Monday, June 29, 2009

Web Digest Weekly’s Carey Parrish interviews Alan Chin, Author of Island Song

Not too long ago I received an email from writer Alan Chin, asking me to consider his novel Island Song for review. I’m always interested in reading new books and getting acquainted with new writers, and I am always honored when they personally think of me for this task. So I was blown away when Alan sent me a copy of Island Song and I consumed it in about two days. The writing was pristine and the story was so emotionally involving that I couldn’t put it down. It was just one of those rare writes that makes the reader feel and know that he’s just been given something special when he finishes it.

I was intrigued by Alan as well. Where did this story come from? What inspired him to write it? I began planning right when I finished the book to ask Alan for a feature and when it all came together early last week I was floored that he would take the time out of his vacation in Southeast Asia to answer a Q&A for me. The results follow and they are a look inside the extraordinary mind of a wonderful writer who has the gift of sharing the
stories in his heart without reserve

CP: Welcome, Alan. Thanks for giving me some time.
AC: It’s my pleasure. I appreciate any opportunity to talk about my work and to let readers know a little more about me.

CP: I understand you're traveling at the moment.
AC: Yes, every year my husband Herman and I try to take an extended vacation. This year we’re on a four and a half month journey through Australia and Southeast Asia – Thailand, Laos, Cambodia – and we’ve planned a two-week layover in Japan to see the cherry blossoms on our way back to the states. It’s a long time to be away from home, but we’ll miss the cold San Francisco winter. That was a major motivation for the timing of this trip. For those interested in some snapshots and tidbits from our current trip as well as past experiences, we do have a travel blog:

CP: What's been your favorite place and thing to do in Southeast Asia?
AC: Herman and I both love exploring temples and ruins. One of our favorite places to just hang out in is Chiang Mai, Thailand which has dozens of amazing Buddhist temples. We’re currently in Siem Reap, Cambodia visiting Angkor Wat and the other 1000+ year-old temples in this area. They’re all awesome, and I find them a bit humbling. For us, traveling doesn’t get much better than this. We love exploring different cultures and the way people live.

CP: Lets talk about your novel, Island Song. Where did you get the idea for this book?
AC: The story started as a short story project for a college writing course many years ago. The short story was about gay bashing, and was inspired by a true event in Arizona where a teenaged gay boy was beaten to death by four classmates who happened to be football jocks. They killed him solely because he was gay, and different. The jocks plead guilty and the judge let them off with 6 months of community service, saying that he, the judge, was impressed that all four boys were active members of the high school football team and that’s what this country needed more of. So four boys got away with murdering a gay kid simply because they were jocks. I was so outraged that I wrote a short story about fighting back against gay bashers. That story eventually grew into Island Song. Readers can find out more about it at my site:

CP: What is the message you're trying to convey in the story?
AC: Island Song touches on many topics concerning the gay community – losing a long-time partner, coming out, relationships that span age and cultural boundaries, gay bashing, alternative families – and it makes a statement about all those issues. But I think the overall message is that gay men and women can be both strong and courageous in our own unique way, finding inner strength without reverting to hatred or violence, and in so doing we will win in the end with our dignity intact.

CP: How has the book been received?
AC: I’ve been reviewed by a number of capable reviewers as well as some respected gay writers, and I’ve been lucky to have received mostly five-star reviews so far, with only one or two four-star ones. The reviewers have loved it with one even calling it a masterpiece of gay fiction. I’ve also received a number of emails from fans telling me the book has touched them deeply. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to get such glowing feedback. It makes me work harder because I want to do more to please these readers
who feel my work has inspired them.

CP: Was it a challenge for you to take two characters from different backgrounds and perspectives and have them work within your story?
AC: Actually, yes, but that made it fun. Starting out, I modeled most of those characters after people I know, so it was like taking old friends, family members and ex-lovers (I’ll leave it to readers to guess which one’s they are) and sticking them into the scenes. But my characters quickly outgrew their molds and demanded to change, taking on their own
personalities. That was part of the great fun, watching them grow into their own. For me, people from different backgrounds and perspective coming together make their story even more interesting.

CP: Are you working on a new novel now?
AC: My second novel, TheLonely War, is being released in September of this year. Also, my literary agent is currently peddling my third novel, Match Maker, to publishers. And yes, I have a fourth novel, Butterfly’s Child, that I will polish over the summer months and hope to have it completed by fall. I’m also working on a screenplay called Daddy’s Money.

CP: Who are some of the writers that inspired you?
AC: I can’t seem to read any novel or short story these days that doesn’t inspire me. It’s partly because, due to limited time, I’ve become more selective in what I read. But there are writers I love and constantly re-read: Hemingway, Capote, Marguerite Duras, Edmund White, Michael Cunningham, Jim Grimsley. Last year I was impressed by two novels from John Le Carre, and this year I’ve read two novels by Cormac McCarthy that I couldn’t put down.

CP: And what's next for you?
AC: I have a lot more stories percolating inside my head. I’ve started the first draft of a futuristic story about two bothers, one straight and one gay, told from the POV of the straight brother. It’s a story of brotherly betrayal and redemption, inspired by the novel The Kite Runner. It’s my first work that is not strictly gay-themed, and I’m getting very excited about it already.

CP: Okay...Now those nosy questions for your fans: Single/Involved?
AC: Married. Herman and I have been partners for over fifteen years. The day after gay marriage became legal in California, we marched down to the Civic Center and became the first male/male couple to be married in Marin County, California. I’m very proud of that. Not so much proud of being the first couple, but of being in the front ranks of that movement, and being able to make that social statement about our relationship. And I can tell you that even after living with Herman for fifteen years, I got choked up while repeating the vows. It was a very emotional experience.

CP: Do you have any children?
AC: No, and we’re too old and set in our ways to think about adopting. My children are my stories, and they take up all my free time.

CP: Who are your heroes?
AC: Right now President Obama is pretty high on my list. But generally speaking, all artists are my heroes. I admire anyone who creates something original, who reaches inside themselves and touches that vein of creativity that runs through their core, and then molds that into their vision of the world. Writers, painters, sculptures, musicians, film makers, photographers – it makes no difference which medium, what amazes me is the creative process and the people who have the courage to create something that speaks their truth to others. One of the best parts of being published is that I’ve met so many other writers over the last year. It’s both exciting and humbling to rub shoulders with these talented artists. I love it.

CP: Favorite place?
AC: Herman and I have traveled to over forty countries in the last dozen years, but in all that traveling, I’ve never seen any place I love more than our home near San Francisco. I’ve visited some cities that I want to go back and live a year or so to really get to know them: Kyoto, Paris, Venice, New York, Mumbai, Barcelona, Shanghai. But I always see myself coming home to San Francisco. It’s a blend of cultures and ideas and sights like no other.

