Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kickstarter and Cover Reveal Countdown: We're 10 Days Away!

Hey community,

I'm nervous, and excited, and so pumped about this: On February 10, 2018, we'll be revealing the cover of Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill, and kicking off the kickstarter to cover the cost of professionally publishing the book and donating hundreds of copies of the novel to LGBTQ and Allied teens. It's an empowerment project. It's a movement. It's a mission...

I'm so glad you're with me on the adventure.

Stay tuned...

The light in me recognizes and acknowledges the light in you,

Monday, January 29, 2018

Attending #NY18SCBWI, The SCBWI Winter Conference? Join me for the LGBTQ Q&A social, Saturday Feb 3 from 7:30pm-9pm

Once again, I'm honored to be hosting the discussion, circle, Q&A, and community.

Please check your conference schedule for the exact location

Here's the report from last year's gathering:

The LGBTQ + Allies Q&A Social at #NY17SCBWI

With an expanding circle as more and more people arrived, and with special guests that included Ellen Hopkins, Heidi Stemple, Laurent Linn, Ellen Wittlinger, Matthew Winner, and Arthur Levine, the social opened with a conversation about the responsibilities and challenges of speaking up about diversity, equality, human rights, and politics as people who create content for children.

Then each person around the circle introduced themselves, sharing what they're working on.

And then, for another hour +, people mingled and chatted and exchanged cards with their new tribe-within-a-tribe friends.

Two moments that are still resonating for me:
On an Ally author's reluctance to make a fantasy character queer:
"I want to give you permission that you know as much about a two-headed dragon as anyone." - Arthur A. Levine.

"Don't let anyone shut you up. You have a story to tell. Tell it. ...Somewhere along the way, children will hear it and they will be saved." - Jane Yolen

The evening was brave and beautiful.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Queer as a Five-Doillar Bill: Chapter 21

In Chapter Twenty, the blows come fast and furious - lost business for Wyatt's family's B&B, and their town, a radio program mocking Lincolnville, Mackenize bragging about her date with Jonathon in front of Wyatt, Wyatt shouting that he's not gay, and then Sandee's unexpected kindness... only then to discover their whole town covered with John Wilkes Booth Appreciation Society flyers. But then Wyatt gives a private tour of their B&B exhibits to Martin, including a moment where they lie down on Lincoln's old bed to see how close Lincoln and Speed would have been... VERY close. So close that Wyatt bolts from the bed.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them as comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, or instagram.)

Okay community, here's Chapter Twenty-One!

* *

* *

Chapter 21
Saturday January 24

                        Mackenzie                  8:14 p.m.
Jonathon’s on the Von Lawson
Report. You might want to watch.

            Wyatt was so furious with her and Jonathon, he didn’t want to see it. But Martin said they had to, and yelled for his mom. Wyatt’s parents came, too. Moments later they were all crowded into Rhonda’s room, watching the live broadcast on one of the three computer screens on the antique roll-top desk.
Jonathon was there on T.V., wearing his yellow John Wilkes Booth Appreciation Society T-shirt, sitting across from Von Lawson. They were laughing about something. Words under them read:
                        Lincoln. Under. Attack!
            “It’s hard to shove that gay genie back in the bottle!” Von Lawson said, then faced the camera. “It’s been just about a week since our last national survey, so we did another, asking, Do you think Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed might have been more than just ‘friends?’ This time, eight percent of people believed it. What scares me here – and there’s not much that scares me, Real America – is the growth. Last week, two percent. This week, eight. Following that same line, next week we’ll be at thirty-two percent of people believing it... And the week after that? Everybody! Except you…” He pointed at Jonathon, and then at himself. “And me. In a bunker. Hiding from this radiation poisoning of history. That’s what they want, drive us underground, into their old closets – where they should be! And it’s starting now, right this minute, with this poor, stupid eight percent.”
            Jonathon and the audience booed the eight percent.
“It’s their First Amendment right to be asses!” Rhonda commented from the edge of the bed, her left hand working a silver ring with a jade stone around in circles.
“We’re very glad you’re here.” Wyatt’s mom said to Rhonda. She and Wyatt’s dad were watching from the room’s Victorian couch. Tensed up in a ball in the armchair, Wyatt caught eyes with Martin, who was sitting on the wood desk chair next to his mom. Count me glad, too.
Martin winked at him.
Wyatt felt the flush rising in his face and tried to focus on the T.V. show. He wasn’t sure how he felt about Mackenzie tipping him off that her boyfriend was on The Von Lawson Report again. Was that her being kind, or just rubbing his face in it?
            Von Lawson continued, “Now, I’ve been getting some flak, people saying that I shouldn’t even be talking about this on my show, that we’re giving them a platform for these obscene lies, but I ask you, Real America – if someone’s burning down your house, should you just walk away and not say anything?”
            The studio audience yelled, “No!”
            “That’s right. If someone’s trying to burn down my house, I’m going stop them, with a fire hose on full blast!”
            Jonathon chimed in, “An air tanker, dropping a BEEP-load of water to put it out!”
            Von Lawson drummed the air at Jonathon, building on what Jonathon was saying, “Not water – fire retardant!”
            Jonathon laughed. “Retard! They’re retards!”
            “I know! I’m with you.” Von Lawson leaned back and put his cowboy boots up on his desk. “I want to get us back to a simpler America. Where we don’t have all these minorities shouting about wanting what we have, when we earned it… In the good old days, you didn’t see freaks, and ‘disabled’ people, and retards, and people practicing beastiality, and necrophilia, and homosexuality running around, making all this noise: Gimme, Gimme, Gimme! And it’s the professional homosexualists, they’re the ones who want to make our thoughts a crime. They’re the ones perverting not just today, but history! Nothing’s safe from them! We need to just clean our country out!”
            “Holy crap.” Wyatt whispered.
            Martin met his gaze and nodded.
            “Um…” Jonathon hesitated on screen. “I’m not really talking about getting rid of anyone–”
            Von Lawson cut him off. “But when it’s an enemy from within, you have to control the outbreak! If someone you love has cancer, you get doctors to cut it out, and then use drugs to kill it, cell by cell. Should we do any less for the country we love?”
            Jonathon looked lost. “I guess it’s important to, uhh, stick together? I wanted to say that not everybody in Lincolnville thinks Lincoln was a queer. I mean… most of us don’t, and if–”
            Von Lawson cut him off again by slapping his desk. “But the numbers are rising! What’s it going to take before this country wakes up?” A new camera angle let him speak directly to the viewers. “What’s it going to take before YOU wake up?”
Maybe Mackenzie had been warning him?
Von Lawson was on his feet, shouting, “Make no mistake about it, Real America! This is a war. A war for the very soul of our country. They are trying to weaponize history against us. We have to save Lincoln, and save the nation!”
            Huge applause and fist pumping as the image pulled back to show the studio audience. Von Lawson shouted over the going-to-commercial music, “We’ll be right back, with our Prayer For America!” Wyatt watched Von Lawson heartily shake Jonathon’s hand. For a second, he thought Jonathon looked dazed. And then Von Lawson said something in Jonathon’s ear and the two of them were laughing again, waving at the camera.
            Martin hit mute. No one said anything.
            How did Martin do it? Being gay – with everyone knowing – seemed like walking around with this giant target painted on your chest. Did Martin need to be afraid? Do I?
Wyatt’s dad was the first to speak, but he didn’t say anything about gay genocide or a war for the soul of the country. All he said was, “Dinner’s getting cold.”
* *
* *
Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here. Ready for Chapter Twenty-Two? It will be posted on February 2, 2018. Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram. Don't miss a chapter - you can sign up to follow this blog and get emailed every post! Just enter your email at the top of the left column. Thanks for being part of my community, and for being one of my READERS!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"The Hurt Patrol", "Beau, Lee, The Bomb & Me," and "Rusty Summer" - a trio of books about a trio of teen friends, including a gay teen boy and a fat-shamed girl

