Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Monkfest in Chang Mai

On the first day we came to Chang Mai we visited our favorite temple, Wat Pra Singh. It was clear at the time they were preparing for something big. There was much building going on – one sculpture three stories tall and several sitting areas for hundreds of chairs.

Slowly the building took shape, and each day we revisited, more monks seem to be milling about. The place was clearly gearing up for something. Then, after weeks of preparation, what Herman and I are calling a Monk-fest began, complete with live music, lots of ceremonies, plenty of praying, and a nightly session where an aged monk climbed on to a dais, and droned on in Thai, while several hundred monks and spectators prayed.

After two days, of witnessing these events, an English-speaking monk informed us that the
aged monk speaking nightly was the President of all monks in Thailand, and monks from all over Asia had traveled here to hear his lectures on the Dharma. As it turned out, this festival was a five-day advanced training session for monks which also included the cremation of another venerable monk (we have no idea who).

Indeed, I have never seen so many monks gathered in one place in all my travels. Unfortunately, we were not able to understand any of his teaching because we only speak a few words of Thai. It was, however, fascinating simply to sit in the background and watch the various ceremonies and listen to the chanting. On the last night, the three story structure they had build was burned to the ground, accompanied by fireworks and loud music. It turned out that it was the venerable monk’s funeral pyre.

You can view all the pictures of this on http://hermanandalan.blogspot.com

Happy New Year to All.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Book Review: The 38 Million Dollar Smile, a Donald Strachey Mystery by Richard Stevenson

When the heir to a steel fortune vanishes in Thailand with 38 million dollars, private eye Donald Strachey and his lover, Tim, are hired to find the missing person. At first the job seems like a dream come true – more like a much-needed vacation in an exotic location rather than a job – but trying to piece together a puzzle while dealing with an unfamiliar culture and an alarmingly corrupt criminal justice system proves to be both costly and dangerous. Donald is forced to rely on the help of Bangkok private eye, Rufus Pugh, who guides Strachey through the maze of sights, politics, religion, customs, and pleasures unique to Thailand.
They do, of course, eventually find the missing heir, but find themselves neck deep in a totally different and much more dangerous situation. Strachey has to use all his considerable wit to figure a way to keep himself, his lover, and his client out of harms way.

This is the first Donald Starchey mystery that I have read, and even though I am not a fan of mystery novels, I came to this book with high expectations, having heard much praise of previous Richard Stevenson books. I must say that I walked away from this story with mixed feelings.

One the positive side, the story is fast paced and interesting. It has enough twists and turns to keep one guessing, which makes it a page-turner. Also, it’s clear the author did his homework on Thai culture, and gives accurate details of Thai customs and of Bangkok street-life. I’ve lived almost two years in Thailand, and I enjoyed the author’s descriptions of Bangkok and Thai society. And surprisingly, the main characters in this story have emotional arches (they grow from their experiences), which is all too often missing in mystery novels that I’ve read.

On the not so positive side, the plot twists were fun, but too far-fetched to be believable, ending in a situation that for this reader was unsatisfying. There was a huge buildup, and then I felt it fizzled, as if the author was in a hurry to wrap things up, or worse, not sure of how to end it. Also, I felt that there were several key plot elements that were blatantly obvious, telling where the story was heading. I wanted to be surprised at then end, but that didn’t happen.

Still, it was an enjoyable read, even for a reader who seldom likes mysteries. Stevenson fans will no doubt enjoy the trademark plot intricacies, unique characters and lush descriptions of Thai culture. Indeed, I can recommend this book without hesitation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I'm blogging at Speak Its Name today.

Hi everyone,

Season's greetings. I'm blogging about the inspiration for my new novel, The Lonely War, today at Speak Its Name. Please jump on over and find out about where the story came from and enjoy a short excerpt.

Also, leave a comment and you'll be entered in a drawing for a free ebook of The Lonely War. You can enjoy the blog entry at: http://speakitsname.com/2009/12/22/1711/

BTW: there is a confusing typo in the second paragraph. It says, " I wanted to make a statement about dad." and it should say, "I wanted to make a statement about dadt." Although my father is one of the characters, the story doesn't make any kind of statement about him. : )

Holiday blessings to all,
alan chin

Friday, December 18, 2009

Short Story Review: This Christmas by J.M. Snyder

Ned Matthews is all alone this Christmas. All the other students, save one, have gone home for the holidays. But Ned’s parents are vacationing on a Caribbean cruise to escape the snow and sleet. The only other man left on campus is Bobby Cratchett, the boy Ned had a crush on all during high school, and who is even sexier now that they’re both in college.

Ned doesn’t mind missing Christmas with his parents, but the knife twisting in his gut is that his recent breakup with Jake, his now ex-boyfriend, has left him with nobody – no lover, no friends, no prospects, and no desire to get tied down with another loser. Hurt and bitter, Ned retreats into his hard, thick, protective shell and refuses to let anyone near, not even if they are sexy as hell and the only other man on campus.

Alone and feeling sorry for himself, Ned falls into a troubled sleep where he has a dream of Christmas past, reliving life with Jake-the-flake. He barely has time to shake off those memories before he has another dream of Christmas present, where he envisions how it could be with Bobby Cratchett.

Moments after waking he has Jake on the phone begging for a second chance, and Bobby at the door inviting him to come to his apartment for the night. What to do? How will Ned’s Christmas future unfold?

This is a smart, funny, sexy, poignant short story that often touches brilliance. It packs so much story and emotion into a meager thirty pages that I was left admiring the author’s exceptional skill.

This story is a gifted study in how to introduce a not-too-likable protagonist, and by the end of the story have the reader totally engaged and pulling for him. The characters and emotions are real. Anyone who has ever suffered a broken heart will identify with this main character. Indeed it sparked memories of bitterness long buried in me. I was touched.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It has a marvelous voice that is lean on description and fast paced. The author expertly nails the voice of a college-aged student.

I highly recommend this read. In fact, This Christmas is one of eight stories featured in J. M. Snyder’s So In Love, an anthology of contemporary stories celebrating gay love in its many forms. My only complaint about reading This Christmas is that I didn’t get to read the other seven stories in So In Love. But I can assure you, I will purchase the anthology and read them all. Bravo!!

Learn more about This Christmas at http://www.jmsnyder.net

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Starting To Feel Human Again

Two day ago I began feeling stomach cramps shortly after enjoying a spicy lunch at one of my favorite cheap restaurants here in Chang Mai, Thailand. Normally I have no issues dealing with Thai food, even the burn-your-lips-off spicy stuff. But those cramps grew worse through the afternoon, followed by a headache and other unsavory symptoms. By night time I lay in a cold sweat and couldn’t sleep.

You guessed it, food poisoning. Pepto didn’t help, gallons of water didn’t flush it away. Normally poisoning only lasts 24 hours but this little bugger was tenacious, and hung on an extra day.

I was able to sleep through the night and am now feeling human again. I forget who said: “If you’ve got good health, you’re a wealthy man. Everything else is gravy!” But one dose of food poisoning is all it takes to make me a believer.

While I was laid up in bed, my husband found the time to update our travel blog with pictures from our latest adventure in Southern China. If you are at all interested in village life in China, these pictures are a must-see. You can view them at: http://hermanandalan.blogspot.com

So I will be out and about Chang Mai today, taking it slow. Perhaps I’ll walk to the park and read. I’m currently reading Drew Banks’s Able Was I. It’s not what I’d call gripping but it’s well written and keeps me turning pages. I’ll post a review soon.