CP: Favorite food?
AC: That’s like asking which is my favorite flavor of ice cream -- I love them all. I can say that Asian food always tops my list, and within that broad category, Cantonese food is what I like to eat most often. It offers a wide variety of food types and cooking methods.

CP: Favorite movie?
AC: I have so many favorites. I don’t usually care for dumb comedies, action movies, or movies with graphic violence, but if I had to narrow it down to one, I’d have to say Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, or Cabaret, or Moonstruck, or Victor/Victoria, or …. I could go on and on. Last year I watched a ton of gay-themed flicks, and saw some notables: Shelter, The History Boys, Callas Forever, Big Eden. There were several more but the names aren’t coming to mind. The advantage of getting older…

CP: What advice or wisdom can you pass along here?
AC: About Writing? About life? I’d say: if you have a dream or an idea you want to develop and share, don’t let anything stop you. Do it, work at it every day, do it to the best of your abilities, and don’t stop until it’s better than you thought possible. Learn your craft, then learn it better, then apply it. And while you’re applying it, learn more. That’s the journey, and in the end all we’re really left with is the journey. So set a course and travel well.

CP: What are you most proud of?
AC: The fact that for the last fifteen years I’ve been able to keep the man of my dreams relatively happy, or at least happy enough for him to stay with me through some monumental growing pains. That may not sound like much to do cartwheels over, but looking back, it’s what I’ve had to work at hardest to accomplish, and it’s still paying off. He’s my foundation. All of my other accomplishments would not have happened without his support.

CP: Alan, thanks again for giving me some time from your vacation.
AC: It’s been a pleasure. Thank You...

Having the opportunity to meet Alan Chin and become familiar with the motivations that resulted in Island Song, I can honestly say that this talented man has so much potential it is inspiring. He is truly one of the best new novelists to come along in recent memory and that he takes his license from actual happenings, turns them into works of fiction that resonate with the reader long after the last word is read, and then move on to another
project with the same zeal, is something that a only a true entertainer can achieve. From Island Song forward, I think Alan Chin is going to be turning out one hit after another for a long time.

Carey Parrish

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review: Island Song by Alan Chin

I wanted to share with everyone a 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, erotic gay 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, June 26, 2009

Book Review: Deadly Dreams By Victor Banis

Reviewed by Alan Chin

Victor Banis delivers this third novel of the crime/thriller/mystery series featuring San Francisco detectives Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel. This time, Stanley and Tom are lovers, who not only live together, but are partners in a private detective agency. As the two are settling into living together, a death in Stanley’s family uncovers the fact that Stanley has an older brother, Andrew, that he never knew about. As the story progresses, puzzle pieces about Andrew fall into place and the death of an art dealer last seen with Tom make it clear that, although Stanley never knew about Andrew, Andrew certainly knows a thing or two about Stanley. Stanley and Tom soon discover that officers from Homeland Security have targeted Andrew as a terrorist, and are desperate to track him down. The lovers join the search, unaware that Andrew’s primary goal is to kill Tom.

I’m now sorry that I didn’t read the first two novels in this series before tackling Deadly Dreams. Not that the first two are needed to understand the dynamics of the relationship between the lovers, indeed Banis give sufficient background so that the story stands on it’s own beautifully, but I enjoyed the characters so much I would have preferred to have started at the beginning of the series.

As with all of Victor Banis’s novels, it is a character driven story more so than plot driven. Victor is a master at creating complex and original characters that the reader has no choice but to pull for. As superb as the characters are, it was Victor’s consummate skill at crafting prose and his rich details that kept me fully engaged until the last page.

Of course no novel is perfect and this one is no exception. I occasionally felt that several plot points were a bit contrived in order to advance the story. That, however, didn’t detract from my enjoyment. Also, there were more spelling and formatting problems than I’ve seen in Victor Banis’s previous works. That, sad to say, is becoming more common in publishing today.

Those minor issues aside, I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, suspense, and a compelling storyline.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Friend Smokie

This is a bittersweet post for me. I want to write about what my dog Smokie is teaching me. You see, last week he came down with a digestive track infection, which meant vomiting and diarrhea – lots of diarrhea – all through the night. Him being a rather large Labrador, and his age being well beyond thirteen, any illness is a serious one.

The next day, when it became obvious it wasn’t clearing up, and he was getting weak from dehydration, I took him to the vet. They put him on an IV to restore his fluids, and also medicine to clear up the diarrhea. He was laid up for three days, during which time he was too weak to stand up. But on Saturday we brought him home.

So for the past four days, he’s been teaching me the meaning of love, of patience, of giving of myself. At first he refused food and water. I literally had to pry his mouth open and force food down his throat. But that was an easy problem to work through. The harder issue is that, being so weak coupled with the fact of several days on end of lying on a pillow, his hind legs no longer function properly. For him to walk, I have to wrap a towel under his belly and lift his hind quarters in the air, then I have to hold him up while we walk out to the yard. I’m doing this five or six time a day to give his hind legs exercise. The hope, of course, is that his legs will regain enough strength that he will be able to walk on his own. If they don’t, which is likely, I’ll have to put him down. But I’m not giving up hope, not yet.

He doesn’t seem to be in pain, so the idea of putting him down simply because he can’t walk seems cruel. I lay down with him on his pillow, and he still enjoys all the attention – the petting, the scratch behind the ear, the treats. So he still has the capability to enjoy life.

And what I’ve learned, am still learning, is that as long as he’s capable of enjoyment, as long as he’s not in pain, then I’m willing to do whatever it takes to give him that extra day or week or month of life, because he has taught me the depth of my love for him. I’m not kidding myself. I’ve known for a while that his time is drawing to an end. So I’m am literally thinking in terms of weeks or a month.

He has been such a loyal friend for these past thirteen years, and a huge part of my life. He gives unconditional love and asks for only food, a walk, and some pats on the head in return. Only one other time of my life have I experienced this kind of heart wrenching loss, when my father passed away. Indeed, I’ve recently learned that I love Smokie as reverently as any of my immediate family. Only my husband stands above him in importance.

I will do whatever it takes to keep him comfortable and give him that extra time. Each day I spend with him, no matter how hard, is another day of a shared love.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

City Lights Books Celebrates Pride Month

In celebration of June as Pride Month, City Lights Books is releasing three fantastic new books by gay, lesbian and queer authors. Starting with the publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl in 1956, and continuing through the years with William S. Burroughs, Harold Norse, Juan Goytisolo, Matilda Bernstein Sycamore and others, City Lights has a long history of supporting queer voices. Smash the Church, Smash the State!, American Romances, and The Torturer’s Wife all follow in that proud tradition.

