Recent Reads

It’s summertime, and that means plenty of time for me to read without feeling guilty! Homework is a thing of the past (until September), so I’m enjoying the time to read for fun.

I’ve been reading a blend of new things and old favorites, and it’s been wonderful revisiting loved places and discovering new ones.

What are you all reading this summer? I’m always looking for new recommendations!

Recent Favorites:
STRANGE GRACE by Tessa Gratton
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This book tugged at my heart in all the right ways. It’s beautifully gruesome in the way only Gratton can write, and I loved every agonizing second of it. The most surprising thing about this book was the polyamorous triad that was so well done, I couldn’t see any of the characters without the others. Highly recommend this gorgeous book.

 

 

 

TECHNICALLY YOU STARTED IT by Lana Wood Johnson
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Full disclosure: I helped beta this book when it was still under construction, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. But even that hadn’t been the case, this is a fun, light read for the summer and it comes out tomorrow! It’s another beautifully queer book with both main characters discovering themselves and each other, and I just love these nerds so much.

 

 

Books That Missed The Mark:
THESE WITCHES DON’T BURN by Isabel Sterling
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I wanted to like this. I really did. Queer witches is usually a fierce SIGN ME UP, but the first 1/3 of this gave me anxiety because the adults refused to listen to the teens and the middle 1/3 was pretty forgettable. It was only in the last 1/3 that the book picked up and left me wanting more. (Which is good because this is the first book in a series, and ends on a cliff-hanger!) The queer rep in this was awesome, and I enjoyed the casual diversity in this. (Ex/ non-plot-advancing description of a little girl on the street with two dads!) Overall, not a successful book for me, but mostly due to personal preferences.

DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK by Paul Tremblay
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I was expecting paranormal horror, and I got some weird “maybe it is, maybe it isn’t” horror instead. If I hadn’t been expecting something different, maybe I’d feel differently. But I was looking for some creepy devil action, and all I got was the horrors that humans inflict on one another instead. Which is much more frightening, but not what I wanted when I picked this book up.

 

 

Book In Progress:
THE LUMINOUS DEAD by Caitlyn Starling
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I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I’m halfway through, and I’m enjoying every terrifying second of this book. It hits on a bunch of things I love: caves, horror, and character-driven sci-fi. Wonderfully written, engaging, and suspenseful. Highly, highly recommend you don’t miss out on this one.

 

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Interview–Lana Wood Johnson

Hi everyone! I’m super excited to welcome author Lana Wood Johnson to my blog today! Her debut YA book, TECHNICALLY YOU STARTED IT, comes out June 25th from Scholastic.

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When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster


Hi Lana! Thanks for joining me on the blog today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Lana and I’m a giant nerd! People sometimes don’t entirely get how deep it goes when I say it, but I’ve got the cred: my first memory is Star Wars A New Hope in theaters, I met my best friend 24 years ago in an online roleplaying game, and I initially flirted with my husband by shouting a meme at him in the year 2000.

Wow, your nerd cred is impressive! Your debut novel, TECHNICALLY YOU STARTED IT, comes out this summer. Can you tell us a bit about the project?

Haley and Martin are also just as nerdy in their own way as I am, (although Martin’s a bit cooler than either of us.) Told entirely through their text messages, it’s Haley’s story of falling in love with someone whose physical body she doesn’t really recognize but who she knows better than anyone else around her.

What inspired you to write this story?

After a hefty round of full rejections on my second book, I found myself volunteering on a crisis line for a local youth shelter. That’s where I discovered my skill of connecting with people via text messages is actually kind of special. I realized that like the youth I was talking to, I used the internet to connect with people and I decided to channel that into a story.

Very cool! In addition to the nerdiness, this book is also really queer. I’m super excited to see it hit mainstream shelves. Can you tell us a little about those themes and what you’re hoping people will take away from them?

My biggest hope is that people will take away that even though it’s m/f it’s two queer characters connecting in their own ways. And while it’s not about their identity, and the coming out they do is incidental and contextual to the situations, the story wouldn’t be remotely the same if they were straight characters.

As I started revising, I realized how important it was to me that the story stay in their text messages. By keeping it there, it made Haley’s perspective on the relationship the center and I realized showed better what it was like to fall in love with the person inside the skin.

What media (books, movies, podcasts, etc) are you enjoying right now?

I’ve just started drafting again which means my tendency is to go back to old, familiar stories. That said, I just discovered My Favorite Murder and as the completionist I am, I’m working my way through their archives. There’s a LOT of archives tho!