The Hurt Patrol by Mary McKinley
"Give me your nerds, your freaks, your huddled weirdos yearning to breathe free. Stick them in Boy Scout uniforms and you'll have ...a sorry bunch of rejects who will never make Eagle."

Welcome to the club... Beau has been scouting since first grade. Not because he loves it, but because his dad does. It’s the only thing they’ve ever bonded over, what with Beau’s dad being into sports, beer, and brawling. So when they move to yet another Midwest town, Beau expects the usual Boy Scout experience, filled with horribleness and insults. Instead he finds something else entirely. Kicked out of every other patrol, their little band of brothers is equal parts nuts and awesome.

For the first time, people are watching Beau’s back instead of throwing things at it. Nice. Novel. And also necessary, when you’re dealing with parents splitting up, crushes, first love, and coming out...

The first—and only—rule of Hurt Patrol:

We are never going to win—but if you’re outcast elsewhere,’ll do just fine here."

"Beau, Lee, The Bomb, & Me" by Mary McKinley
"When Beau transferred to our school. I thought: Good; fresh meat. Because I knew he would be tormented the entire time he was at Baboon High. Like I am. All day…every day."

Meet Rusty, a junior at Baboon High, school year 2012-13. She's questioning everything and sure of nothing- except the fact you're doing it wrong.

In high school, there are few worse crimes than being smart or fat. So of course, Rusty's both. But when Beau blows into town, it takes the tools at their lame-ass Seattle school about two minutes to figure out he’s gay, and of course that makes him an even larger target. Have you ever heard the saying: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’?

There’s something to that.

Rusty Summer by Mary McKinley

"With graduation a month away, I'm hitting the road with my best friends Beau, Leonie, and Leonie's awesome rescue dog, The Bomb. We've all got something on our minds. Beau is schooling our school for ignoring brutal bullying. Beautiful, crazy Leonie is striving to become a model. And I m drilling to join a local roller derby team The Rat City Roller Girls where my bulk is actually a benefit. But first, somewhere between finals and graduation, I need some answers. I need to see my dad. Face to face.
Unless he's moved without telling me, my dad is out in the wilds of Alaska somewhere remote, beautiful, and amazing, where there will be wild animals, and hot guys, and adventures and lies and heartbreaks. It's further from home than any of us have ever been. Sometimes that's how far you need to go to figure out exactly where you want to be."

Add your review of "The Hurt Patrol," "Beau, Lee, The Bomb, & Me" and/or "Rusty Summer" in comments! 

And check out this beautiful note from the author on the true-life inspiration for Beau.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 20

In Chapter Nineteen, business at the B&B is tanking, and Martin and his mom, civil rights attorney Rhonda Sykes, show up to help. Wyatt's attracted to Martin, but know he has to play it straight so people will believe him about Lincoln. Wyatt pretends to be sick so he doesn't have to go to school, and when  Wyatt goes for a walk with Martin, they're confronted by more anti-queer graffiti.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them as comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, or instagram.)

Okay community, here's Chapter Twenty!

* *

* *

Chapter 20
Saturday January 24

It was past noon, and a knock on Wyatt’s door followed by the sound of the key in the lock got him to sit bolt-upright in bed. “Yeaahhhh?” He said cautiously. He’d left it unlocked – he wasn’t hiding anything.
After it got locked and then unlocked again, in walked his dad, mom, Rhonda and Martin.
Yikes. There were piles of clothes and papers scattered everywhere. Martin hadn’t seen Wyatt’s room yet, and this wasn’t the best first impression.
Martin avoided his eyes, “Hey. This is… an intervention.”
Wyatt’s mom straightened the edge of his top comforter. “We’ve been making a mistake, Sweetie, letting you hole up at home. You can’t hide from life.”
Rhonda took her turn: “Monday, you have to go back. If you miss another day of school without a notarized doctor’s note, they’re threatening to expel you for truancy. And there won’t be anything I can do about it.”
His dad looked him square in the eye. “We Yarrows don’t hide from our problems. Time to get up, and face them.”
Martin’s face was serious, but there was a teasing glint in his eyes. “You do know I’ve been here for four whole days, and you’ve been a terrible host?”
Wyatt had to laugh at that one, “Okay, okay!” Hands up, he slid out of bed to stand. “I’m up.”
His mom ruffled his hair. “I’ve got an open house to set up for tomorrow, your dad will be busy going through the attic, and Rhonda has to work. So, I’m dropping you two off by the Junior High and you can walk back. At least that way I’ll know you’ve made it out of this room.”

