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!


Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Kellie Doherty



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Kellie Doherty to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk to us about her upcoming release, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, how she got her start to writing in fanfiction, quickly disillusioned herself of the romantic notion of writing in coffeeshops, and how sometimes the best way to move forward is giving up on a project. Welcome, Kellie and happy reading!

Photo courtesy of Kellie Doherty

Photo courtesy of Kellie Doherty

Kellie Doherty is the author of the Cicatrix Duology (Finding Hekate and Losing Hold) and is currently working on a five-book fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties will be out in early 2019!

During the day, she’s an office assistant and freelance editor, and by night she’s crafting adventures full of magic and daggers...and maybe a few dragons, too.

Find Kellie online:


1. What is your writing origin story?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. Ever since I was young, I devoured books. When we went on camping trips, I’d go to the library and leave with an armload of books only to have read all of them before we even got to the campground. I liked all kinds of stories—sci fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, comics, manga—and eventually all my reading led to me wanting to write. I started writing fanfiction and although it wasn’t in the book-ish realm—Digimon and Pokemon mostly—it sparked my creativity for sure. I credit J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series that pushed me over the edge, though, and inspired me to write my own original fiction.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

Inspiration comes in many forms for me. I get inspired by epic things—legendary music like the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, amazing writing like V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shades trilogy, great character building like on Critical Role—but I also get inspired by small things—the colors on flower petals, the cat’s eye shine in the middle of the night, the unique names I’ve come across at work. I also get inspired by my characters, since that is by far my favorite part of writing—character creation. As for keeping that inspiration alive, most of the time it’s pretty easy, actually, especially if I get to create a new character or start a new section of a work-in-progress or even write a flash fiction piece! When the inspiration doesn’t hit, though, I simply immerse myself into the things that I know help me be creative—read a good book, watch some Critical Role, etc.—and that spark will eventually come back.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

To me, representation means showcasing all facets of our society so everyone can have someone they can relate to. It means weaving in other diverse cultures and characters into the story so kids, teens, and adults can see themselves in the adventure. I read a lot of stories where men were the leads and women were “damsels in distress”—especially in fantasy and science fiction. Now all of my main characters are female who can take care of themselves. (Even if they are also super awkward in the process.) I also didn’t see many queer characters and being bisexual, I wanted to change that so my main characters are also queer. I really hope that my characters can speak to readers out there and help those readers see a little bit of themselves in my story.

4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

While I wouldn’t call the damsel in distress a favorite trope, I do like to subvert it at every turn or use it in unexpected ways. My main characters are women and they can kick ass, but they are also in distress in different ways. Whether it’s being haunted by their past or hunted by evildoers, my main characters do need help from friends or family, but it’s not in that all-encompassing way that was portrayed in the damsel in distress idea. I also like playing with the “chosen one” trope and focusing instead on a character that may not have the best assets for the job or even be the most powerful. I also love the evil-in-waiting idea, where the evil was defeated ages ago only to burst forth once again to wreak havoc; the epic quest, where the characters go on this amazing adventure to complete their goal; and the stories that go into what the world would be like after an apocalypse!

5. What is your writing process?

My writing process starts with character creation. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s my favorite part of storytelling so I always start with a character. It doesn’t have to be the main character, either, just someone in the story that will knock on my creativity door and we go from there. After that, I dive into worldbuilding and plotlines and drafting and editing. I like to do my writing at home. I’ve tried the romantic notion of writing in a coffee shop, but the vibe doesn’t sit well with me—either the music is too loud or the people are talking about something vaguely distracting or the seats just aren’t comfortable. No, I prefer to write at home on my couch, with my two cats sitting next to me, my notes strewn about, and a cup of hot tea on the table. I usually write on my computer—it’s just faster, you know?—but I also carry around a notebook and have one sitting by my bed, too, in case inspiration strikes. I have a pretty busy schedule during the week, so I try my best to write during the weekends.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

End your last writing session in the middle of an intense spot so you’ll be excited and inspired to come back to it. Keep in mind, “intense” doesn’t have to be a life/death cliffhanger! It can be an emotional scene, a fight between best friends, a sudden crack in the middle of the woods, or a entrance into a new town—really anything that you’ll want to come back to after a long, hard day or if you’re not really feeling motivated to write.

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

Sometimes you have to just stop writing that story or poem or book and be okay with it. I wrote a novella for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and while I really enjoyed the characters and the basic plotline, the more I kept going back to the story, the more I just couldn’t get into it. I felt like I had to, though; I mean, I wrote the thing for NaNoWriMo, right? That had to mean something! I couldn’t have just concentrated on this one story for a whole month, wrote over 50K words, and basically worked myself dry all for nothing. But as much as I wanted to, I still couldn’t get into it. So I stopped working on that story and moved on to something else. Doing that, disconnecting myself from that piece, was like a weight off my shoulders, and I was thrilled to work on something new. Maybe someday I’ll try work on that NaNoWriMo story again, but maybe not—and that is perfectly okay. (And don’t worry, I do know that month of pure creativity wasn’t all for nothing; the month was intense but also really fun and made me prioritize my writing!)

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Wow, so many things! I hope my work can provide a sense of escape from real life, a deep dive into imagination and storytelling to disconnect from the stress of the daily grind. I hope readers will find a character to connect with, to see themselves in, and will learn from their struggles and triumphs. I hope readers will take away an aspect of my characters to use in their own lives—whether it be the awkward girl who finally learns to be brave or the guilt-ridden woman who accepts her past or the fighter who changes tack—I want my readers to be inspired by them. Finally, I really hope my work can help readers to be creative! I was motivated to write because of the books I read and I hope my stories, my characters, my worlds can do the same for someone else.

