Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Review: Two People by Donald Windham

Forest and his wife are two Americans traveling through Europe on an extended vacation. The longer they travel, the more they bicker over the smallest issues, and by the time they arrive in Rome, their frustrations with each other have reached the breaking point. The wife decides to fly back to New York, leaving Forest to share an apartment with a long-time friend, Robert, who happens to be gay.

Robert has a taste for young Roman boys and frequently picks up hustlers who hang out at the Spanish Steps. Robert explains to Forest that the hustlers are not gay, but have no qualms about earning a little spending money in bed -- a harmless pastime that proves fun for the man and profitable for the boys. Forest is intrigued by the idea, and it is at the Spanish Steps, while accompanying Robert on one of his boy hunts, that Forest first sees a dark-haired beauty, Marcello.

Marcello is forced to work for his father without pay, which means he has no money to properly entertain the girl he has a crush on. He becomes desperate not only to earn money, but also to somehow get out from under his dominating father and be his own man.

Much to his surprise, Forest finds himself attracted to Marcello, and begins to pay him to come to his bed on a weekly basis. As the two face their growing attraction, they must also keep their business arrangement secret, not only from Marcello’s family, but also from his girlfriend’s family.

The deeper Forest falls in love with the young Roman, the more frequent their meetings become, and the more money Marcello earns. Thus, the boy is able to spend more time and money wooing his girl, which allows the young couple to fall deeply in love. Forest and Marcello become dependant on each other, and the more they do, the more Forest pulls away from his wife, and the more Marcello pulls away from his father. But of course, there is no way to resolve this kind of relationship without someone losing what he most cherishes.

Two People is a beautiful novel. It is about passion, healing, trust, finding love in unexpected places, and the value of family. And the title, Two People, not only refers to the two main characters, but also indicates the two different cultures and the cultural differences these lovers must overcome.

Donald Windham writes characters that are richly drawn. Forest’s loneliness is revealed slowly through letters and phone conversations with his wife. He's a broken man haunted by a new and fresh kind of love that he never thought possible. He cannot even call it love, but he also cannot stand the time he is separated from the young man.
Marcello is a sensitive, caring soul, not at all like the other slick hustlers who are out to take whatever they can get, and although he has no deep romantic feelings for Forest, he loves spending time with the man, who treats him so well.

Just as important as the human characters is the city in which the story is set, Rome. I have spent much time in this magical city, and Windham’s descriptions took me right back to the narrow winding alleys, the colorful piazzas, the sidewalk cafes and crumbling monuments. He goes beyond a mere travelogue and really captures the spirit of the city and the culture.

The story very much reminds me of Tomas Mann’s Death In Venice, both in terms of story and style of writing, however, in Windham’s tale the lover’s relationship becomes much more intimate, and of course, to my way of thinking, the ending is much more satisfying. I was completely enchanted by this novel, and I look forward to reading more from Donald Windham.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays from Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hi everyone. Herman and I have been on the road for two weeks now, and are kicking back in sunny, warm Chiang Mai, Thailand. I'm writing every day, and we are also seeing the city on foot, visiting temples, markets, resturants and other spots with local color.

This is our sixth trip to Chiang Mai, and needless to say, we love it here. It's as laid back as anywhere in Thailand, and almost everything interesting is within walking distance.

It's peak season now with hotels and guest houses filling with holiday travelers from around the world. You wouldn't know that tourisum is down fourty percent.

Young girls performing at the Sunday walking street market.

Alan supporting the "girls". Yes, drag queens are usually present at any festive gathering in the urban centers of Thailand.

Every Sunday, people from all the surrounding villages come into the old section of town to sell their handmade goods. They block off several streets and have a night market with food, music, and lots of handicrafts. These are just a couple of pictures from last Sunday's street fair. Hope you enjoy them. To see more pictures and read about our travels over the next four and a half months, check out:

http://hermanandalan.blogspot.com/ where we are keeping a travel blog.
Chiang Mai time:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Island Song gets a 5 Star Review from noted Writer Josh Aterovis

Reviewed by Josh Aterovis

Island Song is a beautiful novel. Technically, this book would probably be categorized as a romance novel, but it's really so much more. Island Song is about loss, healing, finding love in unexpected places, leaving the world a better place when we're gone... and the sacrifices we sometimes have to make to achieve that.

First-time-author Alan Chin writes characters that are richly drawn. Garrett's pain is revealed slowly through flashbacks and dreams. He's a broken man haunted by the love of his life, but he has to let go in order to move on. Songoree is a sensitive, sweet soul. While he doesn't quite fit in with his rough-and-tumble surfer buddies, he's accepted as one of the gang as long as he sticks to the straight and narrow.

Even the secondary characters are vivid: Grandfather, Audrey, Mother Kamamalu, Hap. Each stands on their own as fully realized personalities, adding depth and dimension to an already strong story. Just as important as the human characters is the island upon which the story is set, Hawaii. While Chin does a fantastic job of recreating the lush, exotic feel of the island, he goes beyond a mere travelogue and really captures the spirit of the island.

The book is written in the present tense, an unusual approach these days. It took me a while to get into the rhythm, but once I did, the style really works. It creates a sense of urgency and immediacy that serves the story well. I was completely enchanted by this novel, and I look forward to more from Alan Chin.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Interview with Elizabeth Burton, Executive Editor of Zumaya Boundless, a new GLTB publishing imprint.

Last year, during a time when most traditional publishers were scaling back their GLTB offerings or eliminating their GLTB titles altogether, a small independent publisher based in Austin, Texas decided to fill that growing void. Not only did Zumaya Publications decide to publish quality books with GLTB content, but they have recently formed an imprint, named Zumaya Boundless, that focuses exclusively on publishing superior GLTB content books.
Earlier this week, I caught up with Elizabeth Burton, the Executive Editor and driving force behind Zumaya Publications, and she agreed to answer a few interview questions:

Q: In today’s tough publishing world, why did Zumaya Publishing decide to create a GLTB imprint?
Liz: I had noticed that much of the existing GLBT literature seemed to be highly focused on erotica. That could simply be a misconception on my part because that's what the retailers choose to offer, but then I signed Dorien Grey to continue his Dick Hardesty mysteries after his previous publisher opted to drop the series. I had already published a historical romance of his, a Western titled Calico, and as we talked he agreed with me that there could be a large untapped market in both the community and the world at large for fiction that, to put it badly, had GLBT characters but wasn't GLBT fiction.
It happened that about that same time a lovely literary lesbian romance I had edited for a client became available--Susan Brooks's She's the Girl--so since I don't believe in coincidence I chose to interpret that as a hint I should pursue the idea and Boundless was born.

Q: What are Zumaya’s goals regarding the Boundless imprint?
Liz: The same as for all our imprints: publishing excellent books by talented authors. As an adjunct, we also give those authors a place to submit works that may not have been considered suitable for the mainstream GLBT presses but that have clear value as literary works. If, in the process, we manage to overcome a bit of prejudice here and there, so much the better.

Q: How does Zumaya Boundless and Zumaya authors reach out to the GLBT community to sell books?
Liz: We don't. We market Boundless books the same way we do any other: to readers. The authors themselves do a fantastic job of marketing to the community; our goal is to expand their efforts to the world of readers at large. That we are actually achieving that seems possible, as we have a number of reviewers who wouldn't have ordinarily read a GLBT book who read Boundless and say how very much they enjoy the experience.

Q: How many GLBT titles per year does Zumaya Boundless plan to publish?
Liz: Right now, we're doing about four or five new titles a year; we're limited by the fact Zumaya as a whole is still a one-woman show.

Q: Who are some of Boundless’s top selling authors and what type of stories do they write?
Liz: Dorien Grey, with his large base of ardent fans, is our second-best selling author company wide--the top place goes to one of our Zumaya Enigma mystery writers who does a fantastic job marketing to her niche readers. Still, it's close. However, all of our Boundless people are doing quite well, and I expect them to do even better as their fan base grows and more people learn just how good they are.

Q: Has any of the Boundless authors won any literary awards?
Liz: Dorien has been nominated for the Lambda four times, and last year James Bennett (Unrequited) was also. Susan Brooks won the 2004 DIY Award for Fiction when her book was first self-published. Unfortunately, there's a nasty bias against digitally printed books that precludes us from having a chance at any of the major genre awards, but we plan to be more active submitting titles to those that welcome us: the IPPY and the ForeWord Book Award.

