Sunday, July 31, 2011

Feeling Old This Weekend

My husband, Herman, and I spent three days in Palm Springs looking for our dream house. We found it, but learned that the owners had accepted another bid. We’re now hoping that that bid falls through. We saw over a dozen houses in three days, but only that one was perfect. We found two others where we could see ourselves living. One needed a new kitchen and the other was out of our price range.

When we began discussing buying something that wasn’t perfect, something we would need to put lots of work and money into, the discussion to a slightly different turn. We talked about how this house we buy will hopefully be the last house we buy, the house we grow old in, the house we die in. So we don’t want to settle for second best. We want something we can happily spend our golden years in.

Herman and I are in agreement on this approach, but I find myself feeling very old while discussing golden years and the place where we will die. It’s great to plan ahead and insure our comfort and happiness, but this idea of dying in this house has me slightly depressed.

Herman and my mortality is not something I’ve often considered. Like most people, I like to secretly believe we will be the first couple that will live forever. There is a great deal of comfort, however, knowing will we spend our last years together, in comfort, and facing death together.

So this coming week we will put our current house on the market, and then go back to Palm Springs to search for another perfect dream house. I can’t wait to see it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

MISSING IN ACTION: A Will and Jay Extended Short Story

If you have been following the Will and Jay stories I've been posting from my friend and fellow writer, Alan Barker, then you are in for a treat. Alan has written an extended story with a DADT theme. Hope you enjoy!

A Will and Jay Extended Short Story by Alan Barker

Will and his partner Jay, both in their twenties, had read about the dangers faced by American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and admired the soldiers’ bravery whenever they saw reports on t v newscasts. They did not expect the war to involve them personally.

“I come home from the studio early and what do I see,” said a very surprised Will to his partner Jay, “you on the sofa with your arms wrapped around an Army guy!”

“Ssshhh…. Don’t you remember Ben, Tim’s partner? I can’t forget how anxious Tim was at Rae’s barbecue just before he went to Afghanistan,” whispered Jay between Ben’s sobs. “…and like an idiot, what did I say to him then? Will says you’ve just come back from a tour in Germany, like the stage outfit, wild nights in Berlin, fans screaming front of stage and then you’re off again, Japan or here?”

“But it must be said Jay. Tim is a special guy and I know Ben misses him loads, but surely his tour of duty ends soon and he’ll be home.

“No Will, you don’t understand. At the barbecue he asked me to give him a special hug because as he said, ‘this really brave soldier-boy is feeling nervous as my next tour is in…Afghanistan. I might not come back.’ Now I wish I had never let go of him.”

Ben raised his head from Jay’s dampened T-shirt. “I’ve just heard from the lads over there that…”

Jay continued, “Tim volunteered to go on a mission this week and has been reported ‘Missing in Action’.”

* * * * * * * *

Tim smiled as his partner Ben pointed out the ‘Welcome Home Hero’ banner which was draped across the doorway to Will and Jay’s apartment, “And I thought we were going to have a quiet weekend together, just the two of us, for the first time in months.”

Tim imagined themselves as a new married couple and wondered who would carry who over the threshold. Ben was thinking the same and as their eyes met, he gave Tim a hug.

“We will be alone. When Will and Jay heard that Zac and Alex, from your platoon, were home on leave as well, they asked if they could stay with them to give us some space, but I’m worried,” said Ben, “I remember that time in hospital when you wanted us to split up. I still feel there’s something wrong.”

“I know, Ben. I know.” said Tim remembering Ben’s visit. There was a cloud hanging over their relationship. “I’m a trained soldier, ready to tackle any situation, but allowing Ben to see my amputation, was one situation I was never prepared for.” he thought.

“You turned your head towards the wall. I knew you were crying and then you said, “I think we should part, because…man this is difficult…because…because…I can’t…”

Ben wondered at the time what Tim couldn’t or wouldn’t do: drive a car, go swimming or mountain climbing. They were both very physical men. “Oh Tim,” he thought, “is it because you can’t make love?”

Tim did not want a recurrence of those emotions. “Just sit down Ben. I don’t want us to split up, alright. But, even after all those months in rehab I still can’t…Oh Ben man …how can I tell you?”

“Tim, I’ve been your partner for three loving years and I know we’ve had problems, not to mention getting accepted as a couple by the Army, but they are there for you and for us,” said Ben trying to speak calmly, “and your C.O. is going to recommend you for promotion.”
“Ben, I know you’d do anything for me, true…. “

He paused, took a deep breath, he went over to the fridge and grabbed a few beers.
“Alright, I want to move on,” said Tim. ”I can’t forget the past, but you’re my future. We’ve got the place to ourselves. Let’s have a drink or two or three to celebrate and then have an early night.

“Sharing barracks with lots of brave lonely guys wanting their wives, girlfriends and loved ones was frustrating, I was lonely too and a little jealous of Zac and Alex being there together. On the front line, in a ditch or behind a mud wall, waiting for some action from the insurgents, I often thought of you.

Zac and Alex were so professional and yet so discreet. The men respected them for what they were; tough, brave and part of their team. Our C.O. was really cool about it. He wants to meet you. I only wish you had not been posted to another platoon who stayed here.”

As they sat on the sofa, all their emotions came into play. That physical electricity, missing for so long returned. Hands met, eyes met, lips met. Ben turned to Tim and led him to the bedroom. They laughed as they entered, for Will and Jay had tied one banner across the headboard which read ‘Lay down your arms’ and another across the full length mirror which read, ‘Soldier, do your duty’.

“Who is going to shower first? Me, you or together like we used to? Race you! Remember the first time we did in that little hotel just after we met. We got in the cubicle and couldn’t move. You couldn’t even adjust the controls. You were pressed so tightly against the tiles, that when I thought I’d reached them you said, ‘Hey man, you’re turning me on not the controls!’ That night was awesome.”