I’m wishing good health to everyone this holiday season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: Marengo by Carey Parrish

Reviewed by Alan Chin

Rob Brent and Jeff Schrader, two gay American journalist living in the UK for a year, take a flat at Mrs. Rose Mary Shugart’s townhouse in a posh section of London. They congratulate themselves on their fantastic luck at finding something inexpensive in such a wonderful neighborhood. Of course, they have no idea what delights and dilemmas await them.

There are five flats in the townhouse, including Mrs. Shugart’s, and each one houses someone a bit off-kilter. They are quirky and funny and lovable, and perhaps a little dangerous. There is Mrs. Shugart herself, a grandmotherly snoop with a tidy pension but rents flats for the social interaction with interesting people. There is Mr. Humbolt, the elderly queen who sells diamonds for Warwickes, and is more of a busybody than Mrs. Shugart. There is Rob and Jeff, two men who seem like a gay couple but never do anything in public to confirm everyone’s suspicions. On the top floor resides Miss Bullivant, a middle-aged woman who is attractive for her age but slightly desperate for romance. Across the hall from her is another new tenant, Richard Lawrence, a rather handsome man who keeps to himself and goes out of his way to keep his business private. Mr. Lawrence, is not all what he seems; he hides a secret that could prove perilous to everyone at Mrs. Shugart’s townhouse.

The charm of the characters at Mrs. Shugart’s townhouse pulled me in and kept me turning pages. This story has a delightful tone, but it is agonizingly slow to heat up. For half of the book it seems to wander aimlessly along without regard to plot or purpose. What I didn’t realize was the author was laying a foundation that would pay off in the latter half of the book. When one of the tenants suddenly dies, the story takes a sharp turn and things begin to simmer. And even though I could tell where the plot was headed, I was kept interested to see how it played out. I hoped for a surprise at the end, and was not disappointed.

This was an excellent story by author Carey Parrish. Still, I came away with three minor complaints. One is I felt that the author, particularly in the beginning, over-wrote the descriptions. I wanted the pace to be faster, and felt like taking a red pen to his wordy prose to speed things along (it’s an issue I sometimes find with my own writing.)
The second issue was that the author head-hops, that is, the point of view shifts from person to person in mid-paragraph. Although I never had any problem following who’s pov I was reading from, it occasionally felt awkward.
The last issue happened in the last thirty pages, when the author spent twenty pages recapping everything I had already figured out for myself. It was simply twenty unneeded pages when I was anxious to read the ending – much like a speed-bump when I’m in a hurry.

Those minor issues aside, I very much enjoyed this read, and have no reservations about recommending it to all reading audiences. Bravo!

To read more about Marengo press here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

New Movie Every Romantic Must See

I took Herman to the movies last night, something we rarely do because there are so few good movies made these days. We knew nothing about this movie other than the title: New York - I Love You. We were in the mood for entertainment, and it was the only non-Thai movie playing at the local theater here in Chang Mai.

The movie turned out to be a dozen or more love vignettes, all taking place in New York, all quirky with strong characters, and all had an enjoyable twist at the end. Each vignette was written by a different writer and directed by a different director.

IT WAS FABULOUS! A great cast, strong characters, interesting situations, and the twist at the end of each short was wonderfully brilliant. Most were clever, some were touching, some made me examine my own life. This is a movie I will buy and have in my collection so that I can watch it often. I thought the writing was brilliant, the acting superb, the stories totally engaging.

There were two movies this year that I loved. One was New York - I Love You. The other was Julie&Julia.

If you're the romantic type, or just want to take your special friend to a date movie, don't miss this, and don't wait for the DVD.

my $0.02

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book Review: Strange Fortune by Josh Lanyon

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Publisher: Blind Eye Books
ISBN 978-1-935560-00-5

Valentine Strange is delighted to accept a job from the Holy Order to find and retrieve an antique diadem of the Goddess Purya from somewhere in the distant White Mountains. Although the mountains are filled with bandits and scoundrels, this soldier of fortune has little fear of anything short of not being paid for his services. But when the Holy Order insists that Master Aleister Grimshaw, a witch with a history of insanity, join the expedition, Strange realizes there is more at stake than the retrieval of a relic.

As the small band begins their search, Strange and Grimshaw forge a tenuous friendship. But they are followed, step by step, not only by bandits, but by a demonic power more powerful than anyone could imagine. When the stakes are raised well beyond the danger level and they are betrayed at every turn, they are forced to rely on each other for survival. Finding the diadem could spell doom for Strange and Grimshaw, or could it be their only hope of survival?

Strange Fortune is a rollicking good read – interesting characters, fast paced, rich descriptions, and action that kept me turning pages. It’s a fun read. Adventurous and romantic. Lanyon has created a wonderful world of magic and spirits and spells and romance. It is a winner.

I stumbled over a few issues that I felt kept this marvelous story from being a great one. A minor annoyance was it held a dozen more misspellings and missing words than I’m used to seeing. The book could certainly use a more careful copyeditor.

A more troublesome issue was the story’s time setting. Although the author clearly created a unique setting, the physical setting seems to be taken from early twentieth century India, yet the customs and beliefs of the characters seems to indicate ancient times, when Holy Orders ruled, witches were common and people worshiped demons. For me, it seemed to disconnect. One minute they were worshiping idols, the next Grimshaw was checking the time on his wrist-watch or firing his rife. And the language the characters often used – such as “the bottom line is” – is really quite modern. I just kept getting the impression, that if the author had paid closer attention to keep the language and the physical setting in ancient times (bows and arrows instead of rifles) this would have been a great read, rather than a very good read.

Still, my few minor issues aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and highly recommend it to everyone.

For more information about Strange Fortune press here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Island Song made V. Banis's all-time tops list.

Yesterday I was thrilled to find that Victor Banis, an author I respect and admire, included Island Song on his all-time top 7 favorite gay romances. I was listed beside Mary Renault, Annie Proulx, Ruth Sims, E.H. Kahn, Somerset Maugham, and, of course, Victor himself.

Here's what he had to say about Island Song:

This is such a beautiful book. Yes, the author has a few mis-steps in this, his debut novel. Yes, it goes on a few pages longer than it should. Doesn’t matter. If you’ve got any trace of romance in you, you have to swoon over this tale of love and loss and redemption. It is a love story, but so far outside the boundaries of what that label suggests as to render that designation pointless. And, yes, some of the love is shared by men, but some of it too is the love between friends, and family, and love of nature and the mystical, even the love of a dog for his human partner.

The prose is magical and can turn from light to dark in a single heartbeat: “Scanning the clear water, he sees only the massive shadowy shapes of whales circling the boat…He spots Songoree above him, swimming beside a seven ton monster, performing an acrobatic dance that captivates him. With outstretched limbs and his long hair billowing outward from his head, Songoree moves through shafts of purple light filtering down from above. Awed, Garrett slowly ascends while enjoying the performance. Songoree is truly a creature of the sea. He seems as delicate as a seahorse and as graceful as a manta ray…Garrett’s lungs begin to burn, and he is still fifteen feet from the surface. Now he feels it…In a flash, the universe transforms. It comes straight up from the dark water below at horrifying speed. An immense shadow slides just below him…”

Alan has set his story in Hawaii, but in essence he is writing of the island within the heart of each of us, and it is there, like our wounded protagonists in his moving story, where one finds healing and peace. This is its song, and it’s a lovely one indeed.

