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.