Musings from a theater kid

Alicia is a character from the One More Thing series. She’s dating Lydia. She likes drama. Wait, I need to be more specific. The kind you do in school. Wait, I need to be more specific. She’s into theater.

Because her POVs in One Little Change didn’t need to be a million years long, I had to cut her thoughts down. Here’s some cut and uncut parts from her story.

The music in Spring Awakening was pretty awesome. The play itself wasn’t my favorite. There were a million gross undertones that were part of the times or something, but no one cared because it was the taboo play about sex. Everyone in drama with me was constantly begging for it to be our next show because it was so edgy. However, if that was the play every high school drama department wanted to put on, that made it normal and not really edgy at all.

Grease was on the tame, acceptable side of high school theater productions and Spring Awakening was on the other end. Wasn’t there something in the middle we could explore instead of doing Grease another freaking time?  I’d been Sandy, I’d been Rizzo, I’d been Frenchy, and I’d even been Kenickie once. At least playing a T-Bird had been different than playing a Pink Lady.

No grade school, middle school, or high school production would let me play Danny Zucko. Being Kenickie when Evan Sanders got sick and I was doing crew was one thing, but actively promoting crossdressing and having two girls play the main love interests? That pushed this innocent musical over to the Spring Awakening side of things but in a way I was actually interested in. The administration, however, was decidedly not interested.

Theater was my happy place. My safe place. Lydia was sort of becoming like that too. I felt like I belonged with her one minute but then things got scary the next but a good kind of scary, that made my heart beat faster, that made me want to burst into love songs. Only then there was this. This was scary but not in a good way.

We were sitting on the dock of the lake, sun shining down brightly, though strategically placed trees were currently giving us shelter from the harshest rays. I wasn’t attending summer camp this year, but I was a counsellor at one outside of town instead. Well, Ryan liked to complain there was no lake in Lake Forest. Or forest, but we had both on these grounds. Technically, he was right. We were outside the city limits. Fine, I was a counsellor at a camp outside of town.

The whole place wasn’t about theater or the arts or anything, though me and a few other teens with experience were the ones running the drama units. Being outside in the bright sunshine wasn’t usually my thing. However, with my shorts and a light blue shirt, with the smell of fresh air everywhere, it was kinda nice out here.

We just ended a session with one group of kids and another would come in next week. There was a barbeque tonight to celebrate, with counselors and significant others. Or siblings. Lydia and I weren’t siblings obviously, we didn’t even look alike. My boss was firmly convinced we were even though no one had tried to convince him. Some people were like that.

Other people decided that girlfriend meant friend who was a girl. Holding hands, kissing, hell even getting married and having rugrats one day? Wow, what an interesting choice to do that with your friend who is also a girl.

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Awkward turtle. Do people still say that?

Ryan Miller and Luke Chambers do everything they do in the most terrible and awkward ways, including, well, you know… it.

Doing it.

IT!

You understand. That’s enough.

SEX! Sex was the it in that case. In case you weren’t aware.

One Little Change features Ryan and Luke navigating intimacy and a long distance relationship. Here are some outtakes involving Ryan’s feelings about all of this.

Ryan

First experiences were always weird. Right? Right. I think so. Especially if I was involved. Things would only get better! I had to remember that. Just, it was difficult. Since this was the last memory before I left.

I didn’t want to worry but freaking out and jumping to conclusions was my natural state. I had so much experience with it and much less with being calm and not panicking. This was why we had a plan. It might suck but we could get through it. Who knew that would apply to our first time?

No, don’t think about that. Just, the plan was for me leaving. Oh god. I was already leaving but at least I had been leaving on a high note. Except now. I was leaving on a not high note. An awkward note.  It might suck but we can get through it. We can handle it. I hoped that was still true.

I was the rightest person to ever right and everyone should always listen to me because I could do no wrong, but my powers were too great. The common folk feared my gifts and never heeded my advice. Too bad. Cause see, I told Luke we should freak out first. So we could get it out of the way. Granted, that was about me leaving, not about—

We definitely should have freaked out beforehand. Because I was so going to freak out now.

Review: Out of the Pocket

Sports are not my thing. What is my thing? Everything but sports. I did watch the World Cup, because my friend had a party and provided free donuts. I watched one Superbowl for the actual game and not the commercials, and it wasn’t too bad, but I still never did that again.