Ben moved towards Tim and as they stood staring at each other, as if it was their first time, Ben slowly took off his T-shirt. Tim looked at Ben and removed his. On their right arms, both had eagle tattoos below which were each other‘s names and their platoon colours spreading across their chest. These were part of being a soldier.

Tim found his mind buzzing with doubts. It would only take minutes to undress and reveal his wounded leg. During these minutes their relationship could end. Tim tried to look relaxed, but inside his heart was full of anxieties.

“Come on my little cub, let’s go to the bathroom and finish undressing there,” said Tim as he placed his arm around a rather surprised Ben before guiding him to the shower.

“Alright, if that’s what you want Daddy Bear!” replied Ben, grinning from ear to ear.

They reached the shower room and Ben undressed. Tim stared at him. Naked and innocent, how could he possibly tell Ben what he was really feeling?”

“Hold me Ben, just hold me.”

Together at last, in Ben’s arms he felt as if the past had never happened. The clock had turned back to when they were both complete men.

They kissed and breathed as one. Neither had shaved that day, so the friction caused by their stubble as their faces met, gave Ben a strange tingling feeling, a feeling he had missed for many months.

“Hold me tighter Ben, tighter. As I lay there wounded in that painful half-light, I thought I would never see you again.”

Tim relaxed his grip, kissed Ben’s forehead and stood there open-armed. ” Now is the time,” thought Tim, “I must do this. Oh Ben, trust me.”

Ben moved forward and undid Tim’s belt, kissing his chest and the scar from a wound he received a year earlier when he volunteered to lead his team into a supposed abandoned village.

“You go in and sort out the controls,” Tim laughed, “you can adjust mine later.”

Ben felt so happy. Life was good. Whenever they showered, water from the shower head was directed at the last one to enter the cubical. Turning to face Tim, Ben’s well directed aim fell on the empty tiles. He stood there alone.

“Come out from where you’re hiding soldier boy,” chuckled Ben, “you are back to your old self. Now let’s see, where did you used to hide? I know behind the sofa or under the table.”

This game was something that became more and more sophisticated using all sorts of locations around their own apartment. Two muscular soldiers running around naked and hiding from each other was something even Will and Jay got used to when the pair stayed with them. It was escapism at its best. The burst of passion, which always followed, was reward enough for the effort.

Ben returned to the bedroom. The door was locked.

“I know you’re in there Tim. Let me in.”


“Tim, if this is part of the game, please let me in. I’m getting cold.”

Ben found one of Will’s bathrobes and returned to the bedroom door wondering what he had done wrong. The feelings Tim had in that hospital ward returned.

“I’m sorry, Ben. I’m not the same guy you fell in love with three years ago,” came the sorrowful reply.

“But, Tim…?” Ben knew that in his heart Tim was the same guy, but deep down was concerned by the changes in his behaviour. He feared the explosion and the amputation had taken too much of a toll?

“I can’t explain, Ben. Just leave me alone. It won’t work. I want it to. I want it to, but it won’t.”
Ben sank to the floor upset and confused, but in control enough to know what he had to do. Tim was his life, the Army was their life and he decided to call on friends who might be wise to the situation. The Army had taught him not to give up in a fight and this was one, using whatever strategies possible, he vowed to win.

* * * * * * * *

Will and Jay, Zac and Ben, were enjoying a DVD when Zac’s cell-phone trembled.

“It’s Ben,” said Zac. “He wants us over to your place a.s.a.p. Tim has shut himself in the bedroom and turned the light off.”

“Tell Zac, the four of us are coming over right now,” whispered Will.

“I should have guessed,” said Zac,”being an Army medic, I’ve seen this situation occur so often in the rehab units. I’ll explain it all to you when we meet Ben. It’s something he has to learn and obviously Tim can’t face telling him.”

* * * * * * * *

“Thanks for coming over so quickly. I didn’t know who to turn to. Being away myself, I was only able to visit Tim in rehab once, so I was never involved with the process.”

“Let’s sit down. Will, Jay, make us all a coffee before we get Ben sorted out. Get him some clothes as well. He’s about your size Jay, I think. Tim is still in the bedroom?”
“Yes. He won’t speak. He wants me to go away.”

“Well,” said Alex, “that’s a no go area.”

Over coffee Zac recounted how Tim received the injury.

“Tim had volunteered to drive a special patrol vehicle into Taliban territory under cover of darkness. Radio contact was lost just before dawn, so our C.O. asked if there was anyone willing to go on a search and recover mission to find them. Tim was so popular, everyone wanted to go, even though there was the threat of snipers and i.e.d.’s, but Ben and I were chosen with three others.

“After about an hour, we found the vehicle on its side, the other guys dead and Tim in a ditch, in need of urgent medical attention. Even then we knew he would lose his foot and possibly his leg below the knee. He has made a remarkable recovery, but he needs you now more than ever.”
“But he tells me to go away. What can I do?”

“Love him, like you always have.” said Alex. “Now is not the time to turn away. Tim is angry with himself, with his helplessness and will suffer depressions. He needs stability. You must try to give him that.”

“He has lost a limb,” added Zac. “He does not feel like a whole man, the man you fell in love with, the guy so respected by his platoon mates. He will need a lot of care and support, and you must be involved.”

“Can I ask one serious question Ben?” asked Jay, “Have you …?”

“…made love you mean? I think he wanted to, but just pulled away.”

“No, Ben. That might also be a problem at the moment, but have you seen his wound?”

“No, I only saw him in rehab once and there was a cage over his leg. When I met him today, he tried to walk normally. I was very impressed, but seeing his wound does not worry me.”

“Does he know that?” asked Zac.