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few! The story is amazing, the characters are interesting, and one big thing at the beginning has an intriguing ripple effect on the rest of the story. Plus her worldbuilding is gorgeous. It’s what I call a “quiet queer” book since some of the characters are queer but it’s not the main storyline or even a secondary storyline. The queerness is just a part of them, one aspect not their whole reason for being in the story, and I love that kind of representation.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Currently I’m working with Desert Palm Press to publish my first fantasy novel called Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties. Basically, a woman gets a pendant fused to her neck and she has to deal with the deadly consequences of being its wearer. It’s the first book of a five-book fantasy series that I’m super exited about—the first four books will have a different main character and the fifth book will bring them all together. Right now we’re gearing up for the launch of Sunkissed Feathers, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on—final edits, design work, marketing, etc. Next, I’ll be working on book two of the series, which focuses on another main character named Orenda Silverstone.

Misti Eildelmann is a Vagari—a race whose innate crafting ability is connected to the creatures of the world. She’s also a Moon Knight. Misti is fighting a banished one when he slips a pendant around her neck that saps her strength. The pendant is dangerous. Deadly even. It harnesses crafting in a way not seen before, so she sets off to find help. Old and new friends join her on this quest, including her longtime crush Dylori Clyofis and a villager named Arias Silverstone. The journey is risky—filled with frightening suncreatures, evil worshippers, and twisted betrayal. Misti is thankful to have friends on this path into the scorching light, but something much bigger is waiting for them in the sunshine. Her pendant is just a piece of puzzle.


Sunkissed Feathers will be released in early 2019 so keep an eye on my social media for more info! Otherwise, check out kelliedoherty.com to see my other works available for purchase and the platforms in which you can purchase them.

Favorite Five: 5 Podcasts to Fuel Your Writer Brain


In the past two weeks, I have been interviewed for three different podcasts to talk about anything from queer spec fic, to my writing process, and craft advice. It’s honestly been one of the most fun things I’ve done as an author so far and I hope to do more of them as I go. That said, I only got into listening to podcasts regularly recently and have pretty much fallen in love with podcasts, so I thought I should probably share some of my top podcasts guaranteed to fuel your writing brain.


This podcast, hosted by agents Laura Zats and Erik Hane discusses the ins and outs of publishing—including great takes and updates on current publishing news and trends. If keeping up with publishing on Twitter just seems too much for you or you want current news, trends, and ins-and-outs of agenting life directly into your inbox, I suggest you subscribe to this podcast via iTunes or your favorite subscription service. Want more insights on queries, first pages, and bonus episodes? You can support them on Patreon, too!


Want to discover new queer speculative fiction authors and hear about their writing process, work, and commentary about current LGBTQ+ issues? The fabulous Carrie Pack hosts BiSciFi, a monthly podcast in which she interviews two queer speculative fiction authors per episode.

My favorite part about this podcast is how it features authors published through small presses or independently and includes a lot of thoughtful advice and commentary on what’s current in queer speculative media. Also, I’ll be on their next episode, which I’m incredibly stoked about!


This podcast, hosted by authors Vance Bastian and S.A. “Baz” Collins interviews a different queer author, creator, and other contributors who discuss their experiences, influences, and the ins and outs of queer storytelling across all media.

This podcast features many queer authors talking about their current releases, writing process, and experiences that shaped (and still shape) their (writing) lives, and wraps up with an RFQ (Recommendations for Queers) feature that gives great recommendations and focuses on self-care in 2019. Check them out here.


Write Through the Roof, hosted by author Madeleine D’Este focuses on the key question of “What’s the one thing that took your writing to the next level?”

This podcast interviews all types of authors and covers writing advice such as plotting vs. pantsing, writing rituals (and fuels!), tips and tricks that have worked for authors, as well as new techniques they are currently trying out to add to their craft. This was a new-to-me podcast and I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who wants to learn more about different takes on craft and ideas that might just bring your writing to the next level. Find out more and listen to past episodes here.


Lore is a podcast about the “darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares,” according to its website and frankly, I’m incredibly addicted to Aaron Mahnke’s incredibly soothing way to tell incredibly terrifying true story—to the backdrop of soft piano music.

People have been telling me to check out this podcast for years, and frankly, it’s totally on me that I haven’t gotten into this until just recently. But at least that means I have tons of episodes to binge. Give this a listen. Maybe not, like I do, just before going to bed. Unless you want your writer brain to go into creepy overdrive, of course.

These are currently my favorite podcasts, specifically for writers, but what are your favorites? They don’t have to be writing related, but I love queer-focused ones. Got recommendations? Drop me a comment and I’ll check it out!

Oh, and if you’d like to interview me for your podcast, please reach out via my contact form, because this is seriously my new favorite thing to do.

Happy listening!


Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Xan West



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Xan West to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about writing kink, erotica, D/s dynamics, and their inclusion of PTSD, autism, fat rep, D/s dynamics, vulnerability, and food (seriously, check this novelette out for the food!) in their latest release, Nine of Swords, Reversed. I’m especially excited to share all the links Xan shares to previous blog posts and further resources on writing, representation, and writing kink and erotica in particular with you.

Welcome, Xan, and happy reading!

Photo courtesy of Xan West.

Photo courtesy of Xan West.

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.

Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 2008 NLA John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is out from Go Deeper Press.

After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet, for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website, and sign up for their newsletter to get updates.


Content Warnings: references to erotica, kink, abuse, chronic pain, trauma

1. What is your writing origin story?

I come from a family of writers, grew up surrounded by amazing writers, and have been writing for my whole life. I started taking writer’s workshops when I was 8 years old. Whatever else I was going to do with my life, I knew I was going to be a writer as well.

I’ve written a lot of different genres, but I didn’t start seriously publishing my work until I’d been writing erotica for a few years. I wrote to explore my kinkiness, I wrote my fantasies for my play partners, I wrote to describe what I was seeing in kink communities, and I wrote to imagine something better. My first serious D/s relationship was abusive, and I wrote a story as a way to hold on to being kinky, by imagining D/s that was caring, careful, and supportive, instead of what I was experiencing. That story is a big part of what helped me to leave that relationship. After I did, I began to submit my erotica to anthologies. That story, the one that helped me leave, was my first erotica publication. It paved the way for all the others.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

I draw inspiration from reading (especially in the genres I write, and not just from great books either), from talking to other writers, from the ache of not seeing my own reflection and the desire to see myself on the page.

