Friday, June 30, 2017

Ice Massacre and Ice Crypt - A Native American Teen Girl Is Sent To Kill A Mermaid... But Falls In Love With Her Instead

Ice Massacre (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai, #1) by Tiana Warner

A mermaid’s supernatural beauty serves one purpose: to lure a sailor to his death.

The Massacre is supposed to bring peace to Eriana Kwai. Every year, the island sends its warriors to battle these hostile sea demons. Every year, the warriors fail to return. Desperate for survival, the island must decide on a new strategy. Now, the fate of Eriana Kwai lies in the hands of twenty battle-trained girls and their resistance to a mermaid’s allure.

Eighteen-year-old Meela has already lost her brother to the Massacre, and she has lived with a secret that’s haunted her since childhood. For any hope of survival, she must overcome the demons of her past and become a ruthless mermaid killer.

For the first time, Eriana Kwai’s Massacre warriors are female, and Meela must fight for her people’s freedom on the Pacific Ocean’s deadliest battleground.

Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai, #2)

Meela has just returned from the Massacre—the annual attempt to wipe out the mermaids threatening her people’s survival. After forming an unlikely connection with Lysi, a mermaid she was trained to kill, Meela is determined to stop the war between humans and merpeople for good. She knows of a legendary weapon that could bring peace if she uses it against King Adaro, ruler of the Pacific Ocean. But her people have plans for future Massacres and refuse to help her uncover it.

While Meela works in secret to unearth the Host of Eriana, Lysi is held captive under Adaro’s tyranny. Sent to the battlefront, Lysi joins forces with a band of rebels that could either bring her freedom—or have her executed for treason.

Separated by the vast Pacific Ocean, Meela and Lysi must find a way to defeat King Adaro and end the war that has been keeping them apart.

Add your review of "Ice Massacre" and/or "Ice Crypt" in comments!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Winter Seedlings and Winter Suns - Jute and Allie struggle to overcome self-loathing caused by having been sexually abused

Winter Seedlings by Julie Roberts Towe

Jute would like to make herself invisible, but she can’t. Instead, she makes herself repulsive, even frightening. This keeps her step-dad’s hands off her, so it doesn’t matter if people mistake her for a boy or call her a freak. Jute is certain she doesn’t need love anyway, doesn’t want it. She doesn’t even know how to love. But if she did, she would love Allie.

Allie is beautiful, wears vintage dresses, and craves approval. She blames herself for what has been done to her. She knows if she becomes a better person, a person worth loving, a person willing to give up everything, a man will love her. If only Allie could see herself through Jute’s eyes…

When Allie inadvertently puts Jute in danger, they are forced to face their demons. If they drop their guard, will love be able to penetrate their scars and repair their hearts, or will their self-loathing destroy them before it can?

Winter Suns

A teenage girl in Eastern Kentucky has been isolated since birth. She experiences abuse from her father as unquestionably the will of God. She obeys his rules in hopes of banishing her demons and finding redemption. But when she breaks a rule in order to teach herself to read the Bible, she discovers something more powerful than God’s laws. A hidden letter written sixteen years prior by a woman named Allie to her lover, Jute, reveals both disturbing and electrifying secrets. She feels called to find Jute and deliver the letter to her, even if none of the maps in the Bible show the way to Nashville, Tennessee.

Meanwhile, in Nashville, Jute has decided to let go of Allie’s things. She asks her son, John, to take the boxes from the attic to the barn. To him, it’s all junk. He was never told about Allie. But, when John discovers an old photograph tucked inside one of the notebooks, he is instantly drawn into the mystery of what happened to the girl. What he discovers is even more horrifying than the secrets his mother is hiding. He wants to forget it all, but he can’t.

Add your review of "Winter Seedlings" and/or "Winter Suns" in comments!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Guardians of Illyria Series - Middle Grade Fantasy with a Gay Main Character

The Iron-Jawed Boy (Guardians of Illyria, #1) by Nikolas Lee

Year 2300
Protea: Capitol of the Eldanarian Isle

Two hundred years have passed since the lands of the Outerworld humans were destroyed, save but a handful of rebellious cities. In their ruin, the last gods of Earth, the Illyrians, rose victorious. And ever since, it's with a cruel iron fist they've ruled over their subjects--desperate to keep their thrones.