“I haven’t had the chance. I think he tried, but when we went to shower, I’m sure he felt ashamed. We acted as if nothing had happened, but deep down, we both knew it had.”

“Why was I so insensitive?” Ben thought, “Stood naked in front of Tim must have been agonising for him. Stripped to the waist, muscular through training, we were equal, but to see me standing on two legs ready to chase him to the shower. What was I thinking?”

“Which door is it Jay? This cannot go on.” said Zac firmly.

“Tim, those guys in our platoon risked their lives to save you and they are so worried about your relationship with Ben. In the hospital ward were other soldiers who had lost their sight, limbs and quality of life. They had no-one close to support them. You have Ben. “


“Alright, I know when you first tried to walk you fell back on the bed. So what, man? You’ve succeeded. After our leave ends do Alex and I go back and tell the guys you shut yourself in a bedroom and rejected Ben? He has not rejected you. All the guys are rooting for you man. They’ve missed your energy, leadership and honesty especially when you explained to them about Alex and me. That helped one or two others to come out. There’s no DADT in our platoon now.

The door opened and Tim appeared. “Ben, when you visited me in hospital, I hadn’t been fitted with my prosthetic foot yet. I kept my wound hidden under that frame. I was angry with you because you were a whole man. I was jealous, and ashamed. I tried to pretend it had never happened. Come into the bedroom, please just you.”

Ben was so relieved. All his doubts were swept away as he entered the bedroom. Tim lay on the bed covered by one of Will’s extravagant silk sheets. “Sit beside me Ben and hold my hand. I’m so sorry I said those things,” whispered Tim, “but you are free to go if you must.”

“Never mate!”

“We’ll see.”

“I said, ‘Never mate! I’ll prove it.”

“Tim, stand by for a surprise”, thought Ben, “although ‘stand-by’ was not quite the right word to use.”

He pulled back the sheet to reveal Tim’s lower leg. He felt Tim tighten his grip on his hand. Ben did not feel fear or disgust, only love. He slid in beside Tim, placed one finger over his lips and asked Tim to close his eyes. As he did so, Tim released his hand which allowed Ben to kneel beside the bed.

With a gentle, circular motion Ben’s finger tips began to move down every inch of Tim’s body. There was a pause at Tim’s scar which he kissed and then his fingers wandered on through the jungle of soft black hair towards the pit of Tim’s stomach. “You’re still my Daddy-bear,” thought Ben. Just below the knee, he placed both thumbs and forefingers on to the shaved pale skin, bent forward and kissed what remained of the lower limb. He felt Tim’s body relax and looking up he saw him smiling. “Thank you Ben, thank you,” said Tim, “I’m trying so hard not to cry mate.”

“There’s one more part of you I want to see, a certain prosthetic limb,” said Ben, “but that can wait until morning. You’ve so much to teach me, Tim, but we’ll get there. The lads in the platoon will be so proud of you.”

“Thank Will and Jay for the use of their apartment,” said Tim, “and give Alex and Zac a big hug from me. They saved me from hell in that awful ditch and now they’ve saved us from an even worse fate, a life without each other.”

Ben rose from the bed and gave everyone that big hug. As Will and Jay were about to leave Ben said, “I’m sure things will work out now we’ve got your support. Thank you. See you tomorrow at Rae’s.”

When Ben returned to the bedroom, Tim smiled and said, as he watched Ben undress, “The banner s says…’Soldier do your duty!’ “…and Ben did!

* * * * * * * *

Dawn broke violently. Ben felt he was being choked. As he opened his eyes, Tim’s eyes met his. They were wild, staring and empty. Army training had made them both strong, but this was an intense strength, an uncontrolled strength brought about by trauma.

“Ssshhhh, Tim. It’s Ben. It’s me.”

Ben felt that if Tim gripped his shoulder blades any harder his nails would draw blood.
“Ssshhhh … Daddy-bear Tim, chill man, chill.”

Zac had told him to use familiar terms and Tim was already in familiar surroundings. When they first met, Tim being bigger built, called Ben his ‘Cub’. In well-padded combats Ben would often snuggle up to him and say, “Hi Daddy-bear.”

Tim lay on his back staring at the ceiling. “You can still go if you want to.”

“Hey man, we’re a couple.”

“I lay there in the ditch in terrible pain, and as dawn broke I could see the bodies of the guys scattered around. I felt so weak I could hardly move. I thought of you, of us. In that bleary haze I heard voices in the distance. I was still armed. Was I to use a bullet on me or the Taliban? No, not me! You know I’m a total professional. I began to recognise the voices and then, Alex and Zac slid into the ditch. I tried so hard to cry, but I just couldn’t.

Two things you will have to get used to; the effects of trauma and the fitting of my prosthetic limb. The pain is gradually easing mate, but it’s not easy after being so active.”

“I can’t imagine.”

“No, you can’t. I want you to hop to the door.”

“Are you serious, man?”

“Just try it.”

Ben stood on one leg, hopped as far as the end of the bed, felt he was falling and put the other foot down.”

“See what I mean, I haven’t got another foot to steady me. Same as in the shower, Will and Jay have bought a special stool for me to sit on and had a bar fitted to the wall. Come on little cub, if we’re ever going to get to Rae’s barbecue, we’d better have that shower. Bet you I get there first.”…and Tim did.

* * * * * * *

Jay and Will answered the door when they arrived at Rae’s.

“Ben told me we had to wear combats, but I haven’t a clue why,” said Tim,”but why are you two in combats as well?”

“You’ll see when we go through to the garden,” chuckled Will, secretly squeezing Ben’s hand. “Thanks for the loan of your spares, we wanted to look right. Rae’s going to help us join the Reserves.”

There was a cheer as Tim stepped onto the patio. There, stood a semi-circle of the guys from his old platoon. Rae, proudly wearing his Reserves uniform, stepped forward.