That's high praise indeed, and I'm very grateful to Victor.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Review: Safe As Houses by Alex Jeffers

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Publisher: Lethe Press.

Allen Pasztory was raised by Hungarian immigrant parents who were both deaf. Even though he hears, he was brought up talking with his hands and facial expressions. He meets Jeremy while working at an advertizing agency in San Francisco. The two begin a rocky relationship until Allen finds out Jeremy is raising a son, Toby. The idea of being a family, of raising a child, is all that’s needed for Allen to commit to a long-term relationship. The three of them setup house in San Francisco and all seems to move along without a care, except that it’s the 80s and many of their friends are dying of AIDS.

Out of the blue, Allen takes a new job as an admissions officer at a prep school in Rhode Island, and it’s clear the move is because death is inching too close for comfort in the gay Mecca. Yes, Allen is HIV positive, and the move is him distancing himself from the dying.

While making a new life for himself and his small family (by this time Toby is a teenager), Allen’s nephew, Kit, comes to live with them as well. Together, as a loving family, they deal with Allen’s failing health in a touching and dignified way.

This is a story of family and love – the consuming love that grows from a family on the outskirts struggling with a vital disability – told from two different family’s viewpoints, Allen’s parents and Allen’s new family. It is a tapestry woven in vibrant detail with beautiful language.

I often felt that the children were the glue that held Allen and Jeremy together because so often Allen seemed to show more affection for Toby and eventually Kit. Allen’s relationship with each of the characters, including his parents, was sensitive and touching. It becomes a clear example that “alternative families” can be every bit as nurturing and loving as “traditional families”, even though they have different issues to contend with. Safe as Houses is a triumph in the gay parenting cause, and indeed, living with any disability.

What struck me most was that this family was able to create such a loving, cohesive unit in a world that refused to acknowledge their right to exist – somewhat reminiscent of an exquisite lily growing out of a muddy bog.

Safe as Houses is a book not to be rushed through. It must be read at one’s leisure, to wallow in the pleasure of glimpsing into this loving family. But read it one should, a delicate story that is superbly written.

Safe as House combined with his other novel, I Remember Tulum, has made Alex Jeffers one of my favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read more from this extraordinary talent.

For more information press here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recent Letters from Readers

I recently received some feedback from fans, and I wanted to share. This first one was from Susie, who had requested a free story from my website. I sent her a story about a character named Simple. Here's what she said:

Wow. Just Wow. Simple is an amazing character. What you wrote was beautiful and moving and made me think. I love that in a book. I am going to purchase both of your books next week when I get my paycheck. I can hardly wait.
Thank you so very much for the story.

Another fan, Tish, read my newly released novel, The Lonely War, and wrote to tell me:

This book sounds like it should be read as a paperback not an ebook. I have a terrible time with books about Changi.
 A) I was born in Singapore, my father was Royal Navy and mum is of Indian decent from Malaya (KL). 
B) My mum lived through WW2 with the Japanese invasion of Malaya and still speaks of that time with great clarity. Both her father and grandfather were tortured (several times) by the Japanese at Changi for helping the British and Australian soldiers. My great grand father was tortured to death. My grandfather watched his father die yet he never held a grudge. Believing in forgiveness instead.

This book has made it to number 3 on my all time best m/m list. It was so well written and so engrossing I forgot that I was sitting bundled up on the sofa with cold icy winter rain falling, but I was back in Singapore listening to my nanny tell me of the time the Japanese came to her island. Andrew’s (this is his story) cadence throughout this whole experience set a tone and pace that never faltered. Even though the subject matter in some instances was beyond imaginable, Andrew kept the soul of himself in perfect balance. He was well written and so were the supporting characters, so much so I wanted to know what happens to them all. 
Mr. Chin did a bang up job of taking a horrible, heartbreaking time and weaving a believable love story into it. For me the love story isn’t about the men but about life. And I love bittersweet love stories about life.

Hope you enjoy these. I received both on the same day and was thrilled. I love when readers take the time to contact me to let me know their impressions of my work.

Thank you Susie and Tish.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Book Review: A Report From Winter a memoir by Wayne Courtois

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Lethe Press

In the dead of winter, after a ten-year absence, Wayne Courtois journeys back to his family home in Maine to attend to his dying mother. He is soon assaulted by three facts: the bitter cold winters in Maine are much more brutal than he remembered, his mother’s cancer is much further along than he anticipated, and his emotionally distant brother will be of no help in caring for their mother or attending to funeral arrangements.
Too weak to move, eat or speak, Wayne’s mother can only moan. The morphine drip is her sole comfort. Wayne can only hold her hand while reliving childhood memories of a dysfunctional family life that seems woven into the harsh realities of the bitter cold weather. Sinking into emotional turmoil, Wayne calls on Ralph, his longtime partner, to help him through this distressing ordeal.

Wayne Courtois has created one of the most touching, brave, and beautiful books I’ve read in a very long time. It is unpretentiously funny, grippingly sad, and wisely perceptive. I was so often reminded of the emotions that I felt while dealing with my father’s cancer and eventual death that I went through emotional turmoil myself. But what I walked away with was a beautiful portrait of the caring relationship between Wayne and his lover, Ralph. That, in my estimation, is what this story is about, a relationship that is caring and nurturing, that’s long on love and seems to glow in an uncaring world.

The writing is vivid and lyrical. Wayne Courtois is a new and, already, a commanding voice on the literary stage. He explores difficult subjects with grace and dignity. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this read. I would recommend this book to everyone – gay or straight, young or old – because, for me, it is universally about caring relationships, and the beauty and many solaces they provide.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jessewave.com Is Having A Drawing To Win A Copy of My New Novel

Wave, over at www.jessewave.com, was gracious to post an interview with your's truly, and also a wonderfully insightful review of my new release, The Lonely War. It is the first review of my new novel and I was sweating bullets.

While you're there reading the review, be sure and leave a comment, which will automatically enter you in a contest to win a free e-copy of The Lonely War.

You can read both at:

Thanks, alan

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fat-burning time in Chang Mai

Herman and I just spent the last couple of weeks with some of his family, along with a group of Chin relatives from the Bay Area, visiting Herman's father's village in Southern China. Herman's parents made the trip along with his oldest brother and both his sisters. We were guests of honor at a grand celebration in the village for the dedication of a new building which we helped pay to have built. The celebration was full of fanfare and color with lion dancers, fireworks, and a 15 course meal for over a thousand people (yes, we paid for that too). I've never eaten so much or so well. It was a fabulous time.
We're recovering in Thailand, just arriving in Chiang Mai today, and will be here through the holidays. Then we've rented a house on the southern tip of Phuket for five weeks. We'll spend three weeks in Vietnam, then to Hong Kong for a few days before returning home in mid March.

One bad side about our time in China: because we traveled with several older relatives who couldn't walk far, we were bused everywhere and spent most of our time stuffing ourselves with rich banquet food. I gained ten pounds. I was already fifteen pounds heavier than I like to be, and for the first time in my life I'm feeling really fat. So I'm now eating lean with no red meat, and I'm walking several miles per day. The weight is coming off, very slowly, but it is a painful process. Dieting is for the birds, but so is carrying all that extra weight.

