Category Archives: #YAfiction

WatchdogWatchdog by Will McIntosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Watchdog, by Will McIntosh – A fun, action-packed, read!

Will McIntosh’s Watchdog is set in the slums of Chicago, where hungry children scramble over heaps of rotting garbage for something to pawn. It serves up an ugly near-futuristic view from the perspective of orphaned thirteen-year-old Vick, saddled too young with the responsibility for his autistic twin sister. Interest in the disorder is at an all-time high, and his struggle to keep Tara safe while dealing with the complexities of her autism was both entertaining and thought-provoking. Vick’s fierce, unforgiving anger toward the bullies who scared his crying sister rang true, as did his grudging acceptance when he discovered some assumptions were wrong.

The author gives us two unlikely heroes, fraternal twins both physically weak but with unseen strengths. Tara is small and looks half her age but is a genius with electronics. Her twin brother suffers from severe asthma attacks, but Vick is a natural leader with his own genius for survival. McIntosh pits their very existence against the mindless violence of underground robotic watchdogs, horrific mechanical creations being designed as specific weaponry by a crime lord.

Described as a nightmarish version of robotic animals, the watchdogs are only mechanical…until Tara finds a stolen military microchip. She modifies her own small robot pet, Daisy, who springs to life, literally, as a fully realized soldier capable of collecting and analyzing data, constructing and modifying her own mechanical body, and updates strategies based upon new intel. So far, she hasn’t spoken but as a reader I feel hopeful that ability will be forthcoming.

I enjoyed the book very much, but I rather reluctantly agree with another reviewer who remarked that the villain resembled a Disney cartoon. Mrs. Alba, a rather-neatly realized black-marketeer who rules with the expected fear, lies, and intimidation, is utterly dependable, showing up at the right time with the right tricks to make her a clear villain with no redeeming qualities.

However, Vick, Tara, and the crew they gather seeking to escape the clutches of Mrs. Alba’s evil henchlings, each enjoys human quirks and failings and the charming stumbles of young adults seeking to define themselves. Vick and his friends share the undeniable determination to right wrongs, to protect the vulnerable, and adherence to a code of ethics so essential to young people in their early teens.

All in all, my disappointment in a somewhat two-dimensional villain is thoroughly outweighed by my delight that all violence is contained between mechanical watchdogs. The battle scenes are skillfully drawn, action packed and very exciting, without becoming mired in gore. And, I must say, Mr. McIntosh’s refreshingly frank portrayal of adults as uncaring and threatening reminded me of Roald Dahl’s most fascinating works, where unlikely children must defend themselves and rise above the dark designs of adults to shine through as their authentic selves.

I give the book five stars, feeling free to recommend it to anyone who enjoys character-driven YA literature. I hope there will be a sequel or series following Vick, Tara, and their gang into this new dystopian future.

Genta Sebastian – award-winning author of Riding the Rainbow

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Death and Love

Death and Love

Review:

Death and Love at the Old Summer House

Dolores Maggiore

Young Adult Mystery

It’s summer 1959 and sixteen-year-old Pina and her best friend, Katie, know something horrible happened when their parents were kids at a now forgotten and rotting old camp.

Pina has painful dreams which force her to relive whatever happened through the eyes of the participants. Terrified, she turns to Katie for understanding and support. As the girls grow closer, Pina realizes she’s fallen in love with her friend but is terrified to tell in case it ruins everything between them.

 When they discover Katie’s father had a homosexual encounter when he attended the old camp and might have been involved in an unreported murder, it brings everything into sharper focus. The two girls chase clues to not only the unraveling mystery but also their feelings for each other and the complexities of adult love.

Death and Love at the Old Summer Camp is a fun story for young adults and anyone who remembers the first time puppy love grew up.

5-stars

 

 

THE BOXER SHORTS REBELLION

NEWEST RELEASE BY SHADOE PUBLISHING: The Boxer Shorts Rebellion
Release Date:  September 1, 2016
Available for Pre-Order now!
TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR: Bullying, Suicide, and Cutting

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Four students tangle as they struggle to understand who they are….