Q: With so many talented gay and lesbian writers today, why is it so difficult for many of them to get published?
Liz: Well, first of all, it's hard for any writer to get published, which is why the subsidy presses like Lulu and iUniverse are doing so well. People get frustrated and decide they'll just do it themselves. But I also suspect there's a perception within the non-GLBT publishing world that only gays and lesbians will read the books, which means there's not a big enough market. Zumaya disagrees, and so far the results seem to support our opinion.

Q: What advice can you give gay and lesbian writers who are trying to become published authors?
Liz: The same advice I give any writer: learn your craft, polish your self-editing skills, research before you query publishers so you submit to the ones most likely to want your work and read their guidelines.

Q: Other than GLTB titles, what other types of books does Zumaya publish?
Liz: In fiction, just about everything but erotica. In nonfiction, I tend to go with whatever looks interesting, although we do have one established series about true hauntings.

Q: With the economy in a tailspin this holiday season, is Zumaya Boundless or Zumaya Publishing doing any special promotional sales?
Liz: Well, first I think the pundits need to get out more, because both Black Friday and Cyber Monday indicated the public at large isn't nearly as scared to shop as they kept insisting. However, we're having our own little sale at our online bookstore: Novel Ideas from Zumaya (http://www.novelideaszumaya.com). From now through December 12 we're offering a 30% discount and free shipping on the titles offered, which will be rotated every few days. It will be sort of like the weather here in Texas, if you don't see anything you like, check back tomorrow.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges/opportunities for GLBT publishing in the future?
Liz: The challenge is the same everywhere--keeping on top of what people want and providing it. The number of new books published every year increases steadily, and the varieties of alternatives to reading do as well. Publishers have to be prepared to use whatever tools are available to encourage people to pick up a book instead of the Wii remote.

I would like to thank Liz Burton for taking the time to share her thoughts and experience with us. I would also like to commend her work in creating a place where talented gay and lesbian authors can see their work published.

To find out more about Zumaya Publications or browse the books available at Zumaya, please visit: http://www.zumayapublications.com

To take advantage of the Boundless holiday sale please visit:

To receive the Boundless Newsletter, send an email to: News@zumayaboundless.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zumaya Publications offers a 30% off Holiday Sale

With the holidays just around the corner, Zumaya Publications wants to find a way to give their customers a holiday treat. Since books are the perfect holiday gift, they've arranged with all their GLTB authors to offer special holiday discounts to help you cut your shopping expenses.

Zumaya, the publisher of my recent title, Island Song, is offering a 30% discount with free shipping. Other talented Zumaya authors include, Dorien Grey, Kage Alan, Susan Brooks and James Bennett.

What could be easier than holiday shopping without leaving your chair? You might even want to order a book ortwo for yourself. To purchase my book or any of the GLBT Zumaya titles, go to:

You can pay by check or PayPal...which accepts any credit card: you don't have to be a PayPal member to order.)

Again, thank you for your interest in my blogs and my book.

Have wonderful holiday season!

Best Regards,
Alan Chin

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review of Mahu Fire By Neil S. Plakcy

Kimo Kanapa’aka is a detective working a murder investigation and a series of arsons targeting GLBT owned businesses on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. He is thrust into the center of the investigation after he and his family attend a fundraiser for gay marriage proponents that is firebombed. Kimo is the perfect candidate to lead the bombing investigation because he is gay and has the support of the gay community, not to mention his personal motives: whoever bombed the fundraiser put his family at risk, and you don’t screw with a Hawaiian’s family, especially when he carries a loaded gun…
The deeper into the investigation Kimo crawls, the more the evidence seems to connect the bombings with the other murder and arson crimes. Could someone be targeting the whole GLBT community, and if so, what could they hope to gain? Or is Kimo simply grasping at straws because there is so little evidence to go by? When he teams up with a hunky fireman to investigate the fire bombings, he finds much more than he bargained for.

This topical story couldn’t have come out at a better time in. When the whole GLBT community is taking to the streets over gay marriage, this story pits equal marriage rights at the core of this plot.
As for a mystery, the plot is a bit too simplistic, readers know who done it very early in the story, but this story is much more than a mystery. It is a rather convincing romance, where both lovers bring issues and frustrations to the table and have to work through them. The story is a glimpse into a sometimes funny, sometimes sexy, sometimes sad struggle of two gay men trying to forge a relationship while caught in a deadly game with murders that show no mercy.
Watching Kimo juggle his career responsibility, his family obligations, and his sexual needs felt very real. Although I’m not a fan of detective stories, I found this read rather interesting because I could identify with Kimo’s struggle to blend his sexuality into his professional and family life. It was the main character’s love story and his relationship to his family, rather than the plot, that kept me turning pages.
If you like a well written detective story, and the idea of a dark skinned, hunky, Hawaiian surfer snapping the cuffs on you ups your heart rate, then by all means, this will be an enjoyable read.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I wanted to share with everyone a 5 star review of my novel, Island Song, that Bob Lind wrote for Echo Magazine:


by Alan Chin
(Zumaya Publications, September 2008, $15.99 softcover)

As Garrett Davidson arrives on the remote Hawaiian island, he is a man in desperate need of the restorative power that a simple life of seclusion and thought can provide. Far from the fast-track corporate life he lost in San Francisco, along with the love of his life to the devastating effects of AIDS, Garrett intends to honor Marc's memory by keeping his promise to document their lives together in a book. The house offered for rent on the bay seems perfect for that purpose, but it comes with an additional feature: Songoree, a local 20 year old who will cook his meals and clean for him during his stay. Garrett sees Song arrive each day, walking with a pretty young Hawaiian girl who then turns back home, but can't help but become fascinated by the young man. Despite some initial awkwardness, Garrett and Song become good friends, and the older man is also fascinated by Song's grandfather, who is the island's shaman or religious leader. The older man seems to sense Garrett's loneliness and sorrow, and provides advice that enlightens him to a level he never thought possible.

Billed as a paranormal, gay romance novel, this promising author's first novel is actually much more than any of those parts, but a truly outstanding, well-written character-driven story about life, love, beliefs, attitudes, and an eye-opening look at how we choose to deal with each of those issues. The erotic content is very minor and not at all distracting, and the story is a refreshingly original page-turner of a masterpiece that I enjoyed immensely. Five bold stars out of five!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The final email from the Executive Committee members of the No on Prop 8 campaign.

The following is the final email from the Executive Committee members of the No on Prop 8 campaign. There were dozens of organizations throughout California that served as partners for the campaign.

We had hoped never to have to write this email.

Sadly, fueled by misinformation, distortions and lies, millions of voters went to the polls yesterday and said YES to bigotry, YES to discrimination, YES to second-class status for same-sex couples.

And while the election was close, and millions of votes still remain uncounted, is has become apparent that we lost.

There is no question this defeat is hard.

Thousands of people have poured their talents, their time, their resources and their hearts into this struggle for freedom and this fight to have their relationships treated equally. Much has been sacrificed in this struggle.

While we knew the odds for success were not with us, we believed Californians could be the first in the nation to defeat the injustice of discriminatory measures like Proposition 8.

And while victory is not ours this day, we know that because of the work done here; freedom, fairness and equality will be ours someday. Just look at far we have come in a few decades.

Up until 1974 same-sex intimacy was a crime in California. There wasn't single law recognizing the relationships of same-sex couples until 1984 - passed by the Berkeley School District. San Francisco did not pass domestic-partner protections until 1990, the state of California following in 2005. And in 2000, Proposition 22 passed with a 23% majority.

Today, we fought to retain our right to marry and millions of Californians stood with us. Over the course of this campaign everyday Californians and their friends, neighbors and families built a civil rights campaign unequalled in California history.

You raised more money than anyone believed possible for an LGBT civil rights campaign. You reached out to family and friends in record numbers-helping hundreds of thousands of Californians understand what the LGBT civil rights struggle is really about. You built the largest grassroots and volunteer network that has ever been built - a coalition that will continue to fight until all people are equal. And you made the case to the people of California and to the rest of the world that discrimination - in any form - is unfair and wrong.

We are humbled by the courage, dignity and commitment displayed by all who fought this historic battle.

Victory was not ours today. But the struggle for equality is not over.

