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Express Themselves Without Fear

Brooke Skipstone
Brooke Skipstone Author Interview

Crystal’s House of Queers is an emotionally-charged romance novel that explores real world issues that young people face when discovering and unveiling their sexual identity. Why was this an important book for you to write?

All of my books are centered around important issues affecting girls and women. It has become very clear to me that despite all the progress we have made during the last several decades, we still live in a patriarchal world. According to polls, more than half of our youngest Generation Z do not define themselves as strictly heterosexual. More and more sources of entertainment reflect this change. This generation is more tolerant and accepting of all differences. However, hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are on the rise. Many of the same hate groups (primarily men) that decry the rise of non-white individuals in our country also hate gays. As the younger generation embraces a variety of sexual lifestyles, there will inevitably be more confrontation. I have known too many people who have been persecuted for their differences. We don’t need more hate in the world.

I appreciated the authenticity of your characters. What were some sources that inspired your character development?

I have known many teens like Crystal and JD, who despite their traditional academic challenges, discovered and shared other talents, including in art, music, dance, and athletics. Their needs are no more special than mine or yours. Real people are complex. Most have experienced some level of trauma in their lives. Many have difficulty coping, but most discover some resilience. I want my characters to reflect these truths.

What were some ideas that were important for you to convey in this book?

One common theme in all my books is the need for open, frank discussion of difficult topics. So much pain is caused by secrecy. Too frequently, teens and younger are forced to deal with guilt and fears and desires by themselves because adults won’t create comfortable environments where anything, anything, can be discussed. I have had readers of my latest book complain about two women kissing in front of their teenage girls. Why? Because tradition says sexuality must be private. Which has caused and continues to cause all kinds of problems for both the kids and the parents.

Another big idea in my books is the need for forgiveness, especially between parents and their children. Another is fighting for yourself and others when it is necessary. The girls in this book don’t put up with abuse or threats.

And the biggest idea in this book is the need to provide a safe place for LGBTQ individuals, where they can express themselves without fear.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book is about a teenage girl in 1968 who rebels against the feminine role she is expected to play by her parents, her school, and her society. So many of the problems during this year—The Vietnam War, assassinations, student rebellions, etc—were caused by toxic masculinity. The main character, Tracy, cannot force herself to date boys. At times, she thinks she should have been a boy. She escapes her conservative parents and constant arguments about the war, civil rights, and her brother, Spencer—who wonders if he is gay—disguised as a boy for a two-week period at a wilderness camp just outside Denali Park, Alaska, where she meets other strong women, including Jackie, who chops wood and plays guitar.

Author Links: GoodReads | Website | Instagram

Crystal Rose woke up at three in the morning today, drenched in sweat and breathless after another sex dream with Haley Carson. Later at school in the tiny town of Clear, Alaska, Crystal saves Haley from an assault by her abusive boyfriend.

The two girls renew a love started years ago that had to stay hidden until now. But with Crystal’s grandparents in the hospital with Covid and the possibility of her drug addict parents returning from a 14-year absence, Crystal needs Haley as much as she needs Crystal.

They connect with Payton Reed, a gun-toting artist who helps them feel proud to be gay and willing to stand up to anyone. Together they struggle to make Crystal’s house safe for those who are hated for their love.

No Hiding or Judgement

McKenzie Stark
McKenzie Stark Author Interview

Divide & Conquer follows a young woman who’s forced to stay at an academy for delinquents and meets someone that will change her life forever. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My inspiration to write this story was strongly built on a number of different reasons. I, myself, am a part of the LGBTQ+ community and the idea to showcase a story that both dives into the world that I feel is not talked about nearly enough, while obtaining and showing challenges that any ordinary person could experience was something I strongly believed in creating.

Your characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I found that in developing my characters motivations and ideals, that I connected with some part of myself in a way. I wanted to take Freya’s grief and show that sometimes even in your darkest moments, there is always something that can pull you from the realm that lies between grief and recovery. That is where Lexa comes into play. She may have been the hot new roommate, but it’s her straightforwardness and own experience from her past that helped lead Freya back into the light. Of course the rest of the delinquents were a huge impact as well. Sometimes all you need in the world is for someone to take your hand and say, “Everything’s going to be okay,” and so long as they were together, everything was.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

One of the main themes is that the story resolve around the LGBTQ + community, and being able to explore apart of myself in such a fun and creative way was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. There was no hiding or judgement, but for that of my characters who welcomed each other with open hands.

