!

Anna-Marie McLemore, “Roja”

“Roja” began as a reimagining of the story of Leonarda Emilia, better known as La Carambada, the legendary Mexican outlaw who flashed her breasts at the rich men she robbed, so they would know without a doubt that they’d been bested by a woman. But along the way, my imagining of La Carambada wandered, as my stories often do, into the realm of fairy tale. My Emilia became a Mexican version of Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf emerged as a transgender French soldier who garners his own fierce reputation. The forbidding woods became the hills of Mexico in the 1870s, a country in the aftermath of a brutal war.

Maybe the Frenchman the real Leonarda Emilia loved wasn’t a transgender soldier. Maybe most people don’t think of a Mexican girl when they imagine Little Red Riding Hood. But for the time it took me to write “Roja,” I got to imagine both Red and La Carambada as both queer and Latina. Writing “Roja” made these stories feel like they belonged to girls like me.

Natalie C. Parker, “The Sweet Trade”

I am a life-long fan of pirate stories, historical and fictional. As a kid, I believed that the only people who became pirates were boys and men. This was certainly what I’d learned from history—Blackbeard and Calico Jack—and definitely what was reflected in fiction—Long John Silver and Captain Hook. When I finally discovered that girls and women were also a part of the historical narrative (Anne Bonny! Madame Cheng!), I immediately wanted to find their reflection in fiction. They are there, but those who land in the adventure tend to find themselves sidetracked to the adventures of boys and are rarely queer in any way.

I wrote “The Sweet Trade” because I wanted to see queer girls choosing adventure and choosing each other. I wanted to explore the origin story of two girls breaking away from the expectations of others and striking out on their own. In that way, it’s sort of a pre-pirate story, the opening gambit in what will surely be a grand adventure.

Nilah Magruder, “And They Don’t Kiss at the End”

It’s all in the title, really. I wrote “And They Don’t Kiss at the End” because I needed a story with no kissing. Romance and sex always made me a little uncomfortable, not just in practice, but in theory. I ran from declarations of love and admiration from friends. I scrunched my face and turned away when the guy got the girl in movies. I thought I was a “late bloomer” when this aversion persisted into adulthood. I kept waiting to meet “the one” to cure my indifference, and they never came. This story is an exploration of asexuality in the 1970’s, at a time when terminology to describe asexuality was still being formed. It was a chance for me to imagine different choices than the ones I made in my youth. Getting to gush about Pride & Prejudice with roller skating as a backdrop was also a plus.

Dahlia Adler, “Molly’s Lips”

Kurt Cobain’s shirt worn in the video for Smells Like Teen Spirit, photographed at the Experience Music Project in Seattle

I used to fear writing short stories because I didn’t know how to make them feel like a complete story without death. I’ve grown since then, but death is still very much present in “Molly’s Lips”— specifically, that of Kurt Cobain, deceased frontman of my favorite band, Nirvana; the story is set at his big vigil in Seattle on April 10, two days after his body was found. And it isn’t about girls falling in love; they’ve already fallen. It’s about finding the voice, the confidence, the words to share those feelings, and the bravery they were given by someone who had the courage to push back against bigotry in his fandom. It’s also a love story with its own built-in soundtrack; what could be better than that?

Mackenzi Lee, “Burnt Umber”

My family is from the Netherlands–my dad grew up in a Dutch farming community in Iowa, my last name (which is not Lee) is very long and starts with a Van, and I have a fondness for all poetry from Delft. When this anthology invitation came my way, I was about to go to Amsterdam to research a different writing project. While there, my already-existing fascination with Dutch art from the Golden Age became an obsession. I wanted to know all about painting, why these paintings existed, what it took to become a master painter and the commodification surrounding art and masterpieces. Art that, in its day was considered commercial trash is now hanging in galleries people from all over the world visit. It was all a lot of information that had no place in the book about flowers I was researching, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to use it. But when I visited Rembrandt’s studio in Holland, I knew I wanted to write something set in the Dutch art world and this story was a perfect opportunity.

The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

One of my favorite things to do in my writing is take the tropes of historical or genre narratives and give them to queer characters. This story is “draw me like one of your French girls” from Titanic. It’s Girl with the Pearl Earring. It’s the Vincent Van Gogh episode of Dr. Who. But it’s two boys, an artist’s studio, a significant lack of clothing, and a whole lot of awkward teenage crush.

Alex Sanchez, “The Secret Life of the Teenage Boy”

“The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy” takes place in 1969, when I was a teen bursting with romantic yearning. Although I was aware of my attraction toward other boys, I had no positive words to put to those intimate feelings—only negative slurs. People rarely spoke openly or honestly about sex. Homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. Acting on it was a criminal offense. I didn’t know of any openly gay people. The term “gay” had barely even come into use. In my teenage isolation, I fantasized for hours about a strong handsome young guy who would swoop into my life and carry me away to a place where we could be free to love each other. This story is a reminiscence of what it was like to live in that time and place, yearning for a life and a world that would take years to come.