Any favorite writing snacks or drinks?

I don’t need anything to write, but I love writing at a fancy bakery nearby my house. They have miel lattes which is made with honey and the FANCIEST pastries. I think one of their bakers also watches Great British Bake Off so I get to taste some of the weird things they make on the show. That’s where I first had a kougin amann which is an excellent writing food.

That sounds delicious, and I’m hungry now. That’s a good place to leave this conversation. In closing, where can people find you online?

I am on Twitter and Instagram, and on my website.


TECHNICALLY YOU STARTED IT will be released on June 25th. You can preorder it from Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, Target, or Book Depository!


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Lana Wood Johnson was born and raised in Iowa in the time before the internet but has spent the rest of her life making up for that. After years working in wireless communication for companies of all sizes, she now works doing the same for a local youth shelter. Lana lives in Minnesota with her husband and their English bulldog. TECHNICALLY, YOU STARTED IT is her debut novel.

 

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation– Review

This post is going to contain discussions about sex, Christianity, and asexuality. If none of these interest you, that’s okay. Just wanted to be upfront.


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When I heard that Nadia Bolz-Weber was writing a new book, I was really excited. I loved her first two, PASTRIX and ACCIDENTAL SAINTS, so I knew that her next one would probably be just as powerful. SHAMELESS takes a hard look at the church’s teachings surrounding sexuality, gender, and the role sex should have in Christians’ lives. Bolz-Weber’s anger at the harm done by these teachings is palpable throughout the book, and she offers the start to a much-needed conversation around changing how Christians talk about and teach sex.

It’s a powerful book with a powerful message, and I hope it reaches the folks who need to hear Bolz-Weber’s loving words the most (mainly allosexual people who were raised in evangelical churches). The book isn’t prescriptive, and doesn’t offer any lifehacks for becoming more comfortable in one’s own sexuality, but it does offer the beauty and love of being seen not only by a Christian minister, but also by God who, as Bolz-Weber reminds us, doesn’t make mistakes. Bolz-Weber does a great job of grounding sexuality and spirituality in the human body, not just as airy concepts one might aspire to, and she also constantly comes back to the idea that God made humans this way. That sex isn’t a moral act any more than shopping or eating are (and that all can be used for pleasure or for harm, depending on the situation).

As I noted above, though, the book read to me like it was written for allosexuals in mind. While Bolz-Weber acknowledges that asexual people exist, she doesn’t seem to know what to do with us, or really, to understand what asexuality is. There’s a footnote on page 143 that says:

“…Some people are truly asexual, in that they do not have a desire for genital contact, and yet they are still sexually embodied people who can and do experience pleasure and connection in other ways…”

So, she’s essentially equating asexuality with the act of sex as many people do, and which is completely and utterly incorrect. In addition, she equates sex with universal human experience in several places in the book, which also shows a lack of understanding of asexuality and an exclusion of asexual folks.

(I’m also not sure what the whole “asexual people are still sexually embodied” means, so if you have some insight into that, I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts.)

The church has and continues to harm asexual people in addition to other queer and generally non-Church-sanctioned Christian people, and I wish that Bolz-Weber had recognized that in a more nuanced way. She does say in the opening to the book that she can’t cover every scenario within its pages, but she could have at least gotten the fundamental definition of asexuality correct (which always stings, especially when coming from someone who seems to be open, understanding, accepting, and kind.)

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the book, and I hope that it will help open up a long-overdue conversation about the Church’s relationship to sex. I didn’t see this work as the final word, but rather an invitation to talk.

Cover Reveal: Anyone but You

I am incredibly excited to help reveal the cover for Chelsea M. Cameron’s newest book ANYONE BUT YOU!

Without further ado:

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About the book: Things are going great for Sutton Kay, or at least they were. Her yoga studio is doing well, she’s living with her best friend, and she just got two kittens named Mocha and Cappuccino. Sure, she doesn’t have a girlfriend, but her life is full and busy.

Then her building is sold and the new landlord turns out to be the woman putting in a gym downstairs who doesn’t seem to understand the concepts “courtesy” and “don’t be rude to your tenants.” Sutton can’t get a read on Tuesday Grímsdóttir, but she can appreciate her muscles. Seriously, Tuesday is ripped. Not that that has anything to do with anything since she’s too surly to have a conversation with, and won’t stop pissing Sutton off.