* *

Twenty minutes later, Wyatt climbed into the back seat of their green pickup, letting Martin and his guitar ride shotgun. As his mom made the turn to Johnson Street, Wyatt saw a whole bunch of yellow and black flyers on the utility poles. Someone having a yard sale, he figured.
But what he really noticed was that the Lincoln businesses and the Log Cabin were a ghost town. The only human being they saw was Mr. Woo, sorting through the period costumes on his outdoor clothing rack. He spotted them, but didn’t smile or anything. Just turned his back and went into his store. Like they were lepers. Wyatt guessed they kind of were. Or, at least, he was.
            His mom punched the radio’s on button to cover the awkward moment. It was talk radio, and it was like the shock-jock hosts of the show couldn’t spin their words out fast enough as the truck headed into Union Square.

Rob: Hey, Amy, did you hear about the Sapphic mayor of Lincolnville?
Amy: Rob! What are you talking about?
Rob: It’s all over. See, now that it’s been revealed that Lincoln might have been secretly gay, there’s talk that everyone in Lincolnville is a closet case. Their Mayor? I hear she’s a big lesbian.
Amy: So you’re saying High School coach and sometimes country singer Bryan Rails, her husband, is a bit…
Rob: Limp in the wrist? Well, if the pump fits…
Amy: How about the other people in their town?

Wyatt’s mom slowed them to a near-stop as they listened. Wyatt stared at the library, just up ahead.

Rob: They’re saying it’s not true, that they’re all straight, but science disagrees.
Amy: Science?
Rob: Statistically, the people who know these things, are saying that between three and twenty percent of the people in Oregon are gay.
Amy: Three and twenty? That’s some kind of ‘knowing things.’
Rob: Well… what if everyone who’s gay in Oregon is there?
Amy: In Lincolnville?
Rob: You hear about them in Portland, and Ashland of course, and I hear there’s some bent folk over in Bend, but… maybe all the closeted ones are living right here in Benton County – you know, in the town with possibly the most famous closeted gay man of all, Abraham Lincoln!
Amy: I used to get the best pancakes at their Pantry restaurant… or was it Pansy? Who’d have thought. Lincolnville.
Rob: I hear they’re calling it ‘Queerville’ now.
Amy: A rose by any other name is just as… gay?
Rob: Is that what Shakespeare said?
Amy: Just call me the Bard of Stratford-on-A.M. radio!

Martin shut the radio off, but it was like Wyatt could hear their words still echoing in the truck cab.
How many people listen to that show?
The silence stretched, as taut as the space between lightning and thunder. Wyatt’s mom drove them forward again, made the right onto Route 37 and accelerated under the covered bridge. Wyatt checked in the side-view mirror as they cleared the roof – ‘Queer America’ – the graffiti was still there.
            Two blocks past the high school turn-off, Martin cleared his throat. “You know, Shakespeare was Bi.”
            Wyatt’s mom swerved the truck onto the shoulder of the road and slammed to a stop. She let her head drop to the steering wheel. Wyatt wasn’t sure if she was crying or not.
            Guitar rescued from the floor, Martin turned and caught Wyatt’s eye, looking guilty.
            Wyatt gave the slightest shrug. He didn’t want to make him feel worse. “Mom? You okay?”
            She didn’t say anything. Wyatt was about to unbuckle his seatbelt to check on her when she took in a shuddering breath. “Kelly told me she can’t wait to fire me the Monday after there’s no parade. We only had thirty-one entries, and I have twelve messages on voicemail that I’m afraid to listen to. My emails are… I can’t even... The B&B is going under – I don’t think we can save it. Which means the bank will foreclose. Rhonda says we can fight the lawsuit, but…” She raised her head and looked at Wyatt in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were puffy. “This has gotten so out of control.”
            “I didn’t mean for it…” Wyatt started, but didn’t know what to say. Martin fidgeted in his seat.
            “I know.” Wyatt’s mom said. After a moment, she dug into her purse. “Why don’t you two get out here? I’ll give you some money for Sandee’s.” She held out a five-dollar bill.
Wyatt’s eye caught on Lincoln’s face, and his mom forced a smile. “There’s no escaping it, is there? Go. Have some fun – someone should.”
 “You going to be okay?” Wyatt asked her as he pocketed the five.
“Your dad told me this great thing last night.” She checked her reflection in the rear-view mirror and wiped under her eyes with a knuckle. “Winston Churchill, in the middle of World War Two, said, ‘If you’re going through Hell, keep going.’ And that’s what we have to do. Don’t stop, just… keep going.”
A minute later, Wyatt and Martin stood in the weeds by the roadside. Under Wyatt’s mom’s truck, the tires spit gravel as she pulled back onto the road.
            Martin turned to Wyatt. “I guess… we should keep going.”

* *

            “Those foreign commercials can be a riot.” Martin was speaking over the sound of Sandee’s soccer match broadcast in Spanish as they browsed the shelves of Sandee’s Liquor and Candy Mart. “Ooh – there’s this one French Orangina ad where an Opera singer is on a plane. She has a sip, starts singing high ‘C’, rips the door off and skydives out!”
Martin mimicked the falling Opera singer, “Orangin – aaaaaa!” He hit a falsetto note and crumpled to the floor. Wyatt cracked up.
“You’ve got to see it – I’ll show you online when we get back.” Martin said.
“¡Fue Falta! ¡Idiota!” Sandee yelled at her screen.