I'm trying to look at it as an interesting challenge, but it's hard to get past the body aches and headaches. My fault for abusing my stomach.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Lonely War is out in print and ebook!!!

Just in time for you last-minute Holiday shoppers, I am very pleased and proud to announce my new novel, The Lonely War, has been released by Zumaya Publishing in both print and ebook format.

The key issue keeping the U.S. armed forces from going beyond Don't Ask Don't Tell to give gay servicemen equal rights is a blind fear of love relationships forming, not between enlisted soldiers but between officers and soldiers, which would undermine the chain of command. The Lonely War tackles this topic head on. Set in WWII, it tells the story of an enlisted sailor who falls in love with his executive officer. When the crew of the USS Pilgrim become POWs in Changi, a notoriously brutal prison camp, this sailor is elevated though hardship and love to discover his inner resources and extraordinary courage, allowing him to sacrifice himself to save the life of his beloved.

Like most war novels, The Lonely War envelops all that is unique to war, the horror of battle, overcoming fear, the cruelty of soldiers, the loyalty and camaraderie of men caught in a desperate situation. Yet, it stands alone in two important ways. First, it is a passionate story written about a tender love developing between an officer and an enlisted man, revealing a rare and dignified portrait of a couple struggling to satisfy desire within the confines of the military code of conduct. Even more importantly however, it describes the heart-wrenching measures of how much one man will sacrifice to save the life and reputation of the man he loves.

Please take a few minutes to enjoy the opening chapter of The Lonely War here:

You can find more about and purchase The Lonely War here:
Ebook - http://tinyurl.com/yb3uh3r
Print - http://tinyurl.com/yzqu3fv (Amazon) & http://tinyurl.com/ydrlbg3 (B&N)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm back from the land of no internet

Hi and happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home.

I've been MIA for the past three weeks, two of which Herman and I were traveling through south China, visiting the Chin Family village. It was an awesome experience but we couldn't find internet access. On the few times we did get access, we were blocked from FB, Twitter and our blogs. All we could access was email. Not sure that the Chinese government thinks they can accomplish by that.

I enjoyed every place we visited, about 5 destinations, with the exception of Hong Kong. That city is very western, with all of the problems of a huge, crowded city, but with none of the charm of China. It was also the only place in our China travels where I found the people to be pushy and rude. I love China, but have no interest in returning to Hong Kong.

While on the road I managed to get a lot of reading done, and will be posting reviews of books over the next several days. I did post two reviews so far. The reviews and links are:

1) Aaron's Wait by Dorien Grey http://tinyurl.com/yambtkv

2) Subsurdity by Eric Arvin http://tinyurl.com/ygm3927

Hope you enjoy the review. I'll try to post some pics of the China trip in the next few days.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Palm Springs Pride Book Signing

Had a wonderful weekend in Palm Springs. My husband, Herman, and I drove down for the Pride parade and festival in the desert city. The weather was hot, which meant the men were wearing as little as possible. The gays and lesbians had virtually taken over the town, and the place was jumping.

I spent two days sitting at a long table with several other gay authors, all of us signing books while watching the colorful crowd stroll by. I had the opportunity to meet several charming people and even sold a few books.

The signing was organized by Rick, the owner of The Q Trading Co., the local gay bookstore in Palm Springs. Rick was utterly delightful, as were all the other authors. Most of the authors were local men, but one, Kage Alan, flew in from Detroit.

Kage and I have the same publisher and he and I have exchanged many emails over the past year, but this was our first face to face. Kage writes gay comedy, and true to form, he had me laughing all day on Saturday. We sat together and talked up a storm. It was too much fun. In fact, the next day we had to sit apart so that we paid more attention to selling books rather than having a good time.

On Sunday I sat next to Aiden Shaw, a porn star turned writer. He was outselling everyone else put together and had a line of people waiting. He not only signed books, I watched him sign a woman’s breast, and also an adoring fan’s butt. At one point he told me that he wasn’t much of a writer, but he had a big dick, so that made him popular with the older gay crowd.

I also got a chance to talk with Patricia Nell Warren, author of The Front Runner, who approached me to see how my book was selling. She is a grandmotherly sweetheart who you would expect to be handing out cookies to the children. I asked her if she would consider doing an interview for my Examiner.com LGBT Literature column, and she instantly agreed without batting an eye. So be sure to look for that in the coming weeks.

All in all, the PS Pride is an event I hope to return to year after year.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Book Review: The Golden Age of Gay Fiction Edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn

I recently had the huge pleasure of reading the book, The Golden Age of Gay Fiction Edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn. It's a compilation of 22 essays written by 19 different writers, recounting the early days of gay literature, from as early as the 1940s to the beginning of the AIDS crises in the 1980s.

I enjoyed these informative essays and feel that anyone who is interested in gay literature will enjoy them as well.

You can read my review at: http://tinyurl.com/yecldf8


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interview: Thomas Glave, author of The Torturer’s Wife

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to read and review a collection of short stories by noted author, Thomas Glave, called The Torturer’s Wife. I was so enthralled by the depth and poetry of these remarkable, dark, stories that I tracked down the author and asked him to do an interview with me. He graciously agreed. You can read the entire interview by this truly remarkable writer at: http://tinyurl.com/ylfq4uj


Monday, November 2, 2009

I'm MIA While Proofing My Galley

If you've been check my blog the last week you will have noticed a decided lack of activity. I've been MIA. That's because I finally received the galley for my second novel, The Lonely War, and it's my job to crawl through it and proof-edit it one last time before it goes to publication.

That's what I've been doing -- reading, very carefully, my novel. Hopefully, I will be done tomorrow, and that means that the book could show up on Amazon within the next two weeks, depending on how long my publisher takes to incorporate the edits.

So this holiday season, I'm given everyone a chance to give a gift that has never been given to anyone before, a great read called, The Lonely War. This is a complicated love story that is set within a WWII Japanese POW camp. The POW camp was real, as were many of the situations that occur in the novel. Can't wait to have people read this one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two more reviews to share

Hi Everyone,

Wanted to share two more reviews that came my way this week. Victor Banis has begun sending his book reviews to post on my Examiner.com LGBT Literature column, and he's sent me a couple of winners this week.

MURDER ON CAMAC by Joseph R.G. DeMarco. A gay murder mystery.

Hidden Conflict: Tales From Voices Lost in Battle. An anthology of four gay novellas set in war.

So if you're looking for something to read, take a minute and check them both out at: http://tinyurl.com/d54rtd


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Review: The Torturer’s Wife by Thomas Glave

There are nine stories in this collection. The title story, perhaps the most striking, is the dark portrait of the wife of a prison camp commandant, who oversees the torture of political prisoners. She is haunted by the atrocities committed under her husband’s orders. In a slow and convincing way, she looses her sanity. She dreams of the mutilated bodies calling to her, sees severed body parts raining down from the sky, hears the agonizing shrieks. As her sanity finally crumbles, she decides on a heart-wrenching atonement. The reader never really meets the husband, and we never find out his name. He is always referred to as He, or Him, always capitalized, as if the author were talking of God. In fact, I took that to mean that the author was making a statement of why He (God) allows the atrocities to exist at all. And in the end, the wife attempts to kill Him (God) for the horror he allows. To this reader, it is a deep and compelling statement about war, religion, God.

