Friday, March 30, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 30

In Chapter Twenty-Nine, Mackenzie helps Wyatt navigate school, speaking to Jonathon (but Wyatt doesn't get to hear what they say.) Mackenzie joins Wyatt, Martin, and Wyatt's folks in the effort to get participants in a new kind of parade, and they get their first few entries... And, when they get the idea of using Wax Lincoln from their B and B in the back of their truck so the new parade will have at least one float, it's the first time Wyatt feels hopeful about pulling this whole thing off.

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.

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Okay community, here's Chapter Thirty!

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Chapter 30
Thursday February 12

            Wyatt headed downstairs for breakfast and Martin was already in the kitchen, fiddling by the coffee machine. Probably making himself a warm coffee ice cream.
            “Morning,” Wyatt told his back, and grabbed the generic Cheerios and some milk from the fridge. He smell-checked it, then poured a bowl. He’d just crunched the first bite and sat at the table when Martin came over, hiding something behind his laptop.
            With a flourish, Martin pulled out a rainbow-sprinkle chocolate cupcake and set it in front of Wyatt. A single candle was lit on top. “Happy Lincoln’s birthday!” He winked at Wyatt, then sat and checked something on his computer.
            The cupcake smelled awesome. Way better than Wyatt’s cereal. “Thanks!”
            “Sure.” Martin said, but he kept reading. Was he working on some new lyric?
            Wyatt waited for him to stop whatever he was doing, but Martin didn’t. “You wanna watch me blow it out?” Wyatt asked.
            “I’m just trying to see if I can make something work.” Martin sounded frustrated. And then he was quiet, clacking his keyboard. For a long, long moment. The candle wax dripped onto the frosting like the first big drops of a rainstorm.
            “Sorry, I’m just, distracted. Go ahead.” He didn’t look up from his stupid computer. “There’s lot to do before Saturday.”
            Maybe Martin didn’t like Wyatt that much, after all. Maybe he didn’t care that he and his mom were leaving after the parade. Maybe the friends thing was because that was all Martin wanted them to be. But the cupcake meant… What? Maybe he was supposed to be more worried about the parade. Did Martin think some of their yesses wouldn’t show? That none of them would?
            The candle sputtered in the frosting and Wyatt blew it out, to put it out of its misery. Acrid and waxy, the smoke bit at his nose.
            The cupcake didn’t taste as good as he’d thought it would.

* *

Friday, February 13

            Mackenzie couldn’t stay to hang out for detention number twenty with Wyatt – too much to do for tomorrow. But it didn’t matter, since, like the day before, Wyatt was the only student in detention. Anyway, Jonathon and his sharks seemed focused on other things, whispering and planning and laughing among themselves. Wyatt didn’t know what they were up to, but they were leaving him alone, which worked for him just fine.
When the fifty-ninth minute clicked over and it was 3:15 p.m., Ms. Valens told Wyatt that he’d paid his dues to society and was free to go.
            Wyatt’s mom was there to pick him up, and the whole five minutes home they added to the punch-list of things still to do for the parade. His mom dictated, “…Check that the portable sinks will arrive with the toilets, and we need to test the sound system.” Wyatt knew he already had those on the list in his notebook, but checked anyway. It helped him not count all the new ‘Lincoln Was Great – Lincoln Was Straight!’ plastic yard signs.
            His mom pulled tight to the curb on the opposite side of the street from their B&B and told Wyatt, voice all relieved, “Some guests have already arrived.”
            “That’s awesome!” Wyatt was thinking that would help them make the bank payment. The plan was working!
            “Wyatt, there is one more thing…” His mom started, but Wyatt was already out of the truck and crossing the street.
“I’ve gotta talk to Martin! Tell me later, okay?” He had an idea for a sign on the truck grill and wanted to see what Martin thought they could make it out of. He took the front porch steps two at a time, and raced the stairs to Martin’s room.
            “Martin!” Wyatt swung open the door to Room Two but some woman was in there with short gray hair. Putting clothes in the drawer.
            “Hi!” She said, all bright and cheerful. “You must be the owners’ son. I’m Betty. Do you think I could get some extra towels?”
            Wyatt’s eyes searched the room. All of Martin’s stuff, and his guitar, had disappeared. He rushed to the bed and ripped up the blanket and all the sheets from their tight corner, exposing the blue and ivory ticking of the mattress. The dust-mite-proof cover was gone.
            Maybe Martin had doubled up with his mom so they could book the extra room…
            Wyatt ran down the hall to Room One. It was empty. Rhonda and the computers, the printer and satellite hook-up modems, all their things were gone.
            Wyatt almost tumbled down the stairs. His mom was standing in the entry, like she had known he’d come down.
            “Where’d they go?” It was hard for him to breathe.
            His mom shrugged sympathetically. “All they said was that there was something they had to do.”
            “So they’re just… gone?” Wyatt’s voice cracked. They’d said they’d stay until the parade!
His mom came over and put her hand on his arm. “With all the people coming, and things set for tomorrow, they knew we’d be okay. Maybe they just went to help someone else.”
But… They’d worked so hard to make this happen. To do this together! Maybe Martin had texted him. Wyatt checked his cell. Nothing.
He must have left a note!
            Wyatt tore up the stairs to his room, scanning the floor for an envelope. Some explanation. Another ‘Yours Forever.’
            He scoured the room, went through the laundry piles, turned things over on his desk, even pulled out the window seat cushions.
            The top comforter on his bed was all smoothed out, though. Weird. He never bothered to do that.
            Wyatt walked over, and there on the pillow, folded into a square, was the super ‘G’ T-shirt. Blue and tie-dyed and proud. The one that looked so great on Martin.
            But that was it.
            Wyatt picked it up, and held it to his face. He breathed it in deep, but it didn’t smell like Martin, just faintly of detergent and fabric softener. Like fingerprints wiped clean.
            He was gone.
            Martin was gone.
The parade was tomorrow at 9 a.m. In sixteen-and-a-half hours, Wyatt would either be eaten alive by sharks or he’d have to beat them off with his bare hands. Alone.
            I guess it’s easy to drop a ‘friend.’
            Wyatt felt hollowed out inside, like some guitar robbed of its strings. Mute.
He dialed Mackenzie, speaking past the lump in his throat. “Hey, we’ve still got a lot of work to do to finish the float. Come over to help?”
            “Hi…” Mackenzie sounded preoccupied. “I’m actually really swamped with homework. 3,000 words is a challenge.” Wyatt would have bet money she meant keeping it that short. Their papers were due Monday, but Wyatt wasn’t even going to bother. There was no way Mr. Clifton was going to pass him, even if he had the world’s most perfect paper.
            “Oh. Okay.” He hated that he sounded like a little kid, all disappointed.
            “…But I can be over as soon as I finish this draft.” Mackenzie said.
            “When’s that?”
            “How about I’ll come over for an hour or two around 9 p.m.?”
            Wyatt checked the time on his phone. Four-and-a-half hours from now. He sighed. “I guess. I’ll see you then.”