Because of the struggle fought here in California - fought so incredibly well by the people in this state who love freedom and justice - our fight for full civil rights will continue.

Activist and writer Anne Lamott writes, "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up."

We stand together, knowing... our dawn will come.

Dr. Delores A. Jacobs, CEOCenter Advocacy Project

Lorri L. Jean, CEOL.A. Gay and Lesbian Center

Kate Kendell, Executive DirectorNational Center for Lesbian Rights

Geoff Kors, Executive DirectorNational Center for Lesbian Rights

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book Review of Angel Land By Victor Banis

Victor Banis takes the reader into the future, late in the 21st Century, when the United States has disintegrated into territories ruled by Fundamental Christians. Catholics, Baptists and Jews are registered as heretics, and gays are herded into walled ghettos that are reminiscent of the Jewish slums of Nazi Germany. In this setting, Harvey Milk Walton, a young gay man on the run from the religious authorities, finds that his only option to escape execution is to hide in the gay ghetto, but he soon finds himself jumping from the frying pan into the fire, because the ghetto holds its own lethal threat: the Sept virus. Sept is the seventh and deadliest mutation of the AIDS virus of the Twentieth Century, but unlike AIDS, no one is exactly sure how Sept is transmitted, which makes it all the more frightening.
In a crumbling totalitarian society, where evil masquerades as piety, gay people are cut off from the rest of humanity and dying of the Sept virus, Harvey Milk Walton faces great danger and agonizing choices which could affect the future of mankind. Can he muster enough strength to live up to his martyred namesake of long ago and rise to lead a rebellion?

Victor Banis stretches his considerable talents in this daring novel. This story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a society turned into hell. It has extraordinary power, with images that grab hold of you and don’t let go. In the midst of this nightmare, Victor creates a heartwarming love story that is a testament to the human spirit.

The author uses a technique that I have not seen before. The story starts off being told from Harvey Milk Walton’s 1st person point of view, but then switches to 3rd person POV, and thereafter toggles back and forth from 1st to 3rd at regular intervals. I found these POV switches to be seamless, and greatly added to developing the depths of several characters. This is a character driven story, and Victor skillfully opens up his characters and allows us see to their core.

The plot is more complex than Victor’s previous works, which combines with his consummate skill at crafting prose and his well-researched details to keep the reader fully engaged until the last page. Victor Banis’s writing, like fine wine, keeps getting better with age. I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, and a well-crafted story.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Reviews for Island Song are all 5 star reviews!

Hi Everyone,

the book reviews for my debut novel, Island Song, are starting to trickle in and I'm very please and proud to say that they are all 5 star reviews so far. At the risk of boring you with some blatant self promotion, I'd like to share what some reviewers are saying about my work:

Bryl Tyne wrote:
"I recommend this novel to anyone searching for a deeper meaning to life and love.

Although marketed as paranormal gay romance, this book is SO MUCH MORE! Island Song is full of page turning, artfully depicted adventures and involves many touching issues that could make the toughest of hearts weep.

However, erotic - Island Song is not. I found the love scenes tastefully written. Without adding the "gag" of purple prose, the scenes were descriptive enough to visualize while bearing just the right amount of enticing sensuality.

Don't get me wrong, the romance between Garrett and Songoree is one of the most beautifully mastered tales of male love that I have ever read. Let me share with you one example...While reading through a scene where something as innocent as a shoulder massage that Songoree, out of concern, administers to Garrett, I found myself blinking back the tears.

Alan Chin's writing is breathtakingly descriptive, and yet his vivid scenes and accurate scenarios, his multifaceted character depictions, and the overall movement throughout the book was never tedious. I picked Island Song up, and four and a half hours later, closed it feeling as if I had taken the deepest breath of fresh air imaginable in years.

This book was expertly crafted, and I can't wait to see more from this new author."

Rainbow-Reviews said:

“Alan’s description of the Hawaiian Islands was absolutely breathtaking. I could feel the wind on my face. I could smell the ocean. I could feel the beat of the drums and hear the songs. I felt like I was there with these wonderful characters. The book sometimes alluded to sex, and when they actually made love it was the most beautiful thing that I could imagine. I learned so much about Hawaii and the book made me want to go there. This book is awesome and I would recommend it to everyone. Applauds go to Alan Chin”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fight Hate by Voting Down Prop 8

I’d like to share with you the following quote that came up in my online writing group during a discussion of gay marriage and the importance of voting down Proposition 8 in California -- a proposition that would repeal the court ruling allowing gays and lesbians to marry:

“I've always wondered why a couple should care about whether they're considered "married" by the state or not. What's the problem with just living together?”

As a recently married man in California, let me take a stab at answering that question. Beyond the obvious financial aspects of being able to file jointly for taxes, being able to put your partner on your company insurance plan, and social security and survivor benefits, there are some social aspects of being married that go beyond these financial motivations.

Granted, the glue that holds a relationship together is not the marriage license, nor the state’s approval, but in the strength of the relationship it codifies. But there are times in every relationship when things get strained, those times when the grass looks greener on the far hill, but being legally, financially, and socially bound to a partner helps give people the strength, or will, to put more effort into making their relationship work. Marriage provides an explicit structure, a legally formalized relationship that is highly valued by society. It is a form of legitimacy that supports the efforts necessary to make relationships work and prosper.

On another tack, being able to marry symbolizes full equality and social acceptance in our country. It is the last hurdle. Giving heterosexual couples the right to marry while giving gay couples civil unions, even when they offer essentially the same rights, is still a form of discrimination. It would be similar to the Southern Sates in the Forties saying that separate drinking fountains for whites and coloreds was not discrimination because is was the same water from the same source. Separate is discrimination. It allows heterosexuals to pretend that they are somehow inherently superior, and separate rights will validate that claim.

Lastly, I believe it is of the utmost importance for society at large to formally honor the love-bond between couples, be they gay, lesbian or straight. Social legitimacy in our society should not be ignored. As an example, I had lived with my husband for over fifteen years before he and I were married, and I had attended all of his family’s get-togethers over the years: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, Chinese New Year’s celebrations. During that time all my in-laws were always friendly, but they never really warmed to me, and consequently me to them. But at the first family gathering after our marriage, Herman’s sister rushed up to me, gave me a warm hug, and said: “Welcome to the family!” I wanted to ask her what she thought the last fifteen years had been, but she was so sincere that I couldn’t say anything. In her mind, until Herman and I were actually married, we were not a legitimate couple and I was not really part of the family.
My point is: marriage not only allows us to see ourselves as a socially acceptable couple, but it allows the rest of society to see us as that, too. And that, in my opinion, is priceless.

Dear Friends, marriage equality in California is now losing by 5 points, according to the latest poll numbers. Please help us combat the lies that anti-LGBT groups have been spreading everywhere. Join me in the fight by donating today to the Human Rights Campaign California Marriage PAC - and your gift will be DOUBLED. Just click below:https://secure.ga3.org/03/caequalpac_match

Thank you for your help.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Book Review of Andy Stevenson vs The Lord of the Loins by Kage Alan

Andy Stevenson is back with a hilarious vengeance in this sequel to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation. This time around, college sophomore, Andy Stevenson is now comfortable with his sexuality and is on the hunt for a monogamous relationship. When the man of his dreams -- a sexy and questionably gifted poet in Andy’s Creative Writing class -- invites him to his apartment for a sexual escapade, Andy can’t believe his luck.
But of course, Andy’s luck is never what it seems and his life is turned upside down when his dream-man turns out to be a nightmare in the form of a sexual predator known as the Lord of the Loins. Before Andy can fully recover from the disastrous one-night affair, he meets Alan, a sensitive, well adjusted, and domineering half-Asian who wants to give their fledgling love a chance to flourish. But as things begin to jell with Alan, Andy is pulled into a battle with the Lord of the Loins. Armed with only his superhuman sense of sarcasm, Andy is forced to defend his relationship with Alan.

Kage Alan paints a hilarious yet touching portrait of a young man battling his principles to define the kind of relationship that will bring fulfillment, then finding and nurturing that relationship against all odds. As with Kage Alan’s first Andrew Stevenson novel, this is a breezy romp though the time in a young man’s life when his lofty morals battle against the realities of the social norm. It’s a time of confusion and discovery, and Kage Alan’s observations of it are funny, intelligent, and very entertaining.