“Tim, so many of these guys wanted to see you again, especially your C.O., so they asked Zac and Alex to help me organise this little reunion. How could I refuse, me being in the Reserve as well? All of you are brave soldiers. You’ve put your lives on the line every day and will be going back soon, just to make our lives safer.”

“Pleased to see you again Tim,” said his C.O., giving him a surprising hug,” you’ve always had my support in more ways than one. In my mind ‘DADT’ should stand for something else…’Do Ask…Do Tell.’ A few more of the lads in the platoon have come out since you were wounded and we have been pioneering our new slogan. We had a little trouble from some of the lads, mainly through ignorance, but all are now happy and we have become a flagship platoon, despite derisory comments from others.”

After Tim had had a time to meet and greet all his mates, a British Army captain approached him.

“I’m Paul. I was badly wounded below one knee in Afghanistan. Your C.O., Daniel, has been my strength and support for five years. He is someone special in my life. Although we don’t see each other often, I can’t imagine my life without him. You see, we married last year.“

Tim’s surprise was interrupted by Daniel’s command.

“Platoon. Attention. What is our own slogan, ladies and gents? “


“Didn’t hear that, Platoon. Louder please!”


Will and Jay, who had never ever thought of being in the military, stood straight backed, eyes front and saluted the soldiers who stood in front of them, two very proud Americans.

Based on a series of Will and Jay short stories that my friend, Alan Chin, encouraged me to develop.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Haji’s Exile gets Excellent Reviews

Haji’s Exile, my short short recently released from Dreamspinner Press, has garnished a few excellent reviews in the past week.

The most insightful review was posted at Reviews by Jessewave, where Cole gave the story a 4.75 star rating. He said in part:

The best part of this story is the beautiful prose. Alan Chin has a way of matching the prose to the story and here I often found the prose very musical, with a tempo that matched whatever action the horse is making at that time in the story — a rolling gait, or the ferocious pounding beats of stampeding horses.

Alan Chin does a wonderful job with this story in portraying the shift between the idealistic adolescent and the reasoning adult. At the same time, the story is beautifully written and offers much more than the ending of a love affair. Definitely recommended.

It also had a very nice review at Brief Encounters, They said in part:

Instead of a conventional romance, I got a story about love… There were pleasing touches in Nathan’s feelings for Yousef which burn hot and strong, like all young men… The way things work out was a still a shock. It comes during the time of a huge climactic action scene where our emotions are switched suddenly, just as that of Nathan in the story. It was powerful and affecting… There’s a lyricism in the writing, which pleased me greatly, as well as a sympathetic hero.

There were several other five star reviews on I would like to thank all the people who have taken the time to review Haji’s Exile. I’m very grateful for your kind words about my work.

Readers can download a copy of Haji’s Exile from Dreamspinner Press

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How I Became a Published Writer – Part 1 of 7

An online magazine asked me to create a seven-part history of how I became a published writer. I decided to post them here first, one per week. Here is installment #1:

How I Became a Published Writer – Part 1 of 7
Written by Alan Chin

I often hear published authors tell how they became interested in writing at a young age, and have written stories all their lives. That is not the case with me. Until my mid-thirties, I not only had no interest in writing, but I was inept at crafting English. The only thing worse than my spelling skills was my lack of knowledge regarding punctuation. In fact, it was my poor English skills that first propelled me down the road to writing novels.

You see, my career of choice back in the ‘80s was computer programming. I had worked my way up the technical ladder in a few short years. I became fluent in six different computer languages, and could create system level programs on several kinds of mainframe, mini, and PC computers.

After a successful project where I singlehandedly created the first application for people to trade stocks over the telephone while talking directly to the computer, I was offered a momentous break—a move to management. My company put me in charge of a group of twelve software engineers. I quickly found that working with people was much more rewarding than working with machines. I took to my new management career like a baby to its mother.

Six months into my new vocation, the V.P. of my division called me into his office and told me I was doing such a great job that he wanted to promote me to the next level of management and give me more staff. But, he said he couldn’t advance me because of my poor English skills. He complained that every time I wrote a report or sent an email, my English was so bad it made me look rather stupid, and he could not promote anyone who looked stupid. He suggested I take night courses to improve my writing skills.

I was not thrilled at the prospect of taking night classes while performing a fulltime job, but I knew I was going nowhere with a management career until I did. I finally found a Masters in Writing program at the University of San Francisco that only required me to spend one night a week sitting in the class room, but expected me to spend another twenty to thirty hours per week writing at home. I jumped at it, only because it was one night of classwork per week.

I had, rather foolishly, thought the course would cover proper grammar. But I soon found that college level courses focused on the techniques of writing stories, essays and poetry, and expected that students already knew the basics of spelling and grammar.

But by the time I realized that the course was not what I expected, I was hooked. What I lacked in English skills I made up for in storytelling ability. I bought some books on grammar, and worked twice as hard to come up to speed in order to keep up with the other students. Once I began writing stories for classwork, a whole new, wondrous world opened up for me. I had found a new love.

Six months after starting my course work for a Masters in Writing, my V.P. called me into his office to congratulate me on my improved writing skills. He proudly offered me a promotion to senior manager. I accepted the new position, but I was no longer interested in a management career. All I wanted to do was write stories.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: Shattered Wings by Bryan Healey

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: CreateSpace (April 29, 2011)
Pages: 249

John is confident, a bit cocky, and happy with his life. He and his lover, Charlie, are proud parents of a darling little girl. Charlie is a stay-at-home daddy while John brings home the bacon with his mid-level management position in an IT department. John is living the dream in their lovely suburban home. The only thing missing is the sheepdog.