* *

            Around 6 p.m., Wyatt helped his dad carry out wax-Lincoln, being careful with the right-arm-that’s-out-to-shake. They had filled every room of the B&B. A few of their guests were couples – one of them two guys in their 30s with matching wedding rings – and nearly all of them had offered to pitch in with decorating the pickup. They set wax-Lincoln up, standing in the back of the truck. There was no way to anchor him, so Wyatt would ride along to make sure Lincoln didn’t tip over.
            An hour later, Betty splurged and ordered pizza for everyone so they could ‘keep at it.’ They still had to make thousands of little waxed paper flowers to stuff in the chicken-wire that, along with the painted two-by-fours, created an arbor that arced high over Lincoln’s stovepipe hat. More chicken-wire draped the moving blankets they’d placed around the sides of the truck, and that needed more six-inch squares of waxy colored paper stuffed through every bee-hive-like gap in the wire. Wyatt’s dad and mom seemed grateful that they didn’t have to figure out feeding everyone, and Wyatt was sent along to help their guest pick up the pizzas. She didn’t believe in delivery – “It always gets soggy.”
            “Just over here on the right,” Wyatt directed. As Betty pulled her BMW into the Pies and Pool lot, Wyatt saw the plastic ‘Lincoln Was Great – Lincoln Was Straight!’ ad in the small patch of grass in front. They were all over town now, a spreading plague of yard signs.
            They parked and headed to the entrance. Betty pressed her key remote and her trunk popped open. In one swift move, she yanked out the lawn sign, crossed the asphalt and tossed it in the back of her car, shutting the trunk with a quiet click. The whole maneuver took five seconds. The sign was gone, with no one the wiser. She winked at Wyatt as she walked back.
            Wyatt opened the front door for her with a bow. She’d earned it.
            The place was packed, pool balls clacking and air filled with the smell of beer hops and melted cheese. The first person Wyatt saw was Charlie, who was suddenly blocking his way. Charlie’s sneer was a mirror image of Jonathon. “Hey, it’s the big fag!”
            Wyatt felt braver with Betty there beside him. “I’m not just bigger. I’m better at it than you.”
            Betty’s snort emboldened Wyatt, and he walked around a speechless Charlie and led them towards the takeout counter in back.
“Nicely done, yourself.” Betty praised him, and Wyatt wished Martin had seen that. He shook his head, trying to push thoughts of Martin away when he heard Coach Rails laugh. He was talking with Mr. Asgur, who hosted the summer Civil War re-enactments on his farm. Mayor Rails was with her husband at one of the wooden booths. Becca sat with her parents, fiddling with her phone. Wyatt didn’t see Jonathon, but if Charlie and Jonathon’s family were here, chances were he was somewhere.
Wyatt kept going, wary…
From the pool table on the other side of the Mayor’s booth, Mr. Anderson from the bank called out, “So, Kelly, is there going to be a parade after all?” He was the guy putting the squeeze on Wyatt’s dad and mom.
Mayor Rails shook her head. “Nothing but a few stragglers.”
“Parade brought in a lot of business.” Mr. Anderson said.
Mayor Rails bristled. “The main thing is to get our town’s reputation back.”
Mr. Anderson’s tone got sharper. “Do you know what this whole thing is costing us?”
Coach Rails snorted. “If he knew how much you spent on that Mary Lincoln dress you’re not wearing tomorrow, he’d know for sure.”
They didn’t spot Wyatt, and he walked past fast.
Jonah, a college dropout who worked the counter as he pursued his dream of being a painter, waved as Wyatt and Betty approached. “Good timing, Wyatt! It just came out of the oven.” He started to ring up the order.
Betty pulled out her wallet and asked Wyatt, “Shouldn’t we say something about the parade?”
“No,” Wyatt whispered back. “Let’s just get the pizzas and get out of here.”
She made a frustrated face. Jonah set the five pizza boxes on the counter and Betty handed over her credit card.
“So maybe we need a different strategy.” Mr. Anderson was still arguing with Jonathon’s mom.
“What’s your pride cost, Benny?” The Mayor stood up, soda in hand. “Listen up everyone!” People quieted down. “We’re a tourist economy and look around: No tourists! The only important thing going on this weekend is getting us back on our feet. Save Lincoln’s reputation and our town. Nothing else matters!”
Betty smacked her palm against the counter, “That’s it!”
“I’ll wait for you outside.” Wyatt grabbed the pizzas.
He’d passed Jonah’s canvas of a dog playing internet poker and was half-way out the side door when Betty said, loud enough for the whole place to hear, “Actually, there IS something else important going on this weekend. An amazing parade, celebrating the real Abraham Lincoln!”
Oh man…
The sound of people shouting stopped when the door closed behind him. Wyatt was trying to figure out if he should go back inside to rescue this crazy woman when he noticed there were two people in the Mayor’s Hummer parked right in front of him. They were kissing.
He stepped closer. Who was in there?
It was Jonathon… but that chin-length black hair…
They didn’t see him, and Wyatt backed away slowly, like it was another basket of snakes he didn’t want to tip over.
He’d wait for Betty by her car.