Other stories in this marvelous collection are equally as deep, and equally as dark. “Between” delves into the profound ambivalence at the heart of an interracial couple barreling towards disaster. It is a study of men caught within the barriers of racial and class differences, while at the same time making sensual discoveries. “South Beach, 1992” explores the intensely-felt moments between two men as they discover they are HIV+. “The Blue Globes” tells the sad tale of two men, lovers since boyhood, who marry women and live as society deems, only meeting occasionally to celebrate their love via sensuality.

All these stories explore problems in relationships between man and God, between lovers, between couples and society. They are expertly painted portraits of the traumas of war, the devastation of homophobia, and the triumph of desire. They are dark, gripping, honest tales.

Glave’s prose is vibrant, and immediate. It carries the reader along as it delves deep into the grim places of the human mind. There are times when his prose seems to drag on too long, as if the reader wants to hurry beyond these stark images, but the author will not hurry, will not let the reader ignore the images and feelings his words create.

This is not a book for the faint of heart, or someone looking for simply an entertaining read. They are disturbing images, graphic, yet fascinating. As if one were looking at a train wreck. Putting this book down, I felt I will go back at some point soon and reread, in order to more fully understand and appreciate this beautiful and intriguing look at post-postmodern war fiction.

For information about this book, check out www.citylights.com

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't miss Rob Rosen's San Francisco book signings.

Rob Rosen, author of the new novel ‘Divas Las Vegas’ will be attending two books signings in San Francisco this month.

- 10/22/2009 Books Inc 2275 Market St, San Francisco, CA 19:30:00 415-864-6777 Amadeus amartin@booksinc.net

- 10/29/2009 A Different Light Bookstore SF 19:30:00 (415) 431-0891 Oscar Reymundo adlsfevents@gmail.com

What happens when you find out that Grandma's vase mistakenly sold at a yard sale is worth tens of thousands of dollars—and somebody else is about to cash in on it on Antiques Roadshow? Of course, you hop on a plane with your best friend and race off to Las Vegas to get Grandma's vase back! Filled with action and suspense, hunky blackjack dealers, divine drag queens, and sex in strange places, plus a Federal agent or two, Divas Las Vegas puts the sin in Sin City. A fun, new take on the murder mystery genre, Rob Rosen's Divas Las Vegas is a hilarious, touching, and compulsively readable page-turner!

ROB ROSEN is the author of Sparkle: The Queerest Book You'll Ever Love and has contributed to over sixty anthologies including Cleis Press's Truckers, Best Gay Romance, Best Gay Romance 2008, Best Gay Romance 2009, Best Gay Erotica 2009, Hard Hats, Backdraft, Surfer Boys, and Bears. His erotica is often found in MEN and Freshmen magazines. He has a popular website, therobrosen.com, and resides in San Francisco with his husband, Kenny.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My thoughts on A Boy's Own Story

A few months back a good friend of mine suggested I read A Boy's Own Story by Edmund White. Herman, my husband, was lucky enough to find a used volume on Amazon for a few bucks. I was excited. It took me a long time to read it because the prose is so wonderfully descriptive that I wanted to take my time and savor the read.

The story told a gay boy’s tale from his early years of wanting to be intimate with his father, through a long and boring period of adolescence and puberty, and ending with his first sexual experience with an older man.

I finished it a few days ago, and I must say I did not enjoy the read. Yes, the rich, descriptive prose was often a joy, but it became a drag on the pacing of the story, which as far as I could tell, wandered aimlessly about with no clear structure or purpose.

This story, more so than any other I’ve read, brought home the idea that a good novel is more that pretty words and descriptions on the page. The ability to paint colorful pictures with words is not enough. A good novel has structure, pacing, and a plot with characters that lead the reader to examine his/her own life experiences.

Many people I’ve talked to think this is a great book, perhaps a masterpiece, but I certainly was not impressed, and I will think twice before selecting another Edmund White story.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New The Lonely War Covers to Choose from.

I got a glimpse of what my publisher has in mind for my soon-to-be-released WWII war story, The Lonely War. Check out these following concept picture and let me know which ones you like.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Writer’s Block

I’ve heard a lot over the years about writers, even the most experienced writers, going through long periods where their muse deserted them, when their words would not come – those time when as hard as they try, their imagination couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to create scenes, characters, plots, even sentences.

Though I’ve heard many writers complain about it from time to time, I’ve never personally experienced that feeling. Not once if fifteen years of writing prose have I not found words to write.

Clearly some days the words, ideas and inspiration flow better than on others. And often it is difficult to make myself sit down and write, because my mind is elsewhere grappling with worries of the day. But always there are words and ideas.

In fact, I would say that my problem is exactly the opposite of writer’s block. If anything, I have too many ideas, too many words, too many stories in my head vying for attention. I’m a slow worker. It takes me an agonizingly long time to construct the framework of a novel or screenplay, and even longer to write it once I’ve defined the characters and plot points. And while I’m slowly plodding along, I am bombarded by inspiration for other stories.

I can’t watch a movie or read a book that I don’t say, “If that were my story, I would have done this, or that, or the other thing." And once those analytical wheels start turning, I can’t stop them. I’m constantly dreaming up new stories, sometimes two or three per week. They are always percolating in the back of my head while I plod along with my novel. But it takes me one to two years to write a novel, six months to a year to write a screenplay. During that time of working on a project, hundreds of other ideas come, and sadly go, because I don’t have the time to work on them all.

That is my most frustrating task as a writer, working on one thing at a time, abandoning good ideas for lack of time. How I wish I could split myself into five writers and become really productive.

Trying to writer faster is not an option for me. I can writer faster, but then I’m not satisfied with the writing. I must work each scene over and over to find the right cadence, the perfect combination of words to paint pictures in the readers mind, pull the right emotions from the readers heart. That, at least for me, takes time, and I’m not willing to compromise that.

So I keep plodding along, throwing away perfectly good ideas for stories in order to focus on the one I’m doing at the time. Writer’s block, how I wish I could stop the flow of inspiration about all these other stories so I could more fully focus on what I’m writing.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Interview: Geoffrey Knight, author of The Riddle of the Sands

Gay erotic writer Geoffrey Knight, author of The Riddle of the Sands, is coming to San Francisco for a series of appearances. I was lucky enough to snatch an interview with Geoffrey before his hectic schedule began, which you can read at: http://tinyurl.com/yh4h8lc

You can catch him in person at:
10/12/2009 Books Inc: 2275 Market St, San Francisco 19:30:00

10/15/2009 SupperClub: 657 Harrison St. @ 3rd, SF 17:30:00

10/16/2009 A Different Light: 489 Castro St, San Francisco 19:30:00

10/17/2009 Book Zoo:
(6395 Telegraph Ave, North Oakland 7PM

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Highlight of My Week

Yesterday was the highlight of my week – my day in the city working on screenplays. Every Tuesday, a group of eight screenwriters meet in the Presidio to review and discuss each other’s work. Normal I write alone in my office at home, but during these Tuesday meetings, I get to discuss writing, structure, plot points and style with other writers. I love it.
The meeting only lasts two hours, 10 a.m. to noon, and we normally discuss two or three works in various stages of completion. Although it is not so structured that we don’t go off in tangents. We often do. That’s generally when I enjoy it the most. The creativity in the room seems to burst through all of us. We use each other, not only to learn, but to inspire.
After the meeting, my script writing partner, Ed Harris, and my husband, Herman have lunch, then afterwards go to Ed’s house and work on our current work-in-progress script.
It turns into a day of ideas, of learning, of collaboration, of creation. We create, we refine our stories. By 5 p.m., I’m exhausted, but very happy.
I love talking shop, and Tuesdays are my day to do just that, all day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Book Review of Island Song by Alan Chin

