Paper Lantern Lit

Give in to temptation…

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SIN AND HONEY by Taryn Scarlett is a romance series based on Biblical characters—it’s so steamy that it’s practically sinful! So we gathered up our favorite sizzling, dark, romantic and dramatic quotes from the third novella, FOR LOVE OF THE ENEMY. Which one makes you swoon…or tingle with fear?

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FOR LOVE OF THE ENEMY is available for purchase here, for just $1.99!

When We Were Young: Stories from the LGBTQIA Community


We are honored to present a series of blog posts written by authors in the LGBTQIA community, celebrating authors who either identify within this community or write stories about those who do. Each of them will share a story about how the LGBTQIA community has changed since they were young, and how they first found their place in it.

First up, we have Robin Talley, author of THE LIES WE TELL OURSELVES and the forthcoming WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND!

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When we were young… YA books about queer characters were not a thing.

I mean, they did exist when I was a teenager, in very small numbers. Annie on My Mind, the classic girl/girl romance by Nancy Garden about early-80s New York City and a private school ear piercing scandal, came out when I was still in diapers. But it was considered radical, and a lot of schools and libraries banned it. The same was true for the handful of other books for kids and teens that came out in the following years starring QUILTBAG characters. And in many places, that’s still the case with books being published today.

But it was in the early 2000s that QUILTBAG YA as we now know it got its start. A handful of books came out in close proximity to each other ― Geography Club by Brent Hartinger, Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, and a few others ― and they paved the way for the landscape we’re currently facing. The awesome author Malinda Lo tracks the numbers every year, and in 2014 she calculated that mainstream publishers had put out 47 QUILTBAG books. A far cry from 15-ish years ago, when we could expect one, maybe two, possibly three, if we’d behaved really well.

One of those 47 QUILTBAG books published last year was my debut, Lies We Tell Ourselves, a historical novel set in 1959 and centered around a girl/girl romance. Back when I first started writing books about queer teenagers, though, I never dreamed that my first book would come out the same year as 46 other YA books with QUILTBAG lead characters. When I first started writing, I was writing for the teen version of me, who had never come across any sort of queer character in any of the kids’ books I’d read, much less a queer girl.

Today the publishing landscape is completely different. Every YA agent out there is eager to see QUILTBAG characters. But even the 47 books published last year represent just a tiny fraction of the YA publishing industry as a whole.

And the thing is, most queer teen readers don’t know there were 47 YA books published last year with QUILTBAG leads. In fact, I’m certain that quite a lot of them think the same thing I did when I was a teenager ― that they’ll be lucky if they ever come across a character in a book they love who’s like them.

Here in the YA publishing echo chamber, we might think books about characters with diverse sexual and romantic orientations and gender identities is old news, but a lot of our readers can’t take this stuff for granted. I’m talking about the kids who tape brown paper over those suspicious-looking covers so they won’t get caught. The girls who are too scared to ask the librarian if there are any books out there about girls like them.

We can’t fall into the trap of thinking all the problems are solved, now that we’ve got marriage equality and Modern Family has a bunch of Emmys. We can’t forget those terrified kids still trying to find themselves ― or even just a fictional character who resembles them.

That’s why it’s so important to keep talking these books up to everyone we can. So when you read and enjoy a YA book with a QUILTBAG lead, talk about it. Review it. Tell your friends. Tell anyone who’s in earshot.

Because you never know who might be listening ― and who might desperately need to hear what you have to say.


Robin TRobin-Talley-High-Res-200x300-2alley’s next book, What We Left Behind, comes out on October 27, 2015. Her first book, Lies We Tell Ourselves (2014), was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards. Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife, plus an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. When Robin’s not writing, she’s often planning communication strategies at organizations fighting for equal rights and social justice. You can find her on the web at or on Twitter at @robin_talley.

Click the cover below to learn more about WHEN WE WERE by Alexandra Diaz, a story of friendship, first love, and all the mess that comes with it.


Historical Fiction Friday #10:

Write and Wrong: Combining all HFFs into Your Scene

Over the past nine Historical Fiction Fridays (HFFs), we’ve taken a whirlwind tour of the basics. So let’s put it all together!

Before sitting down to write, you’ve listed all the essential aspects of life in the past era you need to know (HFF #1: Building Your Lost World). You’ve done your research (HFF #2: Research), and as you write you will check every detail to avoid anachronisms (HFF #4: Anachronisms).