With short stories, I’ve also been inspired by the challenge of meeting the parameters of a call for submissions; it’s a lot of fun to think about what I could write that fits a particular theme. And if I’m lucky enough to get solicited for a call, it gives me an extra push to write for it, because of my connection with that editor, and them wanting my work. Not all those stories end up in those collections, for a variety of reasons, but calls for submission have inspired some of my personal favorites.

I’ve noticed that readers motivate me a lot, that if I share things about my work, snippets, details, plot bunnies…and I get enthusiastic responses from readers, it helps me motivate to continue working on something or pick it up again. It also inspires me to sprint with other writers; I’m part of a queer writers slack where we sprint together a lot and share snippets, and that cycle of support and sharing and comraderie keeps me going.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

When I talk about representation, I’m talking both about seeing marginalized folks represented with care on the page and also marginalized authors having support for their work. In my book reviews, I have a representation section where I mention character and author identities; to me it’s just as important to support Black authors as it is to support stories with Black characters, in a lot of ways it’s more important. I’d say the same for identities I share. I’m interested in books by trans and non-binary authors, even where the MCs are cis. Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds by Rose Lemberg, one of the fantasy stories that has resonated particularly deeply with me in terms of trans issues was by a trans author and had a cis POV MC.

In my own writing, I care particularly about the representation of identities I share. For example, in my most recent release, Nine of Swords, Reversed, I cared especially about the disability representation. I really wanted to show what daily life is as an autistic person with PTSD and chronic pain, and endeavored to illuminate that experience in some detail in the story. I was writing that aspect of the story particularly for disabled readers who have similar experiences; I wanted them to see themselves on the page. I also cared about showing that on the cover, and am so pleased with the way the cover showed a cane that looked like mine, the MC in a bed in a way that was lush and resonant, as both myself and the MC spend a lot of our daily life in bed.

4. What are your favorite things about writing erotica and kink in particular?

I really love writing dominants being vulnerable, having needs of their own, being supported by their submissive partners. So often dominants are expected to be stoic and inscrutable and have no needs of our own; I’ve written a series of essays about this issue. Essays are great; but showing the different ways that can look in fiction is a deep joy for me, and is about writing myself onto the page. I also really love describing the sensory experience of kink in detail; it’s such a visceral thing to write, and it’s wonderful to sink into writing that aspect of a story.

5. What is your writing process?

I try to capture inspiration and get enough down that I can pick something up again. I often have a number of projects that are partly done, and even more that have just a few notes, a couple paragraphs, a beginning to jump off from when I want to/am able to. My writing time and capacity is scarce because of my disabilities, so it’s rare for me to write big chunks at once.

I’m still fairly new to writing longer form romance, so I don’t have a set process yet. I’m playing around with different ways to write things longer than a short story. Erotica short stories, on the other hand, I’ve been writing for close to 20 years, so I have developed a process for those. I generally start with either the call for submissions or what I think of as the spark for the story, which are usually notes or a couple paragraphs I’ve written before. Then I often think through the structures that limit the story, draw it’s boundaries for myself, like length, pairing/grouping, theme, but also what I want to say with the story (a particular political point I want to make, a particular aspect of kink life I want to illuminate). These can come from the call, if there is one, or a market I have in mind, if I’m writing to market, or can come from me. Once I have that structure, as I write kink erotica, I also build a structure for the BDSM scene itself. I wrote a longish blog post describing this aspect of how I write kink. When I have some clarity about the kink in the story and what it will look like, then I think about how to put it into context, so that I establish character, consent, the emotional aspects of play and how they work. This is often when I start drafting, and see where that takes me. I revise as I write, so I get a fairly clean first draft, but it’s often missing aspects of the story that matter to me. I generally go back and layer in more emotional depth and internal tension, more sensory description, more vulnerability for the top, a deeper emotional arc, and the cues the reader needs for the characters identities. When I’ve done this, that’s when I send to beta readers and sensitivity readers and begin the editing process based on feedback from others.

6. What is your advice for authors writing t4t (trans for trans) relationships?

My biggest piece of advice about this is to do what you can to not think about cis readers, to shut them out of the room, so to speak, and let the trans folks interact with, talk to, build connection with each other, as if they are alone in a room together. Ideally, actually get them alone when you start writing, even if it means not starting at the beginning. Get a sense of who they are when they aren’t there for a cis audience. Dialogue is a great way to start.

So often we make trans characters explain themselves, teach, perform, be there for the learning of cis readers. Imagine you are writing an insider story that only other trans people will read, that’s for trans readers. Get inside the moments when trans characters are together, talking. What do they say to each other? What do they not say? What don’t they need to explain? What are they hiding? What are their places of connection? How do they feel that they must perform for each other? What shape is their armor? Where do they relax and breathe because no cis people are around? How do their insecurities manifest? Where are they afraid and what sparks those fears? What does their anger look like? What can they build together, that’s not for cis people?

I’d also suggest reading stories by trans and/or non-binary authors that center relationships between trans and/or non-binary folks. My recent release Nine of Swords, Reversed is an example; it has three central characters and they are all genderfluid. I’m going to suggest some other things you might read for that. (These are a sample of ten; there are more out there.)

• Nevada by Imogen Binnie

• A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde

• Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girls Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom

• Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant

• Can You Say My Name Again by Nadia Nova

• Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans

These are free:

A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power by Rose Lemberg

The Rivers Children by Shweta Narayan

Rental by Morgan M Page

This Shall Serve As a Demarcation by Bogi Takács

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

To consider feedback carefully and decide what I want to take in. Particularly when writing insider stories, like trans stories for trans audiences, for example. I wrote an essay about the importance of this, and how I do it.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I primarily write for queer & trans folks, disabled folks, fat folks, kinky folks, who want to see themselves on the page. So my greatest hope is that I created that kind of mirror.

Some of my stories are intended to be comfort reads; Nine of Swords, Reversed is one of those, as is “Tenderness”, which was printed in Queerly Loving Vol 2. I hope that these stories provide cozy comfort to readers.

