EMPIRE OF LIGHT Release Day!

It’s finally here! It’s my “Gay Firefly with Magic” adult science fiction debut, Empire of Light’s official book birthday and part of me still can’t believe that this day is actually here and that there are real, actual copies of this thing I wrote out in the world, and people are sending me pictures of it in the wild, along with live-reading updates, and awesome reviews. This is a thing, you all! And it feels pretty fucking fantastic.


But I also wanted to talk a little bit about some of the things that happened on the way to getting this book into everyone’s hands, because so often we celebrate the successes without mentioning all the other shit that happened along the way of publication. So, here are some of the ingredients that helped make this book:

Writing out of spite:

I started writing this book when I honestly didn’t see a lot of queer books written by queer folk with queer protagonists (and antagonists, and supporting characters…basically queer EVERYONE) out there. I started writing Empire of Light at a time when I got The Look whenever I mentioned I wrote a book with queer main characters, felt distinctly unsafe as a queer person at conventions, and can’t count the times that I was flatly told I shouldn’t write what I write or that it would never sell. I’m really, really glad this has changed and that as I kept going, I not only found SO MANY more queer books (and fantastic authors to support!) but an amazing community that has my undying love because of how magically badass they all are.

Writing through extended breaks:

Part of the reason it took this many years for this book to finally see the light of day is because I absolutely had to take breaks. I first started writing seriously after I had immigrated to the U.S. and survived one of the most toxic and dangerous times of my life and in many ways finding writing and the community with it, finding a purpose and something that drove me, absolutely saved me—while also bringing snarky, sweary, and twisty af characters to life. My writing journey definitely took a few hard stops, like when I took extended breaks to let a manuscript sit, or when I had to take nearly two years off because I was finishing my teaching degree, studied full-time, worked as a student teacher, and held a full-time job because there was just me and somehow I had to eat and keep a roof over my and my cats’ head. And yes, extended breaks suck. This one certainly did and I honestly thought I had broken myself and my writing with it for a while. But I got back into it, not the least because people kept pushing me, cheering me on, and demanding I keep doing this thing. So, to those of you who never gave up on me, thank you can’t adequately describe the words I have for what you did for me.

The Emo-Coaster that is Publishing:

When I first started to write serious and learn about the publishing process, I thought that all I had to do was get an agent, who would sell my book, and I’d be set. Yeah, I was a naive baby writer, but hey, we all start somewhere. The truth is that a) publishing moves at a rather glacial pace (until it does not), b) there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all model (when is there ever?), and c) sometimes you can do everything right and things still go to hell. Empire of Light took me years to write into a readable version, more years to edit and finally scrape together the courage to query, and then, after nearly a year in the query-trenches, when I finally was in that magical place where I had to choose between three agents who wanted to represent me, things still didn’t quite pan out. My agent was lovely and I loved working with her. I got a handful of very complimentary rejections, and yes, if anything is harder than querying, it’s being on submission, but ultimately my agent couldn’t continue working due to health reasons and we parted ways. That was a bit of a rock bottom moment for me that honestly stalled my writing something fierce and I thought this book was pretty much dead, since big publishers had seen it. But then I went out and submitted it to smaller presses who didn’t require an agent and negotiated my own deal with NineStar Press, who have been absolutely lovely to work with.

So, yeah, this book took one hell of a winding road to get to where it is now and looking back, there are certainly things I could have done better. But, you know what? There are so many things I learned while writing, editing, querying, and working with my publisher, that I wouldn’t want to trade in for the world, because every little bit that went into this book is learned experience, is treasured memories, is a hoard of armaments and things I’ll know to do better, or differently, or to continue learning about for the next one. Because there will always be a next one.

But today, it’s the book birthday of my very first. And damn if that isn’t something.

Happy reading!

—Alex



Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As Aris slips away from Damian and his control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on. Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one minute and kiss him the next.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT Pre-Order Campaign!

Are you #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn?

Empire of Light releases 10 days (!!) from today and you can preorder it now from your favorite retailer in eBook and Print format.

To get exclusive #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn swag, save your receipts (or take a screenshot of your request confirmation at your local library) and fill out the Empire of Light Pre-Order Giveaway Form here to receive the following:

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#TeamDamian:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamDamian Sticker

  • #TeamDamian pin

  • #TeamDamian gin-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

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#TeamAris:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamAris Sticker

  • #TeamAris button

  • #TeamAris vanilla-cinnamon-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

#TeamRaeynSwag1.jpg

#TeamRaeyn:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamRaeyn Sticker

  • #TeamRaeyn button

  • #TeamRaeyn lavender-mint-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

Also, if you are pre-ordering Empire of Light, please consider reviewing it on Amazon and/or Goodreads!