Smash the Church, Smash the State!: The Early Years of Gay Liberation Edited by Tommi Avicolli Mecca

June 28, 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, three days of unrest in Greenwich Village that sparked the modern Queer Liberation movement. In commemoration, City Lights will release Smash the Church, Smash the State!, an anthology by the radical activists that formed the ranks of that movement.

"The personal is riotously political and the history is tangibly personal in these diverse, down-to-earth reflections on the early days of Gay Liberation, that heady era of Stonewall, getting stoned, and lobbing metaphorical (and actual) stones at our oppressors. Avicolli Mecca has woven a colorful tapestry of first-person accounts that is reflective and emotional, joyous and poignant – and ever defiant."
—Richard Labonte, Book Marks, Q Syndicate

American Romances By Rebecca Brown

American Romances, a new collection of essays, shows Brown at the height of her imaginative and intuitive powers. Fully embracing the theory of the literary Romance as a place where the probable opens up into the impossible, Brown lets her imagination run wild and envisions unlikely meetings and fantastical connections that span the course of America's cultural history: the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson and Nathaniel Hawthorne intersect as representatives of West Coast hedonism and East Coast Puritanism, Gertrude Stein presides over a same-sex religious movement, and H.G. Wells' Invisible Man reveals his/her secret sex life.

"She is one of the few truly original modern lesbian writers, one who constantly pushes both her own boundaries and those of her readers."
—San Francisco Chronicle

The Torturer's Wife By Thomas Glave

Thomas Glave is known for his stylistic brio and courageous explorations into the heavily mined territories of race and sexuality. In The Torturer's Wife, he expands and deepens his lyrical experimentation in stories that focus—explicitly and allegorically—on the horrors of dictatorships, war, anti-gay violence, the weight of traumatized memory, secret fetishes, erotic longing, desire and intimacy. Glave's work has earned many honors, including two Lambda Literary Awards, and an O. Henry Prize (he is the second gay African American writer, after James Baldwin, to win this award).

"Glave is a gifted stylist… blessed with ambition, his own voice and an impressive willingness to dissect how individuals actually think and behave." —New York Times Book Review

Check out these fine books and others at:
Thanks for your support of queer literature!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Being a Featured Guest on a Reading List.

When victorious generals returned to Rome in a triumphal parade, a slave rode behind the general, holding an olive wreath over his head and whispering: "Remember, thou art but a man."

Last Wednesday, myself and two other writers, Kage Alan and Dorien Grey, were featured guests on Beth Wylde's popular yahoo reading list. The list has over 900 members, all interested in books, and the idea was that they were to pepper us with questions about our books, ourselves, our publisher (we’re all three published by Zumaya Publications). I had followed the back and forth of questions and answers on the list for days ahead of time. There was tons of activity, hundreds and hundreds of people participating. It seemed a marvelous opportunity to get the word out about our work.

We all three signed on bright and early, had reviews and excerpts ready to post. We waited. The silence was deafening. We spent the entire day trying to drum up interest in each others' work. Nothing. We had a total of six other people who made one comment each (and one of those was our pubisher, Liz Burton).

This is nothing against Beth. It was very kind of her to allow us the time.

At one point early on, Liz Burton volunteered to give...that's GIVE...a free pre-publication copy of Dorien’s forthcoming Elliott Smith mystery, Aaron's Wait, for anyone who requested it within a certain limited time. There was one request. One. (Let me say it one more time to savor the humiliation: ONE!) When a writer cannot GIVE a book away on a reading list of 900 people, something is seriously wrong.

Repeat after me: "Remember, thou art but a man."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Interview with author/editor Vincent Diamond

I recently had the pleasure of reading Animal Attraction 2, a collection to novellas having to do with hot male couples and the animals that bring them together. I was so impressed with this collection, that I asked the editor, Vincent Diamond, to give me an interview. The following is the result of that interview:

Q: When did you start writing and how many novels have you published?
VD: My first writing attempts were in elementary school with my serious attempts as an adult starting in the mid-90s. I've actually published just short stories so far though the collection, Rough Cut, is certainly novel-length. (And, many of those stories are connected into longer story arcs.) My first fiction sale was Best Gay Love Stories 2005, and that was a huge vote of confidence.

Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?
VD: I had a third grade teacher, Miss Thigpen, who pushed me to write and a couple teachers in high school who were encouraging. But ultimately, I didn't get back into writing until after grad school and work and real life.

Q: What was the first story you ever wrote about?
VD: A werewolf. And ironically, I've actually sold two werewolf stories to anthologies under a different pen name. Weird, huh?

Q: Do most of your stories have gay or lesbian main characters. If so, why do you write about GLBT character, considering that it limits your audience.
VD: No, to be precise, most of the stories I write are not about GLBT characters, but—and here's the important part—it's mostly of the romantic/erotic stories are the ones that sell. I've written and submitted just as many "mainstream" fiction stories but so far, it's the sexy ones that get picked up.

Q: Who are the authors who most influence you, both in your early career and now?
VD: Thomas Harris, Alison Lurie, Carl Hiaasen, Stephen King, and Jane Smiley are the authors most represented on my bookshelves. They each kind have their own niche: Harris has serial murder, Lurie has academic adultery down pat, Hiassen rants about the evils of developers, King does Everyman everyday horror, and Smiley has narrative human relationships down pat. I'm not sure what *my* niche, but I'm looking for it!

Q: Your short story collection, Rough Cut, has been recently released. Tell us a bit about the stories.
VD: Many of the stories were published in anthologies such as Best Gay Love Stories, Best Gay Romance, Cowboys, Hot Cops, and the like. As time went by, it was easy to keep a longer story arc going with the same characters, so there are seven or eight stories that feature Steven and Conrad; there are three I think with David and Marcus, and a couple others are freestanding/standalones. Once I get into characters, it's hard to let them go so I do tend to go along the lines "and the continuing adventures of…" kinda deal. There's even a novel outlined featuring Steven and Conrad, I just haven't, um, written it. Yet.

Q: You recently edited an anthology of short stories called Animal Attraction 2. I understand that you are donating 10% of the editor’s proceeds to Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue based in Maryland ( and Florida Draft Horse Rescue ( based in Florida. Why are you so interested in the rescue and rehab efforts for the draft breeds of horses?
VD: Well, my first lesson horse at the barn where I ride now was a small Percheron. Small because she was underfed as a foal so she's barely 15'2 hands, which means her back is only 62 inches off the ground. That's short for a Percheron, who are normally 16'2 to 18 hands tall. The draft breeds—Clydesdales, Percherons, Shires, Belgians, and the like—are bred to be cart horses so they're not typically used for riding. But Dreamer is so calm and placid and safe for beginners, and she's a good sport. She has a really flat topline so it's easy to sit her trot. J
I found out that the big draft horses are often used for the Premarin farms where they're hooked up to catheters all the time and kept pregnant so that their urine extract can be used to manufacture hormone supplements for women. And because of their size and potential value to meat dealers, draft horses often end up in feedlots for slaughter. (Even the Amish just sell their old cart horses for slaughter, which strikes me as kinda cold.) It's just so sad. If I could save all of them, I would, I really would.
These two rescue groups are doing their best with the money they have so I try to support them in my own small way.

