Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A little BSP: Interview and Review

For those not in the know, BSP stands for Blatant Self Promotion. That's right, today I'm tooting my own horn a bit. An outstanding author in her own right, Ruth Simms, has posted an interview with me alongside a review of my novel Island Song on her writing blog.

Please take a minute to visit Ruth's blog and check out the interview. Also, I would highly recommend following her blog. She plans to post many more author interviews, and this author has been around long enough to know some excellent writers. She also has some interesting things to say herself. So check it out.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Review: A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Reviewed by Alan Chin

A Single Man is a day in the life of George, a man who recently lost his male lover in an auto accident. From waking up, to having breakfast, to driving to work where he fantasizes and converses with co-workers and students as he goes through his day as an English professor at a state college in Los Angeles. While George steps through his routine, the ghost of his dead lover, Jim, flits in and out, a constant reminder that no matter how many people George surrounds himself with, he is still alone. George is an outsider. He is British living in L.A., gay living in a heterosexual world, brilliant among dull students and colleagues.

George’s day is simple and routine; however, the author creates a rich and complex text where the reader is able to become the protagonist. The reader experiences George’s debilitating loneliness, his anger and resentment with society, and the walls he keeps between he and his “friends”.

I decided to read this novel before seeing the recent movie. But I can say with candor, that I no longer want to see the movie, because I’m afraid that it will in some way spoil the special feelings this story left me with.

It is a marvelous read, and surprisingly contemporary, considering it was published in 1964. And in an age when most gay novels focus on young, good-looking studs, it was refreshing to read about a gay man in his fifties, struggling with life issues we will all face one day.

I loved the opening, it is so Zen. I’ll give you a taste of it here:
“Waking up begins with saying am and now. That which has awaken then lies for a while staring up at the ceiling and down into itself until it has recognized I, and therefrom deduced I am, I am now. Here comes next, and is at least negatively reassuring; because here, this morning, is where it has expected to find itself: what’s called at home.”

This is the first time I’ve read this book, but I know I will go back to it time and again, like a lover one re-discovers, and with each discovery one falls deeper in love.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Short Story Review: Neighbors by Victor J. Banis

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Untreed Reads Publishing
Pages: 6

Linda is a woman caught in a marriage going nowhere. She stocks shelves at the 7-Eleven during the day, has dinner on the table before her man, Ray, walks through the door of their little trailer, and then pretends pleasure while he makes love to her at night. It’s a small life, a rather sad life. She feels trapped, but with a simple neighborly gesture, the lesbian woman who lives a dozen feet away, offers her hope.

Short stories are often about turning points in a character’s life. Some times that’s a physical act, like walking out the door and not looking back. Other times it is merely a little switch that turns on or off inside the mind, a switch that means life going forward will be different. Neighbors is such a story.

With consummate skill, Victor Banis weaves a short but powerful story of a woman’s quiet desperation. I felt her pain, her longing. The loneliness this heroine experiences is universal to us all, and all too real.

It takes great skill to pack so much story into six pages. Victor Banis not only captures this woman’s essence, he does it with an impeccable voice. He manages to bring both humor and pain with the same well-chosen words. This is a deeply emotional story that will stay with a reader a long time.

I can highly recommend this marvelous story to all readers.

For more information about this story or author, press

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: Blue Moon Café by Rick R. Reed

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Amber Quill Press
Pages: 242

Thad Matthews is between jobs, between boyfriends and trying to pull his self-esteem out of the gutter in Seattle’s gay neighborhood, Capitol Hill. But he has to be careful during his nights out clubbing to find a new love/lust interest because there have been some gruesome deaths in the area, gay men mutilated and half-eaten, and it always seems to happen during a full moon.

When Thad decides to try the new Italian restaurant that opens near his apartment, he encounters more than great food and an authentic Italian atmosphere. He meets the proprietor, Sam Lupino, the man of his dreams. Sam has recently moved to Seattle from Sicily, and his family has opened the Blue Moon Café. Sam is large, rugged, hairy, and an aggressive lover. But regardless of how forceful Sam is in bed (which is fine with Thad), he exudes kindheartedness out of bed, and seems as taken with Thad as Thad is with him.

Thad and Sam’s relationship turns rocky, however, when Thad suspects Sam is hiding something, and it has to do with the fact that once a month Sam disappears for days at a time, which seems to coincide with the murders. Thad begins to suspect that the man of his dreams is a werewolf, but that’s ridiculous. Isn’t it?