Nick’s parents think he’s just sensitive, teachers consider him a troublemaker, and bullies recognize him as a target. He knows, with a fresh start, he can re-invent himself.

Popular quarterback Brent, willing to do anything to keep his secret, exploits girlfriends to deflect any suspicion he might be gay.

Penny risks everything, even her heart, to befriend a boy she doesn’t know but does that make her a heroic savior, or a gullible fool?

Convinced she’s a hopeless loser, Angela is thrilled to be a popular jock’s girlfriend. So worried he will learn the truth about her, she ignores the truth about him.

Everyone stands by while the half-naked boy cowers, watching his green boxer shorts fly from the school flagpole. But there can be no innocent bystanders when his bully devolves into a psychotic killer.

The Boxer Shorts Rebellion is a no-holds-barred, unapologetic punch to the gut. It looks at bullying from not only the perspective of the bullied, but the bully, parents, teachers, administration, and so-called innocent bystanders. Bringing to mind the works of S.E. Hinton, and John Irving, critics are raving.

Consider reviewing it on Goodreads and/or Amazon.

 

 

Pretty Weird

Writing books for middle graders, teens, and young adults growing up in families headed by same-sex parents is a wonderful experience. I meet a lot of great people, hear a lot of fantastic stories, and every now and then I get to make a difference in someone’s life.

When young people see their own type of families reflected in the literature they read, lives can be changed. It provides a sense of self-esteem that even the most loving, caring, and supportive parents cannot.

We hear about the kids who get bullied because they are, or are perceived to be, LGBTQI themselves. But it’s not too often that we hear about the kids being raised by LGBTQI parents being harassed at school and on the internet, which also happens every single day of the year.

These kids often feel especially picked on because if they were growing up with hetero/cisgendered parents they would not be subjected to this type of harassment. Of course, that’s not to say that they wouldn’t still be bullied. We all know that bullies will identify whatever you are sensitive about to torment you. (And if you didn’t know that, take my word for it.)

But when kids see their own rainbow families represented in fiction it validates their homes as being just as normal as anyone else’s. Unless, of course, your house has been painted in rainbow colors, because, well, that’s pretty weird. Pretty and weird, and wouldn’t I love to have one!

Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, Lee Lynch, and I Walked Into A Ballroom….

I spent last week far away from wife and home in New Orleans, Louisiana. I did it because my book, Riding the Rainbow, was a finalist in the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Award in the YA category.

Due to situations beyond our control, our income is limited. I had not planned on attending when I first found out about Riding making it to the finalist short list. I was disappointed, but what can you do? Kids need feeding, the mortgage needs paying, etc.. ad nauseam. I figure I’d prepare an acceptance speech, just in case, and ask a friend to accept for me if the long shot paid off.

I didn’t expect to win. There are some very high profile lesbian authors whose books were also on the finalist list, all of them from publishing companies like Bold Stroke Books, Sapphire Books, Bella Books, and other notable publishers. At the time it was nominated, Riding the Rainbow was self-published. I figured among the glittering lesbian literati my little book would be lost.

Then I was contacted by GCLS and offered a last minute scholarship because someone else had dropped out. I talked it over with my wife, we checked the piggy bank, and off I went on a wish and a prayer.

I had a marvelous time attending panels and giving a short reading from A Man’s Man, my newest YA release. I was stunned to tears by the power of Dorothy Allison’s reading from her classic, Bastard Out of Carolina. I was impressed by the friendliness of the conference board members, and enjoyed meeting and making new friends. One night another author treated me to dinner at Muriel’s, a notoriously haunted restaurant, followed by paranormal authors reading from their work. I looked for ghosties, but couldn’t find any. I was so entertained I didn’t worry about the award, at least until Friday night.

That night I tossed and turned, fighting off an unnamed fear. I couldn’t sleep, and dragged my way through the morning, fighting off tears I couldn’t explain. I was afraid of losing, sure. But I also seemed to be afraid of winning. Friends tried to buck me up, but no matter what words they used, how hard or long they hugged me, I couldn’t shake a feeling of paralyzing fear. I was so tense, that only an hour and a half before the Awards Presentation began I lifted something too heavy for me and twisted my back.