Q: Out of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
VD: Wow, that's a tough question. Probably any story with Steven and Conrad because I just have their longer story in my head, and I know how it all turns out in the end. Whether they stay in Tampa, whether they stay together, all that stuff is floating around in my brain to drizzle out at some point in the future.

Q: If you could offer one tidbit of advice for new writers, what would it be?
VD: Get used to being edited. That means accepting suggestions for revision without getting defensive and hissyfitty about it. With my editing gigs for various publishers, I see a really wide spectrum of writing skill, and one thing that does flummox me is when an author wants to spend more time arguing about a relatively minor point than just making the damn change. As a writer, I appreciate when an editor offers suggestions to make a story stronger. It would never occur me to bleeping argue with my editor.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
VD: I ride horses for fun, connection, and exercise. Since I spend *so* much time in my own head reading, writing, and editing, riding really forces me to do something totally physical. For me, my focus has to be so completely on what I'm doing, where my legs are, where my weight is, what the horse is doing, that it gets me completely away from work and intellectual shenanigans. I'm working at the very rudimentary level of dressage, which is all about control and connection and precision. At the high levels, of course, it's literally like dancing with a horse.

Q: Had you not become an accomplished writer, what other occupation would you have most liked to tackle?
VD: Something bookish, a librarian probably.

Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?
VD: The sense of entitlement that some folks have about ruining the ecosystem, nature, and overpopulating the human species. We just don't need more people on the planet, folks, we just don't.

Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?
VD: Rural, green, a little hilly. On my regular drive in and out of town I often see: deer, wild turkeys, foxes, eagles, owls, hawks, the rare bobcat, raccoons, possums, armadillos, snakes, gopher tortoises, cranes, and gators. I seldom go outside at night that I don't spot something skulking about the yard.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
VD: Thanks for the interview and time; it was fun!

Vincent Diamond Rough Cut.
Smut with heft.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Review: Animal Attraction II, Edited By Vincent Diamond

Reviewed by Alan Chin

This is an anthology for romance lovers, animal lovers, and for the beast buried deep in all of us. Each story is chocked full of hunky men and the animals that bring them together. Hot-blooded or cold-blooded, the silky pelt of a big cat or the sinuous slink of a boa constrictor, these animals plays a major role of each story in all sorts of interesting ways. The prose styles are as varied as the animals, ranging from richly detailed to sparely snappy. These stories aroused me, and some even inspired me.

I seldom read anthologies, mostly because I’ve found that I typically only enjoy two or three of the usual six to twelve stories, but I have to slog through the mud to find the gems. So I agreed to review Animal Attraction II with trepidation. I read the first story – Elusive Blue by Kiernan Kelly – and thought, this is fairly well written, good paced and enjoyable. Story #2 was a bit of a stinker, The Case of the Missing Boa by Aaron Michaels. At that point I thought: oh well, it’s down hill from here. But I had a very pleasantly surprise. I loved #3, Jane Davitt’s Driven By Destiny, about two men trapped in a house with a panther. Then, each story after that read better, and better and better. Slow and Steady by CB Potts took me on a fascinating ride into the Amazon rainforest in search of huge, albino snails that glowed. The Rodeo Mafia by Julia Talbot expertly pitted a vegetarian, animal activist against a redneck rancher with comical and interesting results. And Vincent Diamond saved the best for last with Hiding in the Snow by Sean Michael, which follows the trek of a nature journalist and a photographer in the mountains of Uzbekistan tracking the elusive snow leopard, only to find themselves in a survival situation. This one in particular kept me on the edge of my seat.

My only real complaint was that each of the stories were a tad predictable. That did not, however, detract from my enjoyment. For the most part, they are very well written, interesting, and most get pretty steamy. This is an erotica anthology that I can highly recommend. If you’re the type of reader who enjoys fast paced, well written prose, and expertly developed characters in your erotic romance stories, then this should be right up your alley.

Vincent Diamond has designated that a portion of his editor’s proceeds will be donated to the Florida Draft Horse Rescue ( ) and Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue ( ) Both charities rescue, rehabilitate, retire, and adopt out Belgians, Clydesdales, Persherons, Shires, and other heavy draft horses. So not only do these wonderful stories excite and entertain, the also help animals. Check it out at:

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Reading at the National Queer Arts Festival

About a month ago, I was contacted by GuyWriters, a gay writing group in the San Francisco Bay Area, to participate in a reading for the National Queer Arts Festival. Although I have a phobia about reading in public, I very much wanted to join GuyWriters and participate in their organization, as a way to integrated into the gay-writing community where I live, so I reluctantly agreed.

I submitted two excerpts from my novel, Island Song, and they chose one and told me I had seven minutes to perform it. I thought, seven minutes? I can handle that, right?

So I took the piece and a stopwatch to my backyard, and timed the reading. It was a good excerpt for reading aloud because it had little dialog and lots of action. The problem was it took fifteen minutes for me to read. I needed to slash more than half of it way in order to comply with the seven minutes they were allotting me. So I went to work.

A week later I had it honed down to bare bones, and I consistently read it at just under seven minutes. I was all set. I continued to practice reading it three time per day for the next three weeks.

The night of the performance was also Herman and my one-year anniversary for getting legally married in California. So we drove into the city early and enjoyed a superb seafood dinner at a favorite hole-in-the-wall, and at dinner, I had a beer to help calm my nerves that already had my stomach doing jumping jacks. When we got to the auditorium, I found that there would be ten other presenters, and I was roughly scheduled to read in the middle of the pack. At least I won’t made to wait until last, I thought, only somewhat relieved.

All eleven writers were seated in a semicircle facing an audience of about forty people. By this time my knees were knocking together. Anthony Williams, our Master of Ceremonies, welcomed the audience, then proceeded to read his monologue, which was fabulous. He was born to perform, and his material was really well written. You could tell he really enjoyed the limelight, and the audience responded. There is no way I can compete with this, I thought. On my best day, I would look like a dunce by comparison. I could only hope that the others were not as good.

But each presenter that stood at the podium and read was just as accomplished as Anthony. My fear mushroomed, as did my depression. I knew, beyond a doubt I would seem like and amateur alongside these writers. The thought crossed my mind to simply stand and walk out. There were only two people there who knew me. But I really couldn’t make myself do that. I had agreed to read, and come hell or high water, I would honor my commitment.