I also really care about depicting access intimacy and queer chosen family and community on the page, showing folks being careful and caring with each other, honoring consent, and creating room for each other to be who they are. My queer kink erotica collection is titled Show Yourself to Me because one of the greatest gifts a play partner or lover can offer is to hold space for you to show them who you are. I would love for these aspects of my work to offer possibilities to folks who are struggling to imagine these things in their lives. One of the best compliments I ever got from a reader was that my story showed them the kind of queer chosen family that might be possible for them to have in the future.

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

I’ve mostly been reading winter holiday romance novellas, recently; I’m going to concentrate on the speculative fiction ones, as that’s the focus of your blog!

• I really enjoyed Holly and Oak by R Cooper, which is a contemporary fantasy winter solstice m/m romance that is full of angst and pining and witches who have adored each other from afar claiming their own destinies and finally finally getting together.

• I loved The Coyote’s Comfort by Holley Trent, which is a shifter second chance Christmas f/f romance with a very prickly coyote shifter MC who has a lot of emotional armor, a quality I especially enjoy in romance MCs.

• I adored Hearts Alight by Elliott Cooper just as much on my second read. This is a paranormal Chanukah m/m romance between a grumpy MC who hates the commercialization of Chanukah and a golem who he’s been pining for forever but never thought would be into him. I loved the family in this story, which includes a BFF brother in law who is trans.

• I found Keeping the Cookies by Brianna Lawrence wacky, hilarious and really wonderful. It’s a contemporary fantasy Christmas meet-cute m/m romance that has an awesome BFF and a fat love interest who I completely adored.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

I am currently editing my contemporary kinky polyamorous queer m/f novella Their Troublesome Crush, which has a Jewish autistic demiromantic trans man submissive MC, who realizes that he’s got a crush on his metamour, Nora, a Jewish disabled femme cis woman switch, while they are planning their mutual partner’s birthday party. It’s slated to be out 3/18/19!

I want to finish a draft of Shocking Violet this year, which is my kinky queer polyamorous contemporary romance novel-in-progress that has 5 disabled queer MCs, four of whom are trans.

If I am able, I’d also like to write a Chanukah romance novella this year, tentatively titled Eight Kinky Nights! That one is at the very beginning stages of development.

Dev has been with xyr service submissive Noam for seven years and xe loves them very much. Dev and Noam have built a good life together in Noam’s family home in Oakland, where they both can practice their magecraft, celebrate the high holidays in comfort, support each other as their disabilities flare, and where Noam can spend Shabbos with their beloved family ghost.

But Dev’s got a problem: xe has had so much arthritis pain recently that xe has not been able to shield properly. As an empath, no shielding means Dev cannot safely touch Noam. That has put a strain on their relationship, and it feels like Noam is pulling away from xym. To top it off, Dev has just had an upsetting dream-vision about xyrself and Noam that caused one of the biggest meltdowns xe has had in a while. It’s only with a timely tarot reading and the help of another genderfluid mage that Dev is able to unpack the situation. Can xe figure out how to address the issues in xyr relationship with Noam before everything falls apart?

This romance novelette includes Jewish queer genderfluid mage MCs, the couple on the rocks trope, and fat, autistic, disabled, chronic pain, PTSD and depression representation.

Buy your copy here:

AMAZON GUMROAD Content Warnings

Other works by Xan West:

Show Yourself To Me: Queer Kink Erotica

 “Tenderness” in Queerly Loving, Volume 2

“Trying Submission” in Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Kayla Bashe



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Kayla Bashe to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about writing out of spite (which might just be the best kind!), Miles Morales and what he means for representation, chronic illness, and their latest book, The Prince and Her Dreamer, a queer retelling of The Nutcracker, out from Less Than Three Press.

Welcome, Kayla!

Kayla Bashe, currently testing out the name Ennis in their personal life, is a Sarah Lawrence graduate, game designer, educator, and poet/novelist currently based in Brooklyn. Their poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Mirror Dance, Cricket, and Liminality, among others, and their chapbook Glitter Blood was a 2018 Elgin Award nominee. Several of their novellas have been published by Less Than Three Press.

Find more about Kayla and their writing at https://kaybashe.wordpress.com/.

Find Kayla online: WEBSITE TWITTER

1. What is your writing origin story?

In middle school, I had high-speed internet access, and a lot of free time. So I did what any kid would do: NaNoWriMo. (Okay, maybe not any kid, but my moon is in Virgo.) I quickly realized that reading stories to my class and publishing them in the school newspaper was a great way to get attention from my peers.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

The main thing that inspires me is sheer spite. Star Wars mentioned that Snoke wore slippers and a bathrobe all the time because decades of using the Dark Side had warped his body and given him chronic pain, so I wrote a short story about a space traveler with chronic pain- and then turned it into a novel. Notorious SFF abuser Marion Zimmer Bradley created an entire body of work that portrayed femme people as shallow and flighty, so I wrote a novel about femmes and masc-of-center people working to save a kingdom. Currently, I’m querying both. I keep my inspiration alive by thinking about the people who will be impacted by my work.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

With the new Spider-Man movie out, my favorite thing in the entire world has become watching videos of little kids who look like Miles Morales flipping out about the existence of Miles Morales. Every time some tiny, tiny, perfect human yells “That’s me! I’m ‘piderman!” my heart grows like five sizes, because I genuinely CANNOT EVEN.

When someone sees their self in my work, it’s even cooler: I made someone happy with my words! For me, representation isn’t something I have to think about, it’s just a way of making my writing accurate to my everyday life and the lives of the people around me. Anyone who creates art set in NYC and populates the city with only white people doesn’t deserve to live here.

4. What is your writing process like?

As someone with ADHD, the traditional “quiet room with no distractions” feels like a distraction in and of itself. I do my best writing in stimulating settings: drafting a short story at a raucous house party, writing a novella scene at a nightclub. One of the novels I’m working on publishing, Lyric of the Crystal Planet, was written entirely on the subway and train during my commute to an internship.