Sutton’s life gets interesting after she dares Tuesday to make it through one yoga class, and then Tuesday gives Sutton the same dare. Soon enough they’re spending time working out together and when the sweat starts flowing, the sparks start flying. How is it possible to be so attracted to a person you can barely stand?

But when someone from Tuesday’s past shows up and Sutton sees a whole new side of Tuesday, will she change her mind about her grumpy landlord? Can she?


Are you excited yet? I know I am!

I don’t know how I’m going to wait until March 19th to read it! In the meantime, we can console ourselves by adding it on Goodreads.

And if the blurb wasn’t enough to peak your interest, here’s a sneak-peak!


“You’re attracted to her.” I made a sputtering noise like a car trying to start in the winter before I was able to formulate any words.

“I am not!” I said and my voice squeaked on the last word.

Zee cackled and scared the kittens, which were on the floor rolling around with some new toys that had come.

“You totally are. I mean, I read between the lines and figured out she was hot, but your little obsession with her is telling me that she’s really hot.” I pressed my lips together because I didn’t want to say anything that might incriminate myself and lead Zee to think their theory was something that it wasn’t.

Okay, fine. Tuesday was stunning. Gorgeous. Hot. Sexy. All of those. But that didn’t mean anything. I saw hot people all the time; I ran a yoga studio. Her attractiveness had nothing to do with anything.

“Ohhhh, this is very interesting,” Zee said, stroking their chin and staring at me as I glared back.

“Stop it,” I said, pointing my finger in their face. “Stop it right now.” They laughed and shook their head.

“No way. She’s mean and hot, which is a deadly combination. You’d better be careful. Pretty soon she’s going to ask you to ‘help paint’ and there will be no brushes or paint involved. Unless she’s into that kind of thing.” I stood up from the couch.

“I’m leaving right now unless you stop talking about this immediately. And I’m taking the babies with me.” I scooped up both kittens and held them to my chest as they wiggled, angry I’d taken them away from their new shiny toys.

“No, don’t leave,” Zee said, falling horizontal on the couch and reaching for me dramatically. “Come backkkkkk.”

I turned on my heel and pretended to flounce, whipping my hair around.

“Come back and I’ll let you have the rest of the ice cream,” they said. That did it. I went back and dropped the kittens in her lap. They made cooing noises at them and gave them kisses as they meowed.


About the Author:

Chelsea M. Cameron is a New York Times/USA Today/Internationally Best-selling author from Maine who now lives and works in Boston. She’s a red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader, and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, getting brunch with her partner, tweeting, and playing fetch with her cat, Sassenach. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.

Where you can find the author: Twitter    Facebook   Instagram   Patreon   Website

Happy New Year and Author Interview (Jeremy Martin)

Hi, everyone! I hope you had a great holiday season and a very happy new year! I know I’m excited for the upcoming year and all the amazing books that are being released.

Today, I’m pleased to welcome my friend and fellow writer Jeremy Martin to the blog to talk about his upcoming debut FOREIGN TO YOU. Jeremy and I first met at a Madcap workshop back in 2016. How time flies!

41732287The harmony between humans and fianna, a species of shape-shifting deer, begins to wither as racial tensions and deeply rooted resentment turns violent.

Ruthless hunter Finn Hail and prophesied liberator Adelaide may be heroes to their own species, but they are enemies to each other. With war on the horizon, the reluctant pair must team up to find the most elusive of prey: the god of the Forest.

As enemies press in from all sides, true intentions begin to show. For Finn to save the boy he cares for most, he might need to aim his gun at the very god he seeks. And Adelaide, with her festering hatred for mankind, will have to determine if peace holds true salvation for her people.


Q: Welcome, Jeremy, and thanks for joining me on the blog today! Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

A: *waves* Hello! I am 24 years old and living in Pennsylvania. I work full-time as a residential and commercial estimator and I get to use highlighters a lot. Which is fun. When I’m not working, I’m normally playing an obscene amount of video games, rewatching the Office for the millionth time, or writing about people dying and sadness.

Q: Your upcoming release, FOREIGN TO YOU, has a darkly whimsical feel to it. What was your inspiration for the story?

A: FOREIGN TO YOU was birthed from this darker theory that sometimes ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ can’t be broken or rewritten. I’ve read plenty of stories that have the main characters battling the gods, higher powers, etc, to change the world around them and defying everything. I’ve always wondered, ‘Well…what if that didn’t work out? What if fate is set up for a reason?’

Another large part of FOREIGN TO YOU is my perception of the world and my own battles with certain viewpoints or ideas. While there might be shape-shifting deer in the story, there are some real-world issues being snuck in there.