When I say I was able to read all of Out of the Pocket, that’s not an insult or me having nothing else to say. Good job, Bill Konigsberg, I finished a sports book! The book is very sports and I am very not sports. If you’re into gay, coming of age sports stories, this is probably the best one you’ll find. The writing is super good and it’s easy to read even if you don’t know anything about football.

Summary and definition, all in one:  The pocket is a safe place for quarterbacks while they find someone to throw the ball to. Being out of the pocket means the QB isn’t in the safe zone and a bunch of scary dudes are running toward him and trying to tackle him into the ground.

Before coming out of the closet, Bobby Framingham has to go out of the pocket as he’s out of his comfort zone when things start changing during his senior year of high school. He tells some people he’s gay, other people find out, and things keep happening a little quicker than he’s ready for. He doesn’t want anything to change but that never works out in fiction.

Being out of the pocket isn’t his strong suit on the field but now it’s happening during life too. Get it? There’s a double meaning!

Sports! Ahem. Sports: There’s a lot of action with the football games and while some of it went over my head, it’s pretty fast paced and not terribly difficult to follow. There’s also a good amount of moments with the team that are fun and lively. My notes were, “Very sports. Very bros.”

If you like football or other sports and are interested in things people who know things about football and other sports have to say, there’s a forward and afterward by people who are much more well informed than me.

The end of the world as we know it: When you have a secret, sometimes you can ignore it and pretend like it doesn’t exist. Until you can’t anymore and suddenly everything is about the secret. Because all the parts of life you like will be ruined if people find out and all the parts you don’t like will be even worse.

Bobby wants to win games with his team and play football in college, and he’s not sure that’s possible if people find out he’s gay. There’s a lot of that, I like my life the way it is, I don’t want it to change stuff. Even though it has already changed. College is approaching, he’s growing apart from some friends, and his dad doesn’t seem to be himself.

Naturally, YA is really good at teen angst, and this book fits in. I love the impending sense of doom and the end of the world because that’s really how problems seem sometimes, especially with something as big as coming to terms with sexuality. There’s a lot of worrying about how things will go wrong, how the main character won’t get the future they wanted.

I also like how the novel highlights that coming out isn’t typically a one and done thing. Bobby comes out multiple times to different people with varying reactions. But as each coming out happens, it’s okay, even when it goes bad. The world doesn’t actually end. Sorry, spoilers.

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Writing Style: Great writing that is so effortless it makes me want to cry out of appreciation and jealous, impotent rage. The more you read, the more satisfying it gets. It’s all fairly straight forward at first glance, which works well for a sports book. No flowery prose, just the action. However, there are plenty of parallels and metaphors and all that good literature stuff.

My favorite part: Bobby tries to discuss coming out with a guidance counselor who is very focused on getting the right answer to his crossword puzzle. It’s a cute scene. What I loved about it is that Bobby can’t fathom going to college or beyond as an openly gay athlete, it just doesn’t happen very often. The counselor tells him that someone has to change the world and he could be the one to do it.

If you’re wondering why I love that part, here are my thoughts: UGH. IT’S JUST SO GOOD. WOW. GAH. I LOVE IT. SO GOOD!

Plot Twist: Just kidding, it’s right there in the offical summary that Bobby gets outed. Coming out to the larger world wasn’t his choice and there was some angst and distress, naturally, but I enjoyed that he eventually went with it all instead of dwelling on what he couldn’t change.

Moving on and focusing on the positives and whatnot is such a weird, foreign concept for me, the perpetual worrier who is incapable of letting things go. I liked how Bobby decided to take control of what was happening even though it didn’t happen how he planned.

The Supporting Cast: Actually, there’s a lot of supporting characters. The novel is a glimpse into Bobby’s world, so several faces come and go. For me, Austin and Carrie were the other characters that stood out.

Carrie is the BFF and quasi love interest, she’s very manic pixie dream girl. She’s a little much for me sometimes, but she also had some good lines. Her character is very strong. She takes over a lot of the scenes she’s in, not in a bad way, she’s just larger than life. Everyone thinks Bobby and Carrie are dating, and even Carrie thinks they should be at the beginning. I’m not totally sure there needed to be a one-sided attraction. She gets over it pretty quick and everyone assuming they’re dating would work just as well on its own.

Austin is one of Bobby’s best friends. Austin is a ladies’ man and a football bro. He’s a bit of a dick as he tells some friends Bobby is gay, but it seemed like he just didn’t know how to react. He tries to support Bobby and ultimately it was one of those things where he wasn’t as big a jerk as he could have been.

