You Need to Read This Book: GHOST CITY by Madeline Claire Franklin

I love the magic of words, I utterly love and am bewitched by what they can do, what they are capable of. When I read a story, I’m not just reading for the characters, the plot, how it makes me feel…I’m reading for the richness of language a lot of stories contain. I consume these stories, devour them, and find that I am irrevocably changed by them.

Ghost City by Madeline Claire Franklin, released today, is an irrevocably changing kind of book.

It’s a lot of things. A post-apocalyptic survival story, a post-apocalyptic love story, a survivor story, a story of strength and hope and courage. Kiddo, the main character, is one of the strongest and most amazing girl heroines I’ve ever read.

But here’s the crux of it–you’ve probably read a lot of post-apocalyptic stories, but you’ve never read one like this. The language is absurdly beautiful, succulent and rich and profound. The characters fight not against zombies and viruses, but against a crushing sense of dread, that they must fix their world, and they don’t know how. There’s so much to this story, including the twist, that blew my mind, and inspired me utterly. There’s a lot to this beautiful book, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. If you love beautiful language, if you love strong heroines, if you love a strange, enchanting, bewitching kind of book, you should read Ghost City. <3

Here's the blurb:

Kiddo survives—it’s what she does best. And since the world ended, staying alive is a useful skill to have.

She and her found-sister, Princess, have created a home for themselves in the forest, and a refuge for the other children who survived the end. Hunting animals, harvesting herbs, treating wounds—this is what Kiddo remembers of her life Before, and little else.

But the young man they call the Saver claims to remember everything, even when the rest of the children who survived cannot. He speaks of what came Before when he leads the survivors to his island city, making promises of abundance and hope. But even the Saver’s memories can’t explain the wrongness of their world. They can’t explain why ghosts stream through the woods every night under the same full moon, or why there is a fire in the Burning End of the city that has blazed, unchanged, for nearly a decade.

Regardless of what the others believe, Kiddo knows one thing for certain: the city is going to sink someday. She can’t explain it—not without remembering. And since the world came to an end, taking memories and lives in equal measure, remembering is the one hardship Kiddo has not been forced to endure.

But the city wants Kiddo to remember: at the heart of the fire in the Burning End is a story that only Kiddo can tell—and only Kiddo can finish.

Get it on Amazon!

Get it on Smashwords!

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Project Unicorn: Volume 2 Release Day!

We are excited to announce that PROJECT UNICORN, VOLUME TWO is available now!

Find it on:
- (for Kindle)
- Barnes & Noble (for Nook)
- Smashwords (for all other eReaders + online reading)
- Createspace (link coming soon!)

- eReader edition on Etsy (all proceeds to authors)
- Signed paperback on Etsy, PLUS free eReader edition! (all proceeds to authors)

PROJECT UNICORN, VOLUME TWO is a collection of thirty young adult short stories featuring lesbian heroines. As ghosts and robots, mermaids and werewolves, the characters in this extensive and varied collection battle monsters and inner demons, stand up to bullies, wield magic, fall in love, and take action to claim their lives–and their stories–as their own.

Written by wife-and-wife authors Jennifer Diemer and Sarah Diemer, this volume of stories, with genres ranging from science fiction and fantasy to the paranormal, is part of Project Unicorn, a fiction project that seeks to address the near nonexistence of lesbian main characters in young adult fiction by giving them their own stories. PROJECT UNICORN, VOLUME TWO contains these full three collections of Project Unicorn stories: Artificial Hearts, Myth, Magic and Glitter and Winged Things.

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Project Unicorn: Volume 2 Cover Reveal!

We’re ushering in this bright, shining new year with the release, on January 14th, of the second volume of our Project Unicorn stories, which will be available in both ebook and print formats:

Project Unicorn: Volume 2 collects thirty short stories from the following three, previously released collections: Myth, Magic & Glitter; Artificial Hearts; and Winged Things.  Its release marks the halfway point for Project Unicorn: 60 stories have been released, and 60 more are to come!