The one minuscule criticism I experienced was that towards the end of the story, after quite a buildup, when Andy and the Lord of the Loins have a showdown, I was a bit surprised it was not something more momentous and malicious. But that did not stop me from enjoying this story all the way to the last page.

This is a story that I can heartily recommend. If you’re the type of reader who enjoys a funny, sexy, breezy story, then this could be right up your alley.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Alan Chin Brings Literary Romance to GLBT Imprint

Friday, September 19, 2008
Alan Chin Brings Literary Romance to GLBT Imprint

Alan Chin’s novel, Island Song, brings literary romance to the new GLBT imprint, Zumaya Boundless, joining the works of other gifted authors who provide Boundless with mystery, suspense and humorous novels.

Island Song, is a story of mystical romance in the South Seas. Chin’s novel astutely tackles a plethora of GLBT issues, including losing a lover to AIDS, coming out, cultural dissimilarity, alternative family structures, discrimination and gay-bashing.

Alan Chin’s moving story follows mainlander Garrett Davidson who, two years after the death of his lover, sits in a Hawaiian beach shack staring out over the vast empty Pacific. He has nothing left. Despair has robbed him of his elegant home, his lucrative job and his sanity. The single thread holding him to reality is the story he has come here to write – Marc’s story, the story of his lost love.

Then Songoree breezes into his life, and as he attempts to heal Garrett’s spirit they become entwined in an extraordinary and dangerous relationship. But Songoree’s kahuna grandfather has plans for Garrett, and when a clash of wills erupts between grandfather, grandson, and hostile islanders bent on destroying the connection between Garrett and Songoree, Garrett is caught in the middle, fighting for his life and plunging headlong into a situation that will brutally test the boundaries of the human spirit.

Alan Chin joins the small but exceptional, award-nominated authors of Zumaya Boundless, which include Dorien Grey, with his Lambda Award-nominated mystery series featuring PI Dick Hardesty, Susan M. Brooks with her highly praised DIY-winning She’s the Girl, British Fantasy Award-nominee James Bennett with his suspense novel Unrequited, and humorist Kage Alan with his two novels A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation and Andy Stevenson vs The Lord Of The Loins.

Island Song and all Zumaya Boundless titles are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble Online, other online booksellers, and select independent bookstores. Also, ebook formats are available at Amazon, Fictionwise, eReader and several other vendors.
Born in Ogden, Utah, in 1953, Alan Chin was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned a Masters in Writing from the University of San Francisco and currently lives in San Rafael, California. Island Song is his first novel. His second, a historical novel titled The Changi Lover, is scheduled for publication in 2009 by Zumaya Boundless.

To learn more about Alan Chin, visit his websites at: http://alanchin.net/ http://alanchinwriter.blogspot.com/ and www.myspace.com/alanhchin.

To learn more about Zumaya Boundless, visit http://www.zumayapubliscations.com/

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Allow me to share an incident that happened to me last weekend. My husband and I were at a dinner party in San Francisco with six other gay friends. After too many bottles of wine, the topic of conversation dipped into politics and it seemed everyone had something to say about McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin.

I was taken aback when one of the older men at the table stated that he was so impressed with Palin, that he planned to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket. People argued that Palin, while certainly feisty, had little to no political experience, and that voting for McCain equated to voting Bush in for a third term. But this man brushed all arguments aside and stated that if Bush could run again, he would gladly vote for him a third time.

I was floored. I had heard about gay republicans, but this was my very first encounter with one. I asked him how he could justify voting Republican when that party is hell-bent on eroding all the gay rights we’ve struggled for over the last few decades. He stated simply that the Republicans support gay rights.

For anybody reading this who feels the same way, keep reading.

The Republican Convention's stand on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell” contains this plank: "To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America's Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timeliness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service."


While the Democratic Convention Platform states: “Allow All Americans to Serve. We will also put national security above divisive politics. More than 12,500 service men and women have been discharged on the basis of sexual orientation since the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was implemented, at a cost of over $360 million. Many of those forced out had special skills in high demand, such as translators, engineers, and pilots. At a time when the military is having a tough time recruiting and retaining troops, it is wrong to deny our country the service of brave, qualified people. We support the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the implementation of policies to allow qualified men and women to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation.


Yes, both parties want to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, but the Republican Party has once again made discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members an official element of its vision for the United States. At the same time, the Democratic Party is committed to ending all forms of discrimination. So how should you vote? Help us end discrimination, once and for all.

Join me in sending a clear message to the Republican leadership that their position regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members is unacceptable. Sign our petition right away: http://action.sldn.org/incompatible

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book Review of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation

4 Stars out of 5 stars

Andy Stevenson – a nerdy, nineteen-year-old, college student from Detroit, Michigan – is so deep in the closet that he is seemingly the only one who doesn’t know he is gay. He uses a sarcastic wit to keep family and schoolmates at a safe distance, which works so perfectly well that he is still a virgin with no hope of overcoming his embarrassing deficiency.
But his luck is seemingly about to change when he is asked to accompany his alcoholic Grandmother on a six day trip to California to celebrate her brother’s 50th wedding anniversary. Andy envisions thousands of bikini-clad, sun-bronzed women desperate to make love to him, and can’t wait to hit the famous beaches. In his mind, all he has to do to lose his cherry is to first lose his Grandmother…
Once in L.A., the reality of SoCal babes turns disastrous for Andy until Jordan, Andy’s sexy gay cousin, strikes up a flirty conversation and ends up kissing Andy on the lips at the anniversary party. That explosive kiss starts a chain reaction of comical faux pas that eventually force Andy to reevaluate everything he thinks he knows about himself.

Kage Alan paints a hilarious yet touching picture of a teenager coming to terms with his sexuality. This story is a breezy romp, an entertaining and intelligent look at a young man’s struggle with coming to terms with his sexuality. I seldom laughed out loud, but I found something interesting, witty and humorous on nearly every page. It made me chuckle, it made me roll my eyes, it made me remember that time (oh so many decades ago) when I experienced similar feelings of confusion.

The one minuscule criticism I experienced was that the story is a tad predictable, but that didn’t stop me from being totally engaged until the very last page. Often, I would sit down intending to reading 10 or 20 pages, and end up reading 60 or 80. It’s fast, it’s funny, and it’s the perfect book to keep you smiling during a long weekend at the beach. I truly didn’t want it to end. Lucky for me, I already have the sequel on the top of my to-be-read list.

But by all means, pick up a copy and judge for yourself. You won’t be sorry you did.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Book Review of Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza

Three Out Of Five Stars

Vito Fortunato, a twenty-seven year old, gay Brother in a Catholic order finds himself torn between his spiritual longings and his carnal desires. Set in the early 1990s, Brother Fortunato is only months away from taking his final vows. Although he and his gay friends frequent gay bars, and he occasionally wakes up with a hangover and wearing only a cock ring, Vito struggles to maintain his celibacy, his spiritual purity, and his ability to forgive others, forgive the Church, and forgive himself. But when Vito is assigned to spend the summer volunteering at a San Francisco AIDS center, he falls in love with Gabriel, a divorced landscaper. When those feelings of love are returned, Vito must choose between his sexual identity and his spiritual idealism.

Sapienza, himself a former Catholic Brother, obviously has an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter -- both the teachings of the Catholic Church and the struggle to integrate Christian beliefs with gay sexual desires -- and it is because of his knowledge that the story comes off seeming so real. This is not a story about a closeted priest who struggles to accept his sexuality; it is a love story, and more importantly, a story about finding dignity, and embracing ourselves. Although I had several issues with this book, the love story that develops between Vito and Gabriel is touching, and a pleasure to read. It made me overlook the many other things that were not so well done.

The story was slow to draw me in, and I didn’t much care for the main characters early on, but that eventually changed as the characters exposed more of themselves. I found the two or three main characters had a wealth of depth, but most of the secondary characters were paper-thin. The main character, Vito, also came off as too preachy in several areas, but that was in keeping with his character and can be easily overlooked.

The read is occasionally jarring because of the abysmal copy editing: jumping back and forth from present tense to past tense for no apparent reason, dozens of typographical and grammatical errors, and a blaring font change. I’ve never before read a published book that was so poorly copyedited.

