Sunday, August 28, 2016

Birthday-Boy Herman at Oysterfest

It’s one of those rare, beautifully warm summer days in San Francisco, and to celebrate Herman’s sixty-third birthday, we spent the afternoon at Oysterfest, down on the Embarcadero. There were dozens of wines to sample, and non-stop oysters in served in every way possible—raw on the halfshell, baked, grilled, in tacos, made into sausages. You name it, they served it. A great day with old friends, good food, and superlative wines. Wow, I’m wiped out.


Me and the B-day Boy


Me and my old friend Ben Wong


The Oysterfest gang.










Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Excerpt from BUDDHA’S BAD BOYS

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest book, an anthology of six short works called BUDDHA’S BAD BOYS, is available everywhere fine books are sold. You can buy it now, in paperback or any eBook format, at

Bold Strokes Books http://tinyurl.com/pfe7dnl

Some of these stories are purely fictional, while others are based on real people and true events.

Blurb: There are many reason why Western men turn to Eastern religion—searching for inner truth, lost love, loneliness, fleeing the law, hopelessness, alcoholism. Some travel halfway around the world in an attempt to overcome their particular dissoluteness, only to realize that improving yourself is like polishing air. What they eventually discover, nevertheless, is one of the Buddha’s most significant lessons: enlightenment comes to those whose singular focus is on helping others less fortunate. 

Six stories, six troubled gay men trudging down the road to enlightenment. What they each find is that last thing in the world they expected.

The first story in this anthology is called Monk For A Month and is about two men, Reece and Doug, are almost done with the “Monk for a Month” program at the temple in Chiang Mai, where they have been living like Buddhist monks. But on the same night that Reece finds that Doug is having an affair with another Thai monk, there is a murder lose in the town. Reece sees the killer hiding in the temple and goes about trying to help him escape the police. In the process, a love affair begins.

Excerpt:
I sat at the bar sporting saffron robes and a shaved head, sipping a Singha beer and listening to the bartender, who was clearly agitated. I couldn’t tell whether the man was upset over the recent murders, or because the hard rain was hurting his business, or if he simply didn’t like serving alcohol to a monk, even a Caucasian one.

“His name Somchai,” the bartender said. He spoke English, but with the usual Thai singsong clip that I had come to adore. “He kill American expatriate named Warren. Tony Warren.”

I had seen a dead body only once, a gruesome spectacle. It took an effort to settle my nerves as the bartender glared at me, as if, also being an American, made me an accomplice. I had never learned the invaluable art of staying detached in the face of tragedy, of not identifying with the victim. I had no way to shield myself from the reality of how brutal humans can be to each other, what ruthless lengths they will go, and the pain they are capable of inflicting on each other.

Across the street, four soldiers trudged along in the rain.

“When did Somchai kill Warren?” I asked, my voice scarcely a whisper.

The bartender didn’t know exactly, sometime at the beginning of the afternoon that had now come to an end. At the same time that he killed Warren, Somchai had also slain Warren’s Thai girlfriend. Both victims had been found two hours earlier at the apartment belonging to Warren.

The barroom was already dark, due to the lateness of the hour and another power outage. Candles flickered on the bar and at each table; their yellow light mingled with the blueness of the dying day.

The shower stopped as suddenly as it had started, as it often does in Thailand.

“How old was she? The girlfriend I mean,” I asked.

“Very young. Nineteen.” Regret passed over the bartender’s face. “A real beauty.”

“I would like another Singha,” I said, “but I have no more money. Can I buy on credit?”

The bartender’s look of regret turned to disgust. As he walked away, a customer two stools over ordered beers for me and himself, and also shots of cheap Thai whiskey.

The bartender prepared our drinks while the customer moved to the stool beside mine. He introduced himself as Ty Poe, and did not shake my hand, as it is considered disrespectful to touch a monk. Poe was courteous, offering the customary wai gesture of respect. He was somewhere in his forties, and had a smoking-induced cough. The polluted streets of Chiang Mai didn’t help his lungs any more than his chain-smoking, I thought. I gave him my name, Reece Jackson, and told him I was from America, San Francisco in fact.

“I overheard your talk about the murders.”

“Why haven’t they caught him yet?” I asked. “Chiang Mai’s a small town.”

“They have him trapped within the walls of the old city, but you should know how it is,” Poe grunted. “We’re talking about an American expatriate and his whore who got themselves killed by a homeless gay kid. I mean, there are limited resources available to the police department. The police force, as a rule, is not well trained. Officers have to buy their own uniforms, their own guns. They are poorly paid. Not much would be happening now except that this dead girl happens to be the daughter of an army major. The army is doing what they can but they do not know the town as well as Somchai.”

Poe was right, I thought. What could anyone reasonably expect of this situation? The unvarnished fact was that in this country, any given police station’s cases were ranked according to priority. And priority in Thailand had to do with wealth and status. Those on the low end of the spectrum were unlikely to receive much attention. And for a homeless gay kid with no family who happened to murder a bit of riff-raff, then it was probably the victim’s fault. Why bother figuring out all the sordid details?