Questions? Email me at alex[at]alexharrow[dot]com or use the contact form on this site.

Thank you all for helping me make this launch awesome! I can’t believe it’s only 10 days away!

Cheers and happy reading!

—Alex

Wait, Wait, This is a THING?! -- WROTE Podcast Interview

I had a ton of fun being a guest on Vance Bastian and S.A. “Baz” Collins’s WROTE Podcast this past week. Check out my interview in which I chat about Empire of Light, #ownvoices, labels, and writing in a language that isn’t your first here.

Got any follow-up questions for me? Drop me a comment!

Happy listening!

Also, have a shiny animated version of my gorgeous cover for Empire of Light by the amazing Natasha Snow!

Alex

2018 Roundup: The Inside-Out Shit-Sandwich

If I had to sum up 2018 in one GIF, this would probably be it:

Ryan Reynolds Holy Fucking Shit! GIF by tenor

Ryan Reynolds Holy Fucking Shit! GIF by tenor

And yes, that covers pretty much both the good and the bad. Still, you’re still here, and so am I, and that’s definitely something to celebrate, given how this year went. I was thinking about what the best way to do a roundup of the wild rollercoaster that 2018 has been would be, and after much deliberation settled on the Shit Sandwich. You know, the idea that when giving feedback, you layer the bad between slices of good, so that you don’t come across as a totally pretentious asshole who is out to ruin nice things for everybody (seriously, don’t be that person.)

Anyway, 2018 was a bit more like an Inside-Out Shit-Sandwich, or, as one of my best friends likes to call it…kind of yummy-yucky. Here’s your rundown:

This is me pre-morphine, which MAY have been my first ever experience with strong pain killers. I could SMELL the color red. And yes, I did text the whole experience to my CPs, because RESEARCH!

This is me pre-morphine, which MAY have been my first ever experience with strong pain killers. I could SMELL the color red. And yes, I did text the whole experience to my CPs, because RESEARCH!

Health-wise, 2018 tried to kill me. Unfortunately, it did take that one a little too literally, because what started out with my first-ever stint at a U.S. emergency room (thank the gods for health insurance, I could actually afford it) with suspected chronic gallbladder malfunction. This—surprise!—actually turned out to be the most massive of massive blood clots in my lower right abdomen, stretching from my major abdominal vein into my leg, and into my renal vein, where it most likely killed off my right kidney (which we named Aqualad, the Shitty Kidney as a result). Bonus shitty points for not figuring this out until 7 MONTHS LATER after my back was killing me and I thought I’d literally broken myself chasing editing deadlines. Spoiler: if you have intense lower back pain AND THEN your right leg swells up and feels like a balloon about to pop, you MIGHT just have a massive blood clot at your hands. And no, Alex, you won’t be able to drive yourself to the doctor’s office, because you’re not fine. Not even a little bit. Thanks to my lovely wife, Tori, my good friend and critique partner extraordinaire, Kendra, who did the driving that day, and everyone else who’s stuck with me through this ordeal, which resulted in my doctor making this face O_O, then rushing me to the ER, followed by an overnight hospital stay where surgery was a very definite option that we fortunately didn’t have to resort to (it would have been major and super scary). It took me the next three months to be able to move and walk without pain again, and I have to say, this shit definitely changed my perspective (and served as accidental research for my MC in Empire of Light, who becomes a cane-user, so I guess there’s always that.)

Anyway, I made it through that, will definitely be on medication for the rest of my life, and am rocking some super stylish compression socks (I want them to make some with unicorns, but in the meantime, I’m partial to argyle and rainbow stripes).

Of course, while I was recuperating physically, my mental health decided to have its “Hold my Beer!” moment and send me into one of the worst depressive spirals I’ve had since 2012. Fortunately we figured out a way to get things back on track with meds and self-care. Oh, and then there was the bit where I got SHINGLES. Yeah…2018 was A Year in terms of health. Let’s not keep going with this, shall we? Anyway, let this be your reminder to hydrate, take your meds, and move as much as you can, lovelies, because this shit is scary.


Okay, time for some GOOD, yeah?