Let me state that I’m not a fan of werewolf, vampire or shape-shifter stories. To my thinking these types of tales, for the most part, have become a tired cliché. That said, The Blue Moon Café drew me in from the get-go because of the characters, particularly the protagonist, Thad Matthews. Thad is jobless due to the economic downturn. He kicks around Twitter and Facebook during the day, and the gay clubs at night, trying to overcome his vast loneliness. Sam, on the other hand, is mature and stable but he has family secrets. He is put in a position where he must choose between love and protecting his family. Both main characters dealt with universal themes that I could easily identify with.

There are also some particularly tense and well-written scenes from the werewolf’s point of view while stalking its prey. Reed takes you into the killer’s psyche, and you feel its need, not only to feed, but to relish the terror it causes. Reed knows how to build suspense and keep the reader hanging on the edge of his/her seat. There were parts I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what would happen next.

My only complaint is that I walked away slightly disappointed. The only other Rick Reed story I’ve read was Bashed, and I was very impressed with that book, for both characters and plot. So I picked up The Blue Moon Café with high expectations, and as much as I enjoyed this read, I didn’t think it lived up to the promise that Bashed created.

The Blue Moon Café combines suspense with an erotic love story and moves along at a fast pace. If you like paranormal stories, you will most likely love this one. If you’re like me and shy away from them, you might give this one a try. It has a lot to offer.

For more information about this book or author, press

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Short Story Review: The Zagzagel Diaries: Denial by Bryl R. Tyne

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Untreed Reads Publishing
Pages: 9

Zagazagel is a guiding angel with a touch of devil in her. She has been assigned a hard case to watch over, a lady of the night named Deena, who is not only sexy, but also hard as nails. But that hardness is only a protective shell. Inside, she longs for the type of tender love only another woman can give. But of course, finding another woman is not so easy for someone who makes her living by sleeping with men.

In the course of a few fleeting hours, Zagazgel follows Deena from an altercation with a john, to her empty home. They have a rather touching and humorous confrontation, then Zagzagel leads her in the direction of salvation.

This is a well-told, gripping story. Bryl Tyne is a master at creating tension from the first sentence, and keeping his reader needing that next well-chosen word, sentence and page. His characters are real and captivating. They allow the reader to see something of themselves on the page. But what most charmed me about this story, was the way the author weaved humor into a sad and desperate situation.

All the fine qualities of this story listed above came as no surprise. I’ve read a couple of longer works by this author, so I knew I was in for a top-quality read going into it. I think Bryl has one of the finest voices in lgbt fiction. But what did surprise me was how much story Bryl packed into nine pages. I am left awed and grateful. It takes a huge talent to write short stories, and this author has proven he has what it takes.

This is a story I can highly recommend to anyone who enjoys fine writing and wonderful characters.

For more information about this author or story, go to

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book Review: Normal Miguel by Erik Orrantia

Reviewed by Victor J. Banis
Bristlecone Pine Press, 2010

These days, so much glbt fiction is written in bold letters: cowboys and space travelers, murder mysteries and of course lots of high-octane sex, that it is a special treat and indeed refreshing to read something from the other end of the spectrum. Erik Orrantia’s enchanting novel, NORMAL MIGUEL, is what we used to call “slice of life,” in this case, especially intriguing because it describes a life with which few of us are likely to be familiar.

When he graduates from Normal School (what in the States we mostly call “teachers’ colleges”) young Miguel Hernández escapes from his unhappy gay life in the near-slums of Mexico City by accepting an internship for a year at the Internado, a live-in school in a distant mountain village, but his long and arduous bus trip to Comalticán turns out to be a journey of discovery.

The author shows us the life in the small rural village with such perfectly rendered detail that the unique setting becomes familiar to the reader and one feels that he has been there not only in the spirit but in the flesh as well. In the same way, he introduces us to a large cast of characters, bringing each of them indelibly to life, often with no more than a word or two, and sometimes with well constructed side stories that enhance rather than distract from his main narrative. And though the reader may be utterly unfamiliar with life in rural Mexico, it is unlikely that any gay reader won’t identify with Miguel in his struggle to come to terms with himself as a homosexual.

The events that happen are mostly low-key, though important to the characters and increasingly, as we find ourselves absorbed in the life of the village, to the reader as well. Lonely, Miguel allows himself to be used sexually by the local baker, before rebelling and regaining his pride. He meets the owner of the local candy store, Ruben, and falls gradually in love, a love that, as the story progresses, will be tested in ways that I can’t discuss without spoiling things.

Mostly the story centers on Miguel’s interactions with his students, who come to respect and ultimately to love him, while he in turns realizes that he has as much to learn from them as he has to teach them. What a diverse and lovable bunch of imps they are, too.