* *

            Betty came out five minutes later, face flushed. “Idiots!”  She shook her head at Wyatt.
            “Yeah.” Wyatt managed, keeping the pizza boxes between him and the Mayor’s Hummer. They were still kissing!
            He got them back to the B&B, and while Betty told everyone what had happened and they all dove into the pizzas, Wyatt wandered upstairs. He passed Room Two.
            Where was Martin? He could call, but damn it, shouldn’t Martin be the one calling him? He knew the parade was tomorrow. Wyatt was so pissed at him! He grabbed his cell.

                        Wyatt                          7:24 p.m.
                        dude! where the hell are u?

            Of course, no response.
            Wyatt’s mind careened. And Mackenzie and Jonathon! She’d lied to him. How long had they been…?
He’d had this whole plan with Mackenzie and Martin to sell the cardboard Lincoln hats during the parade to help Wyatt’s family raise the money to stay in business, and now neither of them…
            His heart pounded and Wyatt felt like he might throw up. He texted Mackenzie, too.

                        Wyatt                          7:26 p.m.
                        i saw u and Jonathon. don’t
                        show up 2night. or 2morrow.
                        or ever.

            He hit send, and then shut his phone off. He was done, and didn’t want to hear from either of them.
            Martin was gone, and Mackenzie was making out with the enemy.
            Heading downstairs, he could hear all the guests in the parking lot just behind the kitchen, where they were decorating the pickup. It sounded like a party.
Wyatt walked over to his soldier. Still cute. Unchanged. Wyatt spoke to him, “It all finishes tomorrow, I guess. Wish me luck?”  His soldier just smiled out at him from 150 years ago. Frozen in time.
He was just a photo.
Wyatt turned away. He had to do this himself. He could sell the hats right after the parade. That was, if anyone was going to be there to buy them.
There were five boxes of the souvenir Lincoln hats stacked in the corner behind reception. They needed to get to the truck. He tried to lift the first one, but it was way too heavy for cardboard and glue. Wyatt opened it and it wasn’t hats – instead it was all these old books. He’d been supposed to check out how much they were worth online, but hadn’t gotten around to it.
            Wyatt hauled out the over-thousand-page book on top, Photographic History of The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Gettysburg.
            There on the cover was the photo. Flipped, or something. And cropped differently – all the guys in the background, behind the group of eleven, were missing. But there was his soldier. His gay fantasy soldier on the cover. Who was he?
            Wyatt scoured the jacket flaps, but there was no info about the cover image. It had to be in there somewhere. He flipped through the pages one-by-one from the beginning. Battlefields, tents, portraits of generals, injured soldiers in makeshift hospitals. He found the photo just like the one in their display case on page 47. The caption read:
            The first Virginia Militia, the “Richmond Grays,” answered the call. They did not take part in the final capture of Brown, but they did arrive in Charles Town, Virginia, in time to form a hollow square around a gallows where old John Brown was hanged after his trial.
…One of their number present was John Wilkes Booth, an actor.

            My soldier was a Confederate? On his way to the hanging of a guy who’d tried to free the slaves? And in the same regiment as John Wilkes Booth?
            It was hard to process that he’d been crushing on a Confederate soldier all these years. He’d been so sure the soldiers in the photo were Union… Wyatt looked past their antique rifles at his soldier. Knowing all that, he wasn’t so hot anymore.
            Maybe he was a gay Confederate. There had to have been some.
            But I’m fighting for the right side. Fighting to redeem Lincoln. Fighting to reclaim our gay history.
            Determination flooded through him. I guess… I really am a fighting soldier. The thought made Wyatt crack a smile.
He checked the other four boxes – they all had the Lincoln hats inside them. He grabbed a carton and hefted it easily. He’d stack them in the back of the pickup for tomorrow, and then help everyone finish transforming their truck into one amazing parade float.

* *

            At 11:10 p.m., the adults called it a night. Wax-Lincoln looked good under his arbor, waxed paper flowers hid all the chicken wire, and the home-made float was ready. The conversation and hot drinks moved inside to the kitchen.
            Wyatt let ten minutes pass and slipped out the front door, walking around the house to the pickup. Careful to not let anyone see him from the kitchen, he loaded his backpack with the brushes he’d washed out earlier and six pints of paint from the supplies. He gave wax-Lincoln under his plastic tarp a salute and headed out.
            The moon wasn’t up yet, and Wyatt kept his flashlight’s circle of light close to the ground. He remembered sneaking out with Martin the last time. How they had been a team. But he guessed, when the going got really tough, Martin just left. Like when he’d bailed on his old school and started homeschooling. Anyway, Wyatt was just a friend. Easy to discard. Pushing the thought down, he crossed the ford stones.
            Wyatt stayed on Jenson’s Stream Road to cut across the soccer field. Easier this way, with the heavy bag and flashlight.
            He got to the School Rock, still shouting out its message of hate,


            One-by-one, in the light from the gym, Wyatt pulled out his containers of paint and set them in a line on the grass: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Purple.
            What this rock needed was a big Gay Pride Rainbow.

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Endnotes for Chapter 30
When Wyatt discovers that his soldier was actually a Confederate, it's inspired by a real photo from the Photographic History of the Civil War: Fort Sumter to Gettysburg, Edited by William C. David and Bell I. Wiley, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Jan 1994. The photo and caption are on page 47 as cited, and a version of the photo including Wyatt’s soldier is on the cover. 

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Ready for Chapter Thirty-One? It will be posted on April 6, 2018. Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram. 