Another important theme would be guilt and grief, both in which played a huge role in this story, as those two emotions shaped Freya into the woman she later became.

And lastly, the thing that transpired between the pages and flowed from the words whole writing this story was forgiveness. I wanted to show that everyone is worth being forgiven and that everyone is capable of giving forgiveness because it’s not who you use to be, or what you’ve done in the past that defines you. It’s what you do with the experiences you’ve been dealt with that truly shape you as a person.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I just released a new LGBTQ+ novel, titled “Untangled Devotion”, this novel revolved around a woman who ran away from her entire life because of reasons I will leave unsaid as to not spoil it; but, having returned to face those issues head on, including a lost love she left behind. It’s full of unbreakable bonds, comedy, friendship, love, and a twist that will leave you hanging onto your seats.

But that’s not all! I have another LGBTQ + novel that I am hoping to release sometime the beginning of next year. That’s going without saying that I have multiple none LGBTQ + novels planned to release this year, some of which consist of Vikings, vampires, or even demonic beings.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Where does friendship come to a rest and love commence?

At just 18, Freya Sawyer’s life was anything but perfect, with the weight of the world on her shoulders, she ran with the wrong crowd and got pulled into a vicious cycle. That all changed when one night forced her into a court ordered stay at Arkadia Academy for troubled delinquents.

Lexa Forester just so happens to be her new brooding and sexy roommate. Together they dance around their attraction for each other until there is nothing else standing in their way of falling heart first into what could either be the best or the worst thing for them.

Each other.

Together they can conquer the world and change the unraveling past that they both desperately latch onto to survive. Can true love prevail or will they scare away from the only thing that’s ever made them feel alive?

Find out in this steamy and thrill filled lesbian friends to lovers romance.

Crystal’s House of Queers

Crystal's House of Queers by [Brooke Skipstone]

Crystal’s House Of Queers by Brooke Skipstone is a charismatic LGBTQ romance novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. Crystal is a young woman who has survived a tragic childhood. She soon discovers that she likes women when she starts having dreams about her close friend Haley. Although the story goes into details about Crystal’s sexual attraction to Haley, the author focuses more on the underlying love that she possesses for her. I love that Crystal values Haley for more than her looks unlike Haley’s former jerk of a boyfriend Dyaln.

Brooke Skipstone shines a light on the many personal struggles that come with finding sexual identity and coming to terms with liking someone of the same sex. Crystal is an authentic, but fictional, representation of real world issues. She struggled with maintaining a friendship with her crush, which I feel is by far the toughest scenario in this story. Telling someone you love them with so much fear in the back of your brain takes a lot of strength. This also includes telling family and friends that you have feelings for others of the same sex. All of this is told in such a compelling and impassioned way that makes your heart ache and soar with all the highs and lows.

What I enjoyed the most about reading this observant novel is witnessing Crystal slowly begin to become more confident in herself. She is a great representation of lesbian love in fiction. I also enjoyed the setting of the plot and the merging of other LGBTQ characters. The intensity of the character’s emotions kept me engaged and wanting to read more. I would recommend Crystal’s House Of Queers to anyone looking for an emotional yet invigorating lesbian romance novel.

Pages: 313 | ASIN: B091MDH28L

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The Social Implications

Kyra Anderson
Kyra Anderson Author Interview

The Significant is a thrilling sci-fi romance novel with thoughtful commentary on society. Was this intentional or did this happen organically while writing?

Some of the social commentary was intentional, but with the setup of a society that no longer speaks face-to-face and interacts more with technology than people ended up having a lot more nuances that made for more organic social commentary as I was writing it and realized how deeply such a society would affect people.

The relationship between the characters in the novel felt organic and authentic. What were some ideas that guided the development of their relationship?

I wanted to be sure that all the characters had a strong interpersonal relationship with one another since it was so difficult in that society to have close friends, so the friendships or relationships that did occur between characters would be authentic within their setting and their world. I also wanted each relationship to be deep and profound, so I tried to make each relationship nuanced.