Heart breaking poverty, violent summer storms, some homophobia, the working out of relations between the two young men and their mothers, a memorable Christmas, an amusing but sweet wedding, the gentle awakening of love—quiet but intense dramas—keep the pages turning. One finishes the book with a sense of sadness that it can’t go on forever—as life in the mountain village will—and at the same time a sense of satisfaction, of completion. This is, in fact, a very satisfying read.

Yes, of course, there are some flaws. The use, especially early on, of a passive voice saps the opening chapters of some of their vitality, and a sterner editorial eye would have caught the too-frequent repetition of the same words and phrases in a single paragraph – “as,” for instance, pops up sometimes in sentence after sentence. And the author resorts to the clumsy device of telegraphing things—sort of, “in good time, dear reader, he will learn…” which destroys the illusion for the reader of living the events and reminds him that it is only a story being told to him.

None of this, however, really spoils the pleasure of reading this truly charming book, and I find myself already looking forward to the next one. A fine addition to our genre, and highly recommended to those who like a beautiful story, beautifully told.

Read more about his author and book here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: The Lavender Locker Room by Patricia Nell Warren

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Wildcat Press
Pages: 345

This wonderful book is a collection of nineteen essays highlighting gay pioneers in athletics. Originally written for, this book has bound together a series of highly entertaining and fascinating studies. Patricia Nell Warren spent four years unearthing these tales, and her sense of history and attention to detail is inspiring. She covers a wide variety of sports figures: tennis stars, football players, swimmers, track and field legends, boxers, golfers, balloonists, jockeys, baseball stars and aviation pioneers. Her span is as wide as it is deep.

Patricia’s writing is vivid, and her unique perspective make these stories come to life. She captures the excitement, setbacks and the importance of these athlete’s achievements, both on and off the playing field.

These essays are grouped by time period – pre-modern times, early 20th Century, the Great Depression to the Cold War, the fifties and Sixties, and finally on the cusp of Stonewall. In each section, the author writes with grace, wit and tremendous insight.

Being an avid tennis player, my favorite essays were about tennis legends Bill Tilden and Martina Navratilova. But I have to say I enjoyed them all. I found the piece about Amelia Earhart particularly absorbing, also the stories about Gay Rodeo, NFL running back David Kopay, and downhill skier Erik Schinegger. But those of course only scratch the surface of all the rich gay history within this book.

If you like sports – no matter if you’re straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or whatever – do yourself a favor and read The Lavender Locker Room.

To read more about this book or the author press here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review Week

Hi everyone,

I've gotten behind on writing reviews of stories I've read, so I'm declaring a REVIEW WEEK. I will be posting a review every day this week. I've got novels by Rick Reed and Christopher Isherwood, and short stories by Byrl R. Tyne and Victor Banis and even a non-fiction work by Patricia Nell Warren. Lots of good stories by fine writers, each and every day this week. So keep coming back for more. You're sure to find something you want to read.

Enjoy the week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book Review: All Lost Things by Josh Aterovis

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by P.D. Publishing, Inc.
Pages: 318

All Lost Things is a Killian Kendall Mystery, I believe the third in a series. The story picks up with Killian about to graduate high school, and change is in the wind for our hero. Within a few short weeks, he graduates, breaks up with his long-time boyfriend, and starts a new job as an assistant to a private investigator. But the cherry on the cake is when his ex-boyfriend, Asher, comes to him for help. The boy who Asher dumped Killian for is accused of murdering his father. Asher begs Killian to help prove his new boyfriend is innocent. Killian reluctantly agrees to take the case, having no idea what kind of a hornet’s nest he’s stepping into.

At the same time, Killian’s surrogate parents decide to buy a historical mansion and plan to turn it into a bed and breakfast. But Killian soon discovers that the house is not only rich with history, it is also haunted. But it seems he is the only one who believes it. He must find a way to convince the others, and himself, that he is not losing his mind. Or is he?

I had a ball reading this novel. Although the target audience for this novel is young adults, this is a story that people of all ages can enjoy. It is sometimes touching, often funny, and very well written. Although this is the first Killian Kendall mystery I’ve read, this one convinced me to read all the others.

The characters are well developed and interesting, especially the protagonist who charmed my socks off. The pacing was strong and moved at a fast clip. And I was kept guessing all the way to the down-to-the-wire finish. This was a thoroughly intriguing read.