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Did you know that Emma González is the president of Parkland High School's GSA?

This article by Beth Greenfield at Yahoo Lifestyle, March for Our Lives and gay activism: 'They're definitely linked for me,' says Emma González, is well-worth reading. Emma is the teen whose "We call B.S." speech went viral right after the shooting at her high school killed 17 of her fellow students.

Some highlights:

"She [Emma] then told the Washington Post that she identifies as bisexual, and suddenly her fierce badassery just made that much more sense for a whole lot of people, particularly fellow LGBTQ folks and queer activists for whom self-identity and a willingness to stand up for justice have long been inextricably linked."

and Emma speaking about the inspiration of "transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, widely known as the start of the gay-rights movement."

Emma says:

“There’s this clip of her getting up onstage at one of the Stonewall Pride rallies, a couple years [after the uprising], and … everybody boos her because she’s trans. But she’s like, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re gay. I’m trans. We’re part of this. Like, I got you here. How many times have I had to fight for you? And you’re booing me because I’m trans?’” the teen says. “First of all, it was so unfair, unjustified, undignified, like, I was so infuriated by seeing that. But then there’s just knowing that there will always be people that hate you, and that they’re always going to be wrong. So it’s good to use that, and remember that whatever you’re doing, if it’s making people that mad, then it’s probably a good thing.”

Read the whole article here.

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

We Are Okay - Building a New Life as a Orphan at College, Marin is figuring things out. Cue the visit from her best friend, Mabel (who is Bi)

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Marin hasn't spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she's tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that's been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

"We Are Okay" won the 2018 Michael L. Printz Award for being the best book written for young adults! And check out this interview with the author about the novel.

Add your review of "We Are Okay" in comments!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 29

In Chapter Twenty-Eight, Wyatt comes out on his blog Sunday night, and freaks out early morning Monday. There's no taking it back, and now everyone at school is going to know he's gay. Wyatt goes to Martin for help, and gets some advice he would never have predicted.

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-Nine!

