Monday, August 30, 2010

Why I Don’t Watch TV

For the past fifteen years, I have avoided the television. I get my news from the internet, and I don’t watch any shows on TV other than tennis matches. I do watch movies, but I get them from Netflicks, so there are no commercials. My attitude has to do with trying not to be influenced by the spin guys, be it politicians, religious people pushing their brand of crap, or corporations selling products.

My own sense is that the acquisition of self-knowledge has been made more difficult by the modern world. More and more human beings live in vast urban environments, surrounded by other human beings and the creations of human beings. The natural world, the traditional source of self-awareness, is increasingly absent.

Furthermore, within the last century we have come to live in a compelling world defined by electronic media. These media have evolved at a pace that is utterly alien to our true natures. It is bewildering to live in a world of ten-second spots, each one urging us to buy something, be different, do something, vote for some candidate, or to think something different. Human beings in the past were not so assaulted.

I think that this constant assault has made us pliable in an unhealthy way. Cut off from direct experience, cut off from our own thoughts, feelings, and sometimes our own sensations, we are only too ready to adopt a viewpoint or perspective that is spoon fed to us, and is not our own.

My refusal to watch TV is a feeble attempt to keep my thoughts as pure to my experience as possible.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review: The Final Curtain by Victor J. Banis

Reviewed by Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk

I recently came across Victor J. Banis’ ‘The Final Curtain’ in an anthology of collected gay stories “Red,” with authors William Maltese and JP Bowie. In his story Banis goes back to a mode of writing that was so popular in the late 19th century to the beginnings of the 20th century: of relating a story within the story itself, as in the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, W. Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad among many others.

Banis weaves his tale in a peopled bar with gay men about with the lead character sitting alone in the back and looking up at no one. The story that he relates hooks us in and we’re caught up with what is happening…but can it be retold? How does Gaylord fade away while Nick still has the sin of his disappearance upon him? Or does he? Banis doesn’t tell us but like all great storytellers he pulls us into the story till we’re at the end, more intrigued and puzzled but strangely fascinated to read it over and over again --it holds you that much. Some short stories can be more intriguing than horrendously long novels and Banis has a winner here.

Banis has painted numerous tales over the years, “The Why Not,” “The Man from C.A.M.P.,” “Longhorn,” “Lola Dances,” “Angel Land,” and the best non-fiction book written in some years “Spine Intact, Some Creases,” among countless others. This short story ‘The Final Curtain’ again shows him at his best, playful but serious as he still experiments with his creative powers and melds another tour de force made so alive and active by his talent. A short but mighty read! I recommend this wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

PROMO Match Maker by Alan Chin

Hi everyone,

My favorite fan, Fausto Unamzor, made a video trailer for my soon-to-be-released novel, so I thought I’d share. This is the same sweetheart that made my other trailers. I’d love your feedback.

Coming Sept. 6th. Match Maker by Alan Chin. Published by Dreamspinner Press.

Can gay love survive on the Pro Tennis Tour? See the video trailer:

In the four years since being forced off the professional tour for being gay, Daniel Bottega has taught tennis at a second-rate country club. He found a sanctuary to hide from an unkind world, while his lover, Jared Stoderling, fought a losing battle with alcohol addiction to cope with his disappointment of not playing on the pro circuit.

Now Daniel has another chance at the tour by coaching tennis prodigy Connor Lin to a Grand Slam championship win. He shares his chance with Jared by convincing him to return to the pro circuit as Connor’s doubles partner.

Competing on the world tour is challenging enough, but Daniel and Jared also face major media attention, political fallout from the pro association, and a shocking amount of hate that threatens Connor’s career in tennis, Jared’s love for Daniel, and Daniel’s very life.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book Review: Divas Las Vegas by Rob Rosen

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Cleis Press
pages: 286

The good news is that twenty-something Bill (aka “Em”) gets a $30,000 severance bonus when the bookstore he works for is bought out by a chain store. The bad news, Em’s dotty mother somehow sells the vase that had been in her family for generations at a yard sale for a few dollars. Em recognizes the vase on “Antique Roadshow” and finds out it’s worth $25,000. The mother is devastated, and Em vows to get it back for her. He manages to track the buyer to Las Vegas.

