Queer YA Sports Romance Review: Running with Lions by Julian Winters

Running with Lions by Julian Winters

Published by: Duet, the YA imprint of Interlude Press

Format: ePub

Genre: YA/Sports Romance/LGBT+

Order at: Duet Books | Amazon

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: A summer of about a football/soccer captain who doesn’t know he’s a captain falling in love with a star who has no idea he’s a star and the team comprised of friends who sometimes forget how to be friends but all of whom eventually figure it out. And did I mention footie? If you loved Simon but wanted more social awareness, this one’s for you.

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Guest Post: All the Queer Love Stories by Pene Henson

All the queer love stories

I value queer love stories. I’m here for a femme geek tripping up the stairs when she first sees her hot neighbour. I’m here for a bright-eyed city socialite trapped in a snowbound cabin with a gloriously competent hermit girl. I’m here for a fireman catching his breath to exchange flirty banter with a clothing designer or Olympic diving rivals growing to respect and then love one another. I’m here for a charmer of a non-binary person reconnecting with a love they thought they’d lost. I’m here for a trans guy realising the love he considered unrequited is so very not.  

Like many queer folk with a soft spot for a love story, I grew up on straight romance.

Harry’s romantic New Year’s Eve speech to Sally in When Harry Met Sally is a lesson in knowing someone and loving all of them. The ball players of Love and Basketball share a fierce respect and growing understanding. When Monica tells Quincy “I’ve been in love with you since I was eleven, and the shit won’t go away,” we feel every part of her pain and hope. In You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s Kathleen says “I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly.” And we wanted it too. Even though we knew it all along.

Jane Austen, my oldest favourite, understands the small details of love and respect. Emma’s Mr. Knightley has known Emma all her life and chokes out “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more”; Captain Wentworth pens a desperately romantic and reverent letter to his long-ago love Anne in Persuasion.

There are thousands on thousands of moments of straight romance. The best of it becomes a benchmark for love in real life.

There’s value in having benchmarks. It’s important to believe that you’re worth the dazzling awe of new love. It’s a sheer joy to experience that stomach-flipping heart-pausing moment when all feelings are laid bare. Even the fluffiest romance can make a person happy, and when time’s been spent on character, when respect is given to reality, then that same fluffy romance can make the whole world better.

It’s not just the romancey side of romance (The kissing part my kid closes his ten-year-old eyes for). Love stories tend to be kind to their characters. The stories are full of tiny human observations about how people think and move and what they do when they’re happy or sad or successful or frustrated.  In them the ordinary becomes beautiful. Any dim view or grey room or commonplace person is suddenly bright and beautiful when a character is in love.  

But it’s tough, because most of these wonderful stories are heterosexual. You can’t just replace Billy Crystal with Cher in your imagination. You can’t just replace Sanaa Lathan with Anthony Mackie. (Though both those movies sound amazing). So many love stories are inherently not queer, and they give us queer folk the idea that we can’t ask for something that magical, or wonderful, or silly, or forever.

There’s sometimes this sense that queerness is just about sex. That queer romance is primarily about exploring sexuality and people’s fantasies. And sure, often that exploration is fabulous and important and for some people just plain hot. There’s value in sex.  

But I also want queer people to have touchstones for romance, to have all the huge sweet speeches, all the stomach twisting moments of new love. I want them to have the meet-cutes, the eyes-catching across a crowded room, the heart-flipping terrifying moments of falling head over heels for someone. I want the depth too, the rich characterisation and the big lives. I want the lonely hearts and the communities of queer folk laughing and living with one another. I want all the queer love stories. (I wish I could write all the queer love stories – But I’m going to have to leave the witty banter to other writers).  

Queer romance is about giving queer characters happiness, giving them a place in the everyday world, giving them communities and dreams, and giving them a happily ever after.

My hope is that queer people can see themselves reflected in that happiness.  That’s why I write queer love stories. They won’t change the world, except in all the ways they will.


About Pene Henson:

Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the local LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time watching sports and gazing at the ocean with her wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. She received the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance for her first novelInto the Blue (Interlude Press, 2016) about surfers growing up on the North Shore of Oahu. Storm Season, about two women trapped in a remote Australian cabin, was published in 2017. She had a short story about WNBA players going home for Christmas in If The Fates Allow (Interlude Press, 2017) an anthology of queer holiday stories.