Let’s imagine a scene where several topics we’ve covered converge. On a stormy night in eighteenth century London, a girl sits by the bed of her dying sister, hoping against hope the girl’s fiancé can make it in time. The doctor finishes bleeding her (#8: Medicine) and says there is nothing else he can do.

The sister has a powerful flashback of a past scene with the dying girl and then imagines the future without her. Suddenly, she feels she is going to be sick, and the smell of sweat, waste, and approaching death don’t help (HFF #6: Dirt and Dung). She throws open the casement windows and shower of icy raindrops cascades into the room on a blast of cold air, blowing out all the candles, and nicely foreshadowing the death. The sister closes the casements and relights the candles in the hearth (HFF #7: Lighting and Heating).

The sick girl’s breathing is ragged. She can’t last much longer. Her sister keeps asking herself, Where is the boy? Is it the roads? Did his horse go lame? (HFF #9: Travel.)

Finally, a horse pulls up in a lather; the boy, his cloak drenched, takes the steps three at a time and bounds into the bedroom. There’s conversation, confessions, explanations (HFF #5: Dialog.)  The boy asks the doctor and sister to leave. He wants, for just a few minutes, to hold his beloved in his arms. The sister agrees. Even though it’s not proper—and she has worried about the dying girl’s flirtatious ways in the past—no harm can come from it now (HFF #3: Dating.)

This can all work together beautifully and seamlessly, bringing the reader right into that smelly, flickering death chamber on a stormy night. Or it could be awkward and irritating. Because the historical details should never overpower your plot, character development, pacing and conflict. They are merely the garnish of the story—fascinating garnish that plunges your readers into a lost world, to be sure—but the historical details are the parsley on the plate, not the meat and potatoes themselves.

If you went off on a tangent about eighteenth century medicine, or how hard it was to travel, or the difference between beeswax and tallow candles, you would make the scene annoying instead of poignant.

Never write a scene to flaunt your historical knowledge. Don’t info-dump or wax too poetic about the details of a gown or a carriage. I have a habit of doing this in first drafts because as a historian I’m just too fascinated for my own good. (Luckily, I have good editors!) But too much information bogs down the action, and loses the pace as well as your readers.

That being said, you can still lovingly paint our scene with a few vivid historical images. The dying girl’s blood in a bowl. The crack of logs in the fire as they fall in a shower of sparks. The boy, mud-splattered, rain-soaked, and sweaty, holding his beloved’s pale hand. But these elements should be elegantly woven in between the dialog, the characters’ thoughts and feelings, and the action, even if the most important action in the scene is quite tiny: a human heart ceasing to beat.

Review all the Historical Fiction Fridays, and make your historical novel the best it could possibly be!

Building Your Lost World

Dating Before Tinder

The Best Medicine

Avoiding Asinine Anachronisms

Using Dialogue and Tone to Keep Your World Real

Dirt, Dung and How they Dealt With It

The Light and Dark of the World

Horses, Boats and Really Bad Roads

LEGACY OF KINGS is available for purchase by clicking here.

Pick Your Favorite #BandBooksWeek Cover!

It’s Banned Books Week, the time during which we celebrate the ignorance and stupidity that causes people to ban books. *eyeroll*

While there are sure some books out there in the world that we’d all be glad to never read again, we’re of the mindset that free speech means anyone should be able to write what they want—and read what they want, too! So we decided to have a little fun with the #BandBooksWeek hashtag and make mashups of some of the best ones we found.

  1. Harry Potter and the Rolling Stones


2. The Lorde of the RingsLordeofRings

3. Courtney Love in the Time of Cholera


4. The Girl With the Dragon T.A.T.U.tatu

5. The Wonderful Wizard of OzzyWizardofOzzy

Sometimes the best thing you can do when confronted with scary—like censorship—is to make it silly! Which banned book is your favorite? Which #BandBooksWeek combo has you in fits of giggles?

Historical Fiction Friday #9: horses, boats, and really bad roads!