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TL;DR? This is as brief as I was able to make it: Bobby makes a couple comments to himself about how Austin selectively acts Mexican when it works for him. Austin is mixed, white and Mexican (me too, samesies), and many people probably didn’t give the parts about his ethnicity a second thought because they’re very small. Just let it go, I told my brain. My brain did not let it go.

With being biracial or bisexual, it’s sometimes hard for people to get things that aren’t always visible. For example, if you’re a guy dating a guy, you’re gay. If you’re a guy dating a girl, you’re straight. In my experience, some things aren’t one or the other. Some things are always both.

Some parts of YA are intense, so let’s be clear this isn’t a call out or anything. Fiction is rad because it can be anything. And all the things Bobby thinks about Austin’s race are a very accurate outsider POV as I’ve heard them said to me a million times. I just wanted a little more. Why did Bobby think these comments about his friend’s race and not say them out loud? Had he said them out loud before and they weren’t appreciated?

I don’t need an after school special where a Very Important Lesson about racial sensitivity is learned. Things could have gotten worse, and Bobby could have doubled down on his comments to Austin. Either way, I just wanted more, for the throwaway comments to be given a little substance.

The Romance: There is some, hooray, but it isn’t the main focus. The love interest this time is named Bryan and he’s great. He’s in college and he’s sweet, confident and supportive, a very good first boyfriend. There’s a lot of uncertainty and figuring stuff out in the plot, so it’s nice to have this relatively uncomplicated romance.

There’s a moment where Bobby is freaking out and Bryan is just steady. Bobby thinks the world is ending and Bryan’s just like, nah. And of course, they’re by the water for maximum mood. That’s another of my favorite moments.

Tough Questions to Answer (while drinking)

There were people on the open porch down below and clustered awkwardly around the clear blue pool. It was lit from the inside, so it was bright and cast an artificial blue glow around the proceedings.

“Why do you need a pool?” I asked. “We have the ocean.”

He shrugged. “My parents don’t go to the beach much.”

“That sounds like a personal problem.” In one sense, I got that the words might not totally make sense, but the drunk part of me told myself that was a perfect response.

He studied me while I looked at the people down below. “Why do you like the beach so much?”

“It’s the beach,” I said simply. Duh.

“That’s not a reason,” he argued, but lightly, and I really wanted to answer because he didn’t seem so upset with me at the moment. Only…

How was I supposed to answer trick questions right now? That wasn’t fair. It was just one of those things in life I’d decided a long time ago and I didn’t have to think of reasons for it anymore; it was just a truth. I loved the beach.

wordswag_1556916161493I stared at Bryce instead. There was some lighting outside, but it was darker up on the balcony, just a bit of light making it out here from inside his room. It was hard to make out the color of his eyes right now, but they weren’t the artificial, chemically treated blue of the pool. They were the blue of the ocean. Even if I couldn’t see his eyes clearly, I knew that.

I spent most of my time at the beach before I even met Bryce, so there had to be reasons I liked it that had nothing to do with him. At the moment, I couldn’t think of any of those answers. All I could come up with was that the water there matched his eyes.

He was up here with me, annoyed but not leaving yet. It didn’t matter if this was a lame party because it was in his honor and he probably hated not mingling with the guests and doing what he was supposed to do. I wanted to make things better. I wanted to tell him about how lovely his eyes were and how they made me feel, even if it was super cheesy.

I tried, but all I managed to say was, “You’re pretty.”

–This is an excerpt from Beach Bum, a young adult M/M romance. You can get the rest here.

One Little Change: Gay YA Romance

Can Ryan and Luke’s relationship survive a little distance?

Yes. Totally. Shut up. These are all answers Ryan Miller might give you in response to that question. A summer apart will only bring him and Luke Chambers closer together in the end. However, Ryan might actually be a bit glad to be away from his gorgeous baseball player boyfriend for a while.

Why?

Well, Ryan and Luke are navigating the next big step in their relationship, and maybe it’s not going great. Yeah. They’re taking things to the next level, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. They’re handling it with all the grace and dignity one would expect of them. Which is to say, none at all.

The distance between them is only supposed to be geographical. However, dealing with their changing relationship might just pull them apart even further. Will getting closer actually bring the couple closer or tear them apart?

One Little Change is a gay high school romance about ridiculous people doing ridiculous things. This is the fourth book in a series, and there is light discussion and depiction of sexual content.

The book is available now on Amazon.