I struggled through a shower I couldn’t stand straight in, and lay down on the bed to wait for the Advil I took to kick in. I phoned my wife, who soothed my ragged nerves and reminded me that in her eyes I’ve always been a winner. By the time I hung up my back was looser, I was calmer, and I could dress in my special outfit carefully chosen for the occasion.

I sat at a table with new friends, enjoying the festivities. My heart beat loudly in my chest as the YA category neared, but I’d prepared myself to graciously lose. I drank a glass of wine, prepped my cell phone’s camera to capture the screen shot of my book’s cover when it was announced, and surreptitiously crossed my fingers under the table.

When the presenters in my category announced, “…Riding the Rainbow by Genta Sebastian!” my table erupted with cheers and everyone jumped up from their seats. I stumbled up to the stage and realized that seated directly in front of me sat – are you ready for this? RITA MAE BROWN, DOROTHY ALLISON, and LEE LYNCH. If I hadn’t already been as nervous as it is possible for me to be short of fainting, I would have lost my voice then and there. Thank goodness I didn’t.

I gave my acceptance speech, stumbled off stage with my very heavy award, and made my way back to my table of friends. The rest of the evening was a surreal experience.

It was a night I will never forget. And I learned some very important things from all of this:

1.  My wife is my rock, my center, and my strength, no matter how many miles separate us.
2.  The fear of winning is almost as powerful as the fear of losing.

and 3. Winning awards is totally addicting.

A Whole New Form of Literature

I am proud to announce the publication of A Man’s Man, the second of my Rainbow Family novels for kids being raised in same-sex families. Except for picture books for the pre-reader, and YA novels for teens and older students, there are no (correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve looked long and hard) books written about growing up with same-sex parents for middle readers. 

If you are a Rainbow parent or grandparent, this book is for your kid. If you know Rainbow parents, this book would make an excellent present for their kid. If you don’t know any Rainbow parents or their kids, buy a copy and donate it to your local library. These kids deserve to see themselves represented in fiction.

After the sudden death of his mother, RJ, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader must go live with his gay father and his boyfriend Stephen. RJ longs for the days when his father was living with him and his mom, so he devises a complicated plan to change his father from gay to straight. The resulting scandal has unintended consequences, forcing RJ to come to grips with just what makes A Man’s Man.

Read the first chapter here, then follow the link to buy your very own copy. 

A MAN’S MAN

Chapter 1 – On The Farm

It’s like this, see. My dad’s a fag, his boyfriend’s queer, and I think I might be gay. I mean, I think it’s catching or something. 

I never used to think about it back when I lived with Mom. But now she’s dead and I have no one to live with except Dad and Stephen. Everyone knows that kids raised in faggot families turn out all messed up. I figure it’s just a matter of time before I start prancing around, or my wrist goes limp, or I start speaking with a lisp. 

I tried to talk to my Dad about it once but all he said was, “RJ! Those things don’t really happen!” and then he changed the subject. I guess he doesn’t see it as a problem if I grow up to be a homo, but to me it’s a death sentence. I think I’ll have to kill myself if I start liking guys. 

Back when Mom was alive things were easier. She could talk to me about anything and I’d understand. If I didn’t understand at first, she’d take her time and talk it out with me until I did. Now I don’t understand anything. 

Damned drunk driver! How come he’s still walking around right as rain, and she’s in a box six feet under? Explain that to me. 

Mom never liked it when I swear, but now she’s not around to remind me, words slip out without my even knowing I’ve said them, mostly. She never liked it when I called Dad a fag, or queer, or homo, but that’s what he is, so what’s wrong with saying so? It’s not my fault he’s not normal. But it’ll be his fault if I’m not. 

“It’s rude,” Mom would tell me. She said I should just think of him as Dad, which I did. My faggot father. My queer dad. My homo pop. Ha, ha. 