Well, actually, it started with some bad, since 2018 also was the year I parted ways with my now former agent, due to her health making her unable to continue agenting. I’m not going to go super into detail here, but let it be said that one of the things all those blog posts and Twitter threads about agenting often don’t cover is what to do when you have to take that painful step of leaving your agent because things aren’t working out. It’s hard. And definitely took me some time to adjust. And yes, I’m going to query again in 2019. It’s cool, I have a battle plan and am super grateful for all of my publishing and author friends who continuously cheer me on and didn’t let me wallow too much, because onward!

These lovely rainbow roses were sent to me by my lovely Speculator CPs!

These lovely rainbow roses were sent to me by my lovely Speculator CPs!

Speaking of onward, I signed not one, but TWO publishing contracts in 2018, and I couldn’t be happier. In April, I signed my publishing contract for my debut queer science fiction novel, Empire of Light, with NineStar Press. It’s been one hell of a journey to get there. Definitely a rollercoaster worth of ups and downs, and tight twists, but 2019 will be my debut year as a queer SFF author and I couldn’t be more grateful to Rae, Sam, and the rest of the NineStar Team, who have since introduced me to so many fantastic authors I am happy to call friends.

And that’s not all! I also signed a contract to contribute to BEHIND THE SUN, ABOVE THE MOON, a queer anthology full of stories featuring trans and nonbinary characters written by trans and nonbinary creators, which will release with NineStar Press in 2020. I am beyond thrilled to be included in this and so happy this is happening. Watch this space, and subscribe to my newsletter for updates on all the shiny queer story-shaped things!


Hi! Same name, new pronouns! Thanks to everyone who uses them and corrects others when they don’t. I couldn’t do this without you all!

Hi! Same name, new pronouns! Thanks to everyone who uses them and corrects others when they don’t. I couldn’t do this without you all!

The biggest personal change in 2018 was definitely coming out as nonbinary in March of this year. Frankly, it was probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever done, especially as someone who constantly questions their own value and validity. But it’s also been incredibly empowering and just so liberating to finally get this off my chest and no longer keep my gender identity to myself like it’s something to hide and pretend doesn’t exist.

I cannot thank everyone enough for their support along my journey, especially those of you who remind others that yes, my pronouns are they/them, and to use them, especially when I’m too tired to constantly remind others. My enby journey and figuring out what exactly all of this meant to me, definitely shaped a large part of this year and still continues doing so, because guess what? I might be in my 30s, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t figured it all out yet. Far from it, really.

Coming out to my principal was absolutely terrifying, because I generally kept my queerness very much under wraps when I first started teaching. Only in recent years, I’ve started to feel comfortable enough to be “me” more and more in the classroom. Being a queer teacher, never mind a nonbinary one in a super conservative state where still so many honestly don’t even know what to do with you, is…a lot. It’s still a lot, and probably will continue being a lot, because things change glacially, but they are changing. Also, yes, my students adapted to my “new” title of Mx. without much issue. They are still working on the they/them, along with many others, but its the ones who do get it—and correct others when they overhear them misgendering me—that make my heart so incredibly full and make doing this over and over again easier. Thank you.


Yay for Goodreads keeping track of all of my reading! Over 47k pages across 158 books! Not bad!

Yay for Goodreads keeping track of all of my reading! Over 47k pages across 158 books! Not bad!

Finally, my year in books. Honestly, it’s been a GOOD year for reading, and I’m beyond thrilled with how many queer books I read in 2018. Honestly, a majority of the 158 books I read were queer, many by queer authors of color. I feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many talented and hard-working authors who tell the kinds of queer stories I’ve always wanted to read. Thank you. All of you. Especially on the hard days. They’re worth it. Your stories are worth it.

I would be amiss if I didn’t mention some of my favorite books of 2018, so here you go:

Favorite Science Fiction: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

I adored this book so much. Lady astronauts. Alternate history that asks so many questions that make this such a fantastic genre. Also, the audiobooks are narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal herself and are outstanding.

Favorite Graphic Novel: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I’ve talked about this one before, but seriously, if you need a happy read that subtly explores queerness for kids of all ages, READ THIS BOOK. You won’t regret it. Thank you to Ren, who sent this to me when I was really struggling with depression. This book meant a lot to me.

Favorite Romance: His Cocky Cellist by Cole McCade

This was originally recommended to me because I wanted to learn more about well-written content warnings, but Cole McCade’s work quickly hooked me (also, he’s a generally awesome human to boot). I loved how this book explored D/s dynamics in conjunction with sex work, and definitely want to read more like this.