Those negatives said, I still found this an enjoyable and touching story. I give it three out of five stars.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cover Art for My Novel, Island Song

Wanted to share the cover art for my debut novel, Island Song. The artist is Beckie Clymo, and I'm not sure what other covers she has designed. I had quite a heated fight with my publisher, Zumaya Publications, over this cover. I had submitted three different ideas for covers, all of which were attractive and upbeat, but I was over ruled on each idea. This cover, although it is not nearly as eye catching as I had hoped for, is certainly an improvement on the first two sketches they presented to me. I would love you know what people think of this cover, good points or bad, so please leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Here's a snippet of what the story is about:
After the death of his lover, Garrett Davidson finds himself sitting in a Hawaiian beach shack, staring at the vast unfathomable pacific. He has nothing left. Despair has robbed him of his elegant home, lucrative job, friends, and his sanity. The single thread holding him to reality is the story he has come there to write, Marc's story; the story of his lost love. Then Songoree walks into his life.
When Songoree, a local surfer, attempts to heal Garrett's wounded spirit, they become entwined in an extraordinary relationship. But the stakes are raised when Songoree's grandfather, a venerable Kahuna, uses his ancient shaman methods to harm Garrett in order to fulfill his own aspirations. A clash of wills erupts between grandfather and grandson with Garrett caught in the middle, driving the plot to an unexpected ending that will brutally test the human spirit . . . but not break it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Break out the champagne!!!

Wanted to share some news with everyone. The week has be a rather slow but satisfying work week for me, that is, until today.

All week I’ve been working on a third round of updates to my screenplay, Daddy’s Money. The work as been very satisfying and I crafted a new ending that I think is dynamite – the first two drafts ended without resolving things for two of the characters.

With that draft behind me, I had planned to set it down for a few weeks while I reworked the opening chapters of my fourth novel, Butterfly’s Child. My husband has been proofreading BC and complained loudly that it was WAY to slow in the opening chapters. So I sat down this morning with all the good intentions of seeing what I could do to speed up the action in Butterfly’s Child, when I checked my email and found the galley for my debut novel, Island Song.

Break out the champagne!!!

For you readers who are not published writers, a galley is a mockup of what the final published book will look like. Its purpose is to show me what the senior editor has changed, all the formatting, and allow me to proofread the work one last time before it goes to print. It is the final stage before I become a published writer.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like to read a novel that I finished over four years ago. I still know the story like the back of my hand, of course, but it reads new to me. I keep reading passages and being impressed with what I wrote. On the other hand, I also read passages and think: Oh shit, I should have said it another way. The galley, however, is not the place to make massive changes, only little edits.

The upshot is that I’m finally, after years of hard work and waiting, in the homestretch of being published. Can you hear the pop, the bubbles?

So for those of you who have been waiting, wondering if it would really happen, let me assure you, it won’t be long now. It should take me a week to crawl through and edit it, then send the edits to my publisher. How long it takes before it shows up on Amazon is anybody’s guess. I would think within two weeks.

The other news I received today was from my literary agent, Pema Browne. She sent me news that another publisher has turned down my third novel, Match Maker. The bad news is that two publisher, Saint Martins Press and Random House, have turned it down. The good news is that both had high praise for the writing, but felt the story line was too limiting (being a gay story) without enough universal appeal.
The other good news is that she hasn’t sent it to the publisher that I’m hoping to nab, Kensington. She mentioned she’ll try them next week when her contacts there are back from vacation. Cross your fingers for me.

Anyway, that’s my news. I’m glowing.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Walk With Ol' Smokie

Every morning, rain or shine, weekend or workday, I start my day the same way. I raise myself out of bed around 7am, switch on my laptop, make a cup of tea, and with a cup of Lipton brew in hand I walk my dog Smokie in the hills nearby.

Up until last summer, Smokie, with nose to the ground, would zigzag through the tall grass, flagging his long tail, not content to meander at my slow pace. Being a Chocolate Lab, he loved weaving though the open country. But Smokie turned twelve years old last April, and he’s slowing down. Now it is I who must crawl along at his slow pace.

A few mornings ago, as we trudged up the first hill, I watched Smokie’s stiff, painful looking movements, and I was reminded that this is probably our last summer together. The thought saddened me, even reminded me that my own death is drawing nearer. At that moment, I was bombarded with thoughts of all that I want to accomplish before my time comes to an end. The list is endless, maddening so.

Eventually, I remembered to relax and stop trying to control everything, and then the morning flowed like a lazy river, that is, Smokie and I and the trail became one.

Tall dry grass carpets the meadows, the hills are covered with lumbering oak trees, the crisp air had a hint of sweetness, and the meadowlark’s three-ascending-note song echoed from the trees. This landscape touched my heart with its clattering streams and glistening pastures, and swallows me whole with its fathomless, uncomplicated open space. It was grand being alive and able to share it with Smokie on such a morning. A feeling of gratitude washed through me like a sea-surge.

With Smokie loping along beside me, passing through the quiet buttery light, the moment came when I grew aware of a stillness that was something apart from the stillness of the landscape. It was an interior stillness at my core, a stillness in which there was the absence of all distraction and unrest, a tranquility in which, quietly and without effort, all things melded together. Without shining my thoughts onto it, I knew this stillness was exactly what I try to achieve while meditating. It was a state from which it seems natural, even inevitable, to touch those close to me, to revere the splendor of life, to pray.

Through this inner stillness, a quote from Stewart Lewis’s second novel, Relative Stranger, bubbled up to my thoughts:
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

In this state, I came to terms with a new direction in my life, this curve to a radically different approach to being. I began casting off those items on my to-be-accomplished list, littering the trail with dreams and making myself be content with nothing more than sharing the hillside with Smokie and fully enjoying our time together. When we returned home, I focused that same attention into being with my husband, Herman. And as I sit composing at my laptop, I give my writing the same approach.

I will, of course, continue to write my novels and screenplays, and I’m certain I will continue to publish my work. But my goals have changed. Now I work solely to enjoy the process of creating.

I came to this attitude with a certain amount of regret, which has now metamorphoses into quiet gratitude. It is certainly not what I expected; a life with no grand ambitions has come with several surprises, but none greater than the surprise at my own contentment.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book Review of Since My Last Confession by Scott Pomfret

3 Stars out of 5 stars

When a devout Catholic, porn-writing, sodomite lawyer fights to protect the Massachusetts same-sex marriage laws, he finds that his main adversary is the same Roman Catholic Church he loves and supports with fervor. As the battle intensify, Pomfret reveals the church hierarchy’s gross hypocrisy, homophobia, rabid anti-gay political agenda, and the fear it instills in gay priest. Not surprisingly, this ugly side of the Church forces Pomfret to scrutinize his own beliefs, and to justify, or not, his continued support of a church that openly and actively discriminates against him.

Pomfret -- best known for the steamy, gay, pornographic novels that he co-authors with his partner Scott Whittier -- paints a funny yet ominous picture of the political power struggle going on in the church hierarchy, an underground gay movement organized by homo priest, and a church in transition (although transitioning to what is still a question).

This memoir is a serious romp, a humorous and intelligent look at the Roman Catholic Church under a magnifying glass, and an interesting look at one man’s attempt to justify his spiritual longings. I seldom laughed out loud, but I found something interesting and humorous on nearly every page. It made me laugh, it made me angry, it made me scrutinize my own beliefs.

Being a Zen Buddhist (which means I don’t believe in a God), I know little about the Catholic Church, and of Christianity in general. I suspect that Catholics will find this memoir much funnier than I, yet I found it an absorbing study of the Church’s teaching and workings. I especially liked the helpful, tongue-in-cheek sidebars that enlightened me on such topics as how to detect a gay Catholic, three easy steps to being excommunicated, and the ten commandments of reading gay porn.

I also was impressed Pomfret’s interpretations of church doctrines, including the following prayer which I found to be very Zen-like:
I don’t know what I want from You, God, if I want anything at all. I don’t want to beseech You, or thank You, or seek Your forgiveness or others’ salvation. I just want to stand naked before You, choked with wonder, uttering a prayer as joyful, guttural, sorrowful, agonizing, and inarticulate as an orgasm.