Fast approaching his teens, Ionikus Reaves knows the gods' malevolence all too well, orphaned by them after their call for a military draft on Eldanar, his home island. But when a power once dormant in Ion boils to the surface, he's whisked off to a hidden world of the island, where he comes face-to-face with the mighty Illyrians.

For Ion is a Guardian--a reincarnated god bound to serve and protect the pantheon he's so quickly learned to hate. Now torn between his obligations as a Guardian and his hatred of the gods he's to guard, Ion finds himself in the middle of a war within himself. A war that could uncover a dark secret of the gods'...and split the pantheon in two.

The Iron-Jawed Boy and the Hand of the Moon (Guardians of Illyria, #2)

Year 2301

One month has passed since the death of Lady Vinya. Since the night sky went black in the sudden disappearance of the Moon.

In the aftermath of the vanishing, the scales of the Balance have been disrupted and angered, the dark repercussions felt from the ruined lands of the Outerworld to the floating island home of the gods. Only now do the gods of Illyria stir, their period of mourning coming to a close as they call for a grand tournament. One that will decide the next Hand--a god worthy and powerful enough to pull the Moon back onto this plane. Of the contenders for the Throne, one is a malevolent prince of the Sun, another a twenty-armed inventor, and the third a disgraced father.

But when thirteen-year-old Ionikus Reaves--Guardian of the gods and one-third child of the late Lady Vinya--is forced to volunteer as a competitor, Ion discovers this tournament and the gods who called for it aren't what they seem. For as he battles his way through the abandoned cities of the Outerworld, forced to fight for a Throne he doesn't want, Ion soon realizes he's not just a contender. But a pawn in a vicious game of the gods', where at the end, victory could mean death. And the destruction of the Moon itself.

The Iron-Jawed Boy and the Siege of Sol (Guardians of Illyria, #3)

Year 2302
On the Continent of Origin, deep in the deserts of the High Heat, rises one of the last remaining Citadels of the humans. Defiant and well-defended, it is known as Sol. And in this epic third installment of the Guardians of Illyria series, it will be the stage for one of the greatest conflicts yet waged between the oppressive forces of Illyria and the rebel human race.

Now 14 years old, Ionikus Reaves, Thunder Lord of the Endari, is plagued by the darkness of his past and future. His powers grow stronger by the day, as do the doubts in his plans for revenge. But when the Endari scheme to forge an alliance with an unlikely foe—the humans of Sol—Ion must set aside his uncertainties. One misstep and his allies could become his enemies, his ultimate plan never come to fruition.

Lady Lillian of Illyria has only recently settled into her new position amongst the pantheon she long feared and respected. But soon, she finds her elven blood a problem for the pureblooded gods of Illyria. On top of navigating their foreign customs, backstabbing, and searing whispers, she must also endure their wrath…and the dark secrets behind the fall of the previous pantheon.

Add your review of any or all of the author-published Guardians of Illyria books in comments!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Librarian Friends and Allies: I Hope I'll See You In Chicago at #ALAAC17

I'm really excited that I'll be attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Chicago from Friday June 23 through Sunday June 25, 2017. I'll be working at the IBPA Booth (#3529) helping the IBPA Indie-Publisher and Author-Publisher members with their Author signings.

If you'll be there at #ALAAC17, too, please swing by and say "Hi!"

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Unicorn Hunting - A Teen Lesbian Has to Choose Between Unicorns and Humanity

Unicorn Hunting by A.R. Hellbender

Caught between her family's expectations and her own conscience, a reluctant unicorn hunter, Caoilinn "Cal" Valderan, questions the morals of slaying these mystical creatures, and finds herself in a position where she must choose between them and humanity... In this coming of age story, Cal must not only defend her principles and values, as she finds herself caught in a battle between light and darkness, but she must find answers to what others dare not even to question...
What's queer about it? The author explains:

Cal spends the entirety of the book in love with her next-door neighbor and fellow unicorn hunter, Adryan. But in a medieval society in which women are not the first pick when it comes to jobs, she hardly has a chance. Adryan's engagement to Cal's brother changes everything for Cal and makes her abandon life as she knows it and live in the forest with the unicorns.

