Queer diversity and queer holiday romances: Interlude Press’ new anthology IF THE FATES ALLOW

This week I had the privilege of visiting From Top to Bottom Reviews.

I talked about queer community and the joy of being part of a holiday romance anthology that includes a variety of queer folk. In pulling together IF THE FATES ALLOW, the editor and team at Interlude Press were clear they weren’t looking for gay romance or lesfic alone, but were keen for us to write any queer love story.

So go visit FTTB’s post where I go on about how important that is and recommend a bunch of fun queer series with even more diversity

“I live in a queer friendly neighbourhood in a queer friendly city. Most days my little yellow house holds my wife and me and our two kids. But my broader community is lesbians, gay men, bi people of all genders, panromantic demisexuals, straight allies who march for equality. It’s hairy trans guys, enby folk, and cis butch girls. It’s kinky femmes, party boys, and stay at home lesbian mums. It’s impressive queer community leaders who are changing the world and everyday gays whose ordinary existence is political.

Queer bonds are deeply important to queer people. These bonds allow us to live with being outsiders, and combat the fact that we’re surrounded by the assumption of straight sexuality. These bonds remind us that we are not a problem, not a mistake, but are a delightful and complex community.”

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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.