Em and his sexy friend Justin descend into Las Vegas hoping to recover the vase, although it seems they are more concerned about drinking, gambling, partying, and men, men, men. As this madcap adventure unfolds, they cross paths with a Patsy Cline impersonator, Jason’s boyhood lover, some hot guys fighting over Em, and murderers who are searching for them. The boys soon find themselves helping to solve an FBI investigation into organized crime. After the body count begins to rise and things are looking desperate for our young gay heroes, they call in the big guns: Glenda, their fag hag in San Francisco, flies to town to take charge and save the day. But can she? Can anyone?

This is a cute, often fun read, although my favorite parts were the detailed descriptions of Las Vegas casinos and sites. It is a murder mystery, but it is by no means a dark story. Rather, it is a fun romp with good pacing and clever dialog. I never laughed out loud, but there was something to grin about on nearly every page.

As for the story, it is a farce that gets more complicated and wacky until it collapses from the growing weight of absurdity. Once that happened, once it became too over the top, I confess I lost interest in the story and just wanted to be done with it.

My two complaints were that I thought the main characters were overly cliché, and that the story became too far fetched for my tastes.

Still, for readers who want to sit back and enjoy a romp, laugh, and not have to think about what they are reading, then I can recommend this book. It’s the kind of read that lends itself to sitting on the beach – it won’t matter if you get lost in the story and people around you will wonder what you’re laughing at.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Writing Tip # 21 - The Protagonist’s Gap

Your protagonist, indeed all your characters, at any moment in the story should take the easiest route, from his/her point of view, in the pursuit of their desires. It is human nature. But of course, what is the easiest route is relative to each character.

What generally happens in life is that we take an action to achieve our desire or goal, while thinking: If I do this conservative action, the world will react in such a way that I will move a step closer to achieving my goal. And in life, if we’ve thought it out, we are usually right. This is how we want life to work, we think the problem through, we take action, and we get the desired results. But we NEVER want that to happen in our stories.

In your story, you need to concentrate on the moments where the character takes an action, expecting a helpful reaction from his/her environment, but instead the action provokes an unexpected, more powerful response. That produces conflict, and conflict is what makes the story interesting.

For example: I see a younger man in a bar. He looks my way, smiles. I think to myself, Cool, he likes older men. My desire is to take him to bed. I know my first action should be to strike up a conversation, so I walk over, smile and say, “Haven’t we met before?” – and he shouts, “Don’t you wish, grandpa.” Then turns his back to me. Suddenly, the scene is more interesting, because in order to get what I want, I have to do something more forceful than my first minimum action.

When that happens, when the protagonist takes actions that s/he thinks will move him/her closer to an object of desire beyond their reach, and gets an unexpected reaction that pushes him/her further away from said desire, it creates a gap between the character’s subjective thought and their objective reality. This gap is where the story should focus. In fact, this gap IS the story.

So what happens when a character finds him/herself caught in this gap? Simple, s/he has to regroup. The world is now different from before the character took the first action. The character must assimilate the change, then decide on a bigger, bolder plan of action to achieve the goal. Then they must take action again. But, of course, the same thing must happen. The world must react in an unexpected way to this new action, pushing the character even further away from the prize. Thus, the gap widens further, creating the need for even more dramatic action.

In our example: assuming I still want to bed the young man who insulted me at the bar, I might lay a hundred-dollar bill on the bar and say, “Let me buy you a drink.” And after the bartender brings a round of drinks, I tell him, “Keep the change.” So the young man knocks back the drink, then turns to me as says, “I’m no whore, old man. I can’t be bought.” Now the stakes are raised, I’ve gambled $100 without getting what I want, and what will I do next? At this point the reader should assume I’m wasting my time and money.

Two key things happen when the character takes this second action. 1) the stakes are raised and the tension level goes way up. He is doing much more than he originally wanted to do, but he is now committing himself. And 2) by committing himself, he opens him self up to risk. This is not only key, it is a pillar of good fiction. The second action MUST put the character in a position where it forces him to dig much more deeply into his human capacity, or stand to lose something valuable in order to gain what he covets. In short, the protagonist, now in a state of jeopardy, must risk something he already has, in order to gain the thing he desires.