Favorite Series: Port Lewis Witches by Brooklyn Ray

This series focuses on a coven of queer witches in the Pacific Northwest and I simply adore the characters. The first in the series, Darkling, hooked me with a trans main character, who wants to kiss his best friend, incredibly well-written sex scenes, and all the dark magic. I’m so excited that there will be more of this!

Favorite Fantasy: The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang

I got to JY Yang’s Tensorate series kind of late, but ever since I dove into their intricately-built universe full of nonbinary characters, political intrigue, and self-discovery, I couldn’t get enough of it. Another recommendation for the audio format since it includes the first three novellas in the series and is so very well done.

Favorite YA: Dreadnought by April Daniels

Two words: Trans Superheroes. This book hooked me from page one and I found it both incredibly relatable and it also kicked me right in the feels (CWs for transphobia though since there is a LOT of heavy content in this book that is much more than a superhero story).


Anyway, that’s it for the bookish and health-related updates of 2018. It’s definitely been a messy, but also incredibly important year for me. I’ve learned a lot, last but not least, to listen to my body a little more and be kinder to myself (it’s harder than it should be), but most of all I’m just really, really grateful for everyone who’s been along for this wild ride.

Thank you to each and every one of you. You made this shit-sandwich of a year actually really fucking awesome in the end. <3

Queerness, Explosions, and general Shenanigans in the Works!

Um. Somehow it's December already and I'm seriously wondering where this year has gone and yes, I haven't been blogging in ages, so here's to changing that. Cool? Cool. Because this post is full of NEWS OF UPCOMING SHINY THINGS, so brace yourself because there might be explosions (or at least your TBR might explode, but hey, it's not hording if it's books, right? Right.) obviously.gif

So here are some of my plans for the upcoming months:

  • New posting schedule!

Right now I'm planning posts every Monday and Wednesday with Monday being chock-full of updates, thoughts on writing, queer rep, book recommendations, and other sundries related to queerness, books, and general nerdiness. If you'd like me to talk about anything in particular, definitely feel free to reach out to me. My inbox is always open for requests!

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  •  Queering Up Your Bookshelf Author Interviews!

Wednesday being a shiny, new weekly feature called "Queering Up Your Bookshelf", an interview series in which I'll be chatting with queer authors and creators about their work, queer representation, the writing process, and more. Look forward to a super special guest this Wednesday, December 5. I can't wait for your thoughts on this and hope you'll enjoy reading this as much as I will talking to all of these fabulously talented people. Let's queer up ALL the bookshelves.

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  • EMPIRE OF LIGHT's release is two months away!

As we're getting closer and closer to Empire of Light's release in February 2019, expect teasers, my cover reveal, and probably a ton of posts about being a debut author, because I'M GOING TO BE A DEBUT AUTHOR, YOU ALL! So, yeah. For now, you can add Empire of Light on Goodreads (and tell all your friends!) and read the blurb here:

Damian is the Empire’s go-to gun. Until a suave revolutionary in need of an assassin kicks his ass and demands his help.

To survive and protect the guy Damian loves, he has to make this revolution work. Even if he has to take on the entire Empire and get way too close to the guy who blackmailed Damian into this in the first place.

To save those he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

Look forward to more about my gay space opera full of magic that will kill you, assassins, and a hardass main character who is really a secret soft boy inside.

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So, yeah, bring it, 2019. I hope you'll be along for the ride.

What are things you are currently working on? Tell me in the comments.

Cheers and happy writing!

Alex

PUBLISHING NEWS!!!

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When I first took the leap from writing fanfic to writing my own characters and worlds, this weird little thing with the working title Light started sprouting weeds in my brain. Since then, this little book I started because I wanted to see queer characters in more than just the role of the Sassy Gay Friend has undergone complete rewrites until it wasn't even recognizable anymore. It taught me a ton about characters, about voice, about writing, about writing QUEER CHARACTERS where being queer wasn't an issue. It taught me about writing the books I always wanted to read.

I am beyond thrilled to announce that my Gay Firefly with magic debut science fiction novel EMPIRE OF LIGHT will be published by NineStar Press.

I couldn't be more excited to be working with their team to get Damian, Aris, Raeyn, and the rest of the crew out into the world.

I can't wait for you all to meet these characters! It's going to be a BOOK, everyone! Thank you to all who have been along on this wild ride and thank you for supporting queer books everywhere!

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Cheers and rainbow explosions. Watch this space for updates, tales from the editing trenches, previews, giveaways and release info!

Alex