Covers that make it worth judging the book

The Lesbian Review has got me thinking about covers for f/f and lesbian romances and queer books with women.

So here are my favourites. Highly subjective. Strongly influenced by the fact I like beautiful views and the colours yellow and blue. Also I tend to avoid highly sexualised covers but that doesn’t mean you need to. This is just a list of twelve (um fifteen?) covers I saw and loved.

SIDESHOW by Amy Stilgenbauer. A story of a girl who runs away to the circus. The image is vivid and nostalgic and beautifully balanced.

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THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST by Emily M Danforth. This cover is just gorgeous, the long view, the rainbow lettering, the girl, the boots, the gold field. It all draws me into the story immediately.

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ROLLER GIRL by Vanessa North. The angles are crisp, the image is fun and clear and the colours are gorgeous.

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HEART OF THE GAME by Rachel Spangler. The cover captures the sweet themes of the book and the long lazy feel of baseball.

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EMPRESS OF THE WORLD by Sara Ryan. This cover, with the girls holding hands, has been done before. It will be done again. But it’s a gorgeous example with the light and the title bringing it all together.

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ASH by Malinda Lo. Atmospheric, worrying and beautiful. An amazing cover

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SUMMER WINDS by Andrews and Austin. The sky, the speed of the rider, the movement. It’s an old-fashioned kind of cover with a strong image.

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THAT CERTAIN SOMETHING by Clare Ashton. Adorable, the balance is wonderful, the image is excellent.

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NOT YOUR SIDEKICK by C B Lee. The movement and the boldness, the retro mod feel. This is one of the finest covers.

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TREASURE by Rebekah Weatherspoon. Gorgeous model, and the lights and brightness make this cover stand out.

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A LOVE STORY STARRING MY DEAD BEST FRIEND by Emily Horner. This cover is catchy and intriguing and heartbreaking and funny.

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FIRST POSITION by Melissa Brayden. A beautiful, clean, low colour cover that captures the background of the story perfectly.

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AT THE WATER’S EDGE by Harper Bliss. The title and the author are so clear and yet it’s the water that you see and that contemplative image draws me in.

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THE MOMENT by TC Anderson. Another image that’s been done repeatedly, but this is a beautiful and engaging take on the feet of the lovers turned toward one another.

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HER NAME IN THE SKY by Kelly Quindlen. Just so beautiful, the two colour image captures the imagination, the swoosh of hair and the hands. Wonderful work.

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BECAUSE OF HER by KE Payne. Those lovely cutouts, the reflection and balance of the book.

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Drop me a line and tell me your favourites!

INTO THE BLUE at the Lambda Literary Awards!!

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Tonight in New York City, the Lambda Literary Award winners were announced. Beautiful award winning books of trans poetry and f/f mystery and YA LGBTQIA and bisexual fiction. And INTO THE BLUE won Best Gay Romance!!

I’m so beyond thrilled and proud.

Two and a half years ago I pitched a friends to lovers surfer romance to Interlude Press. Then I dove into (see what I did there) this story of two boys who grow up together in Hawaii on the ocean, build a family in a run-down house, work ordinary jobs and dream of surfing. The book is more sweet than angsty, a warm story that’s a romance but also about found family and big dreams and the complications of just being ordinary humans, how we’re all different from one another. It’s about kindness and respect and working out what you value in life and what you’re willing to risk.

Interlude Press and especially editor Annie Harper made it a better book, as did Cameron and Misha and Nicky and Zoe and everyone who read it early for me. Art director CB Messer made it gorgeous and real. And you all here made it worth writing. Everyone who’s told me they loved it, or reviewed it or made art about it. That’s everything to me.

I am just so chuffed and thankful that Lambda Literary saw something in my dear little book.

If you haven’t read it, you should. If you have, you could always read my second book STORM SEASON. Both are on sale with Interlude Press. See?

http://interludepress.com/post/161756607404/congratulations-pene-henson

 

 

Banzai Pipeline

I live in Sydney, so I’ve been surrounded by the setting for STORM SEASON most of my life. But this year after the RT convention, I returned to Banzai Pipeline, the setting for my first novel, INTO THE BLUE.