Q : Yeah, those shape-shifting deer really surprised me. I’m used to shifters usually being werewolves, so this was really different and unique. How did you come up with having deer shifters?

A: I grew up in a family of hunters. Every November they’d go to our cabin during rifle season. I used to go, when I was younger, but didn’t find much joy in actually killing the deer. I used to love sitting in the tree stands and watching as the deer came and went, almost mystically.

One time, my grandpa had told me, “Deer come and go through the forest like magic. One second they’re there and the next they’re gone,” and that has always stuck with me. I love the duality of animal and human residing in one form, but I didn’t want to use shifters that I felt like were overdone or already mapped out. I liked the idea of exploring a new species and, hopefully, adding a breath of fresh air to the shifter genre!

Q: It definitely is a breath of fresh air! I’m about 5 chapters into the ARC I received, and I’ve been enjoying how different it is.
Can you talk a little about your journey to being published?

A: As a writer, there are a million drafts of various stories and ideas chilling on my flash drive. FOREIGN TO YOU is an accumulation of all those ideas that didn’t work out, that just weren’t ready yet. Each time one idea doesn’t work, the plot doesn’t feel right, or you get a rejection from an agent you take it mega personal. You doubt your worth as a creator, as a story teller. You think, ‘what’s the point?’

But there is always hope. I’m literally getting a book about deer becoming humans published. If I can succeed, your chances are that much greater.

I participated in PitMad on Twitter and then queried Nine Star Press who later offered me a publishing deal. I had actually never considered going with a small publisher before. The stigma that the writing/reading world has about small presses is suffocating and scary at times, but I don’t think I would change a single thing that has happened in this journey.

I’m also TERRIBLE at being patient and waiting. And from my experience so far, it’s a lot of hurry up and then waitttt.

Q: What is your writing process like? Any favorite snacks or drinks for writing?

A: My writing process is a lot like a flamingo that wasn’t born with good balance and thinks it can run. I often joke that I’m a part-time writer and a full-time mess, because really I am. I want to be able to look someone in the eyes and tell them I map out every single action my characters take and each plot point, but I just don’t. It kind of scares me how each time I edited FOREIGN TO YOU, I added something new and crucial to the story.

My biggest ‘writing tool’ is probably Pinterest. I create a board for each idea and get visuals on characters, places, aesthetics, etc.

So, I drink coffee when I’m drafting because I think it makes me look smart and sophisticated. When I’m editing, I drink wine so I can slowly stop feeling the pain of fixing how many times I used “you ass” in my story.

I don’t eat much though. If I do, I try to reward myself. Oh, you finished a paragraph? Eat a cookie!

Q: Cookies are always a good reward!
What media (tv/books/podcast/etc) are you enjoying right now?

A: I am always looking for stories and strong narratives in all forms of media. I love playing video games for that reason. Sure, they are entertaining as heck, but some of the plots and characters that come out of games these days is wild. Play the Last of Us. That game tore me open and left me broken. Oh, and I started watching the Great British Baking Show and my life hasn’t been the same ever since.

PS: I will marry Steven one day.

Q :Where can people find you online?

A: Probably on America’s Most Wanted.

But if not there, I frequent Instagram so I can share photos of my dogs and feel only slightly judged for my lack of life. I also have Twitter (have a twitter?) where I take a full day to craft up something witty and funny that ends up getting 1 like (shout out to Sabina for those pity likes.)


You can find FOREIGN TO YOU at Nine Star Press on February 4, 2019! I know it feels far away, but the book will be released before you know it! Thanks for joining us today!

 

Cover Reveal– Love and Bubbles

I am incredibly excited to be part of the cover reveal for the Love and Bubbles anthology put together by Jaylee James and Jennifer Lee Rossman. I’ve been looking forward to the release of this book since the call for stories was announced, and the day is almost finally here!

You can preorder the anthology here, and you can add it on Goodreads here.

But before we get to the cover, here’s some information about the book!

Love & Bubbles
An anthology of queer underwater love stories
Edited by Jaylee James & Jennifer Lee Rossman
Dive into romance with these thirteen stories of queer love under the sea!

Love & Bubbles is a short fiction anthology of love stories united by an underwater theme and featuring characters from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

Go on a deep-sea voyage to study a brand-new species alongside a cute, distracted scientist. Discover your magic with a water witch and the help of a cute mermaid. Explore the waters of an alien ocean. Get summoned to the surface with a grumpy old merman and his non-binary water demon neighbor. Swim with a catfish goddess, rescue a dolphin… and so much more!