Add your review of the author-published "Unicorn Hunting" in comments!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Exciting News! I'm The New Director of Marketing and Programming For IBPA, The Independent Book Publishers Association!

Can I get a waiver for over-use of exclamation points, please?

I am delighted to share that I've taken a full-time position with IBPA, as their Director of Marketing and Programming. (I know, I know... I said that in the blog post title, but I really like my job title! And it's still fresh!)

Monday June 19, 2017 will be the start of my third week working at the IBPA offices in Manhattan Beach, California – I hit the ground running and am learning lots, overseeing five different programs and helping shape the organization's marketing and social media strategy.

The most visible project I'm doing is hosting the once-every-two-weeks IBPA Publishing University webinars, PubU Online. I did my first webinar this past Wednesday June 14 with book marketer Shari Stauch, and it was phenomenal (we had live video, polls, prizes, and such inspiring and actionable info on "outside the box" book marketing ideas from Shari!) A great start!

And I'll be going to ALA's Annual Conference in Chicago this week, working at the IBPA booth and helping our Indie-Publisher and Author-Publisher members with their book signings! While I've always wanted to go, I've never been to ALA before (or Chicago, for that matter.)

My IBPA colleagues are wonderful, the community is passionate and engaged, and the organization is all about helping Indie-Publishers and Author-Publishers in a mission close to my heart: For everyone to be empowered to be their authentic selves and to share their stories, their voices... and be heard!

And like they say in improv, "Yes, And..."

Yes, and I will still be blogging twice-a-week for SCBWI (doing my work on the weekends, like this post here.)

Yes, and I will still head up SCBWI's Team Blog, leading the live-blogging and social media coverage of their twice-annual international conferences.

Yes, and I'll keep my new one-day-a-month gig producing and editing SCBWI's monthly podcasts. (Also on the weekends.)

Yes, and I'll keep blogging three days a week here at I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read? (Yep, you guessed it: on the weekends!)

Yes, and I'm still writing an hour-a-day, every day. (Which means that Monday through Friday, I'm waking up extra-early, commuting down to Manhattan Beach before most of the traffic, and sitting in a cafe to write for an hour before heading into my new, awesome job!)

I love the new routine, feel very grateful for the opportunity, and am so happy to share the news with you, my community.


The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay In The Southern Baptist Church - a memoir by Michael Fields

The Thousand-Petaled Lotus: Growing Up Gay In The Southern Baptist Church By Michael Fields
It's a story that starts on the first day of creation, leaps ahead quickly to Fields’ childhood in Nashville, Tennessee (the Buckle of the Bible Belt), and follows him through his high school years. Along the way, he shares stories of his sexual awakening and awareness, beginning with his first crush — on a comic book hero — when he was age four, and continuing through an adolescence filled with anguished prayers that Jesus would cure him of homosexuality.

The Thousand-Petaled Lotus is a gay coming-of-age narrative that is distinctly Southern in character, yet the story of Fields’ personal and spiritual journey poses universal questions and shares experiences that everyone can appreciate, and does so in a unique way. In the Hindu tradition, the thousand-petaled lotus is another name for the sahasrara chakra, the uppermost energy center in the body, which blossoms at the moment of enlightenment. The Thousand-Petaled Lotus is structured as just that, a lotus of many petals unfolding. Fields’ journey to reconcile his faith with his sexuality is a captivating story that blossoms when he finds what Jesus called “the kingdom of heaven” and discovers that it is nothing more – and nothing less – than the present moment.
Add your review of "The Thousand-Petaled Lotus" in comments!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A House of Light And Stone - a young girl comes of age, crushes on another girl, deals with an abusive mother, and tries to figure out where she fits in her mixed-race family

A House of Light and Stone by E.J. Runyon

Growing up is never easy, but for young Duffy Chavez, whose childhood is anything but innocent, the journey is particularly painful.