Finally my time came. Anthony gave me a charming welcome, people clapped, and I took my place at the podium. My hands shook, I looked down at my paper, and I began to read, slowly and with feeling. A moment later, I began to relax because the words were coming out smoothly, not me stumbling over them like all the previous times. I began to enjoy it, my voice became stronger, more confident. I began to look up, make eye contact with the audience. Yes, I was really reading in front of forty people and actually enjoying it!

What seemed a moment later, I was done and the room filled with applause. It was a personal triumph. I sat, enjoying the moment. Other readers came after me but I could hardly pay any attention to them, I was still basking in the wonder of it. Then, the next to the last speaker began to read. He was a notable novelist, and his prose was beautiful, but he stumbled and stuttered and read exactly the way I had thought I would. I felt so sorry for him, and so happy that I have finally overcome that fear.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Interview with Gay Author Alex Jeffers

I recently reviewed a novel by Alex Jeffers, Do You Remember Tulum, and was so blown away by it’s power and beautiful prose, that I immediately contacted Mr. Jeffers to ask if he would grant an interview to his newest fan. The following is the result of that interview:

Q: When did you start writing and how many novels have you published?
A: I can’t really remember a time before I started writing—trying to write, anyway. Probably about the same time I worked out that the stories in books had been made up and written down by fabulous creatures called writers. Age four or five, maybe? I wanted to do that too! I’ve published one full-length novel, Safe as Houses, the short novel Do You Remember Tulum?, and fifteen or twenty shorter works, including (as separate stories) about half of a third novel, The Abode of Bliss.

Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?
A: My grandfather, Robinson Jeffers, who died when I was quite young, was a world-famous poet. I wouldn’t say he inspired me—I expect his example has a lot to do with why I’ve never seriously tried to write poetry—but at the same time he made it reasonable to consider writing as a vocation when people started telling me I’d never make a living. (I haven’t yet.) My father, also, was a (bitterly never published) novelist. In a way, writing was something Jefferses did, although not as much as we read. I wrote—and write—because there aren’t enough readable books in the world.

Q: What was the first story you ever wrote about?
A: I can’t remember that far back! The first story I sold (I was sixteen) was a science-fiction re-envisioning of the myth of Orpheus and Euridice.

Q: Do most of your stories have gay or lesbian main characters? If so, why do you write about GLBT characters, considering that it limits your audience?
A: 1) No question. 2) I write for an audience of one … but I contain multitudes. Writing is hard. I second-guess every sentence, third-guess every paragraph. It’s too horrifyingly hard even to attempt if I’m not pleasing myself first. It happens that the characters I fall in love with and whose stories I want to explore are more likely to be gay than not. Many years ago I made several abortive attempts to write to formula, to audience—I couldn’t do it well and the trying depressed me. Besides, there’s no dearth of stories about straight people: that bucket doesn’t need me to fill it. It’s already overflowing.

Q: Who are the authors who most influence you, both in your early career and now?
A: The strongest early influences, still marking my prose and approach to the work, would probably be science-fiction writers Samuel R Delany and Joanna Russ—I only found out years later both were gay. I read the Alexandria Quartet at an impressionable age and am aware of the heavy shadow of Lawrence Durrell on a lot of my work. I can only hope to have been benignly influenced by Charlotte and Anne Brontë (Emily not so much), Samuel Richardson, Elizabeth Bowen, Alice Munro, William Trevor, Robert Ferro, Orhan Pamuk, among many.

Q: Do you need to be in a specific place or atmosphere before the words flow?
A: I need to be warm. If I’m not moving around, brain and body start to shut down when the ambient temperature drops below 70ºF. Good hot strong black coffee and cigarettes are helpful adjuncts, as is whatever music I’m currently interested in. As a rule, I’d rather be home at my own desk (although the cat who insists on sleeping under my feet is not helpful), but as long as I’m not cold I can—not to say will—write anywhere. Sadly, I find it very difficult to compose on a laptop, but I’ve never lost the knack for doing it by hand. A good chunk of the book my agent’s reading now was written on the commuter train back and forth between Providence and Boston.

Q: Do you drive yourself, with something like a daily word count?
A: I could only wish to have that self discipline! I’ll take any excuse at all to scurry off onto the internet to do “research.”

Q: What’s the strangest source of inspiration you’ve found for a story?
A: A Hebrew-language album, Ha’anashim Ha’chadashim, by Israeli rock star Ivri Lider. I don’t speak or understand Hebrew. But it broke my block (see next question).

Q: You took a rather long break from publishing anything. If it’s not too personal, can you tell us why?
A: A very long, very ugly bout of writer’s block that was probably—although I don’t like to psychologize myself—caused by my and two successive agents’ inability to sell the three book-length projects I completed between 1994 and 1999.

Q: Your novel, Safe as Houses, is being re-released after 12 years from its last printing, right? Tell us about the story and why you’ve decided to release it again.
A: Safe as Houses is an AIDS novel, I suppose, in the sense that you discover the narrator’s illness on the first page (or the flap copy or back-cover blurbs). But what novel about gay men in the eighties and early nineties wasn’t an AIDS novel? Primarily, though, it’s a novel about family and—in Nigel Nicolson’s phrase—a portrait of a marriage. The narrator, Allen, a callow young man, meets and falls for freelance artist Jeremy … and then finds out that Jeremy comes with a young son, Toby, whom Allen also falls for. The book follows their lives together for ten years, through good and bad times, as they build their family. The US branch of Faber and Faber issued a handsome hardcover in 1995; two years later, Gay Men’s Press in the UK reprinted it in paperback with a cover I still shudder to think about. Things got very complicated a few years later, in ways I can’t begin to summarize. Suffice to say the paperback was no longer available, though not declared out of print, and I could find nobody to release (or even clarify) the rights to me. I was unhappy when people could buy only GMP’s hideous paperback, still more unhappy when they could only buy it used. As I understand the contract, the rights reverted to me a year or two ago so, thanks to the high-tech magic of Print on Demand, I’ve been able to issue a new edition with a cover I like. What with all the kerfuffle around same-sex marriage, I think it’s more topical now than when it first came out.

Q: You recently had a new release hit the stands, Do You Remember Tulum? Can you tell us a bit about that story?
A: On one level, Do You Remember Tulum? is a(n insanely long) love letter to my imaginary boyfriend. On another, a recollection of some of the ways it was hard to be young and gay in the 1970s and how it became somewhat easier in the 1980s. On yet another, a reminiscent travelogue of the Maya archaeological sites of southern Mexico—especially Palenque, where I lived and worked and wrote for a year and a half in 1977-8. On a fourth level, it’s a story about how the past won’t let you go however far you move on. And finally, it’s a work that appears to be autobiographical, as all first novels are expected to be (I wrote it before Safe as Houses), but mostly isn’t.