5. How does chronic illness impact or feature in your writing?

Chronic illness has forced me to be flexible- not only in terms of my writing schedule, but also in terms of how I write. After each of my hand surgeries, I experimented with new methods; dictation, typing with one finger, telling my stories out loud to a helpful listener. During college, I had such severe headaches and light sensitivity from undiagnosed and untreated Ehlers-Danlos that I believed I was going blind, so I challenged myself to write descriptive prose without using any visual detail. Additionally, being almost entirely homebound (dormbound) during college sparked my interest in meditation and the occult, which is why so many of my characters are witches, psychics, or otherwise outside the norm.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Something that works for me, and that I think more writers could think about, is trying new things. Novel not working for you? Switch to poetry. Short stories feeling dull? Write a game. Whenever I feel burnt out or stuck in one genre, I try writing in another.

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

I’m a very accommodating person, so the hardest lesson I learned was how to, as the classic vine says, “block out the haters.” Such as the cis queer person who gave me a bad review because my demigirl protagonist didn’t feel nonbinary enough, or the abled queer person who couldn’t understand why my characters had to be “queer AND mentally ill.” I can’t make everyone happy, I just have to write.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I hope readers will remember how beautiful, magical, and important they are to the world and to the lives of the people around them, even amidst a society that tries to say they’re not valuable. That they don’t have to be “normal” or “perfect” to get a HEA.

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

I read Rose Lemberg’s poetry collection Marginalia to Stone Bird between acts at a burlesque show. The way that they used free verse as a worldbuilding and storytelling tool really made me re-envision what was possible for speculative poetry as a fiction vehicle. I also binged Sassafrass Lowrey’s Patreon stories and queer Christmas Carol retelling and ugly cried in a Bushwick piano bar, which is to say, you should probably read Sassafrass Lowrey.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

At the moment, I’m focused on game design; I just got accepted into a zine focused on the Bard class in Dungeons and Dragons, and I’m going to be a Kickstarter stretch goal in “More Kittens” by Glittercats Fine Amusements. Meanwhile, I’m querying two novels and a chapbook, and looking forward to edits on Courier’s Run, a novella inspired by my love of long-distance running and Scottish accents. It’s set in a world where most of the population has turned into hungry ghosts, and the survivors have lost their memory. The main character works for a professor bent on human extinction- but meeting a dangerous, confident older woman forces her to re-think her goals. It’s super gay.

Clara feels stifled by the life that's been planned out for her, and clings to her only hope that something more might be possible: a mysterious book given to her by her Uncle Drosselmeyer, that recounts the tales of the magnificent warrior woman known as the Red Prince.

Decades ago, Drosselmeyer trapped the Red Prince in the form of a doll to save her from the Rats. When the magic of Clara's selfless admiration restores her to human form, she and Clara must find a way to stand against the Rats once and for all if they hope to enjoy the life they've always longed for...

Buy your copy here:


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

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Krystal Norton



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Krystal Norton to Queering Up Your Bookshelf. Krystal’s poetry collection, Rip&Tear, illustrated by Emilee Koehler just came out earlier this month. Krystal is here to talk about her inspiration for writing, her favorite things about queer poetry and what inspired Rip&Tear, her love of K-Pop and Harry Potter, as well as all the future projects she’s currently juggling.

Welcome, Krystal!

Krystal Norton is a pansexual poet and author living in Texas. When she’s not writing words, she works for a mortgage company as their Document Specialist. She is a practicing Pagan who’s beliefs can be seen in many aspects of her work. Her most recent publishing credits include Hashtag Queer: LGBTQ+ Creative Anthology Vol.2, Alt-Minds Magazine Fall 2018 Volume, and her debut poetry collection Rip&Tear.


1. What is your writing origin story?

I have always been fascinated by books. In 2001, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out in theaters. I had not read any of the books at that time, but I fell in love with the movie. So, that year for Christmas my grandparents got me the first four books. It took me close to a year to read them, and when they were done, I started writing my first attempt at fanfiction. Ever since then I’ve been writing.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

Recently, I’ve found a lot of my inspiration from K Pop music videos. And, since there are always new comeback’s I seem to have an endless supply of them. Some of the most influential groups, for me, are BTS, EXO, MO NSTA X, GOT 7, TWICE, DREAMCATCHER, RED VELVET, and VIXX. Each of these groups have different styles and vastly different concepts, but they always put out a quality product that I can find some type of inspiration in.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

To me, representation is about putting everyone in your work. It’s about making a work reflect the real world. In my fiction writing, I try to imitate my personal friend group when creating a group of people. I personally think my friend group is diverse and by imitating that group, I can put more representation in my works. For poetry, it’s a little bit harder. Poetry is a little more personal so the representation would be for other people who are like me ad have been through similar experiences.

4. What is your writing process like?

My writing process is really all about the draft and its number. So my very first rough draft is always written quickly and turns out to really be just me getting the story down on the paper. When I say quickly, I mean it takes me between one and two months to put this down. I do not edit as I go. Then I let it sit and I go and do other things for about a month before coming back and reading it. I read is straight through without editing anything other than some basic spelling issues. If I see a major issue, I will highlight it for when I get ready to edit. Then I start my editing process. For poetry, I write my poems and let them sit for a day or two. If I let them sit for a month, they become irrelevant to me. I read it and edit it and usually in a week, I’m ready to submit it to journals or place it in the collection I’m working on at that current moment.

5. What is your favorite thing about writing queer poetry?

I think that poetry is such a fun art form. Poetry is about getting a full story across to someone in a very small amount of words. Especially for me since I write micro poetry, meaning my poems tend to be no more than 20 lines/ 100 words long. Queer poetry is even more special because it is getting out the feelings and emotions of being queer quickly and precisely, and because it’s done that way, it makes bold statements that can be expressed and read quickly.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

It took me a moment to figure out my answer to this question. Originally, I wanted to talk about the crappy first draft but there’s enough out there about that. My best piece of writing advice is to let your work rest. If you think you’re running out of ideas put it down, walk away, come back in a week. When you finish a manuscript for the first time, set it down for at least a week preferably a month. You need new fresh eyes even if they are your own eyes.