Swimming against the tides of her troubled family as well as her own cultural identity, she struggles with the cards she has been dealt. Buoyed up by the belief of a select few, she strives to achieve the kind of self-knowledge that comes so naturally to the ‘real girls’ all around her. As gaps in the narrative begin to fill, and the truth surrounding Duffy’s birth is unearthed, her determination to succeed is rendered all the more astounding.

Add your review of "A House of Light and Stone" in comments!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Is My Cis Privilege Showing?

I've been thinking about my signature block when I send an email.

Yeah, I know. That sounds pretty self-involved.

But it's sort of the email equivalent of a name tag. And more and more, when I'm going to LGBTQ-inclusive, LGBTQ-sensitive events, I don't just put my name, "Lee," I'm also asked to share my personal gender pronoun (or PDP). I put He/Him/His under my name, and that's been that.

Only... I recently got an email from someone who had, after their name in the signature block, their pronouns. And I starting thinking... Should I do the same?

Given that I look like a guy, and my pronouns are the guy ones, would it just be perceived as me flaunting my cis privilege?

But as I dug deeper into why I maybe should do it, I came up with three better reasons:

1. To acknowledge there are other options besides the binary cis vision of gender.

2. To present the idea that someone who presents as a guy might not feel the "guy" pronouns works for them.

3. It's a way to for me to communicate to people living their lives outside cis-normative gender boundaries that I am their ally.

And I'm all about being an Ally.

So now, my signature block reads:

Lee Wind, M.Ed.
pronouns: he/him/his

and then the rest.

How about you? Would you consider adding your pronouns to your signature, and maybe even your social media profiles, as a sign of ally-ship for the Trans and gender non-conforming community?

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

ps: because most cis people don't know what "PGP," or personal gender pronouns, stands for, I've gone with the simpler "pronouns" followed by a colon.

pps: need a refresher on "cis" versus "trans" in regards to gender? Check out episode 4 of Gender 101.

Friday, June 9, 2017

An interview with Susie Ghahremani, SCBWI Guest Team Blogger For The Summer #LA17SCBWI Conference

Filling in for SCBWI Team Blogger Don Tate for this 2017 SCBWI Summer Conference, is award-winning illustrator Susie Ghahremani!

Illustrator Susie Ghahremani

Here's our interview:

Lee: Welcome, Susie -- The boygirlparty is in the house!

Susie: Thank you!

Lee: Please share a bit about you, and what's been your journey as a children's content creator.

Susie: I’ve been a full-time illustrator for 15 years, but only recently made my way over to kid lit! Only a few years ago, I illustrated my children’s book debut, What Will Hatch? written by Jennifer Ward (pub. Bloomsbury). The experience of working on a picture book was so unlike any of the hundreds (thousands?) of projects I worked on prior, I felt I was tapping into another career entirely. It prompted me to join SCBWI to build my knowledge and community.

I’m slowly becoming a more seasoned children’s publishing professional. Jennifer and I now share an agent — Stefanie von Borstel of Full Circle Literary; last summer, I was thrilled to be recognized with a mentorship at the portfolio show at the Los Angeles Conference (#LA16SCBWI); and my author debut Stack the Cats (pub. Abrams) ( released just a couple weeks ago!

Lee: Congratulations! Tell us about your blogging/social media/online background. What do you use, what do you love, and why?

Susie: I love social media for the constraint of its brevity and interaction. There’s no such thing as a one way transmission there; it’s a conversation.
You can find me most frequently here on Twitter and Instagram 

I also have a longform blog on my site and an extremely personal blog though I somewhat rarely post to those these days.

Recently, I became a team blogger for the SCBWI Mentorship Alumni blog: KidLitArtists — where we share process, inspiration, and tips for other SCBWI-oriented illustrators.

Lee: Now we want to hear about your journey so far with SCBWI!