It’s been two months since we buried Mom, and school is starting next Monday after Labor Day. I’m so not looking forward to it. As if it’s not bad enough to be known as the new kid in school, I’m also the kid who’s Mom died. And when they find out, I’ll be the new motherless boy with two dads, which is totally untrue because Stephen is not, and never will be, a father to me. But once the kids know, the damage will be done. Eighth grade is so going to suck. 

Which is totally unfair, too, because I was way popular back in my old school in San Diego. I was good at sports, I got good grades, and I had lots of friends. They’d come over to my place to play, or I’d head over to one of their apartments. It was fun. We’d play outside almost all year long, and swimming at the public pool was my favorite thing to do. 

Out here in Minnesota no one knows me, and there’s no one to hang with nearby. I live on a farm, now, of all things. Can you believe it? I left sunny, warm San Diego and now I’m stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, with only two other farms in sight. I miss the sounds of traffic in the night. I miss the sound of voices everywhere. I miss Mom’s voice.  

I’m afraid I’m forgetting it, but once in a while I think I hear her call my name. I always look around before I remember she’s dead. Dead, it’s an ugly word. I didn’t know what it meant before. It’s being alone, all the time. It’s never seeing her again, or talking to her about things that matter, and things that don’t. I’ll never hear her voice again. Never hear her call, “RJ!” in just that way.

I’m forgetting what she sounded like, and even sometimes what she looked like. When that happens, I panic. I get out my pictures, and a CD she made of stories to put me to sleep from when I was little and visited Dad in the summers. I listen to it as I look at all the pictures of Mom and me. I’ll remember her always, even if I have to look at them every single day for the rest of my life. 

Dad grows corn and milks all the cows twice a day, and Stephen cares for the rest of the stock and takes care of the house and garden. They think I’m going to do some healing or some such, just by helping out with the animals. Well I’ve got news for them. I’m not a farmer, and I’m never going to be. They can milk their own cows and feed their own chickens, and don’t even start with me on the goat. As soon as I’m old enough, I’m lighting out of here. I’ve got plans, and they don’t include Minnesota. 

Being thirteen is better than being twelve, but only by a little. I’ve still got eighth grade ahead of me, before I’ll finally be in High School, where you start to grow up. Everyone still treats me like a little kid, and now that Mom’s gone there’s no one who really understands me. I feel like a desert island, and I’m the only survivor. I want her. 

She was like sunlight. I know I’m remembering her maybe better than she really was, but so what? She’s gone, and I’ll never have her again, and if I want to remember her as wonderful, what’s wrong with that? And she was like sunlight, all blond and fair. Her blue eyes were the color of a cloudless sky, and she had tiny little freckles sprinkled all over her nose and her knees, which probably no one ever noticed but me. When she smiled, the whole world smiled with her, me most of all. She could always make me feel better, no matter what the trouble. But she can’t help me with the trouble I have now, ‘cause she left me. 

I get so angry at her sometimes, I just want to hit something, or yell until I don’t have a voice anymore, or just lie down and die myself. She promised me once, when I was real little and scared by a storm or something that she’d never die. She lied. She might not have meant to die, but she did, and now I’m alone. It’s not fair, and I want to yell at her and call her a liar, and then she’ll apologize and call me Little Man like she used to, and I’d do anything to see her smile once more. 

But instead I’m imprisoned out on some cow palace in the middle of nowhere, with no kids in sight, much less any boys my age. I’m hoping to meet some guys to play sports with when school starts, but you never know. I’ve never been the new kid in school before, though I’ve seen plenty of them. Never looked like much fun to me. 

I don’t think I’ll have trouble with the school work. If I was at the top of my class in San Diego, I doubt if these country bumpkins will be able to keep up with me. The teachers better be decent.  

I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up. Mom and me, I mean I, planned it all out, and I’m going to make it happen. The first step is getting all A’s on my report cards. That I’ve been doing since first grade. The second step is playing team sports, so I can earn a scholarship. This was going to be the year that Mom signed me up for every sport, starting with football in the fall. She promised she’d be at every game and every practice too. 

Yeah. Well. She lied. 