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Chapter 29
Monday February 2
            The ‘Lincoln Was Great – Lincoln Was Straight!’ yard sign on the way to pick up Mackenzie felt like a slap in the face the first time, but by the third one Wyatt was feeling numb. By the tenth one on the way to school he told himself he had to stop counting. He was on number thirteen when his mom made the turn onto Polk Street.
His mom was so happy Wyatt and Mackenzie had made up that she hadn’t stopped talking from the moment Mackenzie got in their truck, wearing a new sweater and dress outfit. “… two more weeks of these detentions? I don’t see why Rhonda couldn’t get you out of them. Something about respecting the Principal’s authority on the little things to help him save face, but really, it’s so unfair!”
 “Mackenzie, did you know your profile’s been offline?”
“Yeah.” Mackenzie said. “I needed a break.”
“Hmm. I hear you. I wish it wasn’t part of my job.” Wyatt’s mom snorted. “But then, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have that, so I shouldn’t complain!”
Busy merging into the drop-off line while talking, Wyatt’s mom didn’t see it. But Wyatt spotted it through the drizzle, and elbowed Mackenzie to check out the latest graffiti: blue spray-paint had added a line to their school sign so it read,
Lincolnville High School
Home of the Fighting Soldiers
No Queers Allowed!
            “I bet no one gets in trouble for that,” Wyatt muttered. Mackenzie didn’t disagree.
            “All right, have a great day, you two!” Wyatt’s mom pulled to a stop in the drop-off zone, and her voice was so cheery Wyatt knew for sure she had no clue what he had done.
            His eyes slid to the School Rock,
was still there. Nine days and counting. But they’d erased the truth in just a few hours.
            He got out and shut the truck door behind them, waving as his mom pulled away.
“Thanks, Liz!” Mackenzie called.
Wyatt pivoted to face the school and said low to Mackenzie, “Here goes nothing.”
“I’m going to be like Yoda on Luke Skywalker’s back.” Mackenzie assured him as they started for the entrance.
Star Wars? He gave her a what’s-up-with-that? look.
She shrugged it off. “No one’s going to do anything to you. I promise.”
* *
At lunch, Wyatt sat with Mackenzie, Jennie, and some of the other girls Mackenzie had rallied into Wyatt’s personal bodyguards. There was at least one of them in each of his classes, and Mackenzie had even promised to sit in on every detention with him so Wyatt wouldn’t be alone at school at all. She’d even figured out a way to be there in his P.E. class that morning with a camera, ostensibly for the yearbook. It had been enough to keep Coach Rails and Jonathon and everyone else in line.
Wyatt was grateful, but kind of embarrassed, too.
As long as he didn’t have to pee, he’d be fine. He pushed his chocolate milk away and took another bite of his dry leftover-chicken sandwich. He could drink when he got home.
Jonathon passed their table.
Mackenzie had just taken a big bite of pasta and looked like she wanted to say something to Jonathon, but before she could, he sneered at Wyatt, “Fag.”
Wyatt pretended to stare at his milk, but he was ready to run for it.
Mackenzie finished chewing and stood up, dabbing her lips with a napkin. “Jonathon, we need to talk.” She took him by the arm and led him to the side of the cafeteria.
Wyatt watched them, wishing they weren’t out of earshot. There was a lot of arm movement as they talked back and forth. Mackenzie crossed her arms. Jonathon got mad, and then calm. And then he reached out to touch her but she stepped back and turned and saw Wyatt watching them. She gave him a confident nod, then swiveled back to Jonathon. A minute later she was striding back across the cafeteria to Wyatt and the girls.
When she sat down, she said, “That’s taken care of.”
            “What did the jerk say?” Wyatt asked.
            “He’s not a jerk. He’s just… acting out because he’s afraid of what he doesn’t understand.”
            “Well, I don’t understand him but you don’t see me making his life miserable.”
            “Remember…” Mackenzie started, but checked first to see if anyone was listening. Jennie was busy talking with the other girls about starting up a math club that could visit elementary schools and change the whole ‘girls are bad at math’ myth. “Promise you won’t tell?”
            “Remember how much Jonathon loved Star Wars stuff? Back in third grade? Remember how we all got along?”
            “He wasn’t mean back then.”
            “Wyatt.” She lowered her voice. “You have to imagine that he’s still the same kid – he still loves Luke Skywalker, and C3PO, and R2D2, and pretending to save the Universe.”
            Wyatt snorted, not buying it.
            “Really.” Mackenzie insisted. “I was in his room – his bathroom, and he has all these action figures hidden there, in the toilet tank. Like a diorama. Luke saving Princess Leah.”
“So what?”
“He’s hiding it! They have a nine-thousand square foot house, and the only place he can be himself – the only place he can like what he really likes – is inside this tiny shoebox-sized toilet tank!”
“So that’s what the Yoda reference was about?” Wyatt asked.
“It’s been on my mind.” She looked back across the cafeteria at Jonathon, just as Charlie gave him a punch to the arm. “Maybe we need to think of him as a sci-fi nerd trapped in a cool kid’s life.”
Wyatt made a face. “Are you saying I’m supposed to feel sorry for him?”
Mackenzie shook her head. “I just want you to know that, on the inside, he’s still this good little kid, who just needs to find his way to the outside. So, you see? I talked to him, and it’s going to be fine.”
            Wyatt looked over at Jonathon, who was laughing with his sharks at something – or someone. “And you believe him?”
            Mackenzie unconsciously touched her fingertips to her lips. “I do.”
With a start, she moved her hand away, fast. When Wyatt turned back around a second later, she was busy twirling spaghetti around her fork.
* *
            After detention, which Mackenzie announced was ‘a lot like study hall,’ she and Wyatt walked to the B&B. When they got there, Wyatt told Martin how Mackenzie saved the day at school. Maybe saved every day, going forward.
Martin sang Mackenzie this corny “I’m Sorry” song to some tango melody on his guitar. It had been the first time he’d seen her since the séance.
When he finished, Mackenzie said, “Let’s just… move on.”
            Martin stared at the guitar in his hands. “Thanks.”
Wyatt couldn’t help grinning as the two biggest people in his life made up. He leaned close to Martin, and whispered, “Can we tell her about the parade? Please?”
“Sure.” Martin said. “She’s earned it.”
            Once they had explained, Mackenzie jumped in feet first, getting them organized with a chart of printed-out pages taped above the B&B’s living room fireplace. The final list was 262 organizations, and by 5 p.m. the three of them and Wyatt’s dad had made eighty-two calls in all. They were up to seven yesses, one maybe and another We’re not sure but we’ll get back to you. They had to get through the list this week – the parade was only twelve days away, and no one would be able to come at the last minute.
            His dad left the room to call Wyatt’s mom with an update, and Wyatt and Martin hung out while Mackenzie worked out the math. She ran down the numbers for them, “If we make forty-five calls a day for the next four days, we’ll do it. And if we can get four yesses a day, it will give us twenty-three entries total, three more than the bare minimum…”
Wyatt put his arm, friend-like, around Martin’s shoulders as he finished the thought for her, “…and we’ll have a parade.”
His arm stayed there as Martin said, “Forty-five calls a day? That’s fifteen each. Less if your dad helps.”
Mackenzie put out her fist for them to stack their hands. “We can totally do it.”  
“Go team us.” Martin said, putting his hand on hers.
Wyatt added his hand on top. He swallowed hard. “We have to.”
* *
Wednesday February 4
             “You can? Great! That’s great!” Martin hooted as hung up, wrote ‘YES!’ on the phone-bank spreadsheet and bent down to the dry erase board Mackenzie had brought over. He erased the big ‘12’ and wrote ‘13.’ “Lucky Thirteen!” Wyatt put up his hand and they high-fived.
On a call herself, Mackenzie shivered, jotted down ‘Let’s get to 14 fast!,’ and held the pad up for Wyatt, his dad and Martin to see. She spoke into her cell phone. “Yes, this February fourteenth… It’s not a lot of notice, no.”
Rhonda was on another case up in Seattle, and Wyatt’s mom had just left the living room to grab today’s mail. The Mayor had made her wash down all the folding plastic Rails Realty signs yesterday, insisting she do it while she was all dressed up, and Wyatt’s mom was still angry about her ruined clothes. She’d emailed Mayor Rails to say she was working from home today, and she’d told Wyatt’s dad that she wasn’t going to check for a response until late tonight. Wyatt thought it was a lot like what he’d done to avoid school but didn’t say it. Why kick her when she was down?
Martin’s was their second ‘yes’ today, ‘Northwest Disability Rights.’ And Wyatt’s dad had gotten this gay-family-and-friends group from Philomath, PFLAG, to come, too.
“Nicely done.” Wyatt’s dad said to Martin, and they high-fived, too.
Wyatt watched them, thinking it was kind of wonderful.
Wyatt’s mom came in with a stack of mail, five envelopes on top. “More donations!”
“We’re on a roll, Liz.” Wyatt’s dad gave her the news.
“So that means we need only two more yesses today?” Wyatt’s mom asked, checking the board.
“Yeah.” Wyatt said.
“We thought it would be an opportunity…” Mackenzie twisted a lock of short hair as she talked on her cell. “But this is for a really good–” she stopped. “I understand. Thank you for your time.” She hung up and put an ‘X’ next to ‘Albany College Marching Band.’
It turned out they’d told her what the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church of Bend, Oregon had just told Wyatt. That if they’d known months ago, they might have been able to make it work. But at least they had wished them well.
Wyatt checked the sheet for the next number and dialed. When they answered, he said, “Yeah, hi! I was wondering if Fight Anti-Semitism Now! has a group that can march in local parades?”
* *
            At 4:58 p.m. Mackenzie got the ‘Asian Pacific Islander Women’s Color Guard’ confirmed, which got them up to sixteen entries – one ahead of schedule. They even had three rooms booked for the parade weekend.
            As Mackenzie circled ‘16’ on the board, Wyatt’s mom asked, “Do we have any floats yet?”
            Wyatt shook his head. “None of our yesses have the money to build one.”
            “Or the time.” Mackenzie added.
            Wyatt’s dad thought for a moment. “Maybe we can turn our pickup into a float. After all…”
            Wyatt and Martin looked at each other, and then all five of them said it at the same time, “We have Lincoln!”
            That was the moment Wyatt felt a glimmer of real hope. They were going to pull this off.
* *
Queer As A Five-Dollar Bill Blog
Blog Post: Saturday, February 7, 10:19 a.m.
Two-Nights-For-One Special!
Coming to Lincolnville, Oregon for the Lincoln’s Birthday/Valentine’s Day
All People* Are Created Equal
*No Exceptions
Parade February 14
Stay at the
Lincoln Slept Here Bed & Breakfast
Experience our
Cozy rooms with period furnishings
Old-time hospitality
And let your taste buds travel back in time as they enjoy our
Civil War-Era Supper!
Book your room now and get our special two-nights-for-one rate!
*  *

