The beauty of being an indie author is this day in age is that writing is less and less about writing what publishers or mass markets want. It’s more about finding your tribe, those readers that are hungry for the kinds of books you write.
I write two different kinds of books. I write contemporary YA with an LGBT bent and I write science fiction/fantasy books. Most publishers will tell you those two genres do not go together. I have been to enough science fiction conventions to know better. LGBT youths often find science fiction a safe place to explore themselves. Many science fiction fans are drawn to characters that stand outside the social norms, whether its sexuality, gender or some other issue.
So I am doing an experiment/promotion/exercise in finding my reading tribe. It works like this. I am going to give you an excerpt of a work in progress. One character, Devon, places two books into the streets Itty Bitty Library. If you can name both books referenced in the excerpt, do so in the comments.
The first person to correctly identify both books wins a chance to be a character in that book. Just give me a name, description and short personality bio. (p.s. It doesn’t have to be yours. You can give me a fictional name you go by in some context or a friend you want to honor.)
Fourteen year old Ethan Hillcrest spied around the corner. He sighted down the block with his toy gun. “All clear,” he called back to his sisters, Rosie and Esther.
They came around the corner clutching their dolls and shooting him looks that said they didn’t see the need for a military escort at all. He ignored the look.
They went to the shade under the tree in their front yard and set down to play with their dolls. Ethan went and hid behind the trunk of the tree and continued his look out.
He scanned the far side of the street. He scanned the back of the Mondamin U. Inspecting the houses from right to left. Jack was on the corner. He was an ex cop. Occasionally he would sit on his porch and a couple times he told Ethan stories about the old days when he worked the beat.
Next to him was Justin and Danielle Smith. Justin was a cop, and one of the coolest adults Ethan had met, next to his dad. Danielle ran a daycare and Rosie and Esther loved it when they got to go play with the babies. Ethan didn’t care about no babies, but went along anyway.
To the left of the Smith’s was an older couple. Ethan couldn’t remember their names. Mom called out and greeted them whenever she saw them out on the street, which was rarely. She admonished the kids to respect their elders and Ethan did, he always spoke politely to them and laughed at the man’s joke, even though they weren’t funny.
This was the good side of the street. That was friendly territory.
Next door to them was the lesbian couple. Neither Mom or Dad liked them much. They muttered about sin and worried that their influence might lead Ethan or his sisters into sin. Ethan knew there were a couple girls at school who identified as lesbians. He wasn’t sure what the big deal was.
Kitty corner across from the lesbian’s was Lydia Scott, public enemy number one. She ran a yoga studio down on University. Yoga, his mom said, was an evil foreign cult. Ethan had been told that it was a form of exercise, in fact they had done it in P.E. At school. He didn’t tell his mom that. She had already threatened to pull him out of public school and homeschool him more than once. He didn’t want to leave his friends, so he kept his mouth shut.
He spied a redhead coming out of Lydia’s house. There was Mondamin’s newest public enemy.
Ethan remembered Devon vaguely. The adult’s had always said stuff, usually in a whisper, about the boy. But Ethan had kind of liked him. Not that they had much in common, being more than six years apart. What Ethan recalled was that Devon was nice to kids and took the time to include them in his games if possible. Few high school kids did that with elementary or junior high kids.
But this was too much. Devon was wearing a yellow tights, a red skirt and a yellow, women’s top.
“I don’t know how she can put up with this,” Mom had muttered at his father after she came home from the meeting last night. “The shame of it.”
“If I had ever worn women’s clothes,” his father had said, “my dad would have beat me within an inch of my life. Same goes for Ethan.”
Ethan had started, as he eavesdropped from his bedroom, but of course they didn’t know he was listening. Besides, he’d never had any inclination to try on women’s clothes either.
Ethan continued to spy on Devon, slowly pulling back to keep the tree between him and his subject. Devon had two books in his hands and he stopped in front of an oversized mailbox.
It was the itty bitty library they had built three years ago. It had been a school project for Devon. It was a miniature doll house with plexiglass walls on one side. Inside was one shelf with a dozen books or so. Neighbors were encouraged to borrow books for free, and to place new books in if they felt like it.
Mom hadn’t approved. There was no telling what sort of books someone might put in there. Nobody was monitoring the quality or morality of the selection. That might be okay for adults, but there were kids on the block.
It was one of the few times she found herself in the minority. The smith’s valued education, or so they said, and requested the library be built on their property even. Jack, Mr. Rick from the down the street, they all supported the project.
It was the other thing that Ethan liked about Devon. Mom wanted to check and monitor every piece of reading material that came in their house, make sure it taught proper Christian values. That was okay for Rosie and Esther, but he was fourteen, almost an adult. Surely he could decide what to read for himself.
Justin and Danielle read thrillers and when they were done, they went in the box. Jack had once left a survivalist manual in the box, that book was now hidden in the playhouse out back, one of Ethan’s prize possession.
Devon was all about science fiction and fantasy. Ethan had to credit Devon and the itty bitty library for most of the cultural knowledge he had. He would swipe books out of the itty bitty library and stash them in the playhouse. While all the other kids got to watch the latest movies or play the latest video games, Ethan would read the book.
Devon stopped at the itty bitty library and opened the door. He put the two books he was carrying inside and then stared at the shelves thoughtfully for a few minutes. He closed the door without taking anything and headed back towards his house.
Ethan pressed his back against the tree trunk. “Drop has been made, repeat, drop has been made,” he muttered into his shoulder, as though talking into a radio. He glanced at their front window. Mom was nowhere to be seen. He glanced down the street again. Devon was already on the porch, heading back inside.
Ethan stuck the toy gun down the front of his jeans and crossed the street. He opened the door of the itty bitty library and inspected the new books. He knew the contents well enough to not waste time on the others.
The first had a woman with a butterfly on the shoulder on the cover. He read enough of the back cover to realize it had to do with a boy who wanted to be a girl and he shoved it back in. He wiped his hands on his jeans quickly, fearing he might catch whatever it was that made Devon act the way he did.
The second book was a goldmine, Ethan could tell it at a glance. It had a woman on the cover too, but she was wearing goggles, a sure sign of something steampunk. No one at school even knew what steampunk was but Devon and, by osmosis, Ethan, were obsessed with it. Reading the back cover, this novel was not only steampunk, it had zombies.
A cop car pulled up and Ethan started. It’s a free library, that’s the point, he reminded himself. Besides it was only Justin coming home from work.
He turned the cover towards his chest and wrapped his arms around the book. He didn’t know if Justin talked to his parent’s about what they saw, but he didn’t want this title even getting back home.
“Guarding the neighborhood are we?” Justin joked with a nod towards Ethan’s waist.
Ethan looked down and the toy gun and blushed. He didn’t want to be caught playing. He was too old for that. But what else could he do? His mom ordered him to stay outside and watch his sisters. “Sir, yes, sir,” he said.