The measure of the value of a character’s desire is in direct proportion to the risk s/he is willing to take to achieve it. The greater the value, the greater the risk.

So again, the protagonist must take a much more dramatic, risky action. And, of course, YOU NEVER GIVE THE PROTAGONIST WHAT HE THINKS HE WILL GET. You always want to keep that gap getting even wider with each action. Every time s/he takes action, the gap should widen, pushing them further from the goal, until the end when subjective and object collide head on. That is what keeps the tension in a story escalating. At some point, it should seem like the protagonist will surely lose what s/he has risked. But of course, they may or may not, depending on the story.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everything is ready now for Match Maker

I haven't spent much time in the last several days online because I've been proofreading the galley for my novel, Match Maker. Proofing the galley is the last step before publication, so now I can focus on getting the word out to readers. That of course, starts with updating my website, and that is not a task I'm looking forward to. I can write novels; I can write screenplays; but when it comes to writing HTML code, I hate it. Oh well, it must be done because I'm not willing to pay someone else to do it.

The other thing I've done is to set up two book signings. One is a virtual signing that will take place on the Dreamspinner Press website on the day my novel, Match Maker, is released -- Sept. 6th. The other signing will be at a Different Light Bookstore in the heart of the Castro in San Francisco on Oct 22nd, starting at 7:30 p.m.

I'm very much looking forward to both events. I've got my fingers crossed for a huge turnout. If you can make it to either event, I would be grateful.

The other thing I need to do is line up some guest spots on other people's blogs. If you have a blog and would like to sponsor me as a guest, please contact me and let me know. I would be doublely grateful. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Lonely War, reviewed by Amos Lassen at

I wanted to share a review of my novel, The Lonely War, from Amos Lassen at Amos called The Lonely War “Absolutely Brilliant.”

He went on to say: “This is the kind of book that I have always wanted to review because it is so perfect and has such powerful prose. It is the kind of book that lends itself to multiple readings because of its beautiful style and vocabulary and its consummate editing.”

He also said: “Chin gives us rich details with fully developed characters and an ending that is totally unexpected. Chin prose is beautiful; it almost sings off of the page and he gives us a wonderfully written story that is driven by the characters. It deals with so much more than war as it deals with the issues of love, life, loyalty and how we deal with these issues.”

You can read the entire review at:


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Review: The River In Winter by Matt Dean

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Queen’s English Productions
Pages: 397

Jonah Murray is a seeker. He lives a comfortable life – good job, nice home, mother who supports him – but after the death of his lover, he feels lost, and needs help finding his way. Couple that with a series of hate crimes, and Jonah is at his wit’s end. He seeks love, acceptance and identity, but is not sure where to look.

Jonah meets Spike Peterson, a porn star who lights a fire of lust within Jonah. But the lust and love that Jonah feels is not returned, as Spike uses Jonah and then tosses him aside. Spike only magnifies Jonah’s need to find companionship.

After having a breakdown, Jonah meets a counselor, Eliot Moon, who seems to be able to help him. He is invited to join a group of gay men, only to find that the therapist and the men in the group are all trying to become ex-gay men. Jonah feels a hard need for the support he finds within this group, but he knows that to be accepted, he must make sacrifices, that is, give up loving men. Can a gay man find happiness through celibacy?

This year’s Lambda Book Award Finalist, Matt Dean, takes us on an inner journey through a rather icy spot in one man’s life. This is a story that uses excruciatingly beautiful language. It is Dean’s remarkable voice and exquisite prose that makes this novel special, and worth reading.

As for the story, it started with an interesting hook, and made me experience a range of emotions, but then it began to wander, much like the protagonist, down a path with seemingly no direction. It didn’t take long before my interest level began to plummet. To compound the wandering, the prose, though quite beautiful, was very detailed in its descriptions, which slowed the pacing to a crawl. I love rich descriptions, but only when it advances the plot, which this all too often failed to do. These two elements combined to make this, at least for me, a dull read.