Island Song has received a number of 4 and 5 star reviews since its debut. Many of these reviewers spoke of the tender love relationships in the story, many discussed the descriptive prose that seemed to place them into the story, others appreciated the spiritual aspects and how they were woven into the plot. But not until this week did any reviewer really nail what I was trying desperately to convey in my debut novel. The following review by noted author Victor J. Banis nailed it dead center, and he managed to explain the depth of the story with such beautiful prose that he made ME want to read it again. Please take a moment to read the following review:

Island Song

By Alan Chin
Zumaya Boundless, 2008

Reviewed by Victor J. Banis

When it was first suggested to me that I write something for a blog site on forgotten or neglected works (http://patti-fridaysforgottenbooks.blogspot.com ), my mind went quite awhirl. Crime, she suggested? Oh, the choices available. Who, today, other than the occasional scholar, has read James M. Cain's Serenade, though in many ways it is his best work? But the very field of crime novels (perhaps the most American of all literary genres) conjures up so many delicious possibilities, so many reads permeated by Chandler's "scent of fear." Hammet's The Glass Key, perhaps? Is that really his "least interesting work," as some have suggested, or, as others have described it, "his most accessible?"

But wait. Not necessarily a crime story, I was told, which opens a still wider door. What of Maugham's The Summing Up, surely an elegant (if, as it turned out, several years premature) coda to the remarkable life of a man who still today remains an enigma. Or Forster's Maurice, whose essence is the mystery of one's own nature, and truly remarkable for having been written in 1914, so far ahead of its day that it dared not be published until 1971?

In the end, though, and not without great mulling about, I chose what might be considered, length notwithstanding, a "small" book, one which has not been around long enough to be described as forgotten, though I do think it has been unjustly neglected. Nor is it quite a crime story, though there are crimes in it. Violent crimes, yes, but more significantly, in my opinion, crimes against love, which surely ought to be heinous enough for any reader.

Alan Chin's Island Song is, for want of a better description, a love story, but it is so outside the boundaries usually pertinent to that genre that I fear I am starting off on the wrong foot by labeling it so. It could also be described as a "gay novel," but I don't think that label is any more appropriate, either. It is a novel about love, but of many sorts and of many aspects, and some of that love occurs between two men, but this is truly not the thrust of the story, only one element of it.

The novel begins on an eerie metaphysical note. An ancient Hawaiian shaman, known to everyone only as "Grandfather," and his grandson, Songoree, come to a small island in the middle of the night to perform a mystical ceremony, summoning the ancient island Gods, Kane and Pele. "Bring forth the Speaker," the old man chants. "Bring forth the Speaker."

The story's focus shifts to Garret Davidson. Two years after the AIDS related death of his lover in San Francisco, Davidson comes to Hawaii to write a book about his lost love. He wants only to be alone in the beach shack he has rented, to stare out at the endless ocean and heal his wounded spirit.

He has rented the shack, however, from Grandfather, who sends Songoree to serve as Davidson's housekeeper and man-of-all trades. At first, a bitter Davidson resists Song's ministrations, but the old Kahuna has his own plans for these two and in time they become entwined in an extraordinary relationship, a relationship increasingly resented by Song's surfer friends. Violence follows, vicious and sudden, like the bite of a great white shark.

Island Song is not only about the love that gradually grows between Song and Davidson, however. There is as well a profound love between grandfather and grandson; the love that both of them have for their island traditions; the love of friends. Even the all-sacrificing love of a dog for his human partner. Most especially there is a love of nature, and of the mystical.

Wafting through it all, like the tropical breeze rustling the leaves of the palm trees, is the author's love for his idyllic island setting and for the interconnectedness that he sees lying beneath the surface of all existence: "All things begin within the density of silence."

Alan Chin has penned an uplifting read that transports one not only to Hawaii, but ultimately and far more importantly to the island that lies within, the island of the heart. What the author would have us understand is that it is on this island where the wounded and the unhappy—and isn't that at one time or another each of us—will find the healing, the peace, they seek. This is its song.

A beautiful book. The real crime here would be in not reading it.

Victor J. Banis is the author of more than 160 published works in a career spanning nearly half a century. He has been called the "godfather of modern popular gay fiction" (Thomas Long, PhD). Learn more at http://www.vjbanis.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rules vs Principles in writing

Started reading a new book about writing screenplays: Story by Robert McKee.

He started the book off with an introduction that outline a number of cliches regarding writing in general, but the first paragraph of the intro I took a shine to. That was:

A rule says, "you must do it this way." A principle says, "This works. . . and has through all remembered time." The difference is crucial. Your work needn't be modeled after the "well-made" play; rather, it must be well made within the principles that shape our art. Anxious inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.

I like the idea of mastering the form, if I could only figure out what the hell it is....

Hopefully this book will tell me... Am I asking for the moon? No. Many others have learned. All it takes is someone to show the way.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Response From Lambda about discrimination

Last week I posted an article claiming that the Lambda Literary Awards were practicing discrimination against non-gay and lesbian authors. Since then, the Lambda committee has issues a position statement. The following is their statement:

Clarification of Lambda Literary Foundation Policy Guidelines of Nominations, 2009 Lambda Literary Awards, from Katherine V. Forrest, Interim President, Board of Trustees

September 25, 2009 - The Board of Lambda Literary Foundation, under the leadership of Christopher Rice, spent much of last year discussing how our literature has evolved, and the actual mission of the Foundation given the perilous place we find ourselves in with our drastically changed market conditions. We also took into consideration the despair of our own writers when a heterosexual writer, who has written a fine book about us, wins a Lambda Award, when one or more of our own LGBT writers may have as a Finalist a book that may be the only chance in a career at a Lambda Literary Award.

We discussed two essential questions: who we are, what we are here to accomplish. We discussed every single word of this, our Mission statement: The Lambda Literary Foundation is dedicated to raising the status of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people throughout society by rewarding and promoting excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives.

Lambda Literary Foundation is a service organization for our writers. Our LGBT family of writers. We celebrate those who support our writers, those in all the allied areas of our literature: our readers, publishers, booksellers, publicists, agents, etc. We celebrate straight allies of every kind and always have throughout our history, with the Bridge Builder Award, Small Press Award, Publishers Service Award, Editor's Choice Award, among other awards and acknowledgments, and we'll continue to do so.

Today we continue to be excluded in heterosexual society as we have been historically. Our books are taken from the shelves of libraries all over the country and even from the website of Amazon.com this year. It is more difficult to be an LGBT writer now than it has been in many decades, more difficult to make any income from our written words, much less a living. Publishers have closed, stores have closed, the markets seem to be shrinking with each passing day. It seems more urgent than ever that LLF be as active and supportive a service organization as we possibly can be for our own writers, and that's what we're working on, with a Board that could not be more passionate in our commitment. We will soon have a new, far more comprehensive website connecting all segments of our publishing world, and we're determined to restore our Writers Retreat for emerging writers, the single most important initiative we've undertaken next to the Lambda Literary Awards.