Featuring stories by: 
Evvan Burke
Minerva Cerridwen
Lizzie Colt
Lia Cooper
Maggie Derrick
M. Hollis
V. S. Holmes
Jaylee James
Jennifer Lee Rossman
Riley Sidell
Mharie West
Victoria Zelvin
And without further ado: The absolutely gorgeous cover!
Love and Bubbles
I don’t know about you, but this cover makes me even more excited for the anthology’s release on October 18th. Don’t forget to pre-order your copy today!

About the Editors:
Jaylee Jamesis a nonbinary writer, editor, and story curator native to Kansas City who is best known as the editor ofCircuits & Slippers, an anthology of science-fiction fairytales, and Vitality Magazine, which published LGBTQ+ genre fiction between 2014-2016. E also writes a smattering of short fiction and video games. Learn more atJayleeJames.com.

Jennifer Lee Rossman is a science fiction geek from Oneonta, New York, who has never ever threatened to run over anyone with her wheelchair. Nope, definitely not. Her debut novel, Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow, will be published in December 2018. She blogs at jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com and tweets @JenLRossman.

Guest Post-Ceillie Simkiss

LearningCurves

Hey everyone, I’m really excited to welcome Ceillie Simkiss to my blog today! Her new novella LEARNING CURVES is available for pre-order now and will be released on August 16.

Keep reading for a guest post where Ceillie talks about her inspiration for the novella!


LearningCurvesCoverElena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.


INSPIRATION FOR LEARNING CURVES
BY CEILLIE SIMKISS

My first burst of inspiration for Learning Curves came from the place that almost all of my best ideas came from: my dreams.

I regularly have absolutely ridiculous dreams, from murders to romances to entirely implausible science fiction. Once, I dreamed that my dad decided to run for President, and I got so mad because he would be a terrible President. In the dream, I was so upset I decided to run against him and hold a press conference on our front porch. I never learned how that election turned out, but it couldn’t have been any worse than 2016’s.

This dream was a little bit different. I dreamed about a girl driving from Chatham, Virginia to Greensboro, North Carolina, and talking to her girlfriend the whole way there about the new family member she’d discovered she had, and the store she’d inherited. I woke up with a pretty good handle on who Elena and Cora were, what they looked like, all of that, and started writing it.

Now, even if you’ve read learning curves, you won’t know anything about what I’m talking about with that dream. See, I started writing the story that became Learning Curves in October 2016, but it was a novel that I lovingly called “The Gift”.

About midway through the month of working on it, I wanted to write a flashback scene of when Elena and Cora met. And then one thing led to another, and instead of finishing the novel that I had intended to write, I wound up with a mostly finished draft of Learning Curves by July.

I still haven’t finished that novel, and now that I’ve written Learning Curves, I’d have to rewrite probably two thirds of the 15,000 words that I had written. It turned into something completely different, and I love it for what it is.

The other two pieces of main inspiration for this story were my friend Taylor, and my family. Taylor graduated with her Master’s degree in Social Work from NC A&T this spring, and I’m incredibly proud of her for all the work she put into getting there. I knew full well that if I had ever tried to get my Masters in social work, I would’ve flunked out after the first internship.

Much like Elena turned out in the book, I get way too attached way too easily to be an effective social worker, and that’s okay. But I built on that knowledge that there were other ways to help kids that are just as important as social work is to get Elena to where she was.

And of course, I would not be anywhere near the same person if I had a different family. My family is a lot like Elena’s, except the extended family tends to be much less accepting of anyone other than themselves. My mom is one of nine kids, and I have so many cousins that I lost count around 20. Until a few years ago, all of my maternal family lived within a 3 hour radius of my grandmothers house. I grew up at my grandparents’ kitchen table surrounded by people and noise and joy. I wanted to share that joy with Elena, but also allow her to have the supportive extended family that I wish I had.

All of that put together help me create Learning Curves. I’m incredibly proud of the novella that I’ve put into the world. I hope that you will love all of these pieces that I have cobbled together into the happy, fluffy romance that is Learning Curves.


IMG_1705Ceillie Simkiss is a queer writer of all stripes based in southern Virginia. She is also a blogger, public relations professional, and freelance writer. She has bylines at sites like Culturess, Global Comment, and Let’s Fox About It, in addition to her self-published novella Learning Curves

She started writing fiction as an escape from her day job as a small town journalist, and has been at it ever since, with the support of her partner, her dog and her cats.