I felt thankful that I came from a country where every death warranted respect, every victim merited justice, no matter how far down the social and economic ladder that victim might fall. At least I liked to believe that bit of hype.

The bartender placed the beers and shots before us. I lifted my shot in a toast to Poe and knocked my head back, taking the drink in one hot swallow. Poe stared at me in obvious surprise.

“I’ve never seen a monk do that,” Poe said.

“I’m not really a monk. My partner and I paid good money to enroll in the Monk-For-A-Month program here at Wat Phra Singh. He’s on some damned spiritual quest that I, frankly, don’t understand. Me, I’m just an IT geek along for the ride.”

“So you’re not alone,” Poe asked, exhaling a stream of smoke.

“Technically, no. But it often feels like I am.”

The bar stood only a few doors down from Tha Phae Square, which spread before one of the four main gates of the old city, and where two of the town’s chief avenues collided. The square was bordered by the city wall, built of ancient brick, and butted against by the city moat on the north and south sides.  The top of the wall was wide enough to walk on, and just then a flock of children scampered along the wet brick, heedless of the danger of slipping. Among them ran Archer, my adopted son, also sporting a shaved head and wearing the saffron robes. The children looked down on the tourists who gathered in the square, clutching their umbrellas in case the rains returned.

It must be between six and seven in the evening, I thought.

Another shower started and people in the square ran for cover.

Archer hopped down the wall steps and dashed across the road like a fleeing deer. He entered the bar and huddled against me, giving Poe a cautious glance. Archer was a handsome seven-year-old with a round face that gave way to a large jaw and a brilliant set of teeth. He had an impishness and good humor in his eyes, and was strong for so young a boy. But what I admired most about him was his gentle and trusting disposition. Unlike most boys, he was incapable of hurting anything. His only flaw was that he was fathered by two gay men, which made him an outcast back home, someone to be pitied, stared at, whispered about, laughed at, and occasionally beaten up by his peers.

Strokes of lightning lit the sky, coming so close together that they seemed like a ceaseless illumination. The thunder was continuous. The noise burst like metal fireworks, and then would immediately rise again; its modulations grew less and less defined as the shower let up, until there was only the sound of rain striking paving stones.

“This rain will last all night,” Poe said, lighting another cigarette from the butt of his previous one.

Moments later, the shower stopped. Poe left his stool and pointed at the leaden sky, patched with massive blotches of somber gray so low that it seemed to brush the rooftops. “Don’t let that fool you.”


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Writer’s Focus

Normally, good writers are not eclectic. Each focuses his/her oeuvre on a single idea, a subject that ignites his/her passion, a theme he/she chases with beautiful variation through a lifetime of work.

For example, Hemingway was captivated with the idea of how to face death. After he witnessed his father’s suicide, it became his central premise, in writing and in life. He examined death in war, in sport, on safari, until he finally took his own life.

Charles Dickens, whose father was imprisoned for debt, wrote of the lonely child searching for the lost father in almost all his great works: David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations.

Not that I’m in the same league as Hemingway and Dickens, but I also have a central theme that keeps popping up over and over—a gay protagonist who gets crushed by an unkind world, who picks himself up, and crawls through hell in order to pursue his dream, and ends up finding something even more treasured than he first imagined.

Looking back on my history, I can pinpoint where this theme came from. When I was just coming into manhood, my father had a cancer operation that left him bedridden and weak as a newborn. His doctors told him he had only months to live. He fought back, day by day, recovering his strength an iota at a time. He beat the cancer, and eventually returned to work. He lived for another sixteen years. Because of his illness, he was forced to give up drinking. He attended AA, and became a supporter of the Twelve Step Method. His last several years he spent mentoring recovering alcoholics, which brought him enormous gratification. He lost everything, fought back, which led to a new calling, and that eventually led to a meaningful life. His battle has been my inspiration all these years.

Like so many other writers, I have found a subject and it sustains me over the long journey of the writer.


Genre should be a constant source of reinspiration. Every time I reread my manuscript, I get excited about it, because it is my kind of story, drawn from the thing in my past that most inspires me.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

One More Hurdle Behind Me

A few months back, I finished the first draft of my current work-in-progress manuscript. For the past three months, I’ve had my head down, working eight hours a day, every day, on editing that manuscript.

Generally speaking, my first round edits focuses on cutting—scenes, boring description, unneeded words—and this edit was no exception. I cut 50 pages from a 550 page manuscript, so about 10%, which is a bit low for me. I usually cut up to 20% on the first go-around.

I’ll make more edit passes, one later this year and one early next year, but I won’t start the next one until I hear back from my three beta readers. I sent out the manuscript to my betas this morning, hoping I will hear back from them before October.

So now I have a break from writing for the next month or so. And for the first time in many years, I plan to do no other writing projects. It is time for me to rejuvenate, and that means spending time outdoors rather than in my office.


So for the next thirty days, it’s tennis, hiking, swimming, and visiting friends. I am so looking forward to time away from my computer.