Pipe wasn’t turning, but the waves were sufficient to keep us mostly out of the water. It was still gorgeous to see.

The novel’s protagonists, Ollie and Tai, travel the world in the book. But these are young men who are deeply attached to their home. They share the Blue House with their dearest friends and Ollie’s younger brother. They’ve battled dull jobs and clashing personalities and growing up to stay together in this place. Tai’s grounded and kind physicality has much to do with his deep-rooted love of the ocean and the familiar homes of the North Shore. And all Ollie’s freedom on the waves relies on his safety in the Blue House and with Tai.

The book is as much about friendship and understanding and home and the ocean as it is a romance. I was glad to revisit that place.

 

June

June’s a big month for me. Besides my birthday (you’d think I’d be used to them by now but they always make me happy) there’s also

A) Lambda Literary Awards! My first novel INTO THE BLUE is a finalist for best gay romance. ❤️ Awwww.

B) Foreword INDIES Awards! INTO THE BLUE is a finalist for best romance. ❤️ Awwwww

I can’t be there for either award because it’s so far away. I will be 10,000 miles away in wintertime but so proud that my boys and their little found family and house on the beach were shortlisted alongside some amazing books.

Also I’m starting my quarterly newsletter. Exclusive shorts, excerpts, book reviews and beautiful places I write in and about. In honour of June the first mailout will have a small giveaway. The list of people receiving this isn’t that long yet so your odds are good!

Go here to sign up for my newsletter.

HUNTSMEN by Michelle Osgood : Review

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Huntsmen is a vivid novel, with strong and winning characters who stick with you and am entertaining werewolf-pack-politics plot. It’s worth reading for those aspects alone, but becomes dazzling when combined with a love for and lived understanding of queer community.

From the first, I was caught up in the characters’ world. The local queer community read true to this queer girl, reflected my own experience and interplayed wonderfully with the pack aspects of werewolf fiction. The intimate detail of bars and housewares and haircuts as well as those of werewolf shifts and skills were fun and revealing and kept me right there with them.

Osgood’s characters are wonderful. I loved tiny alpha Kiara like fire – her self-control and simmering anger, her loyalty and confidence were vital to the story. I was there with her as she snapped at those around her, needing to control the people she loved so ferociously, and as she kept herself in check, knowing her own strength. Ryn’s loner wariness and easy kindness were a fascinating foil to Kiara’s focus on the pack.

The surrounding family was full of real depth and love. I particularly enjoyed every instance of Deanna (the adorable main character of the first book in the series) along with Kiara’s relationship with her unwavering brother, Cole.

This book is a sequel to The Better to Kiss You With, which is a delightful werewolf romp with these truly amusing and charming characters. Though I don’t think reading the first book is essential to an understanding of this novel, I don’t know why you wouldn’t 🙂 Huntsmen has a more fiercely political plot than book one, with the added intrigue and fun of that.

The story is current and combines with a convincing characterisation of wolves and humans and the author’s own knowledge and experience of community to make an oddly realistic and grounded urban fantasy.

I highly, highly recommend Huntsmen. Open it for the queer feminist werewolf fun and keep reading for divine grouch, Kiara, and the array of wonderful interconnected characters.

Flash fiction: visible

Here’s Beau and Annie from my novel Storm Season, celebrating transgender day of visibility.

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Beau’s eyes are heavy. His body is stretched and easy between his sheets, warm with last night’s memories. “Most gorgeous,” Annie had said over and over. “My handsome love.” Her mouth and hands had repeated those words against his skin; her hair had dropped forward in a dark sheet as she’d pinned him to the mattress with sweet, certain eyes.

It’s far too early wake up. With a suppressed groan that sounds less glamorous than he’d like, Beau rolls closer to Annie. He’ll bury himself in her soft body and lie there, warm and happy and loved and halfway between sleep and waking.

Annie’s not there. He pats the space he thinks of as hers. It’s warm. She’s still not there.

It takes effort to open his eyes. He squeezes them tight and tries again. He blinks at the ceiling. Annie’s hung a huge trans flag over his bed. Another one’s draped across the window.

The bedroom door swings open. Annie’s holding a tray. Her white t-shirt is tight around her belly and barely covers her ass. “You’re awake!”