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Getting around in your historical novel; horses, boats, and really bad roads

Unless your historical novels takes place in one location—which would be pretty boring—your characters will need to go somewhere. And until the mid-nineteenth century, it was really hard to get there. Here are some facts to remember when moving your characters from one place to another in a past era:

  • The Romans paved their major roads, but for the most part, until fairly recently roads were just dirt peppered with potholes. And until the sixteenth century, carriages were just wooden boxes on wheels, which means you would bang your head on the wall and get thrown from your seat going over all those potholes. Which is why most people just rode horses—getting soaked in the rain, frozen numb in the cold, and cooked in the blazing sun, but at least their bones weren’t jarred and jolted to dust.
  • Going back thousands of years, wealthy women, children, the sick and the aged lay down on pillows in litters—long boxlike structures swinging between wheels and pulled by horses for long journeys, and carried by four men lifting horizontal poles for short ones.
  • Even the largest European cities—such as London, Paris, and Rome—were built for foot traffic, horses, and litters, which meant the roads were narrow and twisting. By the early 1500s, Hungarians invented a rudimentary spring suspension system for carriages, which made them far more comfortable. Suddenly the roads were totally jammed with enormous vehicles. Some municipalities demolished entire city blocks to make wider roads for carriages.
  • Sitting in a springed carriage with gorgeous upholstery and plump pillows was a lot more comfortable than riding a horse in the rain and heat and snow. But it was freezing in winter (you might put your feet on a metal box with hot coals inside or hold a hot brick wrapped in flannel—until they cooled down and you froze again.) And it was stuffy in summer.
  • Which brings us to the problem of where you were going to spend the night. First choice was staying with friends or relatives along the way. Reservations at inns were problematic. You might send a messenger ahead with a request for a room, but you could never be sure when you would arrive at the inn due to weather, bad roads, broken axles, lame horses, or sick passengers. So a reservation was pretty useless. Sometimes you would arrive exhausted, and there was no room at the inn.
  • At most inns you would share a bed with utter strangers of the same gender. The sheets were often dirty and crawling with insects. The wealthier sort brought their own sheets—sometimes even their own beds—when traveling. And then there were highwaymen. Most carriages had secret compartments to hide jewelry and gold, and the coachmen were usually armed.
  • Sea voyages were equally uncomfortable, with the added disadvantage of seasickness and possible drowning. In ancient times, there were no passenger ships. Individuals would pay for a spot on the deck of a merchant vessel and sleep under their tent, eating their own food. Pirates were always a threat.
  • Tourism as we understand it didn’t exist. Travel was so dangerous, slow, uncomfortable, and exhausting, you needed a really great reason to leave town like doing business, serving in the military, or making a pilgrimage to a temple, church, or shrine.
  • For more modern novels, steamboats came into vogue in the 1820s, trains in the 1840s, and commercial flights after World War II.

Next Week: Write and Wrong, Combining all HFFs into Your Scene

LEGACY OF KINGS is available for purchase by clicking here!

Get Nostalgic for Summer


Enter to win PROOF OF OF FOREVER by clicking here!

Summer is everyone’s favorite season…but now that September is upon us, we’re in total denial that it’s over! So we compiled our favorite blogger reviews for this summer’s quintessential story, PROOF OF FOREVER by Lexa Hillyer. They remind us of camp nights telling ghost stories with our friends during flashlight time, first kisses by the lake, swapping secrets and holding hands as the campfire dwindled down to embers.

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We’re giving away 7 signed copies of PROOF OF FOREVER—recapture your summer and enter to win below!

Enter to win PROOF OF OF FOREVER by clicking here!



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If you missed the news last month, LEGACY OF KINGS is going to be made into a TV show! But TV shows take time to make, and we are too excited to wait—so we asked our Trendsetters to share their dream casts with us!

Which celebs would you pick?

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Can’t shake your end-of-summer funk? Here are the life rules you need to follow.

Summer is ending, and while we’re excited for fall, sometimes the changing seasons put us into a bit of a mood. So we consulted this list from Jenna Mullins’ RULES OF SEDUCTION for how to live our best life, in ANY season!


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Rules Quote Graphics_Rule 3- Love

RULES OF SEDUCTION is available for purchase here!

Monica B. Wagner’s Lucky 7 Interview!

We are so excited to introduce Monica B. Wagner, author of FROSH: First Blush! The FROSH series is our first New Adult college romance series, and we can’t wait for you to read it when it comes out 10/20! In the meantime, check out this interview with Monica, and pre-order FROSH here!

  1. If you were a dessert, what would you be?

A Suspiro Limeño! The dessert is a Peruvian one, and I’m Peruvian, too. The Suspiro Limeño is made with sweetened condensed milk, and eggs and port wine and cinnamon, and…yum!