And then an unexpected layoff shows John just how fragile a foundation his perfect life is built on. John’s search for a new job brings only emotional strain. He spirals into despair, which triggers a relapse into alcoholism, lies, and deceit. All it will take to recover his dream is a job—any job—but can he find one in this down economy before he loses everything?

I had a love/hate relationship with this novel. The story itself is simply terrific. It’s like watching a train wreck from close up, and knowing that at any moment the whole damned thing could explode, but there is nothing you can do, not even pull your eyes away. It is a gripping story, and John is a compelling character. He’s both sympathetic and pathetic at the same time, making all the wrong moves for comprehensible reasons.

This is a detailed study of a man slowly disintegrating. He keeps grasping for help, but at every turn, people turn their back on him until he is pushed beyond his endurance. It is a sad story, and bitterly real. I would love to award this tale a five-star rating, but I can’t overlook the numerous issues that annoyed me.

This story desperately needs a competent editor with a large red pen. The writing—with numerous typos, misspellings, bad punctuation, switching from past tense to present and back, and repeated phrases—make this one of the worst written books I’ve seen in print. The writing continually pulled me out of the story, and tainted an otherwise compelling read. It is the curse of self-publishing, and why I generally shy away from writers who publish their own work.

Although John’s character has significant depth, the other characters in the story have little or no depth at all. I kept wanting them to show more of themselves, but that didn’t happen. In defense of the author, this story is told by John in first person, and he is totally self absorbed through most of the story. Yet, I wanted more.

There is one other issue I’ll mention. It seems that half of the book is told in flashbacks. There is a pattern where every four or five pages the author cuts from the current storyline to give several pages of backstory. Back and forth, back and forth. My issue is that too many flashbacks kept breaking the rhythm of the current story. Normally I could overlook that, except that in this case most of these flashbacks did little or nothing to advance the storyline. They seemed to slow the story down for no reason.

My opinion is that this book is not ready for prime time. With significant editing, the rounding out of some characters and the deletion of several flashbacks, this could be a fantastic read.

Monthly mini eBooks – Call for Submissions

I received the following note on a writting list I belong to. It's from an editor in the U.K., and I thought people could use this if you're looking to publish short stories.

Monthly mini eBooks – Call for Submissions
Editor: Barbara Cardy

I am putting together 3 mini eBooks every month for publisher Constable & Robinson. Each mini eBook will comprise four short erotic stories of around 2,500 words or one longer story of 5,000 words and two shorter ones of 2,500.

The three categories are:


The story should preferably be written in the 3rd person and should grab the reader's attention in the first few sentences and hit the ground running with a jolly good plot! I would prefer unpublished stories for the time being. Twosomes, threesomes, groups, spanking, BDSM etc are all welcome subjects.

I know what follows sounds a bit pernickety, but it really does help my time management if you could stick to it as closely as possible:

Please send me a maximum of two stories per genre – i.e. 2 Heterosexual, 2 Lesbian and 2 Gay would be fine, and each story must be in a separate email so I can divide them between email folders. In the email subject box please put either Hetero, Lesbian or Gay and attach your story as a Word document in an email. The title of the word document should be the title of your story.

Use a plain text such as Arial, Calibri or Times and no text boxes or special formatting etc. as it's a bugger to get rid of! Please start at the top of the page – no need to start half way down. Put your name, address and email address, plus word count. The title of your story should appear next along with your pseudonym (if you use one) underneath that, then start the story on this first page. I will put © 2011 against the story unless you specify otherwise. You don't need to worry about double-spacing between lines as I will only have to put it back into single spacing before I print it out. All speech needs to be in double quotation marks. I don't need your bio for these eBooks.

There are no deadlines as it is an on-going project, so submit stories when you are ready.

It would be really helpful as well if you could give me a two or three sentence teaser of what the story is about. This will be used to encourage a reader to download an eBook. If you could put this just under your pseudonym that would be a good place. Put a bit of humour in it. I have pasted here a couple that I wrote to give you an idea of the sort of thing I'm after, but I'm sure you could do much better!

Silly Nathan Steele thought it would be a good idea to masturbate over Ms Harden's desk. Not only that, he had the audacity to employ the use of her vibrator. Oblivious to the CCTV camera recording his every perverted desire, he is called to her office. Confronted with the evidence he is presented with two options: the police or being on the receiving end of a good whipping...

Flower child, Saffron Miller, decides to organise a surprise party to celebrate her parents' 30th wedding anniversary. Calling in on her parent's various hippy friends, she finds them a very friendly bunch indeed! Seduced firstly by a husband and wife team, then by a two of her father's old football mates, will there will be red faces at the party...?

The fee is £25 for each 2,500 word story and £50 for a 5,000 word story. We are asking for non-exclusive world all-language rights so contributors are free to place their stories elsewhere. All successful contributors will be paid by either cheque or PayPal if in the UK or Paypal only for overseas writers. The Publisher will also need to have the option of releasing each story as an individual eBook, making each story available in audio form, both individually and as part of an anthology, and finally to include the story in a larger print anthology. It is not certain at this stage that any of these options will be taken, but by emailing a story to me you are consenting to any or all of these possibilities. It is far from clear at this stage if it will be possible to make much if any money from any of the options outlined above, but should we succeed, it ought to be possible to increase the fee for future stories.

I very much look forward to receiving your stories. Please email them to me at barbara.cardy @ (remove spaces either side of the `@')

Many thanks again,


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Walking Away

For the last week I’ve not been writing. This is the first time in seven years that I’ve gone this long without working on a work in progress. And I must say, I’m experiencing all the symptoms of withdrawal. But I can’t decide whether it’s the lack of writing or the reason behind it that has my guts tied in knots.

You see, I’ve been spending my time painting and fixing up my house in order to put it on the market. Herman and I have decided to move to a warmer climate—the Palm Springs area. I’m actually quite jazzed about living in PS, but as I fix up this old house I’ve been living in for thirty years, the memories keep flooding back.