I enjoyed the world you’ve built in this story. What were some sources that informed the backstory of your book?

I really love books and movies and while the theme of computers taking over the world because they think humans are incapable of governing themselves is not a new theme, I tried to extrapolate how far technology could be taken on a brand new world built by automated machines and computers. And then I spent a lot of time people watching and going back through my psychology and sociology studies from university to determine how people would likely behave with technology so engrained in their lives. It was mostly a lot of thought exercises and trying to take a more realistic approach to the social implications that could come from such a world.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next new book I’m working on is the first in a series of science fiction/space opera novels. The first one will be available in Fall 2022.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

The beloved leader of a planet…
A non-citizen fugitive…
And a secret love that could kill them both.

Kailynn Evada was born on the most powerful planet in the Altereye System, but was raised in the non-citizen district of Trid. She always dreamed of revolution and changing the injustices of the planet Tiao. But when her brother’s plot to destroy the A.I. that runs the planet falls apart, Kailynn finds herself struggling to save his life.

Armed with false citizenship and determination to save her brother from execution, Kailynn finds work in the capital city, Anon, as a Significant—a person paid to act as a friend to clients.

When a secret request for Significant companionship comes in, the pay drives Kailynn to accept the job. However, she soon discovers that her client is the most powerful person in the planetary system—Elite Isa, leader of the Elite Syndicate of Tiao who is genetically altered for perfection and forbidden from intimate relationships. The undeniable attraction between the two leads to a secret love that could kill them both.

Divide & Conquer

Divide & Conquer by [McKenzie Stark]

McKenzie Stark’s Divide and Conquer is a beautiful story of love and healing. It follows the life of teenager Freya Sawyer after the tragic death of her father. Overwhelmed by grief, she goes down a destructive path that eventually lands her in Arkadia Academy – a school full of delinquents.

But while she is originally irritated by this turn of events, joining the academy marks the start of her journey of healing, self-actualization, and love. She meets new friends, revisits long-abandoned talents, and finds love in the most unexpected of places. By the time the story ends, you can’t help but be proud of how far she has come.

Like in many love stories, Freya is challenged by betrayals and outright abandonment. However, she keeps going forward and eventually pulls herself together to build a meaningful life– a strong marker of how much she has learned to love herself. In this regard, the author does a good job in avoiding the cliché narrative of a heartbroken protagonist whose entire life falls apart at the loss of a romantic interest.

It is also quite heart warming how the author addresses the issue of Freya’s grief, how it has affected her decisions and how her healing correlates with a better sense of self. Coupled with how she ties this all up with Freya’s use of art for expression, this creates a holistic view of who Freya is and who she is capable of becoming.

Author McKenzie Stark has written an emotionally-charged romance novel with a solid plot and a riveting premise. While I enjoyed this novel, I thought the switch in perspectives sometimes made it hard to follow. I think I would have enjoyed the story more if it kept one perspective throughout the book. The author infuses their own voice into the story, guiding readers and telling us what will happen.

Divide and Conquer is an impassioned romance novel that is punctuated by suspenseful moments and filled with intriguing characters. Recommended for readers who want to read a rousing and sentimental love story between two alluring characters.

Pages: 289 | ASIN: B08R6PR5RT

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Robinson, IL and Other Flash Fiction Stories

Robinson, IL and Other Flash Fiction Stories by [Dennis Milam Bensie]

Robinson, IL is a collection of very short stories by Dennis Milam Bensie that explore life on the path less traveled. Classified as flash fiction, the stories are only a few pages long, but still manage to imbue enough emotion to be powerful and thought provoking, a fact which speaks of the talent the author possesses. Most of the stories focus on the LGBTQ community and the difficulties that come with it, both externally and internally. The tone of each one varies as much as the subject matter and ranges from somber, to flippant, to absolutely wild, and everything in between. There are even a few that have an almost science fiction feel to them. Overall, the author’s ability to convey so much in so few words is remarkable, as the more serious of his stories really make you feel the self doubt and angst that is a part of growing up and accepting who you are. The less serious ones are no less interesting and will leave you definitely wanting more of the world he’s created. And what would a book be without a touch of humor? There are unexpected laughs sprinkled throughout and when they do happen, they come naturally, again showcasing how easy the author conveys everyday slices of life.