The story often spouts Christian doctrine, which I personally found distasteful. Christians, however, will no doubt be untroubled by it.

This story was sometimes poignant, and made me examine my own feelings I experienced during troubling times, and it did so with wonderfully gorgeous language, which is why, no doubt, it earned a Lambda Finalist Award. For readers who like a slow, beautifully written journey, with rich descriptions on every page, I can recommend this read.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lambda Literary Awards

There has been an ongoing discussion among authors of gay-themed fiction round the subject of The Lambda Literary Awards not accepting entries from straight writers, particularly because there is a vast number of straight women writing M/M fiction these days. This discussion has been going on for well over a year, and it recently heated up again on a couple of online writing groups that I belong to.

Many, if not most, of the more vocal writers I know denounce Lambda for not allowing entries by straight women. They feel there is a huge body of gay-themed work being ignored by the powers that be, and if Lambda doesn’t recognized that work, who will?

On the other hand, Lambda created these awards as a means to recognize queer writers, because glbt writers were being ignored or excluded from other awards. And by letting straight women participate, it would dilute the original meaning, which is to highlight queer writers.

I can easily see both sides. Straight women writing m/m fiction advance the world of queer writing as much as gay or lesbian writers do. But, the Lambda Literary Awards are not for the best lgbtq themed books, they are awards to honor the best lgbtq authors. They figure there are plenty of awards out there where straight writers can compete, and they don't want another contest where lgbtq writers are pushed aside by the vast numbers of straight writers.

An example of this type of award would the Black Oscars. Tired of being overlooked by the Academy Awards, African-American actors, directors, producers and executives launched the Black Oscars more than two decades ago to celebrate black performers. A ceremony held on the eve of Oscar night, the Black Oscars -- which includes such participants as James Earl Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Whitney Houston and Will Smith -- was traditionally a time for black Hollywood to honor its own. In the twenty-five years of these Black Oscars, was anyone bitching that white, Hispanic, or Asian actors, directors and producers were excluded?

I guess my feeling is, if focusing on queer writers, rather than books, is what Lambda wants to do, then they should be able to do that without criticism. There are certainly enough straight authors writing m/m fiction that they could organize their own awards.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Lonely War - reviewed by Bob Lind

One of my favorite, and one of the most respected, reviewers of GLBTQ-themed books is Bob Lind, who reviews for Echo Magazine. He recently posted a review of my novel, The Lonely War.

In a personal note on FB, Bob told me:
I must say, much like Island Song, this was one of the more ambitious novels I have seen over the years. If the average gay novel was a jigsaw puzzle (and it is, in some ways), it would have maybe 500 pieces (with many of the pieces used and re-used in many puzzles). Your novels seem to have ten times that, and completely original.

Bob Lind's review:
Andrew Waters is a Chinese-American young man, who grew up in China, schooled by Buddhist monks. His family is forced to leave China at the start of World War II, and he enlists in the Navy, where his personality and intellect make him clash with most of his shipmates. His latent homosexuality also surfaces, and he develops a strong crush on one of the officers, who empathizes with his situation. When the ship is destroyed and the crew is taken to a Japanese P.O.W. camp, Andrew makes the difficult decision to agree to become the base commander's lover, in exchange for food and medicine needed for his shipmates - including his crush, who was attacked by a shark in abandoning the ship. He tries to keep his role a secret, using the story that he is simply cooking for the commander, as he did on the ship. But his true role is revealed, and Andrew is ostracized as a traitor by most of the men. As the war starts to draw to a close, Andrew also learns of plans that could jeopardize all of their lives.

I first became aware of Chin through his "Island Song" novel, which I thought was exceptionally creative and emotional. This is in the same vein, with complete and realistic characterizations of both the ship's crew and their captors, reinforcing the truth that nobody really "wins" in a war. Andrew is torn by his sense of honor and need to excel, now tempered by the realization that some people won't like him, no matter what he does, and further complicated by his budding sexual attraction to an officer. It's a roller coaster of conflicts, fears and desires, all rolled together in a well-written war novel you won't be able to put down. Five stars out of five.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Advice from Bookstore Owners for Authors

Writers already on Twitter may already be aware of a regular chat every Thursday called #bookmarket, where booksellers, authors and others engaged in the business of publishing discuss the ways and means of placing books in the hands of readers.