2. What’s the next place on your travel Bucket List?

I’d love to go to Greece. I once went to Italy and was going to Greece but I ran out of money and time, so I couldn’t. I was a teen back then, and I’ve never had another opportunity like that.

3. Which actress would you want to play you in the biopic of your life?

Shakira, please? She doesn’t look like me, and I can’t sing for the life of me. But her mother tongue is Spanish, like mine, and she’s small, like me, and she actually started off as an actress. And I just love her.FROSHfinal

4. What book has inspired your writing the most? 

I think there wasn’t just one book. My grandma and parents bought me so many novels since I was little, so I think my subconscious was getting inspired even before I realized it was actually happening.

5. Who is your secret cartoon crush? 

I absolutely adore the Despicable Me minions. I have a minion keychain, a minion soap dispenser, a minion cellphone case… okay, I’ll stop now. You get the idea.

6. Favorite TV show right now? 

Homeland. I think I’ve never been more hooked with a TV show. Though I was so upset, almost crying, when season three ended. I also love Suits.

Monifeb15 copy7. When you were six years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut. I know, not that original. But I really wanted to be one!

Pre-order FROSH here!

Historical Fiction Fridays #7: The Light (and Dark) of the World

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The Light (and Dark) of the World: Lighting and Heating in Past Centuries

Julia entered the dark house, her heart pounding with fear. The hall was empty, but Rufus sat in the library, waiting for her.

Wrong, all wrong. If the house is dark, how does she know the hall is empty? How can she see Rufus? Did Julia feel her way into the kitchen, stir up warm ashes in a banked fire and light a lamp or candle? Is Rufus sitting next to a brightly burning fire? Has Julia lit a lamp or candle placed near the door? Getting historic lighting right not only avoids inconsistencies, but plunges the reader deep into your fictional world.

Here’s a brief rundown on the history of lighting:

  • In the ancient Mediterranean world, people made use of the abundant olive oil for easy lighting. It’s hard to say when candles were invented, but they took a lot of time to make, and it was far easier dumping some oil into a lamp, putting in a little cloth wick, and lighting it.
  • After the fall of the Roman Empire, trade in the Mediterranean decreased sharply, olive oil was harder to come by, and most Europeans switched to using candles—stinky, smoky, animal fat tallow if they were poor, beeswax if they were rich.
  • Both oil lamps and candles were used in chandeliers, which were raised and lowered on a chain to clean and refill.
  • It’s safe to say most people kept an oil lamp or candle, along with a flint and tinder set, at different places throughout the house: the exterior doors and next to their beds, for instance. In the pitch dark, they would strike a flint against a piece of iron or steel, and the resulting sparks would land in a pile of lint or dried grass, catch fire, and they would dip their candle or lamp wick into it.
  • Using tinder and flint was a hassle, often taking several minutes, and it’s no wonder people went wild for matches when they were mass-produced in the 1830s.
  • Resin-soaked torches were used from ancient times into the early nineteenth century against stone walls and outside. And then there were cressets—iron baskets on top of long poles in the ground burning firewood. They cast a lot of light, but Lord, were they hot.
  • Starting in 1812 with London, municipal authorities installed gas light, which spread slowly to other major European cities and even more slowly to towns and villages.
  • When electricity came to large cities in the 1890s, most people hated it. Light bulbs emitted mush less light than gas lamps, and many people complained they were going blind in the dark!

Whatever the source of light in your past century, use it to add atmosphere. Evenings—no matter how many torches, lamps, or candles in a room—were just a lot darker than they are now. Imagine the orange flicker of torches on walls. The soft brown and gold glow of lamp light or candles. A summer garden party where the heat of the cressets nearly melts a girl’s silk dress onto her skin.

Which brings me to heating:

  • For most of human history, people had fire pits in the center of a room with a smoke hole overhead (which let in cold air and rain.)
  • They also had braziers, metal pans or boxes in which they burned wood or coal. They placed them near an open window to vent smoke (which let in cold air and rain.)
  • Fireplaces, which directed the smoke (and a large portion of the heat) up the chimney were invented in the twelfth century in Europe.
  • Coal-fired steam radiators became popular in the 1890s.

Next Week: The Best Medicine, How the healing arts are vital to creating your world.

LEGACY OF KINGS is available for pre-order now! Click here to pre-order your copy, and email with proof to get your very own signed bookplate.

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