Martin looked up at Wyatt. “You going to help me up, or am I just going to lay here?”
Wyatt put out his hand, and Martin grabbed on. It was almost electric, the current that shot through Wyatt’s arm from where they held each other. Wyatt yanked – stronger than he meant to – and Martin soared up, bumping into him. They caught their balance and steadied out, faces inches from each other.
 The door jingled, “I’m pretty sure it doesn’t list the P.H….” Jennie was saying as she and Mackenzie, still in the white pants and t-shirt from her karate class, walked in.
Three of the four of them froze, watching each other. Wyatt’s face shut down. Martin looked from the girls to Wyatt, like he was trying to figure out what was going on. Breaking the moment, Wyatt stepped back, bumping into the shelf of shaving creams and band aids.
Jennie started to head for the sodas, but Mackenzie pulled her towards the shelves of gum opposite Wyatt and Martin. “Indoor glow-in-the-dark mini golf. And in the dark, Jonathon could hardly keep his hands off me!” She was talking to Jennie but Wyatt knew it was for his benefit. “We had such a great time! He’s busy tonight, but wants to see me again tomorrow. Now that my Sunday days are free, we’re meeting at eleven to watch a movie in their screening room and have a catered lunch. Did I tell you he sent roses? They came this morning. You wouldn’t believe how fancy they are.”
Wyatt made a bee-line for the freezer and snagged an ice cream sandwich. Martin was taking his time, browsing the shelves of crackers and chips.
“Hey!” Wyatt leaned in close and whispered to him. “Grab something and let’s get out of here.”
“Why? What’s up?” Martin asked.
Wyatt’s eyes pointed out Mackenzie, who at that second turned with a packet of gum in her hand to scowl at them. He said under his breath, “That’s Mackenzie. My ex-… friend.”
Martin’s eyes darkened. “And her Jonathon’s Jonathon?
“Yeah.” Wyatt breathed.
Jennie touched Mackenzie on the arm, “What are you thinking?”
Mackenzie spat the words out, “That I’ve had enough.” She slapped the gum she’d been holding back on the shelf and strode over to them. “Who’s the stranger, Wyatt? We don’t get a lot of outsiders who aren’t tourists here.”
Wyatt gave her a look like she’d gone crazy. “Uh, Mackenzie? We’re all outsiders, unless we’re Paiute Indians.”
“Name’s Martin.” Martin crossed his arms, which Wyatt noticed made his arm muscles pop. “I’m staying with Wyatt for a few days.”
Mackenzie’s eyes flashed at Wyatt. “You didn’t waste much time getting a boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend! …I’m not gay!” Wyatt was nearly shouting and told himself to chill. “Martin and his mom, they’re staying at the B&B. That’s all.”
            Martin snagged a bag of almonds and slipped past Mackenzie, like he was done with the conversation. “What are you getting, man?”
Wyatt held up his ice cream to answer, and tried to pretend that the lasers in Mackenzie’s eyes had no effect on him, either. He joined Martin at the counter, put his ice cream sandwich by the almonds, and topped it with the money his mom had given him.
Sandee stood there watching them, ignoring the penalty kick happening on-screen. “It would be a shame to break that.” She pushed the green portrait of Abraham Lincoln back at Wyatt. “This one’s on me. Just, go home, and be safe.”
Wyatt blinked, surprised. Did that mean Sandee believed him about Lincoln? Was she a lesbian? Or, did she just want to be nice?
He looked at her. Whatever the reason – he was grateful. “Thanks.”
Sandee gave him the slightest dip of her head, then turned back to her soccer match. “¡Ja! ¡PATEA LA PELOTA!” she yelled at the T.V.
Not risking another glance in Mackenzie’s direction, Wyatt got them out of there.

* *

            They were heading down Hayes Street back to the B&B, and Wyatt could feel Martin’s eyes on him.
Finally, Martin said, “Ex-friend or ex-girlfriend?”
“Uh…” Wyatt stalled, trying to figure out what to say about him and Mackenzie. “Kind of …both?”
“Oh.” Martin said.
“No! It was never like that, it’s just…” Wyatt stalled out. “It’s kind of hard to explain.”
Martin nodded, like he understood. Did he?
“Well, thanks for standing up for me with the un-welcome committee.” Martin said, ripping open the bag of almonds and popping a few in his mouth.
Wyatt took another bite of spongy chocolate and velvet-cool vanilla, but he felt all torn up from everything. Mackenzie had been so mean. And her and Jonathon… he didn’t want to think about it. And Martin was right here – he finally had a friend who was gay! – but Wyatt couldn’t even be real with him. …And Martin was thanking him for standing up for him?
Wyatt shrugged, “that’s what friends do, right?”
Martin put his hand on Wyatt’s shoulder. “Yeah. That’s what we do.”
They were in public!
Wyatt stepped away so Martin’s hand fell. Wyatt kept going, pretending the reason he’d moved was that he wanted to read one of those yellow and black flyers stapled to the utility pole on the corner ahead.
Martin covered the moment by pocketing the bag of almonds and swinging his guitar around. Like he had only been trying to pat Wyatt on the back.
But Wyatt was hyper-aware that they both knew what had happened, and they both knew the other knew it, too.
Martin plucked out some notes as they passed under another one of the banners announcing the town’s upcoming parade.
It felt weird, and Wyatt didn’t want it to. If I was walking with a girl, no one would care if her arm was around me. Why does this have to be so much harder?
Martin strummed a chord and started to sing. The melody was familiar to Wyatt: It was a Civil War song from one of the CDs they played in the exhibit rooms. But the words were new,
            “Two brothers on their way,
            One wore blue and one wore gray,
            One was straight and one was gay,
            All on a beautiful morning…”
“Whoa – that’s not the lyrics I know!” Wyatt spoke over his shoulder as he neared the flyer.
“I’ve been playing with them.” Martin fingered the strings, plucking out the wistful melody.
Wyatt turned back to see who was having a yard sale. The letters shouted,


The uneaten half of Wyatt’s ice cream sandwich squished in his fist.
Reading it over Wyatt’s shoulder, Martin stopped playing.
There was a line of them. Wyatt saw the flyers went all the way down Hayes street. He scraped the mess off his hand and threw it to the asphalt as he hurried to the corner of Union. More yellow flyers.
“Wyatt!” Martin ran behind him, guitar bongoing against his hip, trying to keep up. But Wyatt couldn’t stop. Grant Street, yellow flyers. Johnson Street, yellow flyers. Buchanan Street, yellow flyers.
It was the whole town.

