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 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:


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

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

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

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,, 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:

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 ( ), 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