* *

Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here. Ready for Chapter Thirty? It will be posted on March 30, 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, March 21, 2018

The Stormwater Drains in Canberra - A Gay Teen Aims To Be A 'Sex Pioneer' In This Global Odyssey

The Stormwater Drains in Canberra by Paul Johan Karlsen

Consumed by pubescent desires, Kurt Larsen, a resourceful Norwegian boy, wants to speed up his sexual coming of age. Taking matters in his own hands, Kurt secretly opens a mailbox at the local post office and, posing as an adult, begins to take out personal ads in porn magazines. From there, little goes according to his master plan. 'The Stormwater Drains in Canberra' is a story of friendship and loneliness, of striking the right balance between privacy and secrecy, and above all, of learning how to love. In this international coming-of-age story, the narrator, a modern-day Peer Gynt, looks back on the events that unfolded from the time he was fourteen until he turned twenty-one.
This coming of age novel received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was named one of their Best Books of 2016. Add your review of "The Stormwater Drains in Canberra" in comments!

Monday, March 19, 2018

To This Day - A Spoken Word Poem, An Anti-Bullying Project, A Rallying Cry... And An Illustrated Book

To This Day by Shane Koyczan

An authentic rallying cry for anyone who has been affected by bullying. In February 2013, Shane Koyczan's passionate anti-bullying poem To This Day electrified the world. An animated video of the lyric narrative went viral, racking up over 12 million hits to date and inspiring an international movement against bullying in schools. Shane later performed the piece to sustained applause on the stage of the 2013 annual TED Conference. Now this extraordinary work has been adapted into an equally moving and visually arresting book. Thirty international artists, as diverse as they are talented, have been inspired to create exceptional art to accompany To This Day. Each page is a vibrant collage of images, colors and words that will resonate powerfully with anyone who has experienced bullying themselves, whether as a victim, observer, or participant. Born of Shane's own experiences of being bullied as a child, To This Day expresses the profound and lasting effect of bullying on an individual, while affirming the strength and inner resources that allow people to move beyond the experience. A heartfelt preface and afterword, along with resources for kids affected by bullying, make this book an invaluable centerpiece of the anti-bullying movement.

Here's the poem on youtube:

Find out more about the "To This Day Project" here.

And add your review of "To This Day" (the poem and/or the book) in comments!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 28

In Chapter Twenty-Seven, Wyatt and Mackenzie make up. Wyatt comes out to her, and things seem like they're going to be okay between them... but not everything comes out on the table.

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-Eight!

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Chapter 28
Sunday February 1

            Martin’s laptop was open on the bed when Wyatt stuck his head through the doorway. Martin wasn’t there, but Wyatt could hear the shower running in the second floor bathroom. He wondered if he should wait for Martin or if that was too weird. But he didn’t want to leave. Martin would be gone after the parade…
            It had been a crazy week. It seemed like Wyatt had kept coming out, again and again. But the whole straight-at-school, himself-at-home back and forth, five times, had been rough. This weekend had been a lot easier. Come to think of it, maybe that was what his soldier was smiling about in the photo downstairs. Maybe just being yourself was the secret…
            The screen saver of naked guys hanging out and swimming by the river’s edge glowed. One more coming out, and he could be done.
            Wyatt could feel the chill of the water in his bones. That was where the sharks lived. But he could out-swim them, and stand tall on the far shore.
            I can let freedom ring.

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Queer As A Five-Dollar Bill Blog


Blog Post: Sunday, February 1, 10:19 p.m.
I am Gay!

I know people are going to think I’m only saying Lincoln was gay because I am. But that’s not it. Someone really smart once asked me, since I’ve got all the same evidence about Abraham Lincoln that everyone else does, how come I’m the only one who can see that Lincoln was gay?
Well, maybe all those historians couldn’t see it because they weren’t looking for it.

I could see Abe was in love with Joshua because I was open to seeing it. The proof is there – in this blog, and in Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend, and in all those other books with the Lincoln letters.

If you look for it – with an open mind – you can see it, too.