We are so excited to release this volume–and look forward to releasing more Project Unicorn stories (and volumes) in the future! Our plan this year is to share Project Unicorn stories here at our blog on an occasional, unscheduled basis, until, eventually, we’ve completed the project and reached our original goal of twelve collections, or four volumes–120 young adult, genre stories featuring lesbian heroines!

We cherish your feedback and kind words and are so grateful to you for wanting these stories; thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your support!

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Magic: THE DARK WIFE Gets a Sequel, and This Year is Gonna Be Rainbows

So much changed for me in 2013. It was the most transformative year of my life, and I feel, in this first magical day of the new year, that I am a completely different person, looking ahead at the possibility of what these twelve bright months holds. 2013 housed family tragedies (A LOT OF THEM), sadness and illness (without insurance!), heartache and the kind of fires that temper swords. In the end, I am a different woman, a changed woman, but as much as there was sorrow and sadness in this past year, it made me stronger, brighter, more courageous than ever before. And I wouldn’t have changed a single thing.

I have so much to tell you. Important things. So let’s start at the very beginning…

- I no longer have an agent

In September, my agent and I amicably parted ways, as her role in the agency was evolving. She was an amazing lady, and I adored her and our relationship together, but I’m also excited to see how my publishing will evolve in 2014. I’d held back a lot of work as my agent and I discussed what we were going to do with it, which means I have a couple of books already written and ready to be put out into the world. At this time I’ve decided that I’m not going to pursue an agent, as I have a lot of work that I want to put out there (and because my self-published presence has not been as robust as I’d like because so much had to be done behind the scenes). This does not mean that I don’t want an agent in the future. If you’re an agent who’s passionate about getting LGBTQ literature out into the YA world, I’d love to talk with you! But for right now, this means that…

- 2014 is going to be a rainbow year!

I have quite a few books already finished and ready to go, and some that just need a light edit. This means that while you didn’t see a lot from me in 2013, you’re going to be seeing a lot from me in the months to come. <3 It's my goal to put out a novel every month of this year. That means twelve books. Considering what I have written, that’s not a completely crazy sentiment. ;D There are stand-alone novels coming, some I’ve been excited about and teasing you with for ages! There’s also going to be a great new series coming…a pre-apocalyptic love story, if you’d believe it. ;D But that ALSO means that…

- The Myth Makers will finally be continued

My very first novel, the lesbian YA retelling of the Persephone myth, The Dark Wife, was always going to be the first book in a series of myth retellings, all with lesbian heroines. I’ve teased you with mentions of the other projects for almost three years now, but I can promise you this: 2014 is going to be the year The Myth Makers continues. And it starts with…

- The sequel to The Dark Wife

When I finished The Dark Wife, something was nagging at the back of my heart. I felt very much that this was not the end to Persephone and Hades’ story. They are going to show up in other books in The Myth Makers series, but that’s not what I felt. I felt something bigger. Greater. I joked around with Jenn a couple of times that I was going to write a story of Persephone at the end of the world with a robot arm. Because she’s my wife, and a sainted creature, she would always laugh at that absolutely ridiculous joke.

But I did want to write a sequel. Just not one involving robot arms. XD And it kept tugging at me, this idea, and growing in me…

And this past month, I knew the story I had to tell. It came to me much the same way The Dark Wife had. It was late at night. I was in bed, almost fast asleep…and the story slammed into my head and heart. I had to get up (even though it was three o’clock in the morning), run to the writing room, our black cat quickly on my heels, and for the next three hours, I wrote the outline for the story, Emily Dickinson (said black cat) purring in my lap until the wee hours of the morning, while the world slept and the myth unfurled before me on the page, ink dripping from its skin.

The Dark Wife is getting a sequel. Three years after The Dark Wife‘s release, on May 20, 2014, I will be releasing The Dark Dream.

What can I tell you about The Dark Dream? That the strength of a goddess is tested. That a god, once vanquished, craves revenge. That love is neverending.

That love takes us to the darkest places. And saves us.

I am overjoyed beyond belief to be sharing this with you. <3

- In the meantime…

Sign up for our newsletter if you’re excited about the coming months! Project Unicorn, Volume 2 is going to be our release for January, and I’ll reveal the cover for that (and details about where Project Unicorn is heading!) very soon. I’m so excited about this coming year. <3 <3 <3 And I can’t wait to share it with you!