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

The hardest lesson I had to learn was that sometimes what you write is crap and you need to let it go. I have poems that I love, I truly love them but they are just terrible. They will never be published unless I force them into a collection. Those poems are honestly just better left alone to gather dust. Same goes for prose. You can spend months on a project and it will still be crap. The hardest thing is to just accept that fact and move on especially after you’ve put some much time and effort into it.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

My poetry collection Rip&Tear is about finding your voice and using it. I hope that when people, especially feminine and feminine of center people, read the poems they realize they are not alone and that if I did it they can as well. I want them to feel empowered and to know that the path of healing and self-discovery is hard but it can be taken and you can over come it.

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

The last queer book I read was actually Ruin of Stars by Lindsey Miller. It’s the sequel to Mask of Shadows, which is about a gender fluid assassin. I love fantasy novels and being able to read a book where a gender fluid assassin gets the girl made my heart pound so loudly. If you enjoyed Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas but you wanted it to be queer then Mask of Shadows is the book for you.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Recently I won Nano, so I’m letting that YA contemporary gay mental health romance novel sit on ice until mid-January. Currently, I writing poems for a Poetry Oracle deck that I’ve been working on since March of this year. Once I’m done with that I’m hoping to start edits on my YA novel while finishing an adult contemporary fantasy about the Greek gods Apollo and Ares. It’s a lot of stuff, but it’s my favorite kind of juggling act.

Sometimes in life, women can't find the courage to speak. But, every woman has a voice that can break the silence. Rip&Tear is a collection of poems about love, overcoming abuse, self-discovery, and most importantly taking back your voice.

Buy your copy here:

eBook Paperback

How to Deal with Your Queerphobic Family: One Queer Book at a Time

The holidays can be really hard, especially when your family doesn’t accept you for who you are. Many of us get misgendered, ignored, or suffer from a barrage of micro-aggressions that make this season a rollercoaster of trying just to exist between the peaks of fights and loneliness and the valleys of doubting your own validity. So, how do you deal with queerphobia from family members and others?

Spoiler: it’s queer books. Yes, I’m predictable like that, but hear me out.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: books open worlds. They might be how many of us first saw themselves represented and were first given the words to know and describe ourselves. But they also make perspectives accessible to those that maybe don’t share them, possibly because they have never come across anything that confronted them with diverse characters and experiences outside of their own bubble. If nothing else, books open discourse unlike any other form of media, so here’s a list of queer books to challenge your queerphobic family, to support queer creators, or maybe just because the holidays are hard and you deserve a great, happy queer read to make it through.

For Kids of All Ages:

PRINCE & KNIGHT by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis

This picture book is probably one of the most adorable things I’ve read all year (thanks to the lovely Mason Deaver, who recommended this on Twitter). As the title may hint at, this book is about a prince who falls in love with a knight after they both deal with the dragon who is attacking their kingdom. The art and storyline in this conveys just so many happy, on-the-page, queer feels without a lick of homophobia. I’m 31 and I bought this book for myself and several others both with and without children. Everyone needs to read a picture book like this.


Okay, a little backstory first: somehow this had completely flown under my radar (probably because I didn’t realize that it was a graphic novel at first), but then my awesome friend Ren sent this to me for my classroom as part of a super awesome car package after I’d talked about really struggling with mental health this year (did I mention how I have the best of friends?) and this book just owned my heart in the happiest of ways. It’s about Prince Sebastian who hires a dressmaker to create the most gorgeous dresses for him to wear at night when he becomes Lady Chrystallia, one of Paris’ most fashionable socialites.

This is another one of those stories that is literally for kids of all ages. It’s been the most checked-out book in my classroom and pretty much my go-to for anyone in need of a happy read that subtly explores themes of queerness and identity in a ver accessible way. Get this for EVERYONE in your life!

The lovely David R. Slayton gave me this entire series for my birthday this year and I couldn’t recommend it more: This is the queer lady pirate comic series full of badass queer women of color that my heart has always wanted. Also, note that while this is a spinoff of the Princeless series, you don’t need to have read it to love this series. I highly recommend Raven the Pirate Princess to anyone in your family who loves comics and may need to be hit over the head with the unique brand of happy intersectional queer feminism that is integral to this series. What’s more, this series has been struggling in sales, so in buying and reviewing it, you help get more queer comics out into the world.

There are probably many more queer comics I could recommend, but this one is particularly close to my heart because of its all-female cast and excellent pirating adventures, so go get this one!

For your Disney-obsessed Family Members:


I’ll admit that it took me some warming-up to retellings. Blame me having grown up with the original fairytales by the Brothers Grimm and still not being over Struwelpeter (nightmares, you all) but I’m all here for darker, much queerer spins on fairytales, thanks to books like Julia Ember’s The Seafarer’s Kiss (while you’re here, check out its sequel, The Navigator’s Touch as well for enby-rep and general Nose shield maiden badassery).

What I loved so much about The Seafarer’s Kiss was how much it spoke to that part of myself who always wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up, but also still maintains that Ursula is the best ever Disney villain, because she’s both badass and fabulous (fight me on this). This story wraps up both The Little Mermaid and Ursula’s origin story into one, while giving it a delightfully queer spin, with a giant heaping of Norse mythology (and enby Loki!) on top. I wanted to read this book for its fat, bi mermaid rep, but I love it for how much more it is.

When I first heard of this book, it was described to me as a trans Peter Pan and to say that I’m SO here for it would be a massive understatement. Also, note that this is actually an adult retelling of Peter Pan, though not super explicit sex, so if that’s a concern in your gift-giving choices, fear not. I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone in your family who has never come across trans characters in fiction, because this is a great place to get started. It should also be noted that while Peter’s transness is part of the plot, it’s not the plot itself, but rather woven into the story in a way that adds to it, rather than problematizing it. This is a great gift for anyone who loves enemies to lovers tropes and for all of us who secretly or not so secretly harbor a massive Peter Pan complex ourselves (because really, who of us doesn’t want to visit Neverland one day)? Pick this up for a different spin on a familiar tale, a lovely slow-burning romance, and a story that won’t leave your head anytime soon.