“No,” Beau says.

Annie smiles that bright Annie smile she seems to be able to find whatever the time of day. “Happy Transgender Day of Visibility!”

“Yep, got that. Thanks for the flags.”

Annie bends to place the tray on the floor. “I’ve made breakfast,” she says. “But first I thought we could celebrate in private.”

“Pretty sure the point of visibility is public.”

“You’ve been public all week, and you can do that again later. The panel, the party. Be as out and proud as you are. Right now it’s 9am.”

Beau groans and closes his eyes.

The bed sinks as Annie climbs in. “And I want you to know that you are visible to me.” Beau opens his eyes again. She shakes her head. “You know what I mean. I see you, and I love you.”

“I know what you mean,” he says. “Come here.” The light is hazy purple as she complies.

FALLING HARD by Dale Cameron Lowry

What a joy to talk to and read from Dale Cameron Lowry, whose collection of m/m short stories is out this month.

Read on for:
*My review (spoiler, I love these stories)
*Lowry talks about characters who span two worlds
*A touching moment with Damian from Mi Alma
*Rafflecopter Giveaway

FALLING HARD features nine of Dale Cameron Lowry’s best short romance stories, available for the first time in one book. Meet a sign language interpreter who finds unexpected love at middle-age, college students in their first relationships, a vampire who would rather be a vegan, and a proudly gay ex-Mormon atheist who sells Bibles for a living. From sweet to erotic, this collection exhibits the quirkiness, fun, and diversity Dale’s writing is known for.

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MY REVIEW

I’ve read two of the shorts in this collection and will read more. DCL is a wonderful writer who understands love in its many shades, and brings thought to light stories and fun to deep stories. Both works were a delight to read.

I also appreciated the thoughtful indication of relative heat and subject matter that made it easy to pick stories for the place I was.

I loved READING THE SIGNS immediately. Twenty-three-year-old linguist Theo De Jong meets mature Alfonso Grossman while studying for six weeks in New Mexico. The story is a beautiful example of a simple thing done exceptionally. There was a heartfluttering romance between delightful people and essentially no angst. The bright New Mexico setting, the careful way the men spoke in various languages including ASL and Dutch sign language. It all added layers to the charm and chemistry of the characters. Highly recommended.

I was also caught up in BORN OF FIRE from the first paragraph. The story is both fascinating and fantastic but has this deeply practical voice and is loaded with gloriously level-headed humans. A beautiful story.

INTERVIEW

Pene: Do you have a theme you return to time and again?

DCL: Yes! I only recently figured this out, because I’m apparently not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to ferreting out themes in my own stories. I tend to write about characters who straddle multiple cultures that don’t always fit well together, or have aspects to their identity that sometimes conflict.

Probably the most obvious way this appears in my writing is that I write a lot about gay/queer Mormons. It’s an uncomfortable place to be for many individuals who have both identities. The Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has become somewhat more accommodating in recent years in that it no longer encourages all homosexuals to marry members of the opposite sex in an effort to change their orientation, and it has officially adopted the position that there is nothing inherently wrong with being attracted to members of the same sex. But it continues to condemn “acting” on those attractions. Even things as innocent as holding hands have led to discipline by the church hierarchy. And one of its apostles famously/infamously claimed last year that “There are no homosexual members of the church,” widely interpreted as meaning that anyone who identifies as gay, lesbian, or homosexual (as opposed to “having a problem with same-sex attraction”) can’t be a real Mormon.

We all live in a world where other people are constantly telling us who we can and cannot be. I love characters who fight that categorization and decide for themselves how to integrate the various aspects of who they are. They teach me how to do that myself. So I write about gay Mormons, one of whom makes an appearance in Falling Hard in the story “Mi Alma,” which also features a gay Dominican who’s overcome the idea that masculinity and queerness are incompatible.

But they aren’t the only characters who face these challenges. In a couple stories in Falling Hard (Reading the Signs; and Pacific Rimming), I deal with hearing children of Deaf parents who feel a closer tie to the sign languages they learned as children (American Sign Language and Dutch Sign Language) than to spoken ones. In “Sweeter Than Blood,” we follow the struggle of newly turned vampire trying to reconcile his former life as a pacifist vegan with his current situation. In “Born of Fire,” an Irish basketmaker wants romance, but is hindered by his belief that his widespread burn scars make him unlovable . In “Rough Love,” a white kid from Idaho has to let go of his image of himself as an enlightened liberal with nothing to learn as he deepens his relationship with his biracial boyfriend.