As to what defines LGBT? That is not up to anyone at Lambda Literary Foundation to decide. The writers and publishers are the ones who will be doing the
self-identifying. Sexuality today is fluid and we welcome and cherish this freedom. We take the nomination of any book at face value: if the book is nominated as LGBT, then the author is self-identifying as part of our LGBT family of writers, and that is all that is required. There are many permutations of LGBT and they're all welcome as that LGBT term we've all adopted makes clear.

We hope this will clarify our policy and answer some of your questions and concerns. We welcome your comments.

Contact: Tony Valenzuela, info@lambdaliterary.org

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Top Twenty List of LGBT Themed Books.

I recently saw a blog that listed a writer's top picks for GLBT books. I thought, what a lovely idea, to post all the books I've loved and have influenced me over the years. So today, I'm compiling such a list of GLBT books:

(in no particular order)

1. Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley
2. Comfort & Joy by Jim Grimsley
3. Boulevard by Jim Grimsley
4. The hours by Michael Cunningham
5. A Home at the end of the World by Michael Cunningham
6. The Persian Boy by Mary Renault
7. Maurice by E. M. Forster
8. The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren
9. Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
10. Breakfast At Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
11. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
12. The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt
13. While England Sleeps by David Leavitt
14. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
15. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
16. The Beautiful Room is Empty by Edmund White
17. A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White
18. Do You Remember Tulum by Alex Jeffers
19. Conduct Unbecoming by Randy Shilts
20. Island Song by Alan Chin

There are a number of books with gay or lesbian characters and that have glbt themes that I’ve enjoyed over the years. The above list, however, are the ones most memorable to me. I know I’m leaving several great ones out, but I seem to be having a senior moment. I’ll update this list as titles come to me.

Please, everyone feel free to leave your picks on the comments. I'd love to hear about the books that really moved you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A little blatant self promotion

Hey guys,

I haven't had a lot of good news to share lately, but something came my way this week. For the last 3 or 4 years, QBliss magazine and QBliss.net online magazine have awarded people in the lgbt community with Changing community Awards. There are a number of categories such as Pride Leadership and Pride Visibility. This year I was awarded the Pride In Literature Award, both for my novel, Island Song, and for my Examiner.com LGBT Literature column.

It's not a prestigious award like Lambda, but it is a small validation of my work. Nice to know someone out there is paying attention to what I do.

If you're interested in seeing all the award recipients, you can read about them at: http://www.qbliss.net/awards


Monday, September 21, 2009

Call for Submissions: I DO TWO an anthology


After the huge success of I DO, an anthology in support of Marriage Equality, MLR Press is delighted to announce that there’ll be a second volume, I DO TWO, with a planned publication date of 14th February 2010.

The project has an editorial team – Alex Beecroft, Charlie Cochrane, Sophia Deri-Bowen, Lee Rowan – and not forgetting Kris Jacen at MLR who have kindly agreed to be the publishers again.

What they now need are stories; heart warming, thought provoking, life affirming, and most importantly top quality stories. The deadline for submissions is December 1st 2009, with decisions announced on 1st January 2010. (Please adhere to the submissions guidelines given below.)

Submissions guidelines:

The anthology, titled "I DO, TWO", is a sequel to the January 2009 charity anthology "I DO!" All authors donate their stories to benefit the Lambda Legal Fund. The collection covers a range of times, places and people, and illustrates the universality of love and commitment.

To date, I DO has raised over $1500 for the cause of equal rights in marriage.

I DO TWO will be a similar, companion volume, published by MLR Press <http://www.mlrpress.com/>. (Contracts will be in line with their standard contract.)

They're looking for stories between 1,000 words and 10,000 words. M/M, F/F, Bi and transgender stories are welcome. There is no strict theme, but certain things are not wanted, for example: stories which undermine the purpose of the anthology – that is, no stories which are about how gay people do not want to get married or do not deserve to get married. They do not want anything that reinforces negative stereotypes – no snuff fiction, scat, golden showers, necrophilia or underage sex. Because of the potential copyright issues, they cannot accept fanfiction, either.

If you possess the copyright for your story and it isn’t currently under exclusive contract to anyone else, they are happy to consider stories which have been published before. (Please make a note in the covering e-mail.)

As long as your story follows these guidelines and comes within the word-count, please send it to Lee_Rowan@localnet.com

Your story does not need to have an explicit marriage-related plot or even a happy ending! Any story that celebrates the theme of love as valid, no matter the genders of the players, is welcome.

This is for a charity anthology, so you will not get paid. All profits will go straight to the Lamdba Legal fund. Through education, litigation and public policy work, Lambda Legal works to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people, and persons with HIV. Since their founding in 1973, Lambda Legal has become an active and vital part of the GLBT civil rights movement instrumental in the fight for same-sex marriage rights both nationally and, most notably, in the fight to strike down California's Proposition 8.

Deadline for submissions is 1st December 2009.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Discrimination at the Lambda Awards

The Lambda Foundation has recently published an enhanced set of guidelines for the upcoming Lambda Literary Awards contest, where gay and lesbian themed published works are judged. These new guidelines have a number of gay, lesbian, and straight authors in a tizzy. The organizers are taking steps to exclude lgbt themed books written by straight writers. It seems that they want to keep the awards "in the family."

It is still not clear to me whether they are not accepting works from straight writers, or whether they are simply giving more weight to gay and lesbian writers. The wording is rather confusing. What's perfectly clear, however, is that the organizers are discriminating against a group of writers based on sexual orientation. You would think they would know better...

In my efforts to review lgbt literature for my Examiner.com column and this blog, I have read a number of gay books written by straight women, and admittedly, many of these writers didn't have a clue as to what gay men are about. Thus, their books were ordinary at best, and some I tossed after reading only a few dozen pages. On the other hand, a number of truly great gay stories were, and continue to be, written by straight women. If the Lambda committee snubs the works of these writers, then works such as The Persian Boy, The Front Runner, and Brokeback Mountain would be excluded.

I doubt that I will be eligible to enter this year's contest, since my novel that was due out now is behind schedule and without a publication date in sight. So if it doesn't materialize soon it will have to wait until next year's contest. That means this new ruling will not affect me. Still, I think it's a sad state of affairs to exclude writers who support the gay experience. Discrimination by any group is ugly.

The following is what my friend, Victor Banis, had to say on the subject:
My honest opinion? The Lambda Foundation is run by and for a bunch of old queens in NYC who'd like to keep it a private party. The same editors publishing the same books by the same writers for the same dwindling pool of readers and then handing out the same awards to one another over and over. And occasionally they get together to sip sherry and wring their hands and wonder why gay books don't sell. Can we say boring, ladies?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Productive Day

Got a lot of good work in today. Polished two chapters of my novel, Butterfly's Child. That puts me halfway through the edits, and I am on schedule to complete the project by the end of this month. I've been averaging 1 chapter per day. It's a lot of work, but it's coming along.