Q: So, if you don’t mind sharing, would you tell us about your latest work in progress?
A: That would be the book inspired by Ivri Lider’s Ha’anashim Ha’chadashim. It’s a science-fiction novel, working title A Boy’s History of the World. I can’t (won’t) talk about the story yet, but the setting is a distant planet, settled by people from Earth but out of contact with the homeworld or any other colonies, several hundred years after a mysterious crisis that caused no more women to be born. So, yes, it’s a story about a world where there are no women and all the men are gay … except the majority who aren’t and have nobody to be sexually/affectionally attracted to.

Q: Out of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?
A: Actually, I have three favorites, all for the same reason: the ridiculous joy they gave me while I was writing them. 1) The short story “A Handbook for the Castaway,” a yarn about an eighteenth-century pirate shipwrecked in the south seas (you can download it from my website,; 2) the novel Deprivation; or, Benedetto Furioso, a dream romance set in Boston in the early nineties, although what it’s really about is the longing to run away to Italy (after a long stretch in the bottom drawer, it recently reached the semifinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and is now in my agent’s hands—if he can’t sell it, I may just publish it myself); 3) the science-fiction novella “The New People,” which will form the first part of A Boy’s History of the World and which I’ll be sending off to an international competition sometime in June.

Q: Which of your characters would you most like to have an intimate dinner with?
A: Not this year—I’m too involved in A Boy’s History of the World and may get caught up in revising Deprivation if my agent thinks I should—but maybe next, I wouldn’t mind sitting down with Ziya, Turkish narrator of The Abode of Bliss, and his American boyfriend Adam, viewpoint character of the projected second volume of what was always intended as a two-parter. Abode doesn’t stand up on its own. I’ve been trying off and on for ten years to get a handle on the second part. I know pretty much what has to happen but can’t get it to work. Over a long, leisurely Turkish banquet, maybe Adam and Ziya could help me out.

Q: Name a book or movie written by someone else that you wish you had written, and why that one?
A: Just one? That’s not fair—I write, and read widely, in at least four different genres: “literary” fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction…. Okay. I’m not a movie person so it’s a novel: Charlotte Brontë’s Villette. I read it first about twenty years ago and rare is the year I don’t reread it. (I believe it much stronger than Jane Eyre.) Brontë never puts a foot wrong. Lucy Snowe encapsulates a paradoxical blend of hard-headedness and romanticism, pathological secretiveness and brazen openness that speaks powerfully to me. Her alienation from her own British culture and attraction to/repulsion from the alien culture of the continental city of Villette parallel issues I struggle with, as a gay artist, intellectual, and not-so-willing native of resolutely crass America who recognizes I’d be just as out of place in contemporary Europe—even if I spoke any European language well enough to get along. The novel’s conclusion can only be regarded with wonder and sheer envy: it oughtn’t work but it does.

Q: If you could offer one tidbit of advice for new writers, what would it be?
A: If you can stop yourself from pursuing this ludicrous vocation, do. You’re just asking for trouble and heartache. And, incidentally, poverty.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: Drive very fast on the open highway with the top down and the wind in my hair. Since I don’t own any kind of car, those friends who occasionally let me drive theirs don’t have a convertible, and Rhode Island lacks satisfactory open roads, this happens tragically seldom. Failing that, I like to cook, to sew, to fool around with Photoshop and other design software, to pester my cats, to take long walks through Pawtucket and Providence and anywhere else I can get to, to visit my friends in the country and play with their dog and kids. I’d like to travel again—I’ve never been to Turkey or Spain or the Balkans, didn’t manage to get to Venice the last time I visited Italy—but it’s just not feasible right now.

Q: Had you not become an accomplished writer, what other occupation would you have most liked to tackle?
A: Rock star, of course. Or operatic countertenor.… (I can’t carry a tune.) More realistically, illustrator and graphic designer.

Q: What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
A: Move from Boston to Phoenix because I’d fallen in love with a guy on the internet.

Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?
A: The resolute distrust of and lack of support for the arts in this country—the endless, deliberate cheapening and vulgarization of cultural discourse and “product.” I almost wish I could say homophobia but, really, that just puzzles me.

Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?
A: It’s too small! Three quarters of my furniture and seven eights of my library are in storage.… I’m not especially enamored of Pawtucket, RI, birthplace of the American industrial revolution and the town with the second-most-ridiculous-sounding name in Christendom, but very glad to be back in New England. Unless somebody hands me a villa in Tuscany, a palazzo in Venice, a yali on the banks of the Bosporus, or a Georgian country house in Ireland, I expect I’m in Rhode Island for good, and content enough with that.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: My website: There’s a lot of freely downloadable fiction, long-winded ruminations on all manner of subjects, an infrequently updated blog, and pictures of my cats.
My books—they’re on Amazon. They’re challenging and worthwhile.
Oh, and I can be found on Facebook. You have to tell me why you want to be my friend, though (hint: “I love your work” is guaranteed effective), or I’ll ignore you with a clear conscience.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Reivew: Do You Remember Tulum by Alex Jeffers

Reviewed by Alan Chin

(PUBLISHER: CreateSpace, 2009, $11.00)

In 1977, Alex, a nineteen-year-old, would-be novelist, relocates to a small town in southern Mexico. Shortly after his arrival, his boss arrives with ten students on spring break, and Alex must act as driver and chaperone to the, only somewhat younger, students. Among the youths that have come to explore ancient Mayan sites are dark, sexy Peter and quiet, mysterious Keenan. During the two week expedition where Alex pilots the boys across the Yucatan in an old van, Peter and Keenan’s sexual advances upend the writer’s comfortable life, making him question everything he knows about love and relationships.

A dozen years later, with a spur-of-the-moment decision, Alex leaves his Boston lover and returns to Mexico to explore his past. At Tulum he begins a rather long and detailed letter to his abandoned lover, to explain his abrupt, inadequately explained departure. As Alex tries to explain the effect the 1977 trip had on him, a then confused and frightened youth, he pours his guilt, regrets, desires, and love onto the pages of the letter, letting us know how the youth became a man capable of expressing love.

Whenever I interview a writer, I always ask what book he or she has read by another author that they wish they had written. Well for me, Do You Remember Tulum is the book I wish I had written. It is a novel, yet it is beautifully written in the form of a lengthy and delightful love letter. The prose is some of the loveliest and moving that I have read. It gave me the feeling of voyeurism, that I was secretly reading someone’s letter to his lover, with all the passion and intimacy of two people deeply in love. And through this letter, this peeking into the narrator’s experiences, hopes, and dreams, I watched him map the geography of love.