I’m finding that it’s not easy to walk away from half a life of memories. I’ve grown comfortable here. Most of the improvements to the house Herman and I installed together. We made this place our own. I hardly have any memories of the time before I first moved here. In fact, this house spans two long-term relationships for me.

But, as with most of life, there is the other side of the coin. Now that we’ve decided to move, I’m feeling anxious. I crave the change and can’t wait to be settled into a new house that I haven’t even laid eyes on yet. The human mind is a funny and fickle thing indeed.

In a few days time I’ll finish all the painting and scrubbing and repairs, and I’ll return to writing. And I’ll look forward to the time at the end of this month when we travel to Palm Springs to search for a new dream house, and a new dream. I anticipate frequent disruptions from writing for the rest of the year as we search, find, and move to a new location.

If I were a praying man, I would be on my knees asking that we are installed in our new house, our new life, by the end of this year. Not too much to ask, I’m thinking.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review: QUEER: The Ultimate LGBT Guide For Teens

QUEER: The Ultimate LGBT Guide For Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Zest Books
Pages: 208

“It Gets Better” is a message that has wormed its way into mainstream media as a reaction to bullying and violence toward gay teens. And although this is a necessary message for young people who sexually identify as queer, or think they might be, there is not a lot of information out there telling them how to make it better. Until now.

This Queer 101 manual gives accessible and real-world advice, geared to teens, on a myriad of topics including:
- how to determine if you are queer, or are just curious,
- coming out to family and friends,
- navigating social situations and dating,
- standing up for your rights,
- information about safe sex,
- overcoming homophobia.

The authors, Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke, draw from their personal experience and professional resources to present unflappable support and guidance to young people. Queer is a humorous, engaging and honest guide that can help teens understand what it means to be queer. It offers information focused on health, community, safety, political issues, and queer history. The authors back it all up with a reading resources list.

I believe this is a fabulous resource for any teen. I remember, over forty years ago, feeling that I was the only queer in my school. And if there were others, I didn’t have a clue how to find them. The feelings of loneliness, shame, and confusion often became overwhelming. I wish I could have had this little gem of compassionate intelligence to help me along that path of discovering the fabulous, perplexing, often times scary, world that is queer life.

I believe this is a must read for all teens who identify as gay/lesbian, and also for the parents of these special young people. I think this book should be taught in high schools across the country. But don’t wait for that to happen. Grab a copy or two and give them to young people and parents who can benefit.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Print Book Sales Continue to Plummet

The information below was gathered via the Sisters in Crime listserve. I'm not so sure that the lesbian or gay publishing realm is actually represented here. I think PW tends to survey big press/NY-type publishing, but I have a hunch that the data about print books and e-books is somewhat similar. Here are the figures for the first half of 2001:
Sales of print books dropped 10.2%.
Mass market paperbacks took the biggest hit, decreasing 26.6%. Hardcovers lost 9.5%. Trade pb were down 6.8%.
Adult fiction overall fell 25.7%. Adult nonfiction dropped 2.7%.
Juvenile fiction fell 7.4% and juvenile nonfiction sunk 6.7%.
E-book sales have continued to rise, so it's not as if the above figures indicate people are buying and reading fewer books. PW notes that "mass market paperbacks' most popular genres -- romance, mystery, and science/fantasy -- are moving rapidly to digital," which accounts in part
for the decline in print sales.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: Harlan’s Race by Patricia Nell Warren

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Wildcat Press
Pages: 325

Years after the shooting death of Billy Sive, Harlan Brown is faced with the arduous task of coming to terms with the loss of his lover. While trying to be a father to Billy’s son, Vince Matti (Billy’s best friend) drifts back into Harlan’s life, and the two struggle to form a troubled relationship. Each person in Harlan’s life—Billy’s son, Vince, Billy’s Father—keeps Harlan tied to his tragic past.

Then the unthinkable happens. Another shooting at another race, followed by a note from the shooter letting Harlan know that the shooter is stalking him. Harlan hires two gay, Rambo-like bodyguards, and their investigation reveals that the killer pursuing Harlan was also involved with Billy’s murder. Harlan goes into hiding, but finds himself constantly looking over his shoulder, waiting for the next bullet.

If all this weren’t bad enough for Harlan, it’s the late ‘70s and he finds that many of his friends are dying of a mysterious new disease that is affecting gay men. Caught between a tragic past that won’t let go of him and a future that holds only death and sorrow, Harlan Brown must find a way to survive the violence and challenges of changing times.

Harlan’s Race is Patricia Nell Warren’s long awaited sequel to The Front Runner.
The author mentions in the forward that she intends to write a third installment in the story featuring Falcon, Billy’s son, when he reaches his teens. Harlan’s Race is a dark bridge between Billy’s and Falcon’s stories.

This is a very dark and moody story. With Billy’s death haunting Harlan, and nothing to look forward to but the AIDS epidemic, there is little to feel good about here. The plot follows Harlan, Vince and others, as they all seem to self-destruct after Billy’s death.

Although the book is superbly written, I closed the book feeling disappointed. This is a murder mystery where the stalker/murderer is revealed at the end, and it is meant to be a shocking disclosure. I, however, figured out who the murderer was halfway through the story, so the ending fell flat for me. Not only was it flat, much of the plot felt too contrived to be believable. Although I must say that there were moments in the romantic bond between Harlan and Vince that were touching and rang true.

Although Harlan’s Race can be read without reading The Front Runner, I think that would be a mistake. Harlan’s character is well developed, but many of the supporting cast are not, and one needs to read TFR as background to these characters in order to fully appreciate the depth of this story.