As much as I enjoyed this story, I did have two issues with it. Not to give the ending away, but when it came time to reveal the true villains and how they committed the dark deeds, I felt a bit let down. The reveal was too easy. The author had done such a superb job to that point of juggling the clues and keeping the tension as tight as a bowstring. I was expecting something more intricate for the reveal.

The other issue was that the “A” and “B” stories didn’t join. The A story is Killian solving the mystery, of course. And the B story is his parents buying the haunted house. What most often happens in good literature, is that the A and B story run in parallel for most of the story, like to trains racing along side by side in the same direction, but then at the beginning of Act 3, the tracks converge and the two stories collide. That is, something happens in the B story that helps resolve the A story. But in this novel, the A and B never converged. The B story didn’t add anything important to the mystery, and I felt the author stuck it in there as a setup for a future story, which I found disappointing.

Those two issues, however, did not keep me from being totally engaged throughout the story. I can highly recommend this novel to all readers who enjoy interesting, tense, well thought out mysteries.

For more information about the book or author, press here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just Signed with a New Publisher

It’s been a long haul. Two years ago I finished my third novel, Match Maker, the story of a gay tennis coach helping a straight teen make it big on the pro tennis tour. I managed to snag a reputable literary agent, and she spent a year and a half trying to sell it to different publishers, with no luck. In mid-March she and I had a falling out, and she dropped me like a stone.

I spent the month of April going over the manuscript again, giving in another polish, then sent it to two publishers. Today, Dreamspinner Press, a well-respected player in the gay publishing market, sent me a contract. They will publish Match Maker in September of this year.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010



Tuesday, June 22 @ 7:30 PM
with David Jedeikin author of Wander the Rainbow

Seven months. Six continents. Twenty-nine countries. Names have been changed to protect the (not-so) innocent. But everything else is true in David Jedeikin’s travel memoir Wander the Rainbow, a story of far-flung global exploration in the face of uniquely challenging life events.

Thursday, June 24 @ 7:30 PM
with G.A. Hauser author of Playing Dirty and Got Men?

ADL welcomes gay romance author G.A. Hauser for the very first time to read steamy selections from her bestselling gay erotic fiction.

Saturday, June 26 @ 1 PM
with K.M. Soehnlein author of The World of Normal Boys and Robin & Ruby
Exquisitely honest, K.M. Soehnlein brilliantly captures a 20 year old weird boy redefining himself and explores when freedom bumps up against responsibility, when sex blurs the line between friendship and love, and when what you stand for becomes more important than who you were raised to be.

Saturday, June 26 @ 2 PM
with Monica Nolan author of Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher

Lambda Award winning author, Monica Nolan (Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary) comes to ADL to help us celebrate the campy fun of lesbian literature from days gone by in a special conversation on lesbian pulp fiction then and now.

Saturday, June 26 @ 4 PM
with Terrance Dean author of Hiding in Hip Hop

Bestselling author and literary icon E. Lynn Harris captivated millions of readers with his powerful, groundbreaking stories of black men searching for love in a taboo world. Now Terrance Dean honors the late author with Visible Lives, an original novella in the genre E. Lynn helped create - accompanied by a special personal tribute remembering the important role Harris played in his life. Also available: E. Lynn Harris’s last novel, In My Father’s House.

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San Francisco, CA 94114

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brokeback Mountain (American Indies series) by Gary Needham

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Edinburgh University Press
Pages: 140

American Indies is a series of books discussing contemporary American films that have found commercial success but have not been constrained by the formal and ideological parameters of mainstream Hollywood. This volume explores Brokeback Mountain, the short story by Annie Proulx and the film directed by Ang Lee, and combines original research and a classroom-oriented analysis of the film.

The book is broken into four major themes that discuss in detail the following topics:
1. An overview of independent cinema vs. Indie films.
2. Analyses how/if Brokeback Mountain fits within the enduring historical genre called the Western.
3. Analyses Brokeback Mountain as a melodrama, examining the film’s relationship to concepts of pathos, backward feelings and passivity.
4. Propose a new way of thinking about gay spectatorship.

I'll be frank, this is not a book that will appeal to many outside the boundaries of serious film students. It goes into excruciating detail about everything you never wanted or needed to know about Brokeback Mountain. I say this because, as a screenwriter and the author of two scripts, I consider myself a serious student of film, and still I was literally bored to tears with every section within this book.

I’ll include the following excerpt to give a flavor of the work:

What Brokeback Mountain actually offers is a competent illustration of Sedgwick’s argument in Epistemology of the closet as it complements the troubled binary that has framed the Western’s initial formulation. Like all genres, the Western is by definition an episteme in that it engenders the production, constitution and reception of forms of knowledge.