I also managed to post a book review to my Examiner.com LGBT Literary column: Property by Jordan Castillo Price. A gay crime drama. Check it out at: http://tinyurl.com/labl3d

Sad to say I quit reading a gay historical novel by a fairly respected author, I won't mention her name. I struggled through the first 100 pages, but I couldn't take any more. Melodramatic, head-hopping, too much telling, not enough action, simplistic plot and characters. All in all I found it very amateurish. I knew there was no way I could give this story a good review, so I tossed it and started a new novel, The Low Road by James Lear. It's gay erotica (and I'm not a fan of erotica) but the writing is a pleasure to read. It's done in first-person, so at least there won't be any head-hopping. Hopefully this will be a pleasant surprise.

I had hoped to spend time outlining my new screenplay today, but there was not enough time. That will be a priority tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Starting a new round of updates today

Last week was rather exciting for me, but the upshot is that I've got a lot more work to do over the next month or so.

On Saturday, Herman and I had dinner with a writer/director/producer who is reviewing my screenplay, Daddy's Money. Although he is not all the way through reading/commenting on the script, he seemed excited about what I've done. He told me the script is great as it stands if I'm only interested in appealing to a gay audience (which was my intent).

But he said for him to be interested in getting involved with this project, he would like to see it toned down a bit to appeal to a wider (straight crossover) audience. He told me that he's looking for a "breakout" gay movie that will appeal to everyone, similar to Brokeback Mountain, and he feels my script could be turned into such a movie with a bit more work.

So the upside is that he likes my screenplay. The downside is that I need to radically change the first act, which is essentially the first 10 scenes (30 pages). Okay, no problem. I'm willing to do that. He gave me enough direction that I've come up with a new beginning which I believe will give him what he's looking for.

I must admit, that as happy as I am to have this professional interested in my script, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I'm also halfway through polishing my latest novel, Butterfly's Child, which should take another two weeks to complete.

I've also started the outline of my second screenplay, and I don't want to lose momentum on that. So I'm juggling three projects at once, while still trying to spend two to three hours per day promoting my book Island Song. When I retired from the corporate world ten years ago, I never thought I would ever be so busy, or work this hard again.

But then, life has a way of surprising us, no?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Took the day off.

Today was another day of non-writing. It was the final match of the 2009 US Open tennis championships in New York City -- the last grand slam of the year. It turned out to be Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin Del Poltro. Rodger was trying to make history with a 6th consecutive win at the US Open. Juan Martin, the clear underdog, was playing his first grand slam final.

Early on, it looked like Roger would roll over Delpo, taking the first set and being up a break in the second set. However, Delpo broke back and won the 2nd set in a tiebreaker. It was heaving hitting and fabulous shot making for five long sets, with Del Poltro winning in the end.

I was so happy to see a new face win a grand slam. In fact, both my pics for the singles won. Kim and Delpo. A great tournament as far as I'm concerned.

Okay, after two weeks of watching tennis, I'm ready to go back to writing. Lots of things happening on the writing front, which I will get into in detail as the week progresses.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Writing Book Reviews

An interesting thread opened on one of my online writing groups this morning. People were giving their opinions and advice on how best to write book reviews when the book in question is either nothing special or a real stinker.

Everybody who writes reviews, myself included, loves to read a compelling book and then have the opportunity to tell others why we think it's a worthwhile read. But as often as not we are asked to review a book that is poorly written, boring, or simply rambles on with no clear direction. Many of the writers chiming in today said they have no issues with writing a scathing review. Some reviewers take the time to contact the author and let them decide whether they want a bad review or nothing at all. (Surprisingly, to me anyway, many writers prefer a bad review rather than no review.)

For me, it's a bit of a toss up. I will not write a review that completely dishes a book. If I found enough positives that I can give a balanced review, pointing out as many positives as negatives, then I will write the review, regardless of what the author wants. But if there were no positives, and I've read several books that fell into that category, then I will simply not write a review.

It's more of a personal thing. I don't like writing negative reviews. Also, I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a bad review, and I have no wish to cause a writer that anguish.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Writing Good Screenplays

I received an email from Gabi, in Korea, this morning. She had read my previous post about someone interested in my screenplay and wanted to know which books I used to help me learn how to write screenplays. I'd like to post my answer here in case anyone else is interested in starting down that path.

The two books I've read so far that made a difference is Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and Writing For Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias. And for purely editing rules, The Screenwriter's Bible is good.

Blake Snyder's book is focused on structure and plotting -- how to breakup down the flow and elements of a good story, and where in the story each element should occur. Karl Iglesias's book is wonderful at pointing out how to push the viewer's emotional buttons. He claims (and I agree) that people don't go to movies to be entertained, they go to have an emotional experience, and his book goes in depth about how to give them what they want.

But reading books are only part of the story. It takes reading scripts. There are a number of websites that allow people to download scripts of famous movies. A Google search on 'movie scripts' should show dozens. Some charge a small fee and some are free. But scripts are by far the best learning tools. I've read hundreds of them. The great thing about scripts is that they read fast. I can read one in a single day. They are normally 100 to 120 pages long (rule of thumb is one page for every minute of film) and it's mostly dialog, which reads fast.

The other huge thing that has helped me learn is my weekly screenwriter's group. Six screenwriters meet every Tuesday morning for 2 hours. We critique each other's work and help support each other in the difficult task of screenwriting. That has really been invaluable.

Writing scripts is not easily. A writer need to pack a lot of elements into 100 pages without every becoming boring. It takes work, but it's oh so satisfying when it all comes together.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How to sell a script with a little help from a friend and a lot of dumb luck...

I was so exited last night I could hardly sleep. I belong to a small group of talented screenwriters who meet once per week to give each other feedback on the scripts we are each working on. Recently I finished a script called Daddy’s Money, and one member of the group was kind enough to arrange a dinner meeting with James, a screenwriter/director in the international film scene. The idea was for us to simply meet, have a pleasant dinner, and then at some point a few weeks down the road, for me to pitch my screenplay to him in hopes that he would, for a cut, arrange a meeting with someone willing to produce the movie.

As it turned out, it was James’s birthday, so it turned into a celebration with plenty of champagne before, during, and after dinner. James and I hit it off immediately, and about thirty minutes into the celebration, we began to talk shop. James is on my screenwriting group’s email list so he occasional reads snippets of scripts as we pass them back and forth for review. So I was floored when James said, “Which one of the writers in your group wrote Daddy’s Money, it really terrific.” I was thrilled for two reasons, 1) that he liked it, and 2) because he brought up the subject so that we could talk business without it seeming like I was pitching to him.

We talked about the plot for several minutes and he seemed excited about it. Then I asked him for advice on where I should take it from here. He began by telling me I should raise several hundred thousand dollars, gather a cast, and direct the film myself. Then take it to all the GLBT film festivals. That of course, was exactly what I didn’t want to hear. When I made it clear I had no interest in making movies, only writing scripts, he suggested that he might be willing to take it on as a project and direct the film himself. He said he’d been looking for a script to like mine for a while.

At that moment my heart was beating so hard I thought it might jump out of my chest. I had visions of Alien. He asked if I had an updated script he could read. I, of course, had both the completed script and an outline in my car, which I promptly handed over. He said he would read it on Sunday and we would talk turkey later in the week. Then he invited me to his house next Saturday.

I’m still pinching myself to see if I’m dreaming. I’m trying to not get too excited, but being an eternal optimist, I can’t help myself.