Connect with Pene: www.penehenson.com or @penehenson on twitter.

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Queer YA Mystery Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

Published by: Feiwel & Friends

Format: mobi

Genre: Queer YA Mystery

Order at: Amazon | B&N | Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: Read this book for the own-voices insight a not-yet-out teenage boy gains as he navigates the deception his girlfriend and best friend created while trying to protect the status quo.  Read More

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Urban Fantasy Buddy Review: The Year of the Knife by G.D. Penman

The Year of the Knife by G. D. Penman

Published by: Meerkat Press

Format: mobi

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Mystery

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Edwin & Alex

What to Expect: Fun, ambitious, mostly successful queer urban fantasy featuring a kickass heroine, tons of magic, and an alternative history of the good ol’ US of A. Read More

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Surprise! Anyta Sunday’s Leo Loves Aries is Free!

Hi all! Judith here!

Now it’s no secret that I absolute love-love-LOVE contemporary New Adult novels. Everything about them is my cup of tea: the fact that they touch on that tenuous time of life when who we are as people is forming, that there is an awakening of all the senses and ideas, that we are growing and adapting as people…all of it just calls to me. I love the notion that we are still malleable and open to new ideas in our early 20s, that we are not stuck but adaptive outside of childhood.

So today, I have to share something amazing with you all: one of my favorite contemporary queer New Adult novels is actually free! That’s right, F-R-E-E for today only! Read all about it after the jump… Read More

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Guest Post: How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

 How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

My Google search history and my little notebook of Things to Remember have become quite amusing reads this year. My second novel, Olympia Knife, tells the story of a woman who grows up in a travelling circus in early 20th Century America, and in researching that book (even if it was often only on Google and not through airless hours in the library, as I was trained for), I wound up seeking the answers to a hundred little questions that presented themselves: how much would Viselik, the trained bear, weigh? How many of those mean, alcohol-soaked clowns could fit into a clown car, and is it a special car? When was the circus canon invented (in case I want to shoot a character out of one)? How do you swallow a sword?

Since the novel takes place in the early 20C, this research was made ever more important by my need to be historically accurate. I also wound up researching period circus costumes, customs of the time and early 20C American slang. (My favorite discovery: “It’s all jake,” as in “everything’s cool”.) I even found myself trying to figure out when folks in the U.S. started saying “OK.” (In case you need to know, it was originally a joke in Boston ‘round about the 1830s… cool Bostonians liked to abbreviate everything—“That’s an NG” instead of “That’s a no-go”, for instance—and OK stands for “Orl Korrect,” which is the 1830s Bostonian’s Intentional Silly-Talkin’ way of saying “All Correct.”)

My point, I suppose, was that the old saw “write what you know” will only get you so far. In my case, it means all my novels would be about middle-aged, fat, disabled, white, first generation, lesbian professors who live in New York and have two dogs. That would dubiously be good for one novel, but after that, one probably must move on. On the other hand, I’ve never been interested in “historical fiction,” either—like sci-fi, much of it seems too caught up in the details of the unfamiliar world, and privileges those details over good, strong characters, beautiful language and sensory detail (the good stuff, of course, doesn’t… hence my love for Octavia Butler).

So how does one strike the balance between research and writing when one’s writing something creative? It’s a version of that same predicament about whether good writing requires routine and diligence or inspiration. (I cannot count how many people, upon hearing that I write novels, have made the assumption that I sit around eating bonbons and waiting for inspiration to strike. I must then explain that if I did that, I’d never write anything at all, because I usually find other things—things that don’t feel like work, like sorting through my fourth-grade papers or arranging my socks—more inspiring, and that writing, at least for me, is work and often an unpleasant task I must make myself do on the regular by, usually, sitting at my laptop for a prescribed 6 hours a day.) Eating bonbons is pretty good, too—as long as I’m also working.

What I’ve finally discovered, well into my forties, is that for me, writing works best as a tightrope walk balanced between inspiration and routine: I must get myself inspired within the confines of a routine. Research helps with this—I can spend hours flipping through pictures of early 20C circus performers, or reading about the history of poi spinning (that’s twirling stuff, often stuff on fire, for you uninitiated folks). But if I limit myself to twenty minutes of research, which must be followed by an hour of writing, I have the inspiration I need to feed me in the drudgery, and the structure to make sure the drudgery gets properly drudged.