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Ladies in Comics: A Guest Post by Hannah Smart, Comic Book Artist and Author

The second in our series of posts from feminist or queer guest authors and artists is by artist/author Hannah Smart.  Hannah is only sixteen years old, and already has an amazing career going.  I fell head over heels in love with Hannah’s comic Icarus (a feminist comic featuring a flawed and awesome superheroine–IT IS SO GOOD, YOU GUYS), and can’t wait to see more from this impressive artist.  <3


Salutations, all! To those of you reading this through the screen of your laptop, desk computer, iPod, iPad, iPhone, tablet, or experiencing this on your holodeck (if this survives to the 24th century), I thank you for taking the time to read this. Before I delve into a long stuffy rant, however, I would like to thank the wonderfully talented and generous Sarah and Jennifer Diemer for inviting me to do a guest post on Muse Rising. They have encouraged me a lot, and are fantastic people, but then again, if you’re here, you already know that.

For the majority of you who probably don’t know me, my name is Hannah Smart. I am a sixteen-year-old science fiction, gothic horror, and comic book enthusiast, and I have previously self-published a sci-fi novel, Corona through Amazon. My first and foremost love will always remain writing: novels, short stories, whatever, I like ‘em all! However, I have also grown to relish the thrill of sitting inactive at my desk for hours, meticulously laboring with my laptop and a Wacom tablet over the appearance of a 72 dpi image in Photoshop. Believe it or not, it really is a rush.

Quite recently, I have completed my first full-length graphic novel, entitled Icarus: Creatures of Darkness. The Icarus title follows the dark adventures of Etha Fidalgo, a 20-something superheroine trying to find her way in the dismal city of Damocles and rescue her missing sister. This is intended to be the first volume of a four issue series, and work on the second one (called Icarus: Scar Tissue) is already underway.

Here is the description of Creatures of Darkness:

In a world where death, tragedy, and demons plague the shadows, anything seems possible. And when Etha Fidalgo’s little sister, Elle, disappears, she takes it upon herself to find her. However, along the way, Etha encounters misanthropes and villains who threaten to further disrupt life in the destitute city of Damocles. In order to rescue her sister and save her home, Etha becomes the vigilante Icarus, armed with only a wingpack, her fists, and her mind. But will this be enough for Etha to defeat the Deadly Warpaint, a masked criminal who takes scare tactics to the next level?

So there you go. There’s Icarus in a nutshell. But then again, a nutshell isn’t very big, is it?

What can I say? After spending what seems like an eternity drawing out these pages, learning who these characters are, I cannot help but become attached. Icarus is a very female-power comic, as it only features one definitive male character in the entire 50 pages of the strip (and that isn’t until the very end). Part of it is that I honestly feel that females are easier to draw, and another part of it is that, being a girl, I can connect to female characters more easily. I wanted to create characters that I would want to be, personas that I could channel in times of hardship, and look fondly back upon in times of euphoria. But not only did I want to write a tough, pretty, cool character; I wanted to write one who was flawed.

Creatures of Darkness is only the surface. The in-progress Scar Tissue will give you a bit more of a glance at Etha’s personal life, and her increasing isolation from her friends and family as she becomes more and more Icarus, and less and less Etha Fidalgo. Etha is someone who isn’t afraid to do what is necessary to dish out arse-kicking justice. She doesn’t bend to anyone: the law, men, even her friends at times. Her biggest struggle isn’t with the bad guys; it’s with herself.

As the overall story-arc progresses (while Creatures of Darkness was the test drive, I really do have a grand conclusion and inter-series plot in mind), I hope to eventually show the readers that all heroes have their issues, their dark side, and that the villains can have the capacity for goodness as well. But let us not get hasty; some of these characters are yet to be introduced. That, and this may take a while, as I am working on this during my spare time on weekends when I’m not doing homework or working on a new book idea. Bear with me.  :)

I have spent an estimated 250 hours slaving away at this. I will be the first to admit to you, it was a learning experience; the illustrations near the end are definitely better than those in the beginning. While Creatures of Darkness has its fair share of inconsistencies and quirks, it was a labor of love, and I promise you that #2 will be even better (if only I had begun storyboarding before I was halfway done with Creatures of Darkness!). Although writing is my passion, and I feel more comfortable within the realms of a novel, this has been a fun, challenging ride. For those of you who have read this far, I thank you. And once more, a HUUUUGGE thanks to Sarah and Jennifer Diemer for everything!