The 8/5/2010 session featured three top bookstores discussing how small press and self-published authors can work with independent bookstores to everyone’s benefit.

The following is a recap:


The first thing they all said should be engraved on everyone’s forehead by now: *Do your homework.* Don’t blitz every bookstore for a hundred-mile radius with a copy of your book and/or PR materials without any regard for what kind of books they sell. More important, you need to do your best to find out who the correct contact person is.

Tattered Cover, for example, has a staff person whose specific job is to work with local and regional authors. Some bookstores include guidelines on their websites about how they want local and regional authors to submit PR materials.

Expect any PR materials addressed to the bookstore or “Dear Bookseller” to be ignored. How often do you respond to junk mail addressed to “Dear Occupant?” Nuff said.

Don’t waste your money on postcards and bookmarks and similar tschotchkes. Booksellers are swamped by this kind of stuff from mainstream publishing. If you feel the need to send something tangible, make it unique. If you can make it something that coordinates with your book, all the better.

Speak with booksellers face-to-face whenever possible, but don’t just barge in waving your book. Call or send an email first, and ask when it would be convenient for you to drop by.

If it isn’t possible, your contact should be as personal as possible. If the bookstore has staff reviews on their website, read them to see if any of their staff likes the same kind of book you’ve written.

If you can manage to go to the bookstore in person, don’t ignore their staff. Introduce yourself, get to know them. If the store has shelf cards with staff recommendations, read them. For indie bookstores, it’s not just about selling books. It’s about relationships as well. Develop one.

Many bookstores now host and/or sponsor reading groups. Some encourage those groups to include local and regional authors. Develop a book group study guide for your book and offer it to the bookstore as not just a printed sheet but as a digital file they can place on their website for download.

Never, ever, mention Amazon, your ranking on Amazon, your reviews on Amazon--well, you get the idea. For indie bookstores, Amazon is the Great Satan. It would probably be politic not to mention Barnes & Noble, either. As for ebooks, the most diplomatic route is to mention your book has done well in that format but that you’re anxious to make it an even bigger success in print.


Be prepared. If you want a bookstore to schedule an author event for you, bring a list of contacts you’ll be getting in touch with to promote it. Vague offers to contact family and friends isn’t enough. Provide them with a current photo (*not* a snapshot) and a synopsis of your book they can place on their website and/or use in advertising.

Think of ways to be entertaining. You might get a hundred people out to hear Stephen King read from his latest, but the rest of us need to come up with something interesting to attract an audience. If you have a children’s book, think coloring pages and games. For that matter, if you have an adult novel a word game or something like it wouldn’t be a bad idea. If you have a neat hobby or field of expertise, can it be incorporated into your presentation?

Another option, which we’ve also discussed, is having more than one author at an event. If you can turn it into a readathon, maybe even raising money for a local charity, all the better.

Posters are one exception to the don’t-waste-money rule. While not every bookstore will have space to display them, the booksellers at #bookmarket said they do make nice giveaways--and should you be lucky enough to run out of books they’re a nice backup for signing, too.

Bring food. Seriously. Cupcakes are a preference. Most booksellers will offer refreshments at an author event, and if you pitch in or provide it you’ll be very popular. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. For less than $100 and a Costco membership, you can offer little croissant sandwiches, cupcakes and fruit and veggies for 20-30 people, if you don’t want to do it yourself.

As you see, it’s all really courtesy and common sense. Booksellers are becoming more flexible as the industry in general falls further into flux. It's time for us to take advantage of it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Book Review: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Penguin Books
Pages: 220

At fifty-two, Professor David Lurie is a disillusioned, womanizing, burnt out professor of Literature at a university in Cape Town. He is divorced, driven by desire, but lacking in passion. When his impulsive affair with a young student becomes known, he is stripped of his job, shunned by all who know him, and ridiculed by his ex-wife.