The one question that kept nagging me throughout this book, like a catchy jingle in my head that I can’t remember the name of, is how a gay man can justify supporting a church that actively discriminates against gay people. To me, that is equally as absurd as gay people supporting the Bush administration (and if you read this book, you’ll notice some not-so-surprising similarities between the two.) It was a question Pomfret asked himself and attempted to answer in the last few chapters, but I found his answer lacking, considering there are many alternatives for spiritual growth that don’t discriminate against anyone.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The various religions are like different roads converging on the same point. What difference does it make if we follow different routes, provided we arrive at the same destination.” But I, for one, disagree. I think that any church that actively discriminates against any portion of the population, including its own followers, impedes the whole human race from attainting that glorious destination.

But by all means, pick up a copy and judge for yourself. You won’t be sorry you did.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Welcome to the Family!

I wanted to share a funny comment that came my way this week, from my sister-in-law:

Herman and I have been partners for over fifteen years, and during that time he and I have attended every major gathering of his family: weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and Thanksgivings. I regularly go fishing with Herman’s brother and have done remodeling and yard work for several of his siblings. His family consists of thirty people spanning four generations, and although I don’t really fit in, I at least socialize with them every time we get together and everyone is cordial.

Last month, when it became legal for us to marry here in California, Herman and I were the first male couple to be married in Marin County. We posted pictures on our Chin Family blog, which let everyone know that we had tied the knot.

So to get to the point, this week we attended my mother-in-law’s 75 birthday party, a luncheon at a Japanese seafood buffet in San Mateo. We were the first to arrive and greeted everyone else as they came. Only one person there said a single word about our getting married, my sister-in-law, Diana. She gave me a hug and said, “Welcome to the family.” She said it with warmth, for which I was grateful, because she has never shown much warmth to me until now.

But my immediate response, which I thankfully did not voice, was what the hell would you call the last fifteen years? Does having a slip of paper from the government legitimizing our relationship suddenly make a difference? Apparently to her, it does. Diana, if you’re reading this it is not a slam on you, merely a comical look at how we as a society view relationships.

I was somewhat surprised, and perhaps disappointed, that Diana was the only in-law to mention it, but this morning I received the following note from another sister-in-law, which warmed my heart:

Alan and Herman

I once read somewhere that it was poor etiquette to acknowledge a marriage/engagement/shower by saying "Congratulations" or "Best Wishes". (I must not have manners, because these words come to mind at these occasions and I have to bite my tongue not to say them!)
That being said, Ed and I still desired to express our personal joy that we have for you both. I thought the appropriate way was to acknowledge the celebration of your life and future together, bound by love, health, happiness and peace. Many years of wedded bliss (in the Chin family!)


Monday, July 7, 2008

Cover Art For My Debut Novel, Island Song

I’d like to share an experience from last week that made me realize how deeply I feel about my art, that is, the stories that I write.

My publisher, Zumaya Publications, informed me that my debut novel, Island Song, is on schedule to be released later this month. After waiting over two years for its publication, I was doing cartwheels. When I calmed enough to read the rest of the email, I realized that they were asking for my input on the cover art. More cartwheels.
I filled out the form they sent, describing the story in detail and also some ideas I had for a cover. All that was forwarded to an artist contracted to create my book cover.

Three days later I received a picture of the proposed cover. One glance at the picture and I wanted to vomit. The artist had used my concept -- a hunky Polynesian in a loin cloth chucking a spear with the sea in the background -- but they had made a cartoon-like rendering of it. And rather than a hunky, obviously Polynesian man, it showed what looked like a West Hollywood Queen dressed in a Las Vegas-style Hawaiian costume. It seemed to make a joke of my very serious, island romance story.

I sent an email to my publisher, asking that they make the man look more Polynesian and less Las Vegas, and could they make it less cartoonish. The next day I received a polite yet firm note explaining all the cover’s positive aspects, and for me to leave the art work to them.

I was thrown into a profoundly depressed state, but my husband, Herman, took the bull buy the horns. In a single day he took some pictures from our travel folders and superimposed a surfer onto a beach scene. It was perfect. Right out of my story.

I excitedly sent Herman’s picture to my publisher stating that this was exactly what I wanted and ask them to use it.

Again, I received a polite note back telling me that Herman’s picture is inappropriate for cover art, although they didn’t go into detail as to why. I did, however, come away with a small victory. My publisher explained that they had asked the artist to create another cover, based on a different, unnamed concept. Which leaves the door open for hope.

They say people don’t buy books based on the cover, but I disagree. From my own experience, I know that when I shop in a bookstore, or online for that matter, it is an appealing cover that makes me pick up the book in the first place. I turn to the back cover and read. If I find that interesting, I read the first page or two. If I’m still interested, I buy it. But it is the cover that initially makes me investigate a book over the other thousand books on the shelves. And for me, if the cover looks cheap, I feel that the rest of the book is probably less than stellar.

The thing that amazes me is how crazy I’m getting over this issue. My dreams of becoming a published writer are finally coming true, and yet I’m ready to trash it all simply because the book will look crappy and cheaply done. Go figure. It has to do with pride, I know. That I don’t want the years of work that went into that story to be marred by a cheap cover.

Pride? Vanity? Call it want you will. I want it perfect, damn it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Book Review of Moroccan Roll by Steven Stanley

2 Stars out of 5

Moroccan Roll follows the lives of six American and French teachers working at a government run school in Ain El Qamar, Morocco. The story primarily focuses on the frustrating attempts of these twenty-something teachers to satisfy their lust and find love while also trying to assimilate into an unfamiliar culture.
There is Dave, a gay man who falls in love with one of his students, Lateef, who just happens to be straight. And Janna, a woman who had an affair with a Moroccan student, then turns to drugs after he dumps her. And Kevin, who tries to forget the tragic death of his male lover back in the states, by finding comfort with a Moroccan man who is unable to return his affections. And Claudette, the forty-something French woman who is losing her looks and is desperate to prove to herself that she still has her charms. And, of course, Marcie, who falls head over heals for the local French playboy who beds any woman at the drop of a hat.
Then there is a host of supporting characters, including a power hungry and tyrannical school principle, a French couple who enjoy an “open” relationship, and a young student who stalks one of his teachers.

I found a few positive aspects to this story. The author seems to have an in-depth knowledge of Moroccan culture, and the story is often witty. That said, I had a list of issues with this novel, the main one being that the style of storytelling is to tell, tell, tell, and show very little. Rather than the author TELLing me that the lamb dish was delectable, savory, and delicious, I want him to SHOW me the character wolfing it down, sucking the burnt fat from his fingers, then licking the plate clean. Rather than TELLing me Dave loves Lateef, SHOW how tense Dave gets any time Lateef is in the same room, or how Dave stammers every time Lateef looks him in the eye. Letting the reader figure out a few things for him or herself is what engages the reader in the story. I felt like this story was being spoon fed to me, with no opportunities to feel engaged with the plot. This made the writing, in my opinion, feel amateurish.

The lion’s share of the conflict for each of these main characters had to do solely with their romantic troubles, that is, each character’s obsession with getting laid, or in some cases, dealing with unrequited love. I assumed that a group of French and American teachers, who found themselves in Morocco in the seventies, would have numerous issues adjusting to a rich and unfamiliar culture. But to my disappointment, those types of issue were mostly ignored and the story focused on these characters thrashing about over unreturned love. This gave each character a one-dimensional feel, and because of that, I never became interested in any of their situations.

Stanley does have a detailed knowledge of Moroccan culture, but rather than painting rich and exotic scenes, he often gives vague descriptions like: “The sight of wagons loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables was evidence that this was not yet a culture whose food was polluted with chemical preservatives and additives. Nor was the air impossible to breathe. Besides all this, there was also the special feeling a foreigner got whenever he observed the color and exoticness of Ain El Qamar, evident in its architecture, in the dress of its inhabitants, and the language they spoke.”
This kind of description tells me nothing. I wanted to know what kind of fruit and vegetables, and what kind of wagons for that matter. And what did the architecture look like? How did the air smell? How did the locals dress? What did the language sound like? Stanley seldom paints enough of a picture that I could imagine being there, which I found disappointing.

Over the last ten years I have traveled to over forty countries, and Morocco is one of my favorite destinations. I find the people and the culture engaging and charming, and the food is marvelous, so I came to this novel with high expectations, hoping that it would ignite all those wonderful memories. But sadly, I didn’t feel a spark of anything except disappointment. This is not a story that I can honestly recommend.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wedding Bliss is spreading in California

As many of our friends and family already know, Herman and Alan Chin were officially married in the state of California on June 18th, 2008. We had a small ceremony in the garden of the Marin Civic Center with Steve Gregoire attending as a witness.