I’ve already told Dad that I want to go for sports, and he sees nothing wrong with it. Good thing, because I would have done it anyway. I mean, imagine me letting a pansy stop me from doing sports? No way. Good thing he didn’t push me on it. 

I guess I get my height from my Dad, because he seems kind of short to me. Stephen is at least a head taller, and with blond hair and blue eyes, a lot better looking, too. Dad looks like me, a homely little guy with dark brown hair and gray eyes. He’s not handsome and never will be. That’s all you can say for him, with his deep lined face and eyes all squinted up from working in the sun. But even if he is small, he’s got some pretty good muscle on him. I watched him slinging hay around in the barn one day, and later when no one was around I tried it. Boy, it was a lot heavier than it looked! 

Now Stephen, he’s just a fairy, a tinker bell, a poof. He waltzes around here like he’s dancing everywhere. I had to look, one time, to make sure his feet were still on the floor and he hadn’t started flying. He’s very excitable, and it doesn’t take much for him to raise his voice, unlike Dad who hardly speaks at all. 

I gotta hand it to Stephen, though. For a poof, he’s pretty handy to have around. Since I’ve been here he’s already done a tune up on the tractor, delivered a litter of puppies, and made a batch of strawberry preserves, which he put up in glass jars now lining the pantry shelf. Pretty tasty, too. He’s repairing a window pane I accidentally busted when practicing my throwing yesterday. He said I could help him this morning, if I want to. 

So I wander over to the front yard, and sure enough, there’s Stephen, shirtless in a pair of old overalls, wearing thick gloves and pulling the broken shards free from the window pane. He’s slender, but with his shirt off you can see he’s got some muscle. It looks strange on him. I keep expecting to see him in an apron or something. He looks up and sees me, then waves for me to come join him. I walk up closer, but keep my distance. 

“Want to hand me that hair dryer, RJ?” he asks, and since it’s close to hand, I do it. I laugh. 

“What you gonna do with that, Stephen?” I ask, all cocky. “Your inner hairdresser straining to come out?” I put my hand to my ear, pretending to hear someone. “Oh, there’s RuPaul’s Drag Race phoning.” 

He just laughs at me, and plugs the hair dryer in to a thick extension cord he’s got coming through the window from inside. Then he aims it at the window pane and turns it on. “This’ll heat up the putty,” he explains. “Soften it up so it’s easier to take out.” 

Well this I’ve got to see, so I wander on over to take a better look. Sure enough, that cracked old putty is loosening up and we start to work it with our fingers. Pretty soon we’re pulling most of it down.

“Now we scrape,” says Stephen, and picks up something that looks kind of like a really wide, flat screw driver. “This is a putty knife,” he says, and starts shoving it gently against the putty that hasn’t pulled free. It scrapes up nice and clean. 

“Now hand me some of that linseed oil, and we’ll prepare the wood for our new pane,” he says to me. I cast around looking and find a tin can on the ground with a clean rag sitting on top of it. Stephen pours some smelly oil on the rag, and begins wiping down the wood of the window pane. 

When that’s done he has me look the new pane over to decide which side is the “out” side, beveled he calls it. Then he gives me a piece of fresh putty and I roll it in my hands until it’s a little thinner than a pencil. He takes it from me and shows me how to fit it into the bare window pane. 

He takes the glass and sets it in real careful, making sure the beveled part is facing outside. Stephen hands me these pieces of metal, kind of like large staples, and tells me to wedge them into the putty every few inches, tapping them in gently with the butt of the screwdriver. Those will help hold the glass in place while it dries. Then we take a little extra putty and press it around the corners. Finally he shows me how to use the edge of the knife to wipe away the extra. When it’s all done it looks just like the other panes of glass except for the color of the wood. Stephen says it will dry for a couple of days before we paint it real carefully so it’ll match. 

“Good job, RJ,” says Stephen, but I try not to take it too much to heart. After all, what a poof thinks of you doesn’t count for much. But I tell him thanks anyway, then go sit on a big tractor tire they’ve got hanging from a tree in the front yard, missing Mom again. 