Luke is totally not afraid of horses.

Here’s some fiction about people riding horses. Literally, not in a euphemism way. Should I make that sound more exciting? Here’s some fiction about people riding horses!

Nailed it.

Again, not in a dirty way.

This is a scene I didn’t end up using from One Little Change. I took out anything other than vague references to the plot, so this isn’t spoilery and you also don’t need to know anything about the characters.

Enjoy! (Or don’t, you do you.)

Luke

This was the awkwardest experience ever. Happening right now. Around me. Under me. That sounded weird. I was on a horse. It was awkward.

Maybe it wasn’t that weird… it was just also really weird.

“Slow down,” I suggested to Lydia while tightening my arms around her waist.

“You are such a baby.” Swore she sped up while she said that.

“There’s a branch up ahead!” I warned.

“Stop backseat horse riding!”

We were at the camp where Alicia worked, picking up my little sister Lily. Camp was over for her group, but there were still counselors around and they’d soon be getting ready for the next batch of kids. No one seemed to care or question us when we went to the stables and checked out the horses, all the employees too excited for the downtime between cycles, so I followed Lily and Alicia’s leads.

Lily decided we were going to go riding, which I didn’t really know how to do, but she seemed comfortable getting the horses ready.

While Ryan and I patching things up was good for my heart and mind and soul and everything, maybe it was good for my body too. The Millers didn’t even have horses yet, and Ryan and I were in no way married, but my little sister Lily was acting like their imaginary horses were as good as hers.

Our family didn’t have a barn of our own, and the ranch I worked on had different livestock, so I’d never ridden. Maybe a few times at the fair when I was a kid and then horses seemed girly. Why? Yeah, girls liked horses. Sometimes to a scary degree. But the animals were giant and they had strength and what about them was girly, and even if it was, what about that was girly in a bad way?

I told the girls they could ride and I would just wait for them, maybe go back to my car. And now somehow I was behind Lydia on a horse.

The horse Lily rode had a chestnut coat, was obviously named Chestnut, and was fast, as she charged ahead and lost us pretty much immediately on the path.

Alicia’s tan horse, Blondie, they didn’t dig too hard for names, looked like it had the ability to catch up or at least get close to Lily’s horse even though it moved at a slower pace to accommodate me and my steed.

My horse was named Button and had a white coat with grey spots. No idea if its coat was always like that or that just happened when a horse was, like, 90 years old. If he tried to go as fast as Chestnut, he would probably die.

I liked Button. He was an old guy that was just doing his best.

While I probably wasn’t in any danger, I clung onto Lydia for dear life.

“Just be careful,” I told or reminded her.

“Stop telling me what to do.”

“I will if you be careful.”

“I’ve done this before.”

Yeah and so had Button, 900 times, and I think he’s had enough. It’s a big job carrying two people.

~

Beach Bum

Here’s an image quote and excerpt from Beach Bum.

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My friends and I did indeed achieve success after procuring money and the necessary supplies. We were so successful that we were still a bit altered the next day. Well, we hadn’t gone to bed yet. We were on a more secluded stretch of sand by the country club. Bryce says I’m a trust fund brat, but I really don’t spend all my time here on the property by the club; it’s not like there’s any decent parties here.

It was quiet and almost peaceful, but the part of me that felt an instinctual need to ruin nice moments like this was too tired to care. The sand was cold underneath me but the residual alcohol in my system warmed me from the inside and the crisp air layered with the tang of salt from the waves kept me awake. I stared at the choppy waters in front of me moving in patterns only the ocean and the moon understood. The latter was waning now as the sun struggled to take its place.

I had a great night that faded into a lazy morning and my two best only friends next to me. Without anyone else in eyesight, it felt like we had an entire beach to ourselves.

As a 17-year-old stoner with little parental supervision, this was as good as it got.

-You can read the rest here.

A Book I Liked: All It Took Was One Look

Werewolves + gay people= happily ever after. Werewolves but also gay. That’s it, that’s the book. Which is not a complaint, trust me. There was a time I would have given almost anything for “werewolves but also gay” to apply to Teen Wolf.

I wanted to write a review for All It Took Was One Look, but I read it a million years ago and didn’t write a review then. I have the worst memory in the world, and I have better things to do than sitting here wracking my brain for the details. Okay, I might not actually have better things to do but that still doesn’t sound fun. What I remember is that I liked the book.

Maybe I will write a review one day. Maybe I won’t. We’ll see where life leads!

