To Stand in the Light: superheroes fighting crime while dealing with mental illness

“Antimatter pigeons are trying to hold the Empire State Building hostage. Rosita needs backup!”

Imagine a friendship turned romance between young superheroes, one of whom has power over light, while the other commands shadows and darkness.

Imagine the miles-deep yet frightened connection between two people horribly hurt by rejection, one by her white parents when the Korean baby they’d adopted wouldn’t become the musical prodigy they wanted and then denied her ADD treatment, the other from the gawking tourists who paid money to see a caged-up child at the circus.

To Stand in the Light by Kayla Bashe will introduce you to Shadow, a scarred, half-demon nearly seven feet tall, and Bean, an enthusiastic waif who loves glitter and bright colors. Both of them are absolutely terrified that they’re a burden on the other, and a lot of us can relate to that. “Thinking about those bad times, when she felt like apologizing to the fluorescent lights for having to shine down on her[…]”

That’s not Bashe’s only evocative phrase: Bean’s stomach began to feel like a cheap blender trying to grind up knives • “I’d swallow a cactus if it would mean I could get my GED already.” • She fell in awe of New York the way one would adore the stars, if stars could be petted and tenderly kissed. • “Let’s be messed up together, instead of arguing over who deserves who.”

There’s a plot element I remember from animated Batman—if superheroes have failsafes in case one of them goes bad, what if one of the baddies gets control of the failsafe? Bashe took it in a new direction that was interesting to watch unfold.

Both Shadow and Bean have to heal and accept medical help so that they can be the best for the superhero team and for each other. Naturally, this being a Kayla Bashe book, we get plenty of healing and positivity. Also, this being a Kayla Bashe book, Shadow is ‘they’ and nonbinary transfeminine (and both leads are bi), and the writing incorporates that identity seamlessly into the text.

One note that the beginning of this book was difficult for me because it opens with a lead character discovering the remains of their foster parents (eaten by alien lions or something.) I’ve lost a parent and stepparent so if you’re vulnerable to those memories, yes, this book will take you back there. But it will take you back accurately, and then leave the pain behind to do some storytelling, so don’t let that scare you away. “I promise you won’t have to miss them alone,” says Shadow, since they and Bean shared those foster parents who got eaten by aliens, and I know what that feels like. It’s little details like that which matter.

“You’ve got an extra villain to kick the butt of every day before you can even get out of bed, and you’ve been fighting alone — without any powers or weapons or anything — and still you manage to defeat it often enough to live your life. That makes you the bravest person I know.”

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Presenting Esther, one of Perach’s star violinists

This cutie is one of the stars of the novel A Harvest of Ripe Figs, in which her violin is stolen after her concert in the capital city. As she nervously tries to help the queen solve the mystery, she finds herself drawn to one of the suspects—despite having a boyfriend already. (The wildlife is all stuff that you find around South Florida, where I grew up and the inspiration for Perach.)

Disney Esther

Art was drawn by Becca Schauer.

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A Harvest of Ripe Figs: lesbian “cozy mystery” with dragons for sale in paperback and eBook

If you’ve been waiting to read a lighthearted mystery novel about a lesbian queen solving mysteries in her capital city in paperback, you’re in luck! Detective Shula

Watch Queen Shulamit look for a stolen violin, investigate a rivalry between two jewelers, and spend time with her family (including the dragon.) Buy it now from Wild Iris Books or Amazon.

Passion flower

Art by yeaka and cashewdee (commission info.) eBook also available for $4.49 from the publisher and Amazon. All royalties until March 31 will be donated to Trans Life Line.

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“My beloved, my wife, My Mighty One….”

I really don’t think I can ever adequately express how much Rivka and Isaac mean to me. They’re not just the goofy background straight couple or feminist warrior points. They were the way I always wanted the story to go. I wanted the woman to kick down doors and rescue her loved ones. I wanted the slightly sinister middle-aged man with the cape and goatee and magic powers to be someone it was safe to love. I took the jagged edges of all the fiction I’ve ever consumed and loved and filed them down, forged them anew so that they could fill the place in my heart they were always meant to fill.

And then I made them Jewish like me, because darn it.

Sexy Jewish Wizard

* art by Laya *

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Escaping from aliens and rescuing dragons: just another day for Aviva and Rivka!

Mangoverse cuties Aviva and Rivka get a chance to shine in their own short stories, now available as as $2.99 eBook download. (If you’re buying the A Harvest of Ripe Figs paperback, they’re included free.)

Aviva and Rivka Tales from Outer Lands

Rivka in Port Saltspray: The warrior Rivka, during her nomadic mercenary days, gambles on a risky job from a stranger to earn money to free her dragon from a corrupt innkeeper. (Features a major aromantic-asexual character.)

Aviva and the Aliens: Aviva, bisexual chef turned royal mistress, must outwit a couple of aliens who abduct her just before Passover in hopes she’ll be a better cook than their spaceship’s food replicator.

The two stories in this collection differ wildly–one gritty, intense, and violent, the other farcical and probably not even canon. However, they both focus on female characters exhibiting great strength of character. It is not merely Rivka’s muscles but also her persistence and her unswerving need to protect other women that are on display in “Saltspray”, and Aviva’s creativity and refusal to be intimidated by unwanted male attention are showcased in “Aliens” alongside her culinary talents.

In both stories, as well, elements of Jewish culture help them thwart their opponents. Aviva’s story in particular is a “Passover special”, with the aliens resembling the locusts from one of the plagues and a human being’s right to not be enslaved at the story’s core.

Rivka’s story would make a fine introduction to the entire series if you haven’t started them yet. But if you’re a fan already, you’ll be reading it with an extra layer of meaning, with the stakes infinitely higher.

But enough of that — just look at Becca Schauer’s awesome art. Doesn’t that make you want to find out what’s behind those pages?

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Amazing news

A Harvest of Ripe Figs has been chosen for review for the American Library Association’s Stonewall Committee LGBT YA Award.

I extend my congratulations to my Prizm Books colleagues, J. L. Douglas and Huston Piner, for their books Lunaside and Conjoined at the Soul for being chosen as well.

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LGBT family day at the zoo

Baby Naomi’s two moms and two dads at the zoo in a modern AU version of the Mangoverse books. Both the f/f and m/m couples are canon in the actual series and Naomi was conceived using artificial insemination.
Shira_42_finished_v03Drawn by Becca Schauer; pun and characters by Shira Glassman

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