“Why don’t you go down to the lake, and see if you can catch yourself a turtle for a pet?” calls Stephen as he gathers up the stuff to put away. More of a command than a suggestion, but it sounds like as good a plan as any, so I thrust my hands deep in my jeans pockets and start walking down the road.

It’s hot, already August, and there’re millions of gnats singing in the air. They swarm around my head, and I bat at them, but it only drives them away for a minute and then they’re right back at me. I remember something Dad told me a long time ago, and I start humming with as deep a voice as I can muster. Sure enough, those gnats must not like my singing, because they float away and decide to go bedevil something else, most likely the cows. 

I can smell the manure just hanging on the hot air as I pass the holding pen outside the milking barn. Dad’s out there shoveling away what’s left from this morning’s crowd of milling cows, and he looks up and waves as I go by. I pretend not to see him, kicking up dirt clods like it was the most important thing on the Earth to accomplish. 

I don’t know why I’m so mad at him, besides the fact that he’s a queer and ruining my life, I mean. It’s not like they kept it a secret from me. After all I came here to visit for a month every summer, back in first and second grade. But he wasn’t really gay because he didn’t have a boyfriend. It was just us, then, and he was just my Dad. 

Then he wrote Mom a letter and told her about Stephen, and she decided I shouldn’t go out to visit anymore. Probably didn’t want me seeing them kissing and stuff. Not that they do that around me, but still, it would gross me out, make me hurl. So I haven’t been up here on the farm since I started third grade. I guess that’s too long, because everything seems different to me now. 

I used to enjoy feeding the chickens, but now I just want to kick them in the face. I hate the way they crowd around me, trying to get the food before I toss it to the ground. Greedy guts, that’s what they are. I told Stephen I don’t want to do it anymore, and he said that’s all right, he’s used to doing it. So good, I figure. Let him. 

I remember how big everything used to be, but I guess that was just because I was so little. It seems to me Dad looked so tall once, he could reach up and touch the sky with his bare hand, but now I just see him as short. And the corn used to taste so sweet it was almost like candy. Now it tastes like the dust covering my shoes. 

I get to the big tree sitting at the corner of the dirt path that will take me down to Silver Lake. Our land butts up to it, but it’s a lot quicker to go by this worn down path, probably first walked by Indians a thousand years ago, and maybe even cavemen thousands of years before that. 

Stepping off into the woods it’s easy to feel like I’m traveling back in time. Everything is so dark and cool beneath the heavy headed trees nodding in the summer breeze. Huge mosquitoes buzz around my ears, and I know I’ll be covered in itchy bites, but I just don’t care. In here, where no one can see me, is where I cry what tears I’ve got left. 

This morning I wait for some to come squeezing out, but there doesn’t seem to be any need, so I just stomp on down the path. When it suddenly opens onto Silver Lake I stop and stare, just like the first time I saw it all those years ago. This is the one thing that hasn’t changed. The lake is always beautiful, ringed with tall trees and grasses, about a hundred different greens. Even now, when the nights are starting to cool, the leaves are still green. In a few weeks they’ll turn red, gold, orange, all the colors of autumn. But right now, everything is its own shade of green. 

When Dad first left us, I was only four years old, too young even for school. He and Mom gave me some lie; I don’t even remember what it was now, about why he had to go to a place called Minnesota. When I asked where the mini soda was, he’d burst out laughing and crying at the same time and told me it was far away from San Diego, but that he’d visit me, and I’d visit him. I don’t think he knew he was lying about visiting me, I just don’t think he figured how much work goes into a farm, though he should have, having been raised on one. 

When Dad was married to Mom, he was a banker, and we had a big house, with a lawn and a backyard to play in. Then there was some trouble, it had something to do with him finding out he was queer. Someone else found out too, and made trouble for him at his bank. Mom always said it wasn’t fair that they fired him. Anyway, we had to move into a small apartment, and suddenly Dad wasn’t a banker anymore. He wasn’t anything at all for a while. Except sad, maybe. 