ICARUS: CREATURES OF DARKNESS can be purchased through Amazon. The collection includes the 50 page comic, and 20 pages of bonus material! So indie comic book enthusiasts, get your copy now!

For more artwork, and to read Creatures of Darkness and the in-progress Scar Tissue for free online, check out my art website: or my blog at

(OH, AND A TIP: Listen to “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John while reading Creatures of Darkness.  :) )

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Ladies Rescuing Ladies: A Guest Post by Shira Glassman, Queer Jewish Feminist Author

We’ve been pretty quiet on the blog lately while our lives transform and evolve in interesting, sometimes beautiful, sometimes difficult ways.  Now that I think (hah! she says) that the worst is over, I want to come back here with a vengeance, talking about stories, queer stories, random and sparkly things, and announce a lot of new and wonderful projects.  We also want to start giving space to other voices.

My mission, Jenn’s mission, is to bring great feminist lesbian stories into the world, stories with young lesbian heroines who kick ass and fight monsters and fall in love with monsters and live and love.  But there are a lot of other writers and creators and makers out there, each with projects that we want to support, that we’d love to showcase here.  So the next few posts are just that–guest posts from authors and artists who are doing amazing work.  Queer work.  Feminist work.  (And if you’re an author of something queer or feminist or QUEER AND FEMINIST! [huzzah!], please drop us a line and we’ll see what we can do about getting you to guest blog on Muse Rising.  <3

Today’s guest post is by Shira Glassman, a queer Jewish feminist author, and author of the The Second Mango, a feminist fantasy novel about a gay woman, a straight woman, and a dragon.

Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody think she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately.

Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.


Many times when talking of feminist retellings of fairy tales, we decide that the solution is for the “damsel” to rescue herself. Why not send a woman to rescue another woman? That’s often how it works in real life, anyway–friends rescue each other in little ways all the time. There’s nothing inherently unfeminist about needing to be rescued; it’s only when the rescuer is always male and the person in distress is always female that we’ve gotten stuck in tropes. In my storytelling, I wanted to talk about the beautiful phenomenon of women rescuing each other–in some ways, a radical idea that those in power would rather we ignore in favor of the narrative that all women stand in competition with each other for male attention.

The Second Mango is a feminist fantasy novel about a gay woman, a straight woman, and a dragon. The main character is Queen Shulamit, a young woman who’s inherited her father’s throne unexpectedly when he dies in an accident. She’s lonely and isolated because she’s the only queer person she knows (which means she doesn’t know where to find a girlfriend), and she’s beset by debilitating digestive problems that everyone in the palace just think she’s faking–just as in real life, where sexism causes many women’s invisible disabilities to be treated with skepticism and disbelief.

Enter Rivka, or “Riv”, as she calls herself–a tall, brawny foreign mercenary and bounty hunter whose native language is Yiddish and whose horse can transform into a dragon. To Shulamit’s great disappointment, Rivka is emphatically straight. But they start to bond anyway, and Shulamit decides that if she can’t have Rivka as a girlfriend, she can have her as a bodyguard for her journey around the country seeking love. Before long, however, they discover a group of women who badly need their help, and the adventure expands beyond the simple quest for other queer women.

I invented Shulamit because I came to realize that the only way I’d have anything close to a Disney Princess fairytale experience with someone queer and Jewish was if I made her up myself. (And then I saddled her with my dead father and my spouse’s gluten intolerance, but at least I gave her my determination and my spouse’s encyclopedic brain to make up for it!) I invented Rivka because I wanted a female, Jewish answer to Siegfried; someone from my ethnic group who can kick ass but also love with a nurturing protectiveness, and baby, this Siegfried doesn’t kill dragons–far from it. Imagine how foes flee when they see the great warrior allied with the dragon!