Summary: One boy is human and hella gay(hey title of my blog) and the other isn’t either of those things. He’s a wolf and thinks he’s straight. Commence angst, drama, action, and epic romance. This is an engaging tale about the future of a wolf pack and what happens when the pair meant to lead the pack is gay for the first time.

This novel is on the melodramatic side and there’s lots of staples you’ll recognize like the evil bitch girlfriend, the repressed bully, the tortured protagonist, and the nerdy gay kid. It’s got familiar characters and situations, but even the recognizable details feel fresh in a gay YA setting. The book fully embraced all the dramatic, important moments you might expect to find in a book like this and went wild with them.

AITWOL feels like the start of a series. There’s a whole huge world to play in with several main and supporting characters. If there were future books, I would definitely be interested in them.

New YA Books

What’s new in YA right now and what’s on the horizon?

I have no idea!

Everything is just so much, all the time, you know? Maybe not, because what I said doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I can’t keep up with new releases. So it’s good there’s other people out there to do that for me.

I found this list of YA fiction being released in July-September. These are all sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. The full list is here, but I figured I would just mention the queer ones. Because Hella Gay YA and all that.

The Infinite Noise: A Bright Sessions Novel  by Lauren Shippen

Description: Caleb is an Atypical, an individual with enhanced abilities. Which sounds pretty cool except Caleb’s ability is extreme empathy—he feels the emotions of everyone around him. Being an empath in high school would be hard enough, but Caleb’s life becomes even more complicated when he keeps getting pulled into the emotional orbit of one of his classmates, Adam. Adam’s feelings are big and all-consuming, but they fit together with Caleb’s feelings in a way that he can’t quite understand.

Release: Sept. 24

The only podcasts I’ve ever listened to are fictional ones about gay characters and true crime, and I’m sure there’s other types that are really good… but yeah, I’m only interested in podcasts if there’s true crime or queer characters and hopefully less crime.

Basically, it’s really cool that The Bright Sessions podcast is a book now.

 Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Description: There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Release: Sept. 10

Jam is trans and selectively nonverbal, and this book sounds interesting and too scary for me. I have begun to very, VERY slowly enjoy a little bit of horror, mostly by accident. Otherwise I am a big coward and there’s no shame in that because I said so.

Red Skies Falling (The Skybound Saga) by Alex London

Description: Kylee is ensconsed in the Sky Castle, training with Mem Uku to master the Hollow Tongue and the Ghost Eagle. But political intrigue abounds and court drama seems to seep through the castle’s stones like blood from a broken feather. Meanwhile, Brysen is still in the Six Villages, preparing for an attack by the Kartami. The Villages have become Uztar’s first line of defense, and refugees are flooding in from the plains. But their arrival lays bare the villagers’ darkest instincts. As Brysen navigates the growing turmoil, he must also grapple with a newfound gift, a burgeoning crush on a mysterious boy, and a shocking betrayal.

Release: Sept. 3

Game of Thrones but gayer. And YA.

Is Game of Thrones already gay? I’m gonna get around to watching that eventually. I’m guessing there’s less gay people dying in horrific ways in this novel. Again, I don’t watch GoT, but it always seems like somebody is dying in horrific ways.

Of Ice and Shadows (Of Fire and Stars) by Audrey Coulthrust

Description: Princesses Denna and Mare are in love and together at last—only to face a new set of dangers.

Mare just wants to settle down with the girl she loves, which would be easier if Denna weren’t gifted with forbidden and volatile fire magic. Denna must learn to control her powers, which means traveling in secret to the kingdom of Zumorda, where she can seek training without fear of persecution. Determined to help, Mare has agreed to serve as an ambassador as a cover for their journey.

As rising tensions and unexpected betrayals put Mare and Denna in jeopardy and dangerous enemies emerge on all sides, can they protect their love and save their kingdoms?

Release: August 13

This is the book where, whenever I see the first one on the list of top 100 queer YA novels, I’m like that looks cool, I should read that. And then I remember my KU is filled with M/M teen romances because those are the ones I write and occasionally blog about, but I  read real slow, so I don’t read this yet.

True story. I’m sure all of this really helped you with your reading selections. I still want to read the first one, then this second one, because I have to go in order and because fantasy novel about princesses in love.

 

Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre

I’m including the cover of one book that may not be queer, or isn’t as far as I can tell, but I liked the tagline. So simple but memorable. This one also might be too scary for me, but again, love the tagline.