* *

Back home, they found out that the afternoon tour, a Boy Scout troop from Philomath Christian Day School, had cancelled. So had Tuesday’s tour for Mother of Sorrows Elementary, who had told Wyatt’s dad they weren’t going to bring their children to a place that promoted homosexuality. But it wasn’t like Wyatt had expected any of them to show, not now.
All frazzled, his dad went back up to the attic to keep looking for hidden treasure. Martin’s mom was still knee-deep in legal documents, and Wyatt’s mom wouldn’t be home till nearly dinner, so they were on their own. “You want a tour?” Wyatt asked Martin, pointing to their exhibit rooms.
“Ahhh. You’re making an effort to be a better host.” Martin teased. “I better play along.”
Wyatt tried to keep his face serious. “You better.”
He kept thinking it was his first gay-friendly tour and he should change stuff, but the facts about Lincoln and the war pretty much stayed the same. Just… how Wyatt felt about it was all different.
Martin pointed to wax-Lincoln’s hat. “In Kindergarten they told us he kept papers in there – but it sounded crazy.”
“He did! Tucked in the lining.” Wyatt took the imitation beaver-fur hat off wax-Lincoln and handed it to Martin so he could see the coffee-aged Emancipation Proclamation Wyatt kept inside it for tours. “It left his hands free.”
Martin reached up to put the hat back on wax-Lincoln. “The hat made him even taller.”
“That was probably the point. So he would stand out even more.” It struck Wyatt that while Lincoln had been willing to stand out about some things, like being super-tall, and leading their country through the Civil War, he hadn’t been willing to stand up about loving Joshua. A wave of sadness washed over him and he shook it off.
As they walked by the weapons case, Wyatt thought about introducing Martin to his soldier, but decided that would have been too weird. He just snuck a wink at the photo, and led Martin to the flat screen monitor in what used to be the dining room. At the end of The Civil War in Four Minutes DVD, Martin gave a low whistle at how many people had died during the war. The casualty numbers on the screen topped out at:
            North: 702,000           and                  South: 621,000
“One point three million,” Martin said. “Just think, nearly triple that have read all about Lincoln being gay, thanks to you.”
Triple? Wyatt hadn’t asked about or checked their blog stats all week. That’s more than three million… Thanks to me? He shook his head. “Thanks to us.” He was glad they were in it together.
They finished the tour upstairs in the Lincoln Room. The bed stood at the far end like some altar. Wyatt made himself busy, moving the bronze plaque’s wooden stand and the three metal stanchions with their velvet ropes to the side – it was a better view without them.
“Can I get on it?” Martin asked.
“We’re not supposed–” Wyatt started, then changed his mind. “Sure.” He picked off the three wax-Lincoln hairs from the pillow and put them on the lip of the china wash basin. Wyatt slid his palm in the air for Martin to try the bed out.
“I’ll be right back.” Martin ran across the hall to his room. A minute later he returned with a plastic drop-cloth, and eased the door shut. “Those are going to be some old dust mites. Help me?”
Wyatt wanted to tell Martin he was being paranoid, but he just took one end. They unfolded the thin plastic and laid it over the bed like they were getting ready to paint the red-striped wallpaper behind it.
Martin carefully climbed on, plastic crinkling underneath him. He looked over at Wyatt. “Lie down.”
Wyatt cleared his throat. “Nahh, I mean…”
“Come on! Let’s see if they could really be in this bed together without, you know…”
“I tried it!”
Martin shook his head. “You just put those mannequins on it.” He patted the plastic space next to him. “This way, you get to experience it.”
Wyatt walked over to the edge of the bed and hesitated. Martin’s right arm was thrown back under his head, which made his bicep in his tight T-shirt… perfect. He was so hot. Damn. Wyatt turned around and lowered himself to the thin plastic. It was like lying down on his mom’s dry cleaning or something. Stop thinking about Mom!
“You’re going to fall off.” Martin’s voice was soft.
“I’m okay.”
Martin’s hand came around and rested on Wyatt’s chest, pulling him back towards him. And Wyatt let him, covering Martin’s hand with his own. And then Martin was spooning him, and even with the plastic under them it was warm and safe and crazy and–
Wyatt jumped away, keeping his back to Martin. His face burned, and he couldn’t catch his breath. “I… I gotta go!” He raced to the door, flung it open and took the stairs two at a time to his bedroom. He got the door closed behind him and sank to the floor.
Oh, man…
Blood pounded through Wyatt’s body as he tried to get it under control.
There was no way they’d been in that bed together without getting it on.
And now, for sure, Martin knew about him, too.

* *

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 Endnotes for Chapter 20

When Wyatt gives Martin a tour of their B&B’s exhibits, The Civil War In Four Minutes DVD that they watch really exists, and the Civil War casualty numbers I used are from that. The video is available from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum here: 

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Sorry for the late posting, everyone. We'll let this one ride until Wednesday.

Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here.

Ready for Chapter Twenty-one? It will be posted on January 26, 2018. Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fan Art - a teen boy crushes on his guy best friend... and the art class girls who try to help get them together

Fan Art by Sarah Tregay

Jamie Peterson has a problem: Even though he tries to keep his feelings to himself, everyone seems to know how he feels about Mason, and the girls in his art class are determined to help them get together. Telling the truth could ruin Jamie and Mason's friendship, but it could also mean a chance at happiness. Falling in love is easy, except when it's not, and Jamie must decide if coming clean to Mason is worth facing his worst fear.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr. on the holiday honoring his memory - words for the resistance, words for creativity, words for our lives

"If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving." 