The book contains plenty of lesbian content, of course, including Shulamit’s runaway girlfriend (who is bisexual–like me!) But it’s not just a book about romance. The central relationship in the book is the sisterly bond between Shulamit and Rivka. It was important for me to write about a queer person participating in platonic friendship–and about the other ways being queer can affect someone’s life beyond just the romantic angle–because so many of the voices of privilege think our queer identities exist only in our underpants.

It saddens me when I see fans using “but you’re robbing the world of celebrations of platonic love” as an argument against slash fanfiction. It saddens me because it makes me realize that fiction in general is dominated by hetero romance, and that friendship and same-sex romance are left to squabble over what’s left. In reality, all types of love are important, and all should be represented. In order for same-sex romance to flourish in fandom, it has to “steal” in some cases from platonic friendship, leaving those who want to support platonic friendship and make sure it gets screen time and respect feeling cheated.

I can understand what they feel, but same-sex romances, or even just LGBTQ+ people in general, are underrepresented in genre fiction, too! Anyway, I’ve never seen anyone who uses that type of language against slash recognize that and say, “look, we’re not asking for a gay-free universe; we’ll make these background characters a couple, or how about making this other person gay which wouldn’t affect the main character’s platonic friendship?” What it winds up sounding like is “the existence of queer characters interferes with the ability of fiction to celebrate platonic friendship.” Ouch.

So, since platonic affection and same-sex romance are both very important to me, I wanted to create a universe where they could co-exist — just like the real universe in which I live — where the two types of love don’t threaten each other.

The platonic friendships in my life are deep and complex, just like my marriage. My best friends are absolutely a part of my family. I also really want to celebrate the complicated idea of “family of choice”, in which who becomes a part of our heart and our extended family is partially blood, partially by marriage, and partially by deep friendship.

The Second Mango is a very female-centered book, and completely by accident the only scene with a conversation between two major male characters is in Rivka’s backstory, which takes place in a more traditional, less diverse setting in general. However, it does have a heterosexual romance subplot involving Rivka, but without spoiling anything I just want to emphatically assert that it’s still got all of my feminist sexual politics wound up firmly inside of it. The hetero romance in my book is everything I always wanted to read or watch but nobody could ever give me. Remember Little Women, where Dr. Bhaer gets Jo to cease her writing of sensationalist fiction to pay the bills? Remember Yentl the Yeshiva Boy, where in order to be with the man she loved, she’d have to stop the work she loved? I remember, and I reacted.

As for the bisexual character, I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s not depraved or amoral; she’s not flaky; neither is she doing it for attention.

We, the queer women of the world, are good enough to be in fairy tales and adventure stories, stories where we get to ride dragons and hang out with warrior women and enter creepy castles and cursed temples clutching the ends of our scarves with nervous excitement. Stories where we exist. For a long time we’ll probably have to make them up ourselves, but then–isn’t that the best way to have the greatest adventure of all?


Support the awesome queer work that Shira is doing, and get yourself a copy of The Second Mango!

(Artwork in this post by Jane Dominguez and Erika Hammerschmidt.)

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A Day of Victory, Redux: Shine

Almost ten years ago (ten years on December 1st! I can hardly believe it’s been almost a decade–it seems like we’ve been together forever~ <3), Jenn and I got together. I remember very, very clearly this particularly moment from early on in our relationship.

We didn't get together quietly or softly or tentatively. I showed up at the bus station with a ring and undying love, and she gave me a ring that same day. THE VERY FIRST DAY WE MET EACH OTHER. It was an avalanche of love, true love, that has somehow (impossibly) grown every day we've been together. I'm so in love with this woman, it breaks my heart into a thousand splinters of shining joy when I think about it. I love her more than words can say.

So, the very first week we were together, I'm sitting on her bed, playing with one of her cats. She's in the kitchen, making lunch. I got very overwhelmed by all of my feelings, and when she came into the bedroom with the plates, I was crying. "What's wrong?" she asked, worried, but I gathered her into my arms, held her close and sobbed, because the finality of the truth had hit me, all at once, desperately and terribly:

"I can't ever get married to you," I whispered, crying my heart out. "I can never get married to you."