This is not an easy book to read. There were times when I found the story-line to be glacially slow and bogged down in delicious detail, and it often seemed to be rambling on with seemingly no direction. That aside, this travelogue never felt tedious, because the marvelous prose carried me along as if in a dream, not wanting to be wakened and confronted by the real world again. There were several parts that were stunning, and I couldn’t put it down.
This is not book for everyone. People who need an obvious plot to carry them along, or bold characters who never falter, should not attempt this read. But for readers who love subtly, who enjoy seeing themselves caught within the dashes of ink on the page, who are capable of discovery, then I highly recommend this book.

To purchase, click-here

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Smashwords writing contest: DEADLINE 6/14

Smashwords is sponsoring a free writing contest in conjunction with Editor Unleashed. The deadline for posting your entry is June 14. Simply write 1,000 words or less, post it to the Editor Unleashed forum, and win $500 if you're the Grand Prize Winner. 39 "Editor's Choice" winners will each receive $25.
Winners will be selected based on a combination of reader votes (starting June 15, you can promote your entries on your blog, social networks and websites) and an independent panel of judges (Maria Schneider + professional literary agents and editors).

At last check, there were about 150 entries, so the odds of landing in the top 40 to win a cash prize are reasonably good if you're an excellent writer.

All 40 winners will be published in a Smashwords ebook anthology that will be available for free download to anyone.

For complete instructions, visit

Thanks to Maria Schneider of Editor Unleashed for originating the idea for this contest and managing it. Also thanks to Kat Meyer of Next Chapter Communications for creating the logo and award buttons for the contest.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Golden Triangle, a Little Tarnished

For three years, Herman and I had looked forward to visiting Chang Rai, Thailand. We were told it was a smaller, more primitive, more charming Chang Mai, minus the tourist. In Chang Rai, we heard, backpacker hung out because it was cheap and there was plenty to see there, being the gateway to the Golden Triangle.
So after spending a month in Chang Mai, our favorite place in Thailand to hang out, we boarded a bus and drove through the mountains to Chang Rai, the largest town in the extreme north of Thailand.
The town was more primitive, and certainly smaller than Chang Mai. It had a tiny tourist section, a two-block-long length of street away from the center of town, where several pizza joints, Italian food restaurants, and trinket shops catered to a small enclave of tourist. There was a decided lack of Thai restaurants, with the one exception of a food court with surrounding food stalls, but that only opened up at night, as part of the night market. One glance at the menus of the tourist places told us they were not as cheap as we had been lead to believe. We had to walk a few blocks away from the tourist area in order to find some local eateries, but even they were expensive by Thai standards.
The guest house that we booked for a week was typical of Thailand, which means the bed was extremely hard and the walls paper thin. But it did have the bonus of being only a half-block from the night market, food court, and the bus station. It turned out to be a charming little three story place with five rooms each on the second and third floors. We had found the place on a gay website, but near as we could tell we were the only gay couple there. Most of the staff were obviously straight, but it seemed that the owner (a Norwegian male) and the manager (a Thai male) were lovers, although that was never confirmed.
One walk around the area made it clear that visitors stayed in and around the tourist area, and there was not much for them in the rest of town. It seemed that most of the travelers who visit Chang Rai, do so in order to take tours of the Golden Triangle, and they use Chang Rai only as a base camp.
We spent our first two days in the town doing what we normally do. We walked the town looking for cool local shops and good places to eat cheap food. We visited all the Buddhist temples, wandered through the local markets, bartered with the street vendors. It was fun exploring a new town, but it also had its drawbacks. Most of the locals there don’t speak English, and we don’t speak Thai. In most places we’ve traveled in Thailand, the locals speak enough English for us to get by comfortably, but not so in Chang Rai, which made ordering food in restaurants a frustrating experience. More than once I ended up eating something I didn’t order. At night we ate at the food court, where we could get some fairly pricey Thai food, and ate while enjoying the nightly floorshow. The show consisted of traditional Thai dancers and two musicians.
The problem came during the third day. The town was so small we completely walked every part of it in the first two days, and none of is was so memorable that we wanted a return visit. So even though we dislike taking organized tours, we signed up for a full-day tour of the Golden Triangle.
Our tour started very early the next morning by being crammed into a van with five other tourists, a driver and a guide who spoke broken English, then a long drive north through some lush, hilly country. We stopped a garden park, that was way over the top with different verities of plants – everything from orchids to cactus. It felt like a botanical garden Disney Land. Next we visited an Opium museum, and learned more about the cultivation, production and smuggling of the white powder than I ever wanted to know. At last we approached the Golden Triangle, which is a spot where three rivers come together, forming the borders of Thailand, Burma, and Laos. It’s a beautiful setting, but there really isn’t much there to see. The fun part was climbing into a long-tail boat for a high-speed ride down the river to a Lao settlement. The village was very poor, and made money selling trinkets to us tourists who came down the river. Still it didn’t quite seem like it was worth the five hour drive just do a quick thirty minute ride on the river.
On the way back to Chang Rai, we stopped at a hill-tribe village. We definitely had mixed thoughts about the visit. These people are living in the poorest of conditions. The place was definitely set up for tourists but aside from our small group of seven there were none around.
This particular encampment housed four different hill tribes, the Akha, Hmong, Lisu, and Karen. The each had their own staging area where they performed a trible dance -- all except the Karen, who were the most popular because of the brass rings the young women wear to stretch their necks.
We came away from the Hill Tribe encampments with mixed feelings. It's all a big show meant for the typical tourist, but it somehow felt a little embarrassing for us. The encouraged donations certainly benefited the people, and any trinket purchased benefited as well. But how much of the ten dollar per person "visit" fee went to them? And how poorly would they live if no tourist visited them? As I say, it was somewhat embarrassing having these people put on a dog-and-pony show for us. On the other hand our visit was certainly an education on these very interesting, gentle people.
A funny thing happened the day after our Golden Triangle tour. We ran into our guide, the one who spoke broken English, on the streets of Chang Rai. He was very gracious and led us to his home for a traditional snack, then took us to the market where we all had lunch at a soup stall in the center of the market. We had a very pleasant afternoon with him showing us around the center of town, explaining to us which restaurants were good for which dishes, and what to look for in the various temples. The man had a wealth of knowledge, as you would expect from a guide. That actually wasn’t so funny, but what occurred the following days was. We kept running into this person every time we when out strolling. It seemed he was stalking us. We literally couldn’t go out without “accidentally” running into him. It got to the point where I began looking around corners, trying to avoid him. It turned into a very entertaining game, tying to go a full day without seeing him.
I must admit that I was glad to leave Chang Rai. Much as I love Thailand, I found this town rather boring, with only one or two notable temple. We I probable will not return.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Courtroom

A funny thing happened to me last Friday. I was called to jury duty, and I went thinking that even if I did get selected for a jury, the trial would only last a matter of days – no big deal. I began to look forward to it, thinking a trial could be interesting, and perhaps give me some fodder for a story. But when I arrived, packed into a courtroom with fifty other potential jurors, the judge explained that he expected the trial to last a minimum of five weeks, and could easily stretch into eight weeks!