–Martin Luther King, Jr., the final lines of his “Keep Moving from This Mountain,” Address at Spelman College on 10 April 1960. Read the whole speech here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 19

In Chapter Eighteen, Wyatt's parents have a big cancellation of booked rooms for their B&B, and Wyatt can't reach Martin to get him to take down The next morning, Wyatt confronts Mr. Clifton outside the library. After all, Mr. Clifton gave him the book. Didn't he want him to know about Lincoln and Speed? The answer stuns Wyatt.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

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Okay community, here's Chapter Nineteen!

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Chapter 19
Tuesday January 20

            It was still dark outside, but the not-quite-period grandfather clock by the stairs said it was 6:15 a.m. Wyatt hung back in the kitchen doorway. His dad and mom were at the table, with the ledger book. His dad put down the phone and crossed out another name. “And that last one was the junior high from Albany.” He said it like someone had died. “That’s two tours and eleven room-nights cancelled. And we haven’t booked anything since Saturday.”
            His dad’s eyes travelled to some papers on the table in front of them. Wyatt recognized the logo: Lincolnville National Bank. They had the loan on this place. The payments that Wyatt’s family couldn’t miss even one more of. Whatever fire he had left inside him fizzled out. Damn ripples.
            His mom glanced up and saw him. “There you are.” She came over and kissed Wyatt on the forehead, then pulled him to the table. She reached into her purse and pulled out his cell phone. “We’ll come up with a different consequence. This is not for interviews, but for now, don’t use the land line.” She handed the cell over to him.
            Wyatt gave her a what’s-going-on? look.
            “There were some pretty nasty messages this morning.” His mom looked away, like just talking about them hurt. “You don’t need to hear that.”
            Wyatt tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. He’d done this. Gotten them into this mess. How was he ever going to fix it?
            “Excuse me.”
They all turned to stare at the teenager standing in the kitchen doorway, a blue guitar slung over his shoulder and a rolling carry-on by his side.
“Martin?” Wyatt had trouble believing it.
But the smile he gave Wyatt felt like the sun when you get out of the cold ocean and you’re all goose bumpy. “Hi, Wyatt.”
Wyatt couldn’t help checking Martin out. His teeth and eyes were electric white against the deep river-stone brown of his skin. He was wearing jeans and a tight blue tie-dyed Superman T-shirt that was a ‘G’ instead of an ‘S.’ Wyatt wasn’t sure what it stood for, but it did show that Martin was in really good shape. Scratch that, he was hot.
Martin pointed over his shoulder to the front of the house. “My mom says she won’t come in while the Confederate flag is flying outside.”
“Oh, uh…” Wyatt crossed to the doorway. “I’ll take it down.”
Wyatt tried to pass him but Martin went to his left just as Wyatt went to his right. Then they did it the other way, and Martin laughed low, “wanna dance?” He flashed his impossibly bright grin at Wyatt.
“I… uh–” Wyatt could feel his face get lava-hot and couldn’t get any words out. He slipped past him, nearly brushing against his shoulder as Martin held his guitar out of Wyatt’s way.
Wyatt darted down the corridor, through the entry hall and out the front door, taking the stairs in a rush. A woman stood there by a pile of luggage. Martin’s mom. Rhonda. She was staring at the flags, like they were stopping her from taking even one more step forward. Like they were Kryptonite.
Wyatt yanked the Confederate flag out of its holder and started to roll it up on its four-foot long stick. “I’m really sorry about the flag – it’s not meant to disrespect African Americans. It’s just that we’re a Lincoln and Civil War site, and having both flags seemed kind of … fair…” Did that sound terrible?
Rhonda pulled out a camera and aimed it at their ‘Lincoln Slept Here Bed & Breakfast’ sign. The flash went off as she snapped the picture. “Documenting everything is critical.”
Wyatt glanced to see if it was that different without the slave-holding states’ flag, and saw what she had really photographed. Someone had crossed out the ‘Here’ on their sign with pink spray paint and wrote in ‘WITH GUYS.’
Making them the ‘Lincoln Slept WITH GUYS Bed & Breakfast.’
Wyatt cringed, wondering if he could get that off before his dad saw it. While he was busy with the flag, Rhonda lifted her carry-on and started up the front porch steps. Wyatt grabbed the other two bags and hurried to join her. His dad, mom and Martin were in the entry hall.
Rhonda glanced around her at the exhibits, and Wyatt felt a flash of relief that their military mannequin was still in his Union Blues. That could have been awkward.
Martin’s mom’s eyes lingered on the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote above their ‘The Great Emancipator’ display case. She read it out loud, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” She frowned. “You’re missing the next line.”
Wyatt checked the wall. That was where their quote ended.
Rhonda spoke to her son, “You know it.”
Martin recited from memory, “…But a hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.” He said it with force, and meaning. His mom gave him a ‘well done’ dip of her head. He looked down, kind of shy.
He was mighty cute. But Wyatt was going to be straight. He had to.
Rhonda turned to him. “You must be Wyatt? T.V. is always so deceptive.”
Wyatt gave a nod.
“Forgive us,” Wyatt’s dad said, “But, do we have a reservation for you? We certainly have room, it’s just that…”
She pulled out three business cards, handing one each to Wyatt’s mom, dad, and Wyatt himself. “I’m Rhonda Sykes, attorney of record and field representative for Legal Advocates of Oregon.”
Wyatt looked up from the card in his hand. “They’re here to help.”