* *

Monday February 2

            Wyatt woke up at 4:23 a.m., sheets drenched in regret and sweat.
What the hell had he done?
He had to delete it. No, that would look even worse, like he was hiding again. Shit!
Mr. Guzman had told them about how getting something back once it was online was as impossible as getting pee out of a swimming pool. This was more like shit in a swimming pool. You might as well try to drain the whole internet.  
He kicked at the knot of sheets. There was no way to take it back. They were all going to know.
Maybe he could get home-schooled like Martin.
Or run away to somewhere where they didn’t have internet.
He got up, peeled off his clammy T-shirt and put on dry stuff. There was no way he was going to fall back asleep. He sat on the edge of his bed for five minutes, staring at the beads of misty rain on his windows, trying to not panic.
It didn’t really work.
He snuck down the flight of stairs and quietly knocked on Martin’s door. No answer.
He’s asleep. This is stupid.
Wyatt was on the first step to go back up and suffer on his own when the door to Room Two opened an inch.
“Wyatt?” Martin was rumpled, and adorable, and weirdly enough, just seeing him made the tightness across Wyatt’s chest loosen up a little. “You okay?”
Wyatt answered truthfully. “No.”                
Martin pulled the door wide. “Come in.”

* *

            “So they say, ‘Dude, don’t turn your back on him – he could jump your bones.’ And then you can say, ‘I’m gay, I’m not desperate.” It was an hour later, and Martin was sitting on his bed wrapped in his comforter, running through all these different scenarios. Telling Wyatt how he could get the upper hand for each one.
            “Or they go, ‘Hey, read about your being a fag!’ And you can act all happy and surprised for them, ‘You learned to read!’”
            Wyatt picked at an embroidered flower on the armchair he’d pulled over by the bed. “I wish I didn’t have to go to school.”
            Martin made this I-wish-I-had-better-news-to-tell-you face. “Mom says you have to go, or they’ll get you for truancy. Even with a Doctor’s note, it wouldn’t be credible.”
            Credible. Martin was sounding like a lawyer again. Wyatt wondered if after he got creamed and was in the hospital, if that would be a good enough excuse to not go to school.
            “For what it’s worth,” Martin said, “I wish I could go back in time to my junior high, knowing what I know now.”
Wyatt gave him a skeptical look. “Really?”
            Martin thought for a second and shrugged. “Maybe not. But if I did, at least now I’d know what I could say back!”
Wyatt crossed his arms.
Martin kept the advice rolling. “Here’s another one. If Jonathon says, ‘you like my ass, faggot?’ You can say, ‘It’s amazing how it can talk!’”
            That one got Wyatt to crack up.
            “You can do this.” Martin seemed so confident Wyatt could.
            But Wyatt wasn’t.
            Martin put his hand on top of Wyatt’s, but Wyatt was too freaked out to feel anything. And then, Martin said something Wyatt didn’t expect. “Call Mackenzie. Maybe she can help.”
* *
* *
Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here. Ready for Chapter Twenty-Nine? It will be posted on March 23, 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!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Order your signed copy of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" here!

Hello Community! **Updated April 9, 2019**

The Crowdfunding campaign to professionally publish this YA novel and donate hundreds of copies to LGBTQ and Allied Teens has completed, and it was a huge success! The book published on October 2, 2018, and while you can order it wherever books are sold, you can order a signed and personalized copy here!

Wyatt is 15, and nobody in his homophobic small town of Lincolnville, Oregon knows that he’s gay. Not even his best friend (and accidental girlfriend) Mackenzie. Then he discovers a secret from actual history: that Abraham Lincoln was in love with another guy! Since everyone loves Lincoln, Wyatt’s sure that if the world knew about it, they would treat gay people differently, and it would solve everything about his life. So Wyatt outs Lincoln online, triggering a media firestorm that threatens to destroy everything he cares about—and he has to pretend more than ever that he’s straight. …Only then he meets openly gay Martin, who may be just the guy Wyatt’s been hoping to find.

Order a signed hardcover copy of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" for the retail price of $25.99 plus tax and shipping to a U.S. address, or

Order a signed paperback copy of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" for the retail price of $13.99 plus tax and shipping to a U.S. address:

Physical Copy Format

If you need shipping outside the U.S., please send your pre-order request via email to:
leewind (at) roadrunner (dot) com
Specify your address in the country you need the book shipped to, and I'll send you an invoice via PayPal.

For eBooks, Order an ePub or Mobi file of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" for the retail price of $6.99, which will be sent to your email address. If you need a PDF version, just select ePub and then let me know:

eBook Copy Format

And if you enjoy the novel, please post a review online, wherever you read reviews. It really helps.

Thank you so much!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 27

The kickstarter to empower LGBTQ Teens by funding both the professional publishing of "Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill" AND the donation of 400 paperback copies of the novel to LGBTQ and Allied Teens has passed it's goal! Now, we're seeing how many more LGBTQ and Allied Teens we can empower! Please join in (the campaign ends on March 12, 2018 at 11:30am Pacific), and visit my Kickstarter Project here:

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In Chapter Twenty-Six, Wyatt tries to see Mackenzie, but Mr. Miller won't let him. Drowning in guilt, Wyatt discovers the town's parade has been cancelled - which will mean his mom will be fired and they'll lose the B&B for sure. But then support comes from an unexpected source, as does inspiration. And suddenly, Wyatt sees a possible solution...

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-Seven!

* *

* *

Chapter 27
Tuesday January 27

            Wyatt almost walked right by Mackenzie in the school hallway without realizing it was her. She was in all new clothes – a belted cardigan sweater over a funky dress, and bright pink shoes that weren’t his mom’s. And she’d cut her hair – it was now a short black bob. She looked like a completely different person. Because of him.
He was drowning in guilt – he had to tell her. But she was never alone. All week, he couldn’t find the right moment. He knew the instant he told her, Mackenzie would hate him. Again. Which made it… impossible. What made things even weirder was that Martin had made Wyatt promise to not tell Mackenzie about their new parade plan, so he felt like he was keeping three secrets from her.
Rhonda had agreed she and Martin would stay on until the parade. Wyatt didn’t want to think about Martin leaving, so he just tried to focus on making the parade a success. By Friday, he, Martin, and Wyatt’s dad and mom had made fifty-eight calls – his dad on the reconnected B&B line and everyone else on their cell phones – and they’d already gotten three yesses! It still wasn’t enough to be a parade, and nothing was for sure. But there was a chance. There was hope.
            Enough to keep going.