Here’s the disenchanting, unromantic truth: writing is usually neither fun nor magical nor John-Berryman-wild-eyed-crazy-inspired. Writing drunk or high doesn’t usually make for good writing, either, at least in my experience. (Lots of writers wrote in spite of drinking or drug use, not because of it.) Dead Poets Society got it 100% wrong: writing is work, often unpleasant or tough or boring or just unrewarding in the moment, and rarely does it involve standing on your chair and bursting with emotion and quoting Whitman. And almost never does a writer get to witness the effects of the writing (except when a reader makes the effort to find her and tell her about it, ahem, friends).

I’m not trying to make writing sound more difficult than it is, or more important, I’m simply trying to demystify it here.

It’s the same thing I had to learn when writing about circus stuff, too: I was really drawn to writing about trapeze performers and fat ladies and bear trainers, but what I found was that the more real I made these characters, the more I had to think about what people threw at Minnie the Fat Lady while she was on stage (newspaper, rocks and hair pins, mostly), or whether Samu slept in his bear Viselik’s cage at night (yes, he did). I also figured most of their costumes smelled like sweat, and the air around the Flying Knifes was always filled with chalk dust from their hands. And the clowns were mean and cliquish and a little bit ominous.

Oh—and in case you were wondering and your Googling finger is broken, the answers to the questions I began with are, in order: about 400 pounds; between 14 and 21 clowns in a car without seats; the first human canon ball performed in 1877.

And how do you swallow a sword? Very carefully.


Alysia Constantine is the author of the novels Sweet (2016) and Olympia Knife (2017). She lives in the lower Hudson Valley of New York with her wife, two dogs, a cat, and a cucumber vine that has completely taken over the garden and produces ridiculous, armlength cucumbers.

Her next book is Olympia Knife. It will release on 11/3/17:

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 18 with Daria Defore

Daria Defore join Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from the fantasy Romance, Sparkwood.


About Sparkwood:

Finn Bricket has never trusted fairies, and it’s no surprise to him when his twin brother Luke turns up dead, probably by magical means. What he doesn’t expect is an invitation to the funeral—in the fairy realm—and a chance to find out who killed him.

On the way he meets Robin, a fairy who’s supposed to be watching out for him—and who Finn instantly hates. Despite the tension between them, Robin is also upset by Luke’s death and wants to make things right.

Before long they’re looking for clues and up to their necks in fairy trouble, and maybe not even Robin’s magic can save them.


About Daria Defore:

Daria Defore is a writer by night, and a video producer by day. She’s been writing ever since she was a kid, and vividly remembers that her first story was about visiting Santa Claus and getting a pet dinosaur. Now she writes filthy romance instead.

Daria is a Washington transplant living in New York City. She has a tendency to set stories in her beautiful home state. She loves reading, cups of coffee in multiples of ten, and being bullied to write more.


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Sci-Fi Fantasy review: Dalí by E.M. Hamill

Title: Dalí by E.M. Hamill

Published by: NineStar Press

Format: Mobi

Genre: Queer SFF

Order at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: When we meet Dalí Tamareia, they’re like Princess Leia combined with Han Solo in that first moment they met, except with more drugs, more sex, more implants, and more time in emergency care than a Sol Fed Ambassador should have to endure. This sci-fi novel goes fast and, damn, is it good.

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Fantasy Review: The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon

The Glamour Thieves by Don Allmon

Published by: Riptide Publishing

Format: eARC

Genre: Queer SF/Fantasy

Order at: Publisher  |  Amazon  |   B&N  |  Kobo

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect:  A fast-paced, well-written SF/Fantasy heist story, packed with action and sex.

Check out Don Allmon’s guest post “One Handed Writing” to learn all about what drove him to write The Glamour Thieves. Hint: it’s not what you think it is. 

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Science Fiction Romance review: Rogue Wolf by Elliot Cooper

Rogue Wolf by Elliot Cooper

Published by: Self-published

Format: eARC

Genre: Science fiction/queer romance

Order at: Amazon | B & N Kobo

Reviewed by: Edwin

What to Expect: Short, sharp, entertaining caper with a good romance and some interesting sci fi ideas. Read More

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