* *

            “The new blog picked up right where the old one left off!” Martin had put his guitar on the far side of the kitchen table and was setting up his laptop, running the internet over some cellular data card because the B&B’s setup was quaint. “It took me a while to re-link stuff, but three more aggregators picked us up, and one of them was huge. We were at nearly 200,000 hits when we left Idaho…”
            Wyatt had gone over how he’d contacted Rhonda twice already, but his mom still studied the business card clutched in her hand. “It says ‘Oregon?’”
            “We were in Boise, helping out with a class-action gender discrimination suit.” Rhonda explained.
“Let’s make it load on top of the old visits…” Martin grabbed a muffin from the basket Wyatt’s dad offered as he worked. “Drove all night to get here. Did it in just under nine hours!”
            Rhonda pulled out a chair and sat heavily. “I’m so glad Martin has his provisional license. I couldn’t have done that by myself.”
            “Coffee?” Wyatt’s dad asked.
            Rhonda stretched her neck side to side. “Please.”
            “Me, too.” Martin said, left hand up as he typed. “Half way.”
            He drinks coffee?
            Wyatt’s mom got a second mug for Rhonda while his dad poured Martin half a cup. Martin filled it the rest of the way with milk and seven packets of sugar. He took a tentative sip.
            Well, I like coffee ice cream, too.
            Martin hit a final key and whistled. “I thought so! Von Lawson’s show was like rocket-fuel.”
            Wyatt leaned over Martin’s shoulder to check out the new stats. His nose picked up the waft of sweet coffee and bright citrus, like what your hands smell like after you peel a tangerine. Was he wearing aftershave? Focus, Wyatt.
            The new statistical readout page showed a bunch of big vertical lines. Page loads per day. Today’s was shorter. Wyatt was trying to make out the numbers when Martin moved the cursor to point out the total.
            “We’re over a million?” Wyatt asked. That couldn’t be right.
            “One million two-hundred and thirty-two thousand one-hundred and seventy-nine!” Martin raised his hand for a high-five, and their palms connected. Wyatt’s was suddenly sweaty. He wiped it on his sweatpants.
            Wyatt’s dad frowned. “Unless we’re somehow getting a dollar for each of those visits, that T.V. show – and that blog – actually destroyed our business!”
            Wyatt didn’t mean to flinch, but the truth hurt.
            Martin shrugged. “We can’t get a dollar, but we could probably get some fraction of a cent a hit if we put advertising on it.”
            “We’re going to lose this place!” Wyatt’s dad fumbled his coffee and it spilled across the table. “Can we close the computer and focus on what’s going on in the real world?”
            “Hey!” Martin leapt up with the laptop and grabbed his guitar into the air, too, even though the spreading puddle of coffee was still a foot away from where his guitar had been.
            Rhonda used some paper napkins from the holder to blot the spill. “We’re here now. And we can help.”
            Martin still held the laptop and guitar, like he didn’t want to put them down.
Wyatt’s dad just sat there, motionless, staring at the chipped handle of his now-empty Jefferson Davis mug.
Wyatt’s mom squeezed his dad’s hand and spoke to Rhonda. “There are already 1.2 million people who won’t be staying with us. You want to help? Get your son to take that website down.”
            What if his mom was right? Who knew if anyone visiting his blog even agreed with him about Lincoln? It was probably just looky-loos. Or Von Lawson’s audience, working themselves up. Getting to know who they needed to hate. Him.
1.2 million people who hated him.
Wyatt’s voice cracked oddly. “Are they going to come after me?”
            “We won’t let them,” Rhonda said. “But, let’s take things one at a time.”

* *

            The adults decided Rhonda would take the case pro bono – which meant Wyatt’s family wouldn’t have to pay her. In return, like a barter, Rhonda and Martin would stay with them for a week or so. And, instead of the Confederate Flag, the B&B would fly the 33-star and the 35-star Union Flags, from the beginning and end of the war. And the blog could stay up, for now.
Room One, down the hall from the Lincoln Room and in the front of the house with a big bay window, would be Rhonda’s room and temporary office. Martin would stay in Room Two, closer to the stairs. Closer to Wyatt’s room, one flight up and down the hall.
            Outside, in the darkness that had lightened to inky blue, Wyatt spent a half-hour in the B&B sign’s light, trying to remove the pink graffiti. It wouldn’t come off. Dumping the useless cleaning stuff in the downstairs closet, he peeked in the kitchen. Rhonda sat at the table with Wyatt’s dad and mom, using a red pen to scribble notes on the lawsuit the Mayor had hit them with. After Von Lawson’s show, local businesses were going to lose a lot of money. Money they didn’t have, if they lost the lawsuit. What would happen then?
He wondered where Martin was. Probably in his room…
Wyatt searched his brain for a reason to go up there. Clean towels! He raced up the stairs to the laundry room on the third floor. Then, arms loaded with a pretty good excuse, he walked down the flight of stairs to Martin’s room.
The blue guitar was outside the doorway, propped against the blue-gray and orange-brown leaves of the hallway wallpaper. Wyatt wondered if he should pick it up and carry it in for him, or if that wouldn’t be cool. He was about to ask but froze when he saw him. Martin was wearing plastic gloves, and a white face mask with those yellow rubbery head straps. He had the mattress off the bed, and a giant silk bag halfway over it.
            “What are you doing?” Wyatt asked.
            “Dust mites,” Martin said, carefully pulling the bag all the way over the mattress and then zipping it shut along the side. “You ever seen one in a microscope? They’re like aliens.”
            He finished with the mattress, and then, like it might bite him, cautiously fit another silky bag over the room’s pillow. Once that was zipped shut, he pulled his gloves inside-out, careful to not touch any of the parts that had been on the outside. Putting the gloves in a plastic bag, he knotted it, and put that in the trash can under the antique desk. Then he took off the facemask. “Mom says it’s like I go all Howard Hughes, but we’re in a different place every couple of days…” He shrugged, zipped open his rolling carry on, and pulled out his own sheets.
            “We do wash things here.” Wyatt said, putting the towels on the desk.
            “It’s just allergies. I’ve kind of got it down.”
            Wyatt helped him push the hermetically-sealed mattress back on the bed. He’s weird. Cute, but weird. Or maybe… weird, but cute.
            Martin’s mom came up the stairs. “Wyatt, you need to get to school. We can’t be giving them any excuses to suspend you. Martin, I need our system up and running an hour ago.”
            “I’m on it.” Martin said.
            Man. Wyatt had been hoping no one would bring up school. He checked his cell phone. It was 7:25 a.m. He was already thirteen minutes late.
Once he’d locked himself in the third floor bathroom, Wyatt closed his eyes against the day he knew was ahead:
Sharks in yellow T-shirts, saying they’d rather celebrate the guy who killed a hero than acknowledge a hero might have been gay. Basically saying they’d kill Wyatt if they knew he was gay, too. And then celebrate it with custom T-shirts printed for the occasion.
Mackenzie, getting all lovey-dovey with Jonathon.
And probably some camera crew following Jonathon around, for the new reality T.V. series he was probably going to star in.
Wyatt ran the hot water until it gave the glass & mercury thermometer a high enough ‘fever’ to be convincing. Sometimes, his dad’s insistence that old-fashioned things were better was useful.
There was no way Wyatt was going to school.
Just thinking about all of it made him feel sick.
So it wasn’t a total lie.