The older I get, the more I realize that every one of us is a bag of contradictions and conflicting priorities. One of the hardest lessons in life is to learn to accept those contradictions—sometimes by finding ways to integrate them so that they’re no longer contradictory, other times by letting go of bits and pieces of ourselves that were once important to us, but now only hinder us in navigating life.

I love being a writer, because I get to explore endless different ways of doing this through the experiences of my different characters.

Pene: Now a couple of character questions. What would happen if Keith, the newly turned vampire from “Sweeter Than Blood,” met Theo, the Dutch linguist from “Reading the Signs”?

DCL: That’s an interesting combination! Keith is a bit of a misanthrope, a trait that goes back to even before he became a vampire, so generally when he meets anyone he’s not very impressed. And Theo, being only 23, is a little young for Keith’s taste, both literally and figuratively. He prefers men who have been around a little longer. Drinking from them is like imbibing a fine, aged wine—only in the metaphorical sense, because Keith hates the smell people give off when their bodies are processing alcohol.

Theo would feel a little boost of confidence when he noticed that Keith’s skin was even pastier than his own. And he would be intrigued by the way Keith talks, probably taking notes on it and trying to figure out if Keith’s word choice represented a specific dialect of American English or was a mishmash of several—either possibility pointing to Keith’s background as someone who didn’t grow up in New York City but moved there in adulthood.

I’m fairly certain sparks would not fly. At the most, they would view each other as interesting objects of study, rather than friends. And Keith would find Theo’s scent inoffensive, except when Theo’s recently been on a date with his love interest and they’ve enjoyed too much organic wine.

Pene: Describe Damian from “Mi Alma”’s ultimate bathroom.

DCL: One day while Damian is lifting weights at the gym, his mind wanders to thoughts of a dream apartment for him and his odd, wonderful, Mormon-atheist boyfriend Alma. The bathroom would be as big as their current bedroom, with one of those rain showers that also has jets of water coming at you from all sides. It would feel great to wash up in there after a workout, and it would probably be pretty hot to have sex with Alma in there, too. Afterward, they could relax in a Jacuzzi as big as the bathroom in the apartment where they live now. The trim and floors would be textured granite, and he could control the bathroom lighting from the tub so that it always cast the perfect, romantic glow.

When he gets home from the gym, he finds Alma working at the kitchen table, tweaking the coding for some new Bible app he’s working on. Alma looks up and takes note of the sweat that stains the front of Damian’s workout shirt. He grins. “You didn’t shower at the gym?”

Damian’s been with Alma over a year now, but something about the way Alma smiles at him still makes his insides feel all jumbled and warm like a delicious sancocho. He ducks his head, peering at Alma from beneath his eyelashes. “I thought maybe we could take a shower together.”

Alma’s shirt comes off before he’s even out of the kitchen chair.

Later in the shower, with Alma’s lips on him and his skin everywhere, Damian thinks, “This is the perfect bathroom. Dondequiera que él esté … ese es el lugar para mí.”

Wherever he is—that’s the place for me.

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WHERE TO BUY

Falling Hard is currently available through the secure downloading platform PayHip, Amazon, Apple, and other sellers worldwide. You can read a preview and find sales outlets at:

dalecameronlowry.com/books/falling-hard/

GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the release of Falling Hard, Dale is running a giveaway. The prize is one of Dale’s short romances that is not in the anthology: Love Unmasked, a lighthearted romance about Aaron Loreto, a gay man who’s been unlucky in love because he occasionally turns into a raccoon. For some reason, his ex-boyfriend didn’t like the way he’d spend all night digging through the trash. But somewhere out there is a guy who’s more understanding, and Aaron might just have found him at his favorite coffee shop.

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY

You can enter every day to increase your chances. Enjoy!

(If you can’t see the Rafflecopter giveaway here, go to www.dalecameronlowry.com/falling-hard- giveaway/ to enter.)