It may not have been until Yuri on Ice that my love for queer sports romances was ignited, but now it’s burning with full force and Julian Winters’ debut, Running with Lions is the perfect blend of cozy summer read and queer YA sports romance. This is a book both fans of soccer and fans of cozy reads, will adore. Plus, its super diverse cast with characters who identify across the queer spectrum, will allow many to see themselves on the page. My favorite thing about this book was that this opened up the issue of queerness in sports and treated it with a lot of nuance, compassion, and ultimately lots of happy endings. I personally want to hand this book to any coach of school sports who still feel that queerness is an “issue” when it comes to gendered teams (really, can we shake that up in general?) Running with Lions definitely adds a level of inclusion that I wish existed on all teams so that homophobia in sports just won’t be a thing anymore.

For that Family Member whose fantasy shelf consists of Cis-Het White Guys Only:


Honestly, get the entirety of JY Yang’s Tensorate Series while you’re at it, because you will want to read all three novellas after reading The Black Tides of Heaven. The world building in this series is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I’m personally sorry I didn’t listen to all of my friends who told me to read these books sooner (I highly recommend the audiobook, which has all three novellas in one).

In the world of the Tensorate, everyone starts out non-binary, which honestly was a really cool way to subvert gender roles, along with family dynamics. Many of the characters in JY Yang’s work will eventually choose a gender, but not all of them are binary, which was a truly refreshing take on fantasy world building and something that I hope will inspire many. Beyond that, the characters and plot in this series are wonderfully morally complex, which is just about my favorite thing in lush fantasy worlds. So, definitely check this series out, both for that family member who only ever seems to name cis-hit white male authors, and for yourself.

For the Sci-Fi Geeks or Those Who Keep Telling You They Don’t Do Politics:


Okay, let’s be fair, by now you really should have read this book, but chances are your family hasn’t yet, and hey, if you’re looking for a great book to get your family invested into world building and characters that make them question traditional family and relationship dynamics as well as gender roles: ta-da! This is your book. Plus, it’s just SO MUCH FUN! Seriously, this is how I got my wife, the self-professed “Non-Reader” to come around to the Dark Side that is audiobooks (also, she lies, she reads a ton, but this got her into novels, because “Hello, queerness in space!”)

This book is perfect for fans of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Firefly—and another one that I would also highly recommend in audiobook format, especially if you have “non-reader” family members. This one might just cure them of that particular affliction—and hey, maybe this actually opens up some nonthreatening discourse about how this word is vast and so are genders and relationships.

For That Person Who Might Need a Nudge into the Right Direction:

HOW TO BE YOU by Jeffrey Marsh

This book is truly for anyone: whether it’s That Person Who Just Doesn’t Read Fiction or the family member who has Questions but is afraid to ask them. How to Be You is part autobiography, part self-help, and part interactive workbook and it only makes a great gift for anyone who might have slipped your list—or really, really needs this book to work through their questions, biases, and other issues that might make life more complicated for them, for you, for…everyone.

While How to Be You is written with a teen audience in mind, its content honestly works for anyone, from teen to adult to your grandparent who might think they’re too old for all that newfangled gender and sexuality stuff. Really, they aren’t. No one is too old or too young to question and to discover themselves and get the courage to be themselves bravely and unapologetically. This is another one of those books that might open up some discussions—and hopefully help people to finally “get” it.

For the Person Who Constantly Asks You To Be Their Personal Google:

THE ABCs OF LGBT+ by Ash Mardell

We all have those people: “What does asexual mean?” “How is someone nonbinary?” “Wait, there are more than two genders?” “How do you pronounce Mx?” Ash Mardell’s The ABC’s of LGBT+ is perfect for those of your family and loved ones that just need a solid foundation of terminology that solidly gets them into the 21st century. Plus, this book is adorably illustrated, which is always a plus. It even has a cheatsheet for those who still can’t remember current terminology and need that extra shove outside of traditional binary thinking.

One thing I love about this book is that it makes everything really accessible, going over basic, as well as more advanced terms, and ultimately making people think about their own biases and preconceived notions. From providing a great overview of spectrums, gender, and going into sexual and romantic identities, this lovely book should serve as a comprehensive and insightful guide for those family members who seem unfamiliar with trustworthy search engines or honestly just want to learn. Yes, please learn. Here you go!

I hope you found something new and fitting for yourself and those who might just need a nudge to widen their perspectives. Frankly, giving happy queer books is probably my favorite thing ever because my hope is the more queer books find readers, the more people will finally get it.

So, what are your go-to queer books that everyone should read? Please share them in the comments!

Happy reading and take care of yourselves!


Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Tash McAdam



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome my awesome friend Tash McAdam to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about writing queer dragon riders and trans superheroes, their action-driven dystopian YA debut, I Am The Storm, and writing stories that don’t center on queer or marginalized pain.

Welcome, Tash!

Photo by Tash McAdam

Photo by Tash McAdam

Tash is a Computer Science and English teacher in Canada, although they were born and raised in the hilly sheepland of Wales (and have lived in South Korea and Chile before settling down in Vancouver). Tash identifies as trans and queer and uses the neutral pronoun 'they'. As an English teacher they are fully equipped to defend that grammar! They have a degree in computer science so their nerd chat makes sense, and a couple of black belts in karate which are very helpful when it comes to writing fight scenes.

Their novel writing endeavours began at the age of eight, although they will admit that their first attempt was derivative, at best. Since then, Tash has spent time falling in streams, out of trees, juggling, dreaming about zombies, dancing, painting, learning and then teaching Karate, running away with the circus, and of course, writing.

They write fast-paced, plot-centric action adventure with diverse casts. They write the books that they wanted to read as a queer kid and young adult (and still do!)