It was a short, moving ceremony, and even though I’ve lived with Herman for fifteen years, emotion lodged in my throat and I gave my vows with an unsteady voice. The real surprise came after, and I’m still feeling the effects of it. It feels different, being married that is. It feels like we’ve been given a precious gift that can’t be taken away.

The ceremony took place in the early afternoon, so unfortunately, most of the picture that our friend took were overexposed. But I’ll share some of the better picture with you here. Hope you enjoy them.

For those of you who don’t know us, Herman is the taller, handsome one.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Legal Persecution of Gay and Lesbian Professionals in California

In August of 2006, a well respected and openly gay, San Francisco Bay Area high school physical education teacher, Norm Burgos, was charged with a crime after an ex-student Googled him, found out he was gay, and complained to authorities that he remembered feeling “creeped-out” two years earlier while receiving a sports massage from coach Burgos.

Coach Burgos was suspended from teaching pending the outcome of a preliminary hearing, and twenty-two months later, a bitter legal battle is still being waged in Marin County Superior Court. The outcome of this case may impact thousands of gay and lesbian professionals state wide, and perhaps create a nation wide impact as well.

After twenty-two months, making it the longest preliminary hearing in California’s history, the prosecutor has failed to produce a shred of evidence that any crime was committed. Yet, instead of dropping the charges, the prosecutor’s office has requested that the judge presiding over the case create a “new law” which will allow them to bring Coach Burgos to trial on felony charges.

This “new law”, if the judge grants the prosecution’s request, will have grave consequences for gay, lesbian, and even straight teachers, doctors, chiropractors, coaches, physical therapists, dance instructors, and any other profession that requires physical contact between professionals and clients/students. This “new law” would allow gay and lesbian, as well as straight, professionals to be charged with a felony restraint with intent to sexually assault charge, over someone’s “uncomfortable feelings” during any kind of physical contact.

This case is nothing short of legal persecution of gay professionals, and it must be stopped here in Marin County before it can spread.

Please read the following editorial article that activist John Robertson submitted to the Marin Independent Journal. If you wish to support their case or can offer assistance in publicizing this issue, please contact John Robertson via email, jrobert484@comcast.net, for an information packet detailing the case events over the last two years.

Prosecutor Lori Frugoli Makes California History

For at least the sixth time, Prosecutor Lori Frugoli refused to give closing arguments, in what has turned into the longest and perhaps costliest preliminary hearing in California history. In April of 2008, in an effort to reign in the prosecution, Judge Faye D’Opal finally denied the prosecutor’s request for even more time, and did not allow her to file any new motions. After twenty-two months of granting Frugoli endless opportunities to gather together a case, the judge announced, “It is time to put this matter to rest.” The judge then scheduled closing arguments for May 29th and instructed the prosecutor to keep her presentation under twenty-minutes. Contrary to the judge’s orders, Frugoli did not return to address the court until June 3rd.

Before a packed courtroom of the defendant’s supporters, Lori Frugoli once again defied the judge by starting new arguments instead of closing them. She urged the judge to create a “new law” which would allow her to finally charge the defendant with a felony, since currently no such existing law is on the books to have been broken by the defendant, and no existing case law supports her request. Prosecutor Frugoli essentially argued that the defendant’s insistence that he is innocent, and the victim of homophobic persecution for the last two years, and his refusal to accept her multitude of plea bargains, proved that Coach Burgos was of disreputable character and a danger to society. Frugoli argued, “We have made law in this courtroom before,” and urged the judge to do so again in order to finally establish some sort of chargeable felony.

Defense attorney, Douglas Horngrad, argued that while “her pontificating was novel”, even she herself conceded to the court that her request is legally unsupported. He said, “We are not here to moralize or judge my client’s character, your honor. We are here to uphold and apply existing laws.”

Judge Faye D’Opal wearily scheduled a court date for June 18th, at which time she will render her decision regarding the prosecution’s request. However, she did warn Prosecutor Lori Frugoli to be prepared next time to “present a closing argument which is not open ended.” Before adjourning the court she once again reminded Lori Frugoli to keep it under twenty-minutes.

Personally, I find Lori Frugoli’s argument to be an interesting insight into how she practices law. I think we can all understand that a lawyer’s job is to win, and certainly no one can doubt Prosecutor Frugoli’s efforts to do so. However, it is a special position that prosecutors are sworn to; for it is they who hold the power to take away liberty, reputation, and even to end lives, if not literally then certainly figuratively. The people blindly put their faith and trust into the hands of prosecutors and expect that all people will be prosecuted only with integrity. Good prosecutors understand that there is often times a disconnect between what is moral and what is legal, and the good prosecutor understands that the spirit of the law is to try to bridge the two together, even though no true connection actually exists.

History has proven that law is often times dictated by social prejudice, not morality, and history has also proven that many prosecutors will exploit those prejudices to accrue convictions and build up their careers. For example, in times past, “new laws” were created to criminalize marriages between mixed races. Many prosecutors were involved in creating those laws and they benefited for decades from the convictions that ensued. History has also shown that there are always at least a few good prosecutors; those who do not practice law in a self-serving way, and who are truly committed to protecting the community. Those are the prosecutors who may not have the most notches in their conviction belts, but they have bragging rights when the law is finally able to bridge itself with what is right, because they can genuinely say they were never part of the problem. Lori Frugoli, in my opinion, has proven herself over the last twenty-two months to be part of the problem.

This journey may have began for Lori Frugoli as just another investigation into an accusation, but once she realized that the evidence was incredibly weak and riddled with inconsistencies, a good prosecutor would have dropped the charges instead of becoming more determined to gain a conviction. Lori Frugoli, however, realized that she had a celebrated, honored and decorated member of the community, who just so happens to be gay; and either she decided that his sexuality was proof positive of his guilt, or she decided that his sexuality would be easily exploitable before a cherry picked jury. Either way, she stood to gain plenty from convicting such a well-known pillar of the community. The only problem facing her is a legal one: no existing felony has been committed by the defendant. Her solution: create a new felony law.

It is obvious to me that Prosecutor Lori Frugoli is akin to the many prosecutors through out history, as opposed to the good. I believe in the marrow of my bones that the community of Marin is mostly decent, enlightened and capable of critical thinking, and I believe that justice will prevail. I also believe, that like times past, this problem will not get resolved until the community creates a consensus and says enough is enough. No more stalling tactics, no more invented accusations, no more coached witnesses, no more attempts to win despite it all. Lori Frugoli needs to know that she is not practicing law in the spirit that Marin Count y wants to become synonymous with. If Judge Faye D’Opal chooses to make history on June 18th by creating special “new laws” to assist this prosecutor, and if this prosecutor chooses to make history by continuing forward with the same disregard for what is right and moral, then I predict that history will remember them and the community badly. We will all become akin to those communities and those prosecutors of days gone by that are now today only remembered for their fear, hatred and intolerance. Lori Frugoli has already etched her history into stone, but we can still choose how history will remember the rest of us.

John Robertson

Monday, June 2, 2008

Jack London's John Barleycorn

It’s been a quiet week, which allowed me to read a book I’ve been eyeing on my shelf for some time: John Barleycorn by Jack London. The book is primarily about London’s life long struggle with alcohol addition. The famous author of The Call of the Wild and The Sea Wolf wrote John Barleycorn late in his career, after he had become America’s most famous author. These memoirs, for the most part, reflect on London’s early years when he became an oyster pirate on San Francisco Bay, sailed on a sealer off the coast of Japan, and later worked the Klondike gold rush. It was during these early years that London became a heavy drinker, mostly because the men he associated with were also heavy drinkers. London describes many harrowing stories about how drinking nearly did him in at that very early age.

He later describes his tremendous efforts to learn the trade of writing fiction, which he spent eighteen to twenty hours a day at. During that time he was virtually penniless and relied on the charity of others. He would occasionally find work shoveling coal for twelve hours a day at ten cents an hour, but even that work was hard to come by.