Now, I’m as civic minded as the next fellow, but like everyone else in that courtroom, my mind began to race, trying to think of a valid excuse that would keep me off the jury. The problem quickly became, that I couldn’t think of anything – no important deadlines that couldn’t be pushed back, no travel plans, not a damned thing – and I wasn’t about to lie. So, even though I am not a religious man, I began to pray that I wouldn’t get called. The odds were in my favor. There were easily more than fifty people to choose from, and all they needed were twelve jurors and six alternates. That gave me almost a 75% chance of skipping out.

After an hour or two of the judge hearing people’s excuses and dismissing them, the numbers were greatly reduced but I still had a better than 50% chance of not being picked. Then the questioning began. The judge called twelve people to the jury box. He began by asking each one a series of questions: Name and address, occupation, how long that they had lived in Marin County, married or single, any kids – that sort of basic information.

The problem was, each time the judge would ask a man if he was married, and the answer was yes, the judge would respond, “And what is your wife’s occupation?” Each time a woman commented she was married, the judge would respond, “And what is your husband’s occupation?” The judge assumed everyone who was married was in a heterosexual relationship.

That’s when the funny thing happened to me. Being a legally married man in a same sex marriage, I got mad. And with each new person questioned, I became hotter under the collar. I began to pray that they would call me to the jury box and question me. It no longer mattered that I would end up sitting in that damned courtroom for the next two months, listening to the lawyers drown on. I wanted more than anything to, when asked what my wife’s occupation was, to say, “My HUSBAND is retired, and I RESENT the fact that you ASSUMED I was straight.”

My palms became sweaty; a headache began to throb. I envisioned a look of surprise, turning to embarrassment on the judge’s pink face. But each time a person was dismissed by the lawyers, to be replaced by a new potential juror, it was always someone else. The number of people dwindled, my chances were looking up, but then both sets of lawyers found everyone in the jury box acceptable. The judge smiled, thank us all and dismissed us.

I was crushed. DAMMIT! I wanted to demand my civic right to be on the jury, to be questioned by that judge. I could taste telling him off, but I would never have the chance.

Of course, an hour later, after a Starbucks latte and some cool-off time, I was grateful to have not been chosen. But he sure had me going for a few hours. Funny how something so simple can change your whole outlook on civic duty.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Interview with gay horror author, Rick R. Reed

Rick R. Reed has been hailed as “the Stephen King of gay horror” (Unzipped magazine, October 2006) and his dark, suspenseful fiction has been called, “a harrowing ride through cutting-edge psychological horror” (Douglas Clegg, author of The Attraction) and having a “knack for presenting the gruesome lower depths of a soul” (New City).

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing a superb novel, Bashed, by Rick R. Reed. When I caught up with Rick to let him know how much I enjoyed his story, he agreed to give me a formal interview. Below is the result of that interview.

Q: When did you start writing and how many novels have you published?

I started writing at age six, wrote and produced my first play in fourth grade and in fifth grade, held my classmates enthralled with a long account (read aloud in installments) about a young girl being kidnapped by a mysterious stranger. I guess it’s always been in my blood, almost something that’s constitutional with me.

With Bashed, my recent release with MLR Press, I can now say I have ten published novels (there are some additional e-book novellas that could also be counted, in addition to that number). My eleventh print book, M4M, a collection of erotic gay romance, will be out in June 2009 from Amber Allure, the GLBT imprint of Amber Quill Press.

Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?

I can remember being pre-school age and begging my mother to read me stories…all the time. I think I have always been fascinated by stories and their telling. Still am. I read voraciously and indiscriminately and I think other writers tend to inspire me, either directly or by osmosis. Some of my favorites are Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith, Flannery O’Connor, James Purdy, and Stephen King.

Q: Do most of your stories have gay or lesbian main characters. If so, why do you write about GLBT character, considering that it limits your audience.

Lately, the answer to that question is yes, although I do have a couple exceptions (Obsessed, my first novel, and High Risk are both straight horror/thrillers; Dead End Street is also a straight YA horror novel). The remainder I would say deal with gay characters and themes.
Why write about gay people? It’s what I know, for one thing. These are the people I know best and can write with the most ease about. I also find that gay people are still not assimilated completely (whether that will one day be the case is open to argument, as is whether it will be a good thing) and writing about “outsiders” is more interesting to me than writing about average, ordinary people.

To read the rest of this interview, click here

Monday, June 1, 2009

2008 Lambda Literary Winners

Congratulations to all the Lambda Literary Winners:

Open, Jenny Block, Seal Press

Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word), Thea Hillman, Manic D Press

Our Caribbean, edited by Thomas Glave, Duke University Press

Out of the Pocket, Bill Konigsberg, Dutton

The Second Coming of Joan of Arc, Carolyn Gage, Outskirts Press

Loving The Difficult, Jane Rule, Hedgerow Press

Turnskin, Nicole Kimberling, Blind Eye Books

Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern AmericanSexuality, Regina Kunzel, The University of Chicago Press

The Bruise, Magdalena Zurawski, Fiction Collective Two/University ofAlabama Press

In Deep Waters 2: Cruising the Strip, Radclyffe and Karen Kallmaker,Bold Strokes Books

The Sealed Letter, Emma Donoghue, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
All the Pretty Girls, Chandra Mayor, Conundrum Press

Sex Talks to Girls, Maureen Seaton, University ofArkansas Press

Whacked, Josie Gordon, Bella Books

love belongs to those who do the feeling, Judy Grahn, Red Hen Press

The Kiss That Counted, Karin Kallmaker, Bella Books

Finlater, Shawn Ruff, Quote Editions

Best Gay Erotica 2009, Richard Labonte & James Lear, Cleis Press

We Disappear, Scott Heim, HarperCollins

Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, Sheila Rowbotham, Verso Books

First You Fall, Scott Sherman, Alyson Books

GAY POETRY (a tie!)
Fire to Fire, Mark Doty, HarperCollins
Now You're the Enemy, James Allen Hall, University of Arkansas Press

Got 'til it's Gone, Larry Duplechan, Arsenal Pulp Press

Lambda Literary Foundation
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Los Angeles, CA 90036
phone & fax 323-936-5876