I have enjoyed reading several Patricia Nell Warren books and think she is a terrific talent, but Harlan’s Race is not a book I can highly recommend. I am, however, looking forward to reading the third book in the series, Billy’s Boy.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My short story, Haji's Exile is now available

Haji’s Exile, a short story by Alan Chin

This is a bittersweet coming out tale that follows a young rancher training his new horse for a handicap race. Like many of my stories, it is a yarn of two different cultures coming together, teaching each other, supporting each other, and eventually loving each other. I originally wrote this story to be a give-a-way on my website, but then Dreamspinner Press suggested I let them publish it, and I did. You can download the entire story, thirty-three pages, at:

Nathan has cared for horses all his life, but Haji is the first he’ll train on his own. When the Arabian stallion arrives at the Bitter Coffee ranch, Nathan thinks he is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. And then he lays eyes on Haji’s handler, Yousef. Nathan has much to learn about horses, about pride, and about love, but with the ranch’s hopes riding on Haji, he’ll also learn that all things have their price.

To an owl or an eagle or even the lark, man must seem a rather pitiful and forlorn creature; he is condemned to crawl the earth alongside only two friends. The dog and the horse are the only exceptions to man’s universal unpopularity. Man points with pride at these two contrarians and naively believes that both are equally proud to call him friend. “Look at my two companions,” says man, “they are dumb, yet loyal.” I have always maintained that they are tolerant at best, and if man didn’t feed them, they would quickly join ranks with the majority.

I have nevertheless depended on the tolerance of horses and dogs since my childhood. I believe with all my fiber that until a man has loved an animal, a large part of his soul remains unawakened. Even now at my advanced age if I were deprived of the gratification of caring for either dog or horse, I would lose all that I hold dear. I should feel as adrift as a Muslim who had lost touch with Allah.

Horses in particular have been as much a part of my history as breathing. I define every phase of my life by which horse I owned then, or ones my father owned. Some were intelligent, some valiant, while others were rogues. None were alike. Some won the big handicap races and some won the smaller unimportant races. My family’s red and blue colors have swept past grandstands from Santa Anita to Bay Meadows. Some horses my father brought from the Eastern Seaboard, where old money and long bloodlines defined the sport. But one horse my father brought all the way from North Africa.

That stallion’s name was Haji.

When he came to the Bitter Coffee ranch, I was a straw-haired boy who had recently graduated high school, with a lanky body and wide, blue eyes. He was an Arabian stallion, part royalty and part desert whirlwind. I was awed by his self-possession, and I couldn’t help wondering what he thought of me.

He arrived at daybreak, descending the ramp from a two-horse trailer with the slow and dignified steps of Bonaparte in exile. With his head held high and nostrils flaring, he breathed the thin air of the Nevada high desert for the first time. Like me, he was a bit slender in the chest, but unlike me, he had strong legs as clean as limestone.

Sword Bearer, out of Cairo, had sired him, and noble blood flowed through his arrogant veins.

He was a sorrel, and his reddish coat gave off a golden sheen in the strong morning sunlight. Once his hooves stood on solid earth, his body shivered and his lungs let out a rush of air, as if letting me know he craved the freedom of open space again after being cramped in a ship’s hold and then in that trailer for so many thousands of miles. I heard a ring of certain gratitude in his undulant murmur.

Then I laid eyes on Haji’s handler. He had made the long voyage with the horse. The dawn’s rays lent his flowing white robes and tarboosh a shimmering orange-yellow hue, and I found myself momentarily stunned with a frozen gaze. Was it the splendor of the light reflecting off his flowing gown that dazzled me, or simply that this young man would wear a dress in broad daylight? Or could it have been his face, that porcelain-smooth skin the warm color of creamed coffee, accented by pitch-black eyebrows? His coloring was similar to the Mexican ranch hands who worked for my father and yet somehow softer. Whatever the cause, my compulsively chattering mind gave pause, and I was mentally whisked into a space of pure silence, broken only by the pulse beating at my temples.

My father walked to the thoroughbred and held the animal’s head steady, gazing into those large moist eyes. It was clear to me that the horse knew men. In his three short years, he had probably been around more men than his own kind, and from the bold stare he gave my father, I sensed that Haji understood that men were there to serve him, that we were his servants.

A tremor ran through the stallion, and he grew impatient. He shook his head free of my father’s grasp, bent the sleek bow of his neck, and kicked at the ground with a hoof. I instinctively knew that it was not that my father was a stranger but that Haji didn’t trust a man who did not smell of the earth. Even though my father owned a seven thousand acre ranch, he was a businessman and spent his time in his office or traveling.

My father stepped to the handler and laid a hand on his shoulder. “You must be Yousef. Welcome to the Bitter Coffee. Nathan will show you to your quarters. Come up to the house for breakfast after you’re settled.”

“Yousef,” I repeated in my head several times as I moved forward and grasped Haji’s halter. I felt foolishly happy at how the sound of it tumbled through my head. The stallion did not flinch at my touch, and as he took in my smell, he blew a snort into my straw-colored hair to warn me he felt nervous. I laughed, a low gentle sound which seemed to set him at ease.

The handler pulled a carpetbag from the horse trailer and stood beside me. As I glanced into Yousef’s cautious eyes, I inhaled his spicy fragrance, a mixture of horse and something else I could not identify, something vaguely like toasted sugar.

I tugged at the halter and both Haji and Yousef followed, flanking me all the way to the stables where I had already prepared the stallion’s stall. Haji stared straight ahead, glancing neither to one side or the other as if he were walking alone, like abdicated royalty, and we were merely servants trailing in his wake. He must have felt forlorn in this country of different sights and smells. It would be my job to manage him, and that included making him comfortable in this new environment. I felt much pride in that. Haji was my first horse to train. All my life I had cared for horses, learning their needs and habits, but always under the guidance of the foreman until now. Because of financial hardships, my father had let the foreman go. Haji was my responsibility, and Yousef would answer to me.