Later, he describes his long bout of suicidal depression, explaining that at one point he gave his revolver to a friend for fear that he would use it on himself. The most interesting part of that tale for me, was the fact that his suicidal feelings only occurred after he had become a great success.
At the end of the book, London claims that he never managed to forgo drinking, but rather, after a long and painful struggle, learned to drink with moderation. He goes on to say that he was very much for giving women the right to vote solely because he believed that they would vote for prohibition, and he believed that would save many a young man from going down the same painful path he did.

London also becomes very philosophical about his life in the last chapter, and I very much enjoyed one passage in particular where he quotes the Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu:

“How then do I know but that the dead repent of having previously clung to life? Those who dream of the banquet, wake to lamentation and sorrow. Those who dream of lamentation and sorrow, wake to join the hunt. While they dream, they do not know that they dream. Some will even interpret the very dream they are dreaming; and only when they awake do they know it was a dream . . . .
“Fools think they are awake now, and flatter themselves they know if they are really princes or peasants. Confucius and you are both dreams; and I who say you are dreams -- I am but a dream myself.
“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awaked, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”

Monday, May 26, 2008

Some People Are Too Stupid To Worry About Globle Warming

I’d like to share two experiences from last week that made me realize that many Americans are too stupid and too selfish to care about destroying our planet from global warming.

The first event took place at a supermarket parking lot. It was a hot day, mid-90s. My partner and I pulled into a parking space next to a mammoth, gas-guzzling SUV that had the engine running. While my partner, Herman, went into the store to pickup the week’s groceries, I stayed in the car with the windows down, reading a novel. I was surprised that after a few minutes, the SUV didn’t shut off the engine while its occupants went into the store to shop. Paying closer attention, I realized that the driver and two kids in the back seat had no intention of leaving their vehicle. Like me, they were waiting while someone else was in the supermarket shopping. But unlike me, they had the windows rolled up and the engine running to keep the air-conditioner operating. It took forty-five minutes for Herman to return, and the SUV sat there the entire time burning gas to keep its occupants cool. I was flabbergasted that anyone in this day and age, with all the concerns of global warming, refused to be even slightly unconvinced to save a few gallons of gas from polluting our air. I mean, if staying cool was paramount, all they had to do was go inside the store. And this took place in San Rafael, California, a place known for progressive thinking.

The second event occurred when I ran into an acquaintance at a gay tennis tournament in San Francisco. This person had recently accepted a job in Southern California, about three hundred miles away. I told him I was surprised to see him, as I thought he had already moved to be closer to his workplace. He informed me that even though his job was in So-Cal, he still lived in San Francisco. He spent four days each week working near L.A. and three days a week in S.F., and he commuted by plane. He proudly told me that he had pre-purchased six months worth of plane tickets in advance at only $50.00 per flight.
When I reminded him that it was foolish acts like that which are destroying the planet, he argued that the planes would fly regardless of whether the seats were filled or not, so it made no difference. Of course I begged to differ, stating that if people stopped flying for frivolous reasons, the companies would reduce the number of planes in the air rather than go broke. It was simply another example of people refusing to be unconvinced at any cost.

So the question I’ve been grappling with all week is: what will it take? What will make people put the earth’s welfare before their own greedy interests?
Sad to say, I’m becoming convinced that most people will need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into conserving the planet’s resources. Perhaps when gas is $10 or $20 or $50 dollars a gallon, or a plane ride to L.A. costs $2,000 dollars, then they will find ways to conserve. But I fear by then it will be decidedly too late.

Several years ago a popular movie touted: Greed is Good! But like anything, too much of a good thing is disastrous.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Things they don't teach you in High School

I thought some would enjoy this.

Love him or hate him, he sure hits the nail on the head with this! Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time..

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

If you can read this - Thank a teacher!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Olympic Torch, another embarrassment for America

We had a disturbing event take place here in San Francisco a week or so ago. Athletes were supposed to carry the Olympic torch along the waterfront in view of several thousand cheering fans. San Francisco is the only designated stop for the torch in the United States for the ‘08 Olympic Games so the city buzzed with excitement. But as the time drew near, it became evident that a few hundred protesters, half carrying “Free Tibet” signs and the other half carrying pro-China signs, threatened to disrupt the proceedings. Mayor Gavin Newsom, fearing violence between the two groups, ordered a last minute route change and the torch made its way down Bay Street and up Van Ness Avenue, about two miles away from where the protesters and the fans were gathered.
The issue for me is that the several thousand fans, who sat waiting for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the torch being carried through their city streets, were robbed of that opportunity by a few hundred hooligans. The whole fiasco turned into what I believe is yet another embarrassment for America.
I don’t blame the mayor for changing the route. It is his job to insure the safety of the city’s population and maintain order, and what he did avoided a potentially dangerous situation. I applaud his move. And I am an advocate of free speech. Those protesters on both sides of the issue have every right to peacefully voice their opinions. What I don’t agree with is people using the Olympic Games as a platform to voice political views, thus tarnishing the experience for everyone else. I was always told that the Olympic Games were above politics, and I believe that they should be. But it seems that some people can’t resist the opportunity to grab a few media soundbytes.
I’m not saying that the people of Tibet have not suffered under the rule of China. The atrocities of the Chinese government are well document, not only in Tibet but all over China. And this latest crackdown where many monks have lost their lives and hundred, perhaps thousands, of others imprisoned, leaves the whole world with a bitter taste. Human rights violations in China must be dealt with, but Washington, not the Olympic Games, is the place to do that. China’s economic growth is dependent upon American consumers. People who want to do something about China’s human rights atrocities need to apply pressure on members of our government, both on a local and national level. Make your voice heard in the halls of government, not on the streets of San Francisco.
Being a life-long Buddhist, I have made two pilgrimages to Tibet over the last ten years and visited some of the most holy sites in and around Lhasa, Tibet, including the Potala Palace, home of the Dalai Lama and the seat of government before the Chinese overthrow. I saw no sign of religious repression. People went about their business, openly prayed and meditated at the temples and on the streets, carried on with their traditions and their culture.
What I did see were thousands of Han Chinese moving into and around Lhasa, buying property, opening businesses, bringing in needed farm machinery and modernization. The Han Chinese have drastically lifted the standard of living and sanitary conditions in Tibetan cites. From my point of view, as one who has spent time there, what the Han Chinese are doing today is a good thing, for themselves and all people of Tibet.
The issue in my opinion, is not whether China should give up Tibet, which they clearly has no intention of doing, but whether the world can apply enough pressure to the Chinese government that they begin to treat all Chinese people with justice and dignity.
I can’t help wondering if these protesters in San Francisco were more interested in getting media coverage than actually doing something constructive to help. And in the case of the Olympic torch, they ended up disappointing thousands of anxious well-wishers.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review of Unrequited by James Bennett

Unrequited by James Bennett

Unrequited is a dark story of love, betrayal, and attempting to define one’s self in a crumbling postmodern world. Written in the first person, the narrator, Aaron Edgeway, leads us through his experiences of living with his drunken, abusive father in a dilapidated, old house. When he and Alex, his best friend, attend a rich man’s fabulous party, it is clear that Alex wants more than friendship, he loves Aaron deeply and will do anything to have him. But Aaron is lured into the rich man’s bed for a three way, only to realize that he is being videotaped, and finds himself the victim of a blackmail plot. Alex helps him resolve this situation, hoping that Aaron will return his love, but before he can bring this about, Aaron literally stumbles into Victor, and the two become star-crossed lovers. Alex, however, becomes determined to show Aaron that Victor is not all that he seems. What follows is a series of events that will keep you up late at night turning the pages.
I had a love/hate relationship with this story. On the one hand, it is a compelling story with intelligent plot turns that kept me guessing throughout. The story unfolds in layers, and with each layer the pressure-cooker atmosphere builds strength. The characters seem real and fragile, and it was impossible not to sympathize with them.
On the other hand, Bennett has a flair for melodrama, making his character overreact to almost every situation. But the main problem I had was Bennett’s propensity to overwrite. The prose kept calling attention to itself, rather than the story. I had the impression that Bennett was trying to impress me with his heavy, clever prose. There were times when I was impressed. He handles many intimate scenes with style and grace.
Writing style aside, Bennett kept me anxiously turning the pages to find out what would happen next while making me reflect upon my own teenaged years of fumbling love affairs and desperate retaliations. All in all, I found it a worthwhile read, although I would not recommend this story to anyone who demands that a love story have a “Happily Ever After” ending.