He makes a hasty retreat to his lesbian daughter’s, Lucy, small farm in South Africa. The visit becomes an extended stay as David struggles to find meaning in his last remaining relationship. But a violent attack from hoodlums force father and daughter to confront their strained relationship, and the equally complicated racial complexities of post-apartheid South Africa. David, in an attempt to protect his daughter, finally finds a cause to become passionate about, but will it do him, or anyone else, any good?

This story is not what I consider glbt themed, even though the main supporting character is a lesbian. There is a plot thread of David coming to grips with Lucy’s sexuality, but it is, however, a minor thread. The stronger plot threads are these two characters’ bond with each other, their relationship to the people of South Africa, and David’s dealing with his own snarled morality.

This is such a brilliant and powerful story, told with a remarkable degree of tenderness, that I couldn’t put it down. The characters are complex, compelling, and completely real. The setting is as interesting as the main characters. I’m not at all surprised that it won the 1999 Booker Prize.

Coetzee’s writing is precise and sparse. He shows rather than tells. He pulls the reader into the story to live it, rather than read about it. It is a very human story, about human frailty, mistakes, and sins. And it is all too real because there is no easy conclusion, no painless redemption. It is an honest portrayal of a “fallen” man in a brutal country who must somehow go on living.

I highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys powerful writing at its best.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I’m a semi-finalist! Not at the Gay Games, at the Great Gay Screenplay Contest

Wanted to share some good news. A few months ago I submitted two screenplays to the Great Gay Screenplay Contest held in Chicago. I was informed this morning that one of them, Simple Treasures, is a semi-finalist.

There are 15 semi-finalist out of several thousand entries, so I'm feeling pretty good about it.

I won't find out until Aug. 22 if my screenplay wins, but I'm not sure it matters. The whole point was to get my scripts noticed by producers and directors who can make them into a movie. And this contest does a bang up job of doing that with all of the semi-finalist. So win or lose, I'm getting noticed by the people in the gay movie industry who count.

It was a nice way to start the day. Okay, enough gloating, it's back to work for me. 


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Writing Tip # 20 - Idea versus Counter-Idea

Idea versus counter-idea comes from the Greeks. It is the dialectical approach to telling a story. Socrates and Plato defined a story as a three-step conversation: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The thesis is a statement of the proposition. The antithesis is the discovery of a contradiction to this proposition – the opposite. Finally, the resolution of this contradiction that necessitates a correction of the thesis is called the synthesis – the combination of the two. Lajos Egri elaborately explains this in The Art of Dramatic Writing on pages 49-50.

In a dramatized dialectial debate, thesis events echo the contradictory voices of one theme. Sequence by sequence, often scene by scene, the positive idea and its negative counter-idea argue, so to speak, back and forth. At climax one of these two voices wins and becomes the story’s controlling idea.”

The positive and negative assertions of the same idea contest back and forth through the story, building in intensity, until at the crisis they collide head-on in a last impasse. Out of this rises the story’s climax, in which one or the other idea succeeds. By following this controlling idea, every dramatic sequence and scene should argue the theme. Each subsequent sequence should escalate the argument, and both sides of the debate should be argued with equal intensity. The bottom line is that there must be continuous escalating conflict through positive and negative charges. Each character must win some and lose some.

Karl Iglesias suggests that the theme should be turned into a question rather than a premise. For instance, rather than state the premise for Romeo and Juliet as “Great love defies even death,” you should ask, “What does great love defy?” or “Can love survive even death?” and let the story reach a natural conclusion.

So if I understand this correctly, a story should swing back and forth. If for example, your story’s theme is that living a life of integrity wins in the end, you first show that integrity wins by having your protag succeed using his integrity, then show that deceit wins by having the protag lose to someone through deceit, then switching again, building in intensity each time it switches. The reader should not know which is the true central theme until the climax. It is this pulsing back and forth that gives the story its rhythm, and keeps the reader wondering how it will end.

Dramatic writing is about conflict; therefore, the point vs counterpoint approach seems to make sense. I somewhat agree that at the climax the “Idea or the Counter-Idea” must win. Yet I am not sure how that would work with an ironic ending where the protagonist wins by loosing or looses by winning, then it is more difficult to define the controlling idea.