* *

Saturday January 31

                        Wyatt                          9:48 a.m.
                        I tried 2 talk 2 u all week. hate
                        2 do this as text, but got 2 tell
                        u. martin kind of helped move
                        the thingy in the seance. it
                        wasn’t spirits.
                        really sorry.

* *

            It was early afternoon when Mackenzie just showed up at the B&B, all flushed, still in her Karate gi. Wyatt stood awkwardly opposite her in the entry hall.
            “I’m really sorry!” They said it at the same time.
            That got them both to smile.
Wyatt was so glad she was there. He felt guilty, but still angry, too. He wanted her to go first, and tried to keep his voice neutral. “What are you sorry about?”
            “I haven’t been a very good friend.” Mackenzie stared at the Persian carpet’s pattern of reds and blues as she spoke. “I didn’t realize what you were going through, and it just sort of hit me… or, I hit it.”
            Wyatt scanned her for injuries. “What do you mean?” She didn’t look like she’d gotten hit.
“I was at Albany Junior High, for the tournament, and I got your text–”
“I feel terrible about–” Wyatt started.
“Please,” Mackenzie put up a hand. “Just let me finish. I needed to clear my head, so I went out to the hallway to get a drink, and these two high school guys were making fun of Becca. You know, the cheerleading thing, and how the only letter she could make was a ‘Y’, because she only has the one leg…”
“Cretins.” Wyatt said.
“Yeah.” Mackenzie agreed. “Anyway, I wanted to tell them off, but before I could they were calling me a lesbian, and I told them I wasn’t,” Mackenzie swallowed, “and then they said the only way I could prove it was if I kissed the bigger jerk.”
“Holy crap.” Wyatt breathed.
“So, then, the joker grabbed my arms from behind,” Mackenzie’s breaths came faster and faster as she re-lived it, “and I wasn’t even thinking. It was like all those years of karate just sort of took over, muscle memory or something, you know? And I shouted my Kiai and heel struck his foot, and he let go, howling, and then I elbow struck him in the gut. He fell back, and the big guy came at me. I front-kicked him as hard as I could and he went down, screaming and grabbing his ribs. But the first guy was back up, hopping on one leg, swinging his fists at me, and I blocked and back-kicked him in his good leg. Hard. Knocked him down. Then I had my hand on the fire alarm and told them if they even thought about touching me again, I would pull it.”
She breathed out a wry laugh that was almost a sob. “And then, my Dad came looking for me. I’ve never been so happy to see anyone. We filed a police report and everything.”
“Are you…” Wyatt hesitated. It was a stupid question, but he had to ask. “Okay?”
Mackenzie shook her head. “Not really.” She sniffed, and another laugh came out in a burst. “I did break the jerk’s foot, which was sort of justice, after he made fun of Becca.” She reached for a ponytail that wasn’t there, and instead twisted a lock of short black hair. “But what I wanted to tell you, was, on the ride back home, I realized how it wasn’t safe for Lincoln. And it hasn’t been for you, either. And I’m so sorry about that. And even more, I’m so sorry it took this for me to realize it.”
They looked at each other for a long moment. Eyes trying to express what words couldn’t.
Wyatt set his face in his fiercest expression. “I wish I could have been there.”
Mackenzie’s mouth twisted wryly. “Then I would have had to defend you, too.”
“I could have done something!” Wyatt protested.
She gave him a like what? Look.
“I could have pulled the fire alarm.”
That got them both smiling again.
            “Can I apologize now?” Wyatt asked.
Mackenzie nodded.
 “I’m sorry about the séance.” Wyatt made a guilty face. “And your hair. I feel terrible about it.”
            Mackenzie dropped her hand. “I like my hair. And, well, it was a lousy thing to do, but maybe… I still want her to come home, but, even if I don’t know for sure, I can’t stop my life and just wait. Not anymore.”
            “So, I guess,” Mackenzie shrugged, “like the song: it’s not right, but it’s okay?”
            But it couldn’t be. Not until she knew everything. Wyatt could feel his Adam’s Apple shoot up and then down again. He was so tense, and afraid of what she’d say, but he couldn’t wait even another second.
Like jumping into Jenson’s Stream, he had to tell her.
Right now.
Stop stalling and say it! “Mackenzie?” His voice shook. “I’m gay.”
            “I know.”
            He staggered back like she had hit him. “You know?”
            “I had a hunch, the way things went with us. And then, seeing you with Martin, it all started to make sense…”
            Wyatt headed over to the store area and started tweaking things that didn’t really need to be adjusted. “He’s just a friend.”
            She walked over to join him. “You don’t sound too happy about that.”
            He poured out the rifle pens from the Lincoln coffee mug, checking for Confederate Rifles that had ended up in the Union cup by mistake. Keeping his eyes down, he asked, “Is it okay to tell you I’m not?”
            The only sound for a bit were pens sliding across the top of the glass display case. She leaned over and moved a few Richmond carbines to the correct pile. “It’s okay. He is cute.”
            They were quiet, but Wyatt could tell that the space between them felt different now. Like it actually could be okay. And maybe soon.
            Mackenzie walked over and balanced the two bears that had fallen behind the reception computer screen back up on their small speakers. “There you go, little Blue, and Gray.”
            When Mackenzie turned back, Wyatt was staring at her. “I miss my best friend.” He said.
            “I miss you, too.”
            They hugged, and Wyatt felt the warmth of it. The relief of getting to this place – friends, again.
            He pulled back. “You know what the worst moment was?”
            “When you went out with Jonathon, just to get back at me. Man, I felt so stabbed in the back. I’m glad you told that homophobic loser off.”

            Mackenzie closed her eyes like it was painful for her too, and then said, “Me, too.”
* *
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Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here. Ready for Chapter Twenty-Eight? It will be posted on March 16, 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!