Susie: I can’t say enough good things about the materials and community of SCBWI. Being part of SCBWI these past few years has given me a profound hope for my future as an artist and author: that I am working toward a life of work, not just the “next project” and that there is always more to learn, and a new direction to steer toward.

Winning one of last summer’s LA Conference mentorships gave me something I haven’t had since college: thoughtful guidance and critique from luminaries.

I enjoy the strong sense of community — both amongst fellow illustrators as well as the diverse, inspiring, noble community of publishing and education. Can I also just give a shoutout to Sarah Baker at SCBWI? She is an actual angel and nurtures so many opportunities for illustrators at all stages of their careers.

Susie's illustration (left page) in the SCBWI Bulletin

Lee: What project(s) are you currently working on?

Susie: I’m working on my next book as author-illustrator with Abrams Appleseed now — Balance the Birds! My editor, art director, and agent are incredible, insightful collaborators. I’ve also been busy with the release of Stack the Cats (lots of signings, events, etc.); working on a solo art show this autumn in Chicago; making things / shipping things / running my online shop and all the other things you might expect that add up to life and work as an author/illustrator!

Lee: The top three things you're looking forward to about #LA17SCBWI are:


* Seeing friend and fellow artist Sean Qualls present
* Filling up my sketchbook with inspiring quotes I’ll reflect on for a lifetime. (I wrote so much last year, I had to go out and buy another sketchbook mid-conference!)
* Being part of Team Blog!

Lee: Thank you so much! We're delighted you'll be joining us!

Susie: Me too! Thanks for having me!

Susie is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). When not painting, illustrating books, designing stationery and gifts, exhibiting her work internationally, running her online shop, or connecting with the illustration community, she lives in sunny San Diego with her husband and zillions of pets. Find her at or on instagram/twitter at @boygirlpartySusie

You can find out more about The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators 2017 Summer Conference here.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Felix Yz - a gay 13-year old boy is fused with an alien, and the countdown to separate them is on

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker

"If it wasn't for the fused-with-Zyx thing, I suppose I would just be normal--whatever that means."

When Felix Yz was three years old, a hyperintelligent fourth-dimensional being became fused inside him after one of his father's science experiments went terribly wrong. The creature is friendly, but Felix--now thirteen--won't be able to grow to adulthood while they're still melded together. So a risky Procedure is planned to separate them . . . but it may end up killing them both instead.

This book is Felix's secret blog, a chronicle of the days leading up to the Procedure. Some days it's business as usual--time with his close-knit family, run-ins with a bully at school, anxiety about his crush. But life becomes more out of the ordinary with the arrival of an Estonian chess Grandmaster, the revelation of family secrets, and a train-hopping journey. When it all might be over in a few days, what matters most?

Add your review of "Felix Yz" in comments!

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Many Lives of Felix Yz - a guest post by Debut Author Lisa Bunker

Today’s guest post is by Lisa Bunker, author of Felix Yz, a debut middle grade novel about a 13-year-old boy fused with an alien, which will be released tomorrow June 6, 2017 by Viking Children’s.

Debut Author Lisa Bunker

Story-making for me comes from a place of childlike geeky-joy play—as in, ooh ooh, what if there was a guy who was merged with a fourth-dimensional being? And what if that gave him superpowers? Like, what if he could detach any part of his body and have it appear somewhere else? Yeah, that would be so cool!

I wrote a scene involving detachable-parts superpowers when I was a teenager, so, fair to say, the basic idea for Felix Yz has been around for a looong time. That would be the idea of a person with a completely different being inside. Was I, as an unexpressed trans girl, groping to articulate my gender truth? No, ya think? Somebody can write that English paper someday. But, it was still also a promising idea for a story.

Fast forward thirty years, during which I kept trying and failing to write something anyone wanted to publish, and also during which the whole man-project developed more and more strained seams. Eventually, finally, I solved my gender conundrum, and began the switch from trying to live as a man to actually living as a woman. This freed up my writing, which until then had been encumbered with, in the process, lots of resentful mumbling, and in the product, a string of gratuitously angry mother characters. Yuck. Evidently, if you use your story-craft to futilely bang your head against something, you don’t do your best work.