The LGBTQ themes are explored from multiple perspectives in the collection. In one, it’s a son looking for assisted living placement for his gay father. In another, parents are trying to help pay for their child’s gender reassignment surgery. Often, the tales are told in the first person by someone within the community, sometimes happily, sometimes at odds with themselves. The variety of voices and perspectives add depth to the very human emotion and dilemmas that are presented. 

While it’d be easy to say I wish the stories were longer, I really believe that their length is a huge part of their strength. The bite sized portions of humanity move quickly, but stay with you long after their few pages are done and leave you imagining so much about the characters. Robinson, IL is a stirring and well crafted collection of fictional short stories that find strength in their brevity while still delivering thought provoking commentary on life.

Pages: 123 | ASIN: B08ZCZVKSF

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The Significant

The Significant by [Kyra Anderson]

The Significant is a dystopian tale of a society in which the few have it all but there are a large number of poor without nationality. Kailynn is born into this society and vehemently detests the rich and controlling Syndicate. However, in order to save her brother, she takes on a job as a Significant who interacts with Elites for a price. Her whole world changes when she is assigned to the mysterious Golden Elite and suddenly things become more complicated, but there is hope for a brighter future. If Kailynn survives. The story is fast-paced and will keep readers hooked from the first page as the characters are plunged into different twists and turns.

Author Kyra Anderson’s novel has an original plot and world-building despite taking on a lot of familiar themes such as dystopia ruled by the rich or increasing automation. Unlike most dystopian stories, The Significant does not have a near-apocalyptic theme and creates a more original universe than what many dystopian novels offer. Similarly, the idea that a controlling society is bad for everyone is explored in this book which makes it easy to empathize with many characters and get new perspectives.

The Significant has a unique take on a dysfunctional society in that it reflects a lot of modern immigration issues and sympathizes with displaced peoples. That issue features prominently in the book and makes connections to modern day issues. Similarly, in connection to the modern day, the book features many lead LGBTQIA+ relationships which are normalized in the novel. It is extraordinarily refreshing to read a book in which a lesbian couple features prominently and is not merely used for entertainment or to appeal to a male audience.

The plot and story itself is highly enjoyable. It provides a lot of detail and background that gives a clear idea as to how Tiao works and why their society is locked in the situation the book is set in. The characters are well-done and distinct, each having their own voice and personality that comes off the page, especially Kailynn and Isa although the reader does have to take some time to get to know Isa, just as Kailynn does. The action is vivid and heart-pounding and the quieter, more intimate moments will still have the reader hooked and enraptured by the tension. Fans of science-fiction must read The Significant!

Pages: 599 | ASIN: B01HSMVA1A

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A Master of Social Comedy

Author Interview
Tom Beattie Author Interview

American Fries: A Queer Farce is a whimsical play about love, equality, and marriage in both a historical and contemporary setting. What was the inspiration for the setup to your plays?

Moliere is an old buddy of mine. We met in high school French class years ago and have kept in touch ever since. When the COVID 19 pandemic hit, we decided to shelter in place together and collaborate on a play. We wanted to include some of his tried-and-true tricks of the trade, e.g., mistaken identities, overheard conversations, mischievous servants, etc., but with a modern twist. To be honest, Moliere deserves all the credit. Most of my ideas got edited out.

Your characters were interesting and I loved following them. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

As a master of social comedy/satire/farce, Moliere’s characters tended to be more “types” than individuals, but they often had big hearts that steered them right in the end. I’m hoping that’s true of American Fries.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

As you note, my main theme is marriage equality. Those who say it’s “established law” in the U.S. so there’s no need to worry are wrong on both counts.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m currently working on a comedy of manners about the “fake news” phenomenon. Oscar Wilde is helping me out. (We ZOOM all the time.) Look for The Importance of Being Ernest Enough later this year.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Moliere meets marriage equality. A whimsical what-if play with poufy periwigs. New from Pinnacle Award winner Tom Beattie.
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