I could tell the stallion found the stall to his liking. The stable harbored a dozen other horses in a long row of stalls, but Haji’s quarters were separate from the others and twice as large.

Yousef seemed equally pleased with his own quarters next to the tack room, and though he didn’t say a word, he seemed surprised that he was given a room to himself. When he slid the tarboosh from his head, I realized he was much younger than I had first thought. I now guessed he was only a few years older than me, perhaps twenty, twenty-one at the most. And right then, he looked far more beautiful than moments before and seemed in desperate need of a friend.

I told him my name: Nathan. He repeated it twice and told me his name in broken English: Yousef Ruta. I knew then that it would be my job to teach him how to speak my language, which would be no small task. With hands waving and pointing to my own pants and shirt, I indicated he should change into more suitable work clothes and join me for breakfast at the house. It took several attempts, but he finally smiled and began to pull the white robe over his head. Much as I wanted to stay and see if the rest of his skin had the same warm coloring as his face, I turned and hurried out, giving him his privacy.

Later, after Yousef had changed into working clothes which included a shirt with flaps that hung to his knees and we had feasted on flapjacks, Yousef and I returned to Haji’s stall. While Yousef separated the good straw on the floor from the straw already soiled with urine and manure, I began to brush the stallion with clean, even strokes from mane to tail. As I worked, I felt anger rising within Haji, but I was not prepared when he bent his neck around and gripped my arm above the elbow with his teeth, biting down with enough force to make me yelp before flinging me against the wall.

I crumpled to the ground and lay in the trampled bedding for a moment, looking up into Yousef’s dark eyes. A wave of shame washed through me. I scrambled to my feet and marched to the tack room, selecting a riding crop that I had never needed before now.

I approached the stallion with a brush in one hand, the crop in the other. I spoke to him in soothing tones, telling him that he might have Sword Bearer’s blood, but I had a whip and I knew how to use it.

I began to brush him again while continuing to use soothing tones. But once more, I felt his anger swell. His hooves stomped, and his head turned with teeth bared. This time, however, I was expecting him. I struck his muzzle with the whip, hard and without mercy. I think he was more startled by the act than by the pain. The alchemy of his pride transformed the pain to rage that must have blinded him. He tried to bite again, and I struck his soft muzzle with all the force I could muster. He tried to whirl away from me but Yousef jumped to help and we held him firm. He reared upward, cutting the air with his hooves. Plunging, he felt my crop bite his muzzle again and again.

At that point, Yousef pushed me back toward the far wall and began to sooth the horse with caressing hands. The stallion slowly calmed under his touch.

When Haji became composed, Yousef lifted my brush from where it had fallen and began to brush Haji’s withers with a kind of intimate knowledge of how this horse wanted to be treated: that is, without any sense of possession.

I felt the sting of resentment, but then, more slowly, comprehension took its place.

Yousef waved me over. With he on one side of Haji and me on the other, I mimicked his strokes with my bare hands. The horse now accepted the soothing touch of my hands. Across the horse’s back, Yousef smiled at me in a way that made my stomach do a slow somersault.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cover Art for my first novella, Simple Treasures

Please help me decide which is the best cover for my novella, Simple Treasures.

Simple Treasure Blurb

Newly released from a mental institution, Simple’s first job is caring for Emmett, a crusty drunkard dying of cancer on a ranch in Utah. Simple’s first fragile friendship is with Emmett’s grandson Jude, a gay youth in Gothic drag who gets nothing but grief from his grandfather. In an attempt to help both men, Simple, a Shoshone Indian, decides to perform a ceremony that will save Emmett by transferring his spirit into the body of a falcon.

Working to capture a falcon will bring Emmett and Jude closer as Jude and Simple’s growing love for each other blossoms, but all is not well. When the ranch, Jude’s future, and Simple’s happiness are threatened, more than Emmett’s spirit faces a bleak future.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Short Story Review: Song On The Sand by Ruth Sims

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Pubisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Pages: 19

Tony Dalby is a wheelchair-bound man living his twilight years in a convalescent home. In his youth he had been a Broadway actor/dancer. Now he is a bitter, self-centered, irascible, old man with nothing to look forward to. He keeps his life history in a scrapbook—grainy photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, keepsakes. The staff at the home try to get him to stand, to walk, but he hasn’t the heart to even try during his therapy sessions.

But then Tony notices a sexy young man who shows up daily to visit Jesse, the victim of an accident that has left him a vegetable. After several days of admiring the young man from a distance, a chance encounter allows Tony to meet this young man, whose name is, Drew. Tony discovers that Drew and Jesse are lovers.

Driven to impress young Drew, Tony puts all his heart and soul into his therapy sessions, and over time gets to the point where he can walk with the help of only a cane. But then, for the first time in ages, he begins to think about someone other than himself. He tries to help Drew’s lover recover. As it turns out, Jesse and Tony had both acted in the musical, La Cage Aux Folles. This thin thread, they soon discover, has the power to turn tragedy into an unexpected joy.

Ruth Sims is one of my favorite writers, and once again she has managed to impress. This is a bittersweet tale of finding courage and compassion. It is beautifully written, almost flawless in its execution. The main character is completely believable, and lures the reader into his narrow view of the world, but then lets his world expand, giving both the character and the story greater depth.

Often times I can see where a story is going long before the last page, but throughout this tale I kept wondering how the author could possibly wrap up all these threads. Sim’s did so in a way that was both surprising and delightful. When I finished the last page, I sat in silence for a rather long time, not analyzing what I had read, but simply feeling the wonderful emotions that this story evoked.

Ruth Sims is a huge talent. And Song On The Sand is a little gem that I highly recommend to all readers.

For more information about this story or author, go to