1. What is your writing origin story?

Great question! Essentially, I complained so much about the YA novels I was reading (the shoehorned in romances, the pointless love triangles with two white bread nobodies, the romance-is-the-main-point-never-mind-the-plot, the predictable endings etc) that my now-fiancée dared me to write a book. I think her exact words were ‘well if you think you’re so clever why don’t you write your own book? And stop bothering me, I’m reading.’ (I love her).

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

The story idea for my first ever writing project, which was my first ever novel was born when I was in one of those super tiny showers. It wasn’t draining, and I was thinking well... What if it fills up forever and I drown in this tiny weird box? That was the inspiration for the Tank, where they drown telepaths in anti-power goo so they can wipe their memories, and that idea went on to spawn a whole series. I think I’ve never really lacked for ideas and inspiration, it’s more the ... sitting my butt down and doing the work that’s a problem for my ADD self. But I’m always inspired! By everything! Every story, ever sunset, every face on the bus is a story waiting to be born as far as I’m concerned. My gdrive has 42 story universes in it right now (.. it’s the meaning of life. I now force myself to delete and old one if I have a new idea)

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

Representation means everyone should have characters that they share their various traits with. It means that we all deserve to deeply connect to characters and the stories they’re part of. It means that when a kid (young!me) goes to the library and ask for books about girls who want to be boys, they don’t hand out ‘I dressed up as my own twin for plot purposes’ books and think that that cuts it. It means we all get adventures.

As for rep in my writing... well, I’m an action driven kind of guy. I’m in it for the plot and the action, I’m not much for Finding Oneself, or Romance, which makes a lot of the queer fiction out there feel like it’s not for me. I hate having to choose between rep and a good, plotty story. It’s getting better now, for sure, but there’s still not many action-based stories out there with MCs I identify with. Sidekicks are getting more and more diverse, but where are my queer dragon riders and my trans superheroes? Hint: They are in my books.

My stories put marginalised identities front and centre, but are focused on the action-based storyline, which is never to do with The Struggle of being queer/ trans / marginalised in some other way. Unless you count being a telepath as being marginalised, because I guess that’s a whole thing, in the X-Men style of elaborate sexuality metaphors. Ha.

4. What is your favorite thing about writing queer YA?

Writing stories I’m pumped to read. Stories where the queer kids have adventures, and Dumbledore isn’t only gay if you squint.

5. What is your writing process?

Procrastinate for at least two hours... finally realise I’m running out of time and need to get on with it, bribe myself to write for ten minutes, immediately get super into it and forget to stop and pee or drink water etc. My hyperfocus is strong.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Be a shark. This means, keep swimming (or in this case, writing). When you get bogged down in editing as you write, that’s when things fall apart, in my opinion. The more time you waste crafting each sentence to be Perfect, or thinking about cover art, or choosing your perfect TV show cast, the less time you’re putting words on screen/ paper for. Your book won’t write itself. Everything book-related except the writing can come later. Be a shark.

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. That’s hard for me because I’m a people pleaser. I’ve had people slam me because they ‘don’t like Young Adult Fiction’ (thanks for reading!), because my story had ‘too many Asians’ (actual quote, please show yourself out), and because I didn’t adequately explain on the back cover why young people are fighting in a war (read the book). Opinions are subjective. I don’t like everything I read, so why would I think everyone would like what I write? I mean, I wish people would keep their unhelpful criticisms to themselves, and stick to the stuff that might actually, I don’t know, help me improve as a writer, but that is not the world. Write what you want to read, find your crew, they will love it, and it will Feel Great. Ignore the people who don’t get your stuff, it’s okay. Don’t take it personally.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question. I think at the heart of all my stories is the message that we aren’t able to reach our potential (and save the world) without a team. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. We all have different skills and abilities and it is in our communities that we are powerful. Also, possibly, destroy the status quo because the status is not quo. (credit: Dr Horrible).

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

I recently finished ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ by Jandy Nelson and it blew me away. I really enjoyed the artistic and poetic, metaphorical writing style (which is super unusual for me, I mostly enjoy very fast-paced and driven stories that aren’t bogged down with much waxing poetic). Highly recommend checking it out. It tells the story of twins who lose their mother in their teens, and it’s a dual timeline (one twin tells the past, one tells the present) mystery that’s also a coming of age story, and a coming out story all at once. Masterfully told.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on a new novel, the first in a new series, although I definitely should be working on the sequel to Warp Weavers (Magic, mystery, interdimensional warfare, Buffy meets Dr Who, out Dec 2019). My new story is a post AI apocalypse, where children have been bred for the express purpose of passing unnoticed in a robot controlled society so they can destroy the evil AI overlord. I entirely blame Person of Interest for this brainchild.

Cover by Natasha Snow

Cover by Natasha Snow

Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They'll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them.

Sam's a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves.

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that's enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics and mind readers, all gunning just for him.

Newly qualified rebel soldier, Serena, doesn't even know she's chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But, tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and the Watch on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the resistance with an incredible advantage, but not if they can't get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom.

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More Happy Book News!

Quick update, but not only am I happy to announce that Empire of Light has an official release date on February 25, 2019 (and you can add it on Goodreads here!) but I also have shiny new bookish news because today the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement for Behind the Sun, Above the Moon, dropped.

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon Publishers Marketplace Announcement, December 18, 2018

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon Publishers Marketplace Announcement, December 18, 2018

Behind the Sun, Above the Moon is an anthology featuring all #ownvoices transgender, non-binary, and genderfluid stories inspired by celestial magic and without any queer pain, edited by Brooklyn Ray and published with NineStar Press. I couldn’t be happier to be included in this and cannot wait for you all to read all of these stories. More updates as we continue working on this, but here is the PM announcement, along with the fantastic author line-up, and yes, you can already add Behind the Sun, Above the Moon on Goodreads as well!

I’m thrilled that this is happening and personally cannot wait to write more trans and nonbinary protagonists and for you all to read these stories and to support these fab authors. Mark your calendars for early 2020!