Then Grandpa died and left him the farm and that’s when he decided he didn’t want to live in a city anymore, or be married to Mom and me anymore. He divorced us, and went back to his roots. When I was young and dumb, I thought that meant the roots of his corn but I found out it meant he wanted to go back to where he grew up. So my roots are in San Diego, where I lived with Mom. 

Dad might have thought he was going back to something, but from where I stood in San Diego, it sure looked a lot like running away to me. 

I kick off my shoes and settle my hot feet in the cool water lapping up on the shore. Away off in the distance I can see a motor boat, but it’s not moving so I figure someone’s out there fishing, probably some straight dad who took the time to show his boy the manly arts. Dad and I used to go out on a rented boat to fish, before Stephen. I enjoyed it, even if we didn’t catch enough to eat. Just being out on the lake alone with Dad was enough. We don’t fish anymore. Stephen. 

I search the bank for baby turtles, but don’t find any. They’re probably almost grown by now, or waiting to start school, like me. Maybe they feel the same way about it I do, partly wanting to go just to have something to do, and also wanting not to go, because I know there’s going to be trouble. If I had a shell maybe I’d just crawl inside and wait everyone out until I was grown up and could make up my own mind about stuff. 

The coolness of the water feels good against my hot dry skin, and I think about jumping in to swim. But besides the harmless box kind you can keep for pets, there are snapping turtles in that water, and I’m a little afraid of getting chomped. Dad showed me once how they latch on to what they bite, and won’t let go, by teasing one with a broomstick. We finally had to throw the whole thing in the lake for the snapper to let go, and wait for the broom to float back to shore. The bite mark it left on the broom handle convinced me I don’t want one fastened on any part of me. No way, I’m not that stupid. 

No sense in getting myself bit. Best to stay as far away from unseen dangers as possible. You never can tell what’s out there, going bump in the night, or hiding below the surface to bite. Or driving drunk on a dark and lonely street.

IT’S NOT MY FAULT IF HE’S NOT NORMAL. BUT IT’LL BE HIS FAULT IF I’M NOT.


After the sudden death of his mother, RJ, a thirteen-year-old eighth grader must go live with his gay father and his boyfriend Stephen. RJ longs for the days when his father was living with him and his mom, so he devises a complicated plan to change his father from gay to straight. The resulting scandal has unintended consequences, forcing RJ to come to grips with just what makes A Man’s Man.

Read an excerpt below the line.

It’s like this, see. My dad’s a fag, his boyfriend’s queer, and I think I might be gay. I mean, I think it’s catching or something.

I never used to think about it, back when I lived with Mom. But now she’s dead and I have no one to live with except Dad and Stephen. Everyone knows that kids raised in faggot families turn out all messed up. I figure it’s just a matter of time before I start prancing around, or my wrist goes limp, or I start speaking with a lisp. 
I tried to talk to my Dad about it once, but all he said was, “RJ! Those things don’t really happen!” and then he changed the subject. I guess he doesn’t see it as a problem if I grow up to be a homo, but to me it’s a death sentence. I think I’ll have to kill myself if I start liking guys. 
Back when Mom was alive, things were easier. She could talk to me about anything and I’d understand. If I didn’t understand at first, she’d take her time and talk it out with me until I did. Now I don’t understand anything. 
Damned drunk driver! How come he’s still walking around right as rain, and she’s in a box six feet under? Explain that to me. 
Mom never liked it when I swear, but now she’s not around to remind me, words slip out without my even knowing I’ve said them, mostly. She never liked it when I called Dad a fag, or queer, or homo, but that’s what he is, so what’s wrong with saying so? It’s not my fault he’s not normal. But it’ll be his fault if I’m not. 
“It’s rude,” Mom would tell me. She said I should just think of him as Dad, which I did. My faggot father. My queer dad. My homo pop. Ha, ha. 
It’s been two months since we buried Mom, and school is starting next Monday after Labor Day. I’m so not looking forward to it. As if it’s not bad enough to be known as the new kid in school, I’m also the kid who’s Mom died. And when they find out, I’ll be the new motherless boy with two dads, which is totally untrue because Stephen is not, and never will be, a father to me. But once the kids know, the damage will be done. Eighth grade is so going to suck.