Back then, there wasn't even a possibility. It wasn't even a joke--it was a nonexistent idea of nonexistence. But then, everything began to happen with California, and the very glimmerings of hope began to emerge. But when Jenn and I first got together, it was a fairy tale.

And we are. We've been "illegally" married, and legally married when NY passed it two years ago. AND NOW, WE ARE FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED.

This has been one of the most emotional days of my life. I've cried a lot, the happiest, hiccuping tears of joy you could possibly imagine. I have these moments where I have to hug random people, where listening to the coverage on NPR in the car made me burst into tears when some amazing man proposed to his boyfriend, sobbing himself.

Marriage doesn't fix anything, and at the same time, it begins to fix everything. I have been the victim of hate crimes, almost every single one of my queer friends has been the victim of hate crimes. By being seen as equal by our nation, the tide of hatred MUST begin to change. This isn’t about marriage, and it never WAS about marriage. It’s about the dignity of a human being. By being afforded equal treatment by the country in which we live, it sets the standard for how we should be treated by everyone else. When we were second class citizens, stabbing a lesbian was something that happened all the time, in ways you never heard of (I never reported the hate crimes committed against me…want to bet how many others haven’t, or have but got nowhere?), but as the tide of the very basis on HOW WE ARE TREATED changes because we are recognized as EQUAL, everything else will begin to change.

I’m overwhelmed with joy, thrilled, happy and triumphant today, and I’ve kissed my wife over a thousand times and aim to make it two thousand. This isn’t the end…this is the beginning.

And I am shining with all this love.

Picture from our LEGAL wedding, NOW A FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED WEDDING, by the incomparable Vasilion Photography.

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A Day of Victory

We got the news about the defeat of DOMA thanks to this glorious notification from a friend on Facebook:

Congrats to Sarah and Jennifer Diemer for now having a federally recognized marriage!

Federally recognized… SO MUCH HAPPINESS, SO MANY GRATEFUL TEARS. And so much love to Edie Windsor for her unwavering courage.

As a mini-celebration, Sarah and I gave Poesy a new rainbow collar, which she’s been proudly prancing around in all day long.

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Gay Paree!

Sarah and I have begun to dream-plan an epically romantic future vacation/adventure in Paris. We are both surprisingly single-minded about this goal–we’re even trying to learn French!–and are determined to get there the moment our finances allow us, ideally in the months of April or May. Paris in the spring! I went to France once before, years and years ago, before Sarah and I even started dating. The possibility of exploring the city with Sarah by my side, writing together in cafes and wandering the many specific sites that have become interwoven with our own personal histories, is so exhilarating to me!

A few days ago, I discovered a stationery line at Michaels called “Springtime in Paris,” which includes notecard sets, memo books, notebooks, rubber stamps, post-it notes and small tote bags, all for $1 each.

I spotted this notebook and thought it would be ideal for my Parisian information-gathering. I intend to fill it with must-sees and to begin to work out our travel itinerary. :) I believe that operating under the assumption that we are definitely going to take this trip will make it more likely to really happen. I’m willing to do months and months’ (or years’) worth of positive thinking if the end result is kissing my beloved at the top of the Eiffel Tower, standing in awe before the sites of fabled lesbian literary salons, and walking hand in hand through Marie-Antoinette’s queendom. And–let’s be honest–eating like a million violet-flavored macarons.

Note: If you read our blog regularly, you may have noticed that there have been no new Project Unicorn stories posted for some time. Update regarding that coming very soon.

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Dragon Star, a Free YA Short Story — Part of Project Unicorn (A Lesbian YA Extravaganza)

Dragon Star,” by Sarah Diemer
It’s said that the universe is held in the belly of a dragon. Told in verse, “Dragon Star” wonders about that universe, a drowning girl and first love.

(photo by RedEye)

(Part of Project Unicorn: A Lesbian YA Extravaganza, updated twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays with a free, original, never-before-published YA short story featuring a lesbian heroine. Also, every story is a work of genre fiction [Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Post-apocalyptic, etc.].)

Continue reading

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