Like I said, this is not an easy book to read or understand. I will not go into detail about the contents of each section, except to say that with each topic, the author delves to unheard of depths to make his points. For example, the last chapter, roughly twenty-five pages, analyses 45 seconds of film (six shots) in which Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar simply glance at each other. Little action, no dialog. The author points out the two were cruising each other, yet he needed twenty-five pages to make his point.

I believe I learned much about film-making and film editing by reading this book. And I believe any serious student of film will benefit from this read. I cannot, however, recommend this book to the average reader.

To read more about his book, press here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Writing Tip #16 Unveil a Character’s True Nature

In your story, if you introduce a main character who is a caring lover, and by the end of the story s/he is still what s/he appeared to be, a caring lover with no secrets, no hidden passions, no dashed dreams, then your reader will be sorely disappointed, or at least bored.

By the same thinking, if your main character’s inner life matches his/her outer life, that is, everything about him/her shows up front, then his/her character becomes repetitious and predictable, hence tedious.

The revelation of a character’s inner character in contrast or contradiction to his/her outer characterization is fundamental to all fine storytelling. With interesting characters, what seems is not what is. People are seldom what they appear to be, and a character’s hidden nature waits behind a façade of traits, good or bad, for the right moment to reveal itself.

Whatever they say and however they compose themselves, interesting characters will reveal their true nature only when placed in a pressure situation. Pressure is key.

Underneath a character’s appearances, are they loving or cruel, strong or weak, generous or selfish, courageous or cowardly? The only way to know is what choices that character makes under pressure. For instance, if a character tells the truth in a situation where telling a lie would gain nothing, it reveals little about his/her inner nature. Yet, if this same character insists on telling the truth when only a lie would save his/her life, then we see his/her true nature.

That’s why a story should have escalating levels of pressure situations going from low to high to extreme. As the pressure builds and builds, your characters should reveal more and more of their inner-selves until the reader knows them body and soul.

Taking this principle a step further, the best writing not only unveils inner nature, but arcs or changes that inner nature, for better or worse, over the course of the tale.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book Review: Normal Miguel by Erik Orrantia

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Bristlecone Pine Press
Pages: 145

Miguel Hernández leaves Mexico City to complete a one-year teaching internship in the rural hills of Puebla. He is a serious teacher, who traveled away from home and family for the first time. But before he can begin teaching classes, he has a sexual encounter with the local baker, and later meets Ruben, the gay owner of the local candy store. These meetings lead him down a path where it is impossible to keep his private and professional life separate, or even secret.

This is story of Miguel’s self-discovery, which is aided by his students, the director of the school, the baker, but mostly by Ruben, who becomes both friend and lover. But of course, Miguel’s journey becomes rather stormy when people of his small rural landscape begin to notice the bond he and Ruben develop. Homophobia rears its ugly head. Can the lover’s survive the threat of small-town bigotry and the influence of family?

This story presents lyrical descriptions and rich details, painting colorful tapestries of life in the Mexican countryside. It shows a balance between grinding poverty and people who care for their community and their native land. It reveals prejudice and hate, but also the affirming power of love and acceptance in overcoming obstacles.

This is a simple story that is carried along with lush descriptions. The author skillfully brings his two main characters to life and gives them depth. I do wish he could have spent a bit more time developing some of the minor characters, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this love story.

My two complaints about this story were that the author often created awkward point-of-view shifts from one character to another, a flaw seen often with first-time authors. Also, he created a couple of threads with different antagonists, but simply dropped the threads halfway through the story, giving them no resolution. But those minor points aside, I found that Normal Miguel captured my heart and imagination. I can highly recommend that all readers who love romance take this year-long journey of awakening with Miguel.

Read more about his author and book here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Thursday, June 10 @ 7:30pm
KEVIN KILLIAN, Impossible Princess
TONY LEUZZI, Radiant Losses
An original member of the notorious San Francisco-based "new narrative" circle including Dennis Cooper and Kathy Acker, Killian is a master short story writer, crafting campy yet edgy tales that explore both the humor and darkness of desire. "Everything Tony Leuzzi puts his hand to has magic to it, and Radiant Losses, his second full-length book of poems, is no exception" - Kevin Killian.

Saturday, June 12 @ 4pm
ROBERT PHILIPSON, Very Good Looking Seeks Same: Gay Profiles in Search of Love
In his first book of transgressive, internet inspired poems, Philipson presents an entertaining, honest and laugh out loud (LOL) overview of gay sex site profiles, each poem replete with the brazenness of desire.



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