In November of 2012, gender-transition well begun, I found out about NaNoWriMo. OK, I decided, gonna do this. So, what 50K words of crappy rough draft shall I crank out this month? How about that old alien-within concept? Sure, why not. But what if the story was a countdown to separating from the alien? (40-something me was way more interested in the dynamics of connection and loss than in superpowers.)

And so, in 30 days, the first draft of Felix Yz was born. The two things that fascinated me the most as I wrote that draft were working out the logical ramifications of alien-fusion, and capturing something of the lovely family vibe I had with my two adolescent children at the time. Less centrally, I knew I wanted Felix to have a crush, and his mom to have a love triangle, but I didn’t think as hard about those elements. I relied on stock tropes, and the romances were cis-het. (Let it be noted, however, that Grandy was genderqueer from the start.)

Next stage: an experiment in multimedia serial web-fiction. I acquired the URL and set up a fake blog where, since Felix’s story was structured as a countdown, it could unfold in real time, with the posts appearing at the right times on the right days of the week. My child Cy made illustrations, and some friends and I produced the big payoff chapter as audio drama. Lots of people thought this experiment was a wicked cool idea, but hardly anyone actually read it. Take-away: long-form fiction is tricky on the ‘net.

During the let-down after the kerplop of the web experiment, Cy, who is genderfluid, made an important remark. You know, they said, there still aren’t enough stories about queer characters. Especially stories where their queerness is just one detail about them, rather than the preachy Point.

OMG, lightbulb! (Please recall, at the time I was still getting used to thinking of myself as one of the Rainbow People.) Gleeful rewrite time! Felix gay? Yes, absolutely! His mom bi/pan? Yes, that too! Those were the only two big changes, actually...the other LGBTQ characters were already in there. It was fascinating, retrofitting the genders of two major love-interest characters. Turns out, I didn’t have to change much. A crush is a crush. Just more clandestine, is all.

That rewrite was the version I self-published on Amazon, Smashwords, and assorted other platforms, to, still, zero notice.

Then, lucky break time. I met someone who had an agent. (In the gratuitously over-the-top happy ending department, this person and I are now engaged.) My new sweetie read the latest version, liked it, and offered to mention it to the agent. Of course I said yes. The agent read it and liked it. (It was definitely tighter and stronger for having been through so many iterations already.) The agent did suggest changes, most notably aging Felix down from 15 to 13. I thought I had written a YA novel, but, if the Biz said middle grade, OK, sure, middle grade. And then out it went on submission, and certain someones at Viking liked it enough to preempt, and that lead to a contract and the final round of editorial shaping and polishing which has resulted in the book coming out now.

A tight, clean book. A complex, faceted book. A book that, any more, feels so unlike a thing I made myself that I have this bizarre sensation of having been put in charge of a precious artefact that has always existed – a sort of devotional trust.

Writing Felix Yz was a long, often frustrating, but ultimately magical experience. It ended well because I kept trying, both to figure out my own truth, and to work from that truth. So now I finally get to be who I am, and I get to do what I’ve always known I was put on this planet to do: make stories for people. Yep, gratuitously over-the-top happy ending all around. As long as the world still exists by publication day.

You can find out more about Lisa and "Felix Yz" here.

Friday, June 2, 2017

I'd Even Give Up Fireworks - #WearOrange With Me And Help End Gun Violence

Imagine we have a time machine.

We go back, and stop the invention of gunpowder.

Sure, we'd lose out on fireworks, but we'd also avoid the current insanity of gun violence.

Given that there's no time machine, a more practical approach is to get some stricter rules in place about gun ownership. (And maybe sales of ammunition?)

Why haven't things already changed?

One reason: The National Rifle Association donates and spends a lot of money to buy influence. In 2016 they spent more than $57 million on political candidates, races, lobbying, etc...

Politicians won't be motivated to change things unless we the people demand change.

So join me, and Every Town For Gun Safety and all their affiliated groups and demand things change!

And wear orange today, June 2, 2017 to help spread the word.


The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,