* *

Wyatt holed up in his bedroom until lunchtime, when hunger got the better of him. He was heading down to the kitchen when Martin called out from his room. “Hey, it’s you.”
Martin came to his doorway, running a hand back along his close-cropped hair. His T-shirt rode up and Wyatt could see a line of skin pulled taut over muscle. Wow. He needed to look somewhere else, anywhere else, and recognized the stripy cover of the book in Martin’s hand. It was Absolutely, Positively Not… He must have bought it! And Wyatt guessed Rhonda was okay with that.
Did that mean…?
Maybe it didn’t mean anything. After all, he wasn’t wearing a rainbow bracelet like he had in that video. Maybe he was just cool with gay people.
But maybe…
Martin’s smile was a little lopsided. “Feeling better?”
Wyatt’s mouth was suddenly dry. “You wanna get out of here? I’ll show you our town.”
The house was empty, and Martin explained that the adults were off in Corvallis at the Benton County Circuit Court. They snagged two granola bars and were out the door. Martin wanted to bring his guitar along, but Wyatt said no – they didn’t want to attract any attention on this mission.
“So, being home schooled must be heaven, huh?” Wyatt thought it would be sweet to never have to set an alarm again. Never have to see Jonathon, either. They were on the school side of Jenson’s Stream, since the near side was too overgrown with Himalayan Blackberry. But walking along the bank at the bottom of the ravine, it wasn’t like anyone would see them. Wyatt was thinking he would take Martin all the way to the covered bridge into town. They could pop up there, and Wyatt could show him Union Square and stuff without his getting caught cutting school.
“It’s all right,” Martin said, picking up a pine cone by the path.
They were both quiet for a bit, but it was okay. Martin stopped to put the pine cone gently into the water, like he was launching a boat. They watched it bob along. “How many seeds do you think are in there?” Martin asked him.
Wyatt had no idea. “Fifty? A hundred?”
“That could go all the way to the Ocean, and travel to New Zealand. Start a forest there. That would be cool to see.”
It would, but Wyatt knew his future was some big anonymous city, where he could just disappear. The pine cone was almost out of sight and Wyatt wondered if it would make it past the ford. His voice got quieter, and a bit sad. “The second high school is over, I’m out of here.”
Martin seemed like he wanted to ask a question, but didn’t. Instead he said, “Being home schooled? My mom only gives me a hard time about doing my work, not about being myself.”
“You were getting crap at school for being Black?” Wyatt didn’t think that was it, but he had to ask.
Martin scoffed. “I was getting crap for thinking Daniel Craig coming out of the ocean in Casino Royale was hot. Instead of Ursula Andress in Dr. No.”
“Craig is completely the best Bond!” Wyatt said, but inside he was screaming He’s gay! He just said he’s gay! Act cool.
“You watch them, too?” Martin asked, his smile like a superpower that short-circuited Wyatt’s brain.
Wyatt managed to squeak out, “Yeah,” and they started walking along the bank again. Did Martin know about him? He couldn’t. Could he?
Wyatt turned, hoping to see it again. Feel it again. They caught eyes, and the look Martin gave him made Wyatt feel like his stomach had dropped out of his body. Like Martin wanted Wyatt to stop everything and just look at him. Let him look at Wyatt.
Wyatt’s breath caught and he plunged ahead.
Why didn’t I ever feel like this with Mackenzie?
After a while, Martin started humming. His voice fit, somehow, with the birds and the gurgle of water, even their crunching footsteps on the path. Wyatt didn’t talk anymore. He just wanted to listen, hoping to get his pulse to stop pounding in his neck.
Ten minutes later they were climbing the bank by the covered bridge to top out on Route 37. As they gained altitude, Wyatt saw there was only a single car by the log cabin. Usually there were at least a couple of tour vans and buses. Martin touched his arm as they got to the road.
“Wyatt,” he started.
Wyatt jerked his arm away – anybody could see them.
 Wyatt followed to see where Martin was pointing, at the ‘Welcome To Lincolnville – Real America’ sign.
But the sign on the red bridge had the same pink graffiti as the B&B sign at home. This time, the word ‘Real’ had been crossed out and ‘QUEER’ was scrawled over it instead.
Wyatt felt sucker-punched. Trapped. He couldn’t get away from it. Any of it.
Martin pulled out his cell phone and snapped a photo of the sign. “My mom will want that.” He saw the sick expression on Wyatt’s face, and gestured back to the stream trail. “Let’s get out of here.”
Wyatt’s feet obeyed. But as they headed down the ravine, and the whole walk back, he couldn’t get the image out of his head. The sign shouting,

Welcome To Lincolnville – Queer America

Hiding out in his bedroom for the rest of the week, Wyatt felt like he was caught in an avalanche, and the whole hillside was sliding out from under his feet.

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Endnotes for Chapter 19

Rhonda reads and Martin finishes the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote from his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. You can read the entire speech transcript and listen to the audio here: The speech video, which Wyatt and Martin watch in Chapter 21 is available from

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