Kate Scelsa, “The Coven”

Since I started working on my theater company’s adaptation of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” back in 2010, I’ve done a lot of reading about Hemingway and his peers in Paris in the 20’s, and something that’s always fascinated me was Hemingway’s relationship with Gertrude Stein and this whole community of lesbians that he used to hang out with. The vision of Gertrude Stein as a kind of den mother has always appealed to me, so I wanted to give her that role with two young women who were still figuring out who they were to each other. And then of course Hemingway himself needed to make an appearance. And, yes, there are witches.

Tess Sharpe, “The Girl With the Blue Lantern”

I grew up in Gold Rush country, in the shadow of a mountain that has many stories and myths attached to it. I also grew up writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy instead of the contemporary mysteries and thrillers I write now, so being able to create a historical fantasy piece was a special treat.

People still make a living pulling gold from the water and dirt in my childhood county. I’ve panned little flakes and tiny nuggets out of the creek that snakes through our homestead myself. Gold has been a strong motivator for many things throughout our history: war, destruction, greed, murder, exploitation, exploration, colonization.

But in “The Girl with the Blue Lantern,” gold leads us to a very different place: love. A story of escape and acceptance, of gold sprites, and of one very silly dog named Virgil.

Kody Keplinger, “Walking After Midnight”

Walking After Midnight” is, at it’s core, a love letter to the trope of “two strangers meet and walk around talking all night.” I’m a sucker for stories like Before Sunrise, and I thought it would be fun to explore that sort of narrative between two young queer women. Betsey is an actress who hasn’t quite made the leap from child star to leading lady the way someone like Elizabeth Taylor did. Laura is a waitress at her family’s diner and isn’t sure she’ll ever escape her small town. I loved exploring these girls’ opposing situations, their hopes and fears. And getting to write about Betsey, whom I’d describe as gray-asexual, was a joy.  Plus, I mean, I got to use all the things I’ve learned from the You Must Remember This podcast to good use!

Tessa Gratton, “Three Witches”

As a queer “recovering” Catholic and occasionally practicing witch, I’ve for years been aware of the threads of desire that can be found in medieval Catholic writing. Usually it’s desire for heaven or Christ’s touch, especially to the nuns considered to be “married” to Christ, but often this desire surpasses the flesh in queer ways, especially in the writings of the female mystics like St. Teresa of Avila. In “Three Witches” I wanted to explore the desire embedded in the prayers and explorations of medieval nuns, as well as the inherent conflict between desire and purity in the imagery and words associated with the Virgin Mary. The Inquisition was the strongest political force in Spain during the 15th century, hunting predominantly Jewish people and Muslims, but also available to excise anything unwanted from the Church. Including “unnatural” desire.

That’s all to say: I wanted to write a sexy, difficult story about two girls falling in love (and in lust) while grappling with what they’re told they should desire. And I wanted to write about witches. 

Sara Farizan, “The End of the World as We Know It”

I know 1999 is a year that should not belong in a historical fiction anthology, but it was almost twenty years ago!  I wanted to write a story that took place at the end of the twentieth century and encapsulated some of the hopes and fears people had going into the new century. Ezgi and Katie, two life- long best friends who have a strained relationship, also have their own hopes and fears for the future that come to light on New Year’s Eve while watching MTV’s countdown to midnight. When you think the world might come to an end, and tomorrow might mean the end of civilization as you know it (Y2K, man. What a trip), you have to hold on to the people you care about most, no matter how scary or daunting that may seem.

Shaun David Hutchinson, “The Inferno and the Butterfly”

I love magic. And what’s more magical than finding love in an unexpected place? “The Inferno and the Butterfly” was a story I’ve been dying to tell. I’ve always been fascinated by stage magicians, and though Alfie and Wilhelm might be the assistants, they’re the ones performing the real magic.

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)

 

Fave Five: LGBTQ Pirates

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (YA, L, sci-fi)

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara (YA, B, fantasy)

Peter Darling by Austin Chant (T, m/m fantasy)

Escape to Pirate Island by Niamh Murphy (f/f historical)

The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of Original Sin by Colleen Moody (f/f historical)

Backlist Book of the Month: Hold Me by Courtney Milan

Fellow fans of the enemies-to-lovers trope, this one has got to be on your to-read list. The couple is a trans woman and a bi guy, both academics, and the combination science geekery, tons of heat, serious emphasis on the “enemies” part, and the fact that they’re simultaneously clicking really well in an epistolary romance of sorts is just…*happy sigh*

Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.

But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…

Buy it: amazon | amazon uk | iBooks | nook | google
all romance | kobo | smashwords
audio: audible | amazon | iBooks

You can find an excerpt on the author’s site here.