Thursday, April 29, 2010

Writing Tip #13 – Killing the army of ly

So far I’ve stayed away from tips on editing prose and focused on the larger issues of plot, developing characters and story structure. But this week, because I’ve been doing just this for two days, I want to focus on adjectives and adverbs, those pesky words that end in ‘ly’.

Adverbs and adjectives can bloat your prose and slow the pacing to a craw if you don’t keep a strict handle on them. They give the impression of giving your prose a lofty tone, yet they add very little to the content. And when overdone, they make the read difficult.

For the past two days I’ve performed an exercise on my work-in-progress. I’ve done a search on “ly “(ly plus a space.) So I’m going through the entire document evaluating each word that ends in ly to see if I can get rid of it, without effecting the meaning.

I’ve found that I have overused a number of words: finally, simply, suddenly, slightly, only, perfectly, really, etc.

And what I’ve found is that, 90% of the time when I delete these words, the prose becomes stronger, flows better. I wish I could stop myself from putting them there in the first place, but I can’t for some reason. But thank God for a text editor that can do a search. The difference is astounding (I first typed ‘truly astounding’, but then realized I was doing it again… And of course the word ‘truly’ adds nothing to the sentence.)

So a very simple way to improve your prose is to cut adjectives and adverbs to the bone, and cutting most of the words that end in ‘ly’ is a good start.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Review: The Rest of Our Lives by Dan Stone

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Lethe Press

Colm McKenna has a secret. He can stop time, that is, freeze everything around him. A handy little trick, you say? He would agree. He also has the ability to make things colder. He thinks he’s the only person on the planet with special gifts until he meets his opposite, Aidan, a fiery young man who can raise temperatures as quickly as Colm can cool them. And Aidan seems to be best at raising the temperature in Colm’s throbbing heart. And although they are opposites, they seem to be the perfect couple.

Under Aidan’s guidance, Colm learns that both he and Aidan are witches, but not just any witches. Their love is so strong that they have been finding each other through a myriad of lifetimes stretching back through time. With the help of Aidan’s aunty, the two begin to explore these past lives through hypnosis, and what they find terrifies Colm. Can he overcome his fear in order to find love again in this lifetime?

This book is a gem, a joy to read, like watching Bewitched or I Dream Of Genie for the first time. The characters are fun, exciting and unique. They are delightfully human, yet magical on many levels. Their adventure is romantic and humorous.

This is a light-hearted romance. It has a refreshing storyline that is extremely well written and genuinely funny. Five pages into it and I was hooked. And once hooked, I was carried along on a breeze watching this somewhat screwball pair negotiate the enchanting territory of love. There are sex scenes, though they are not explicit. Stuffy reviewers or hard-core mm fans might dismiss this story as fluff, but not this one. I think of it as a fun, heartwarming romp, and I highly recommend it.

You can read more about Dan Stone and his books at:

Monday, April 26, 2010


There is nothing quite like the feeling of completing something difficult, and knowing you did the best job you are capable of.

That’s what happened to me today, only doubly so. I’ve been working on two screenplays over the last few years. I’ve had them nearly done for months, with only polishing here and writing a synopsis there left to do. But because a friend is presenting both my scripts to a producer this week, I’ve been forced to do a heads-down, full-speed-ahead completion. I’ve been at it all last week, and today, I moved everything into my Completed file.

Even though I have other projects still in progress, I feel like a loadstone has been lifted off my chest. I feel so totally free. Even if this producer rejects both scripts, I feel fantastic. I can finally move on to other projects.

Funny, I got into writing screenplays because I thought it would take less time to write them. I mean, they are only 100 pages and mostly dialog. What I didn’t know, is that to write a good 100 page script, is more difficult and takes longer than writing a 400 page novel. But what a feeling when you finally finish them.

Now all I have to do is find a good agent to market my scripts.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review: Men With Their Hands by Raymond Luczak

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Rebel Satori Press
Pages: 272

For the most part, this story follows Michael, who hears with the help of powerful hearing aids. As a teen in a special school, he copes with feelings of shame and inadequacy because of his growing interest in men, but also because his family seems ashamed of him for being deaf. They refuse to let him sign words with his hands, insisting that he try to be “normal”. So he struggles to learn how to speak properly. He soon befriends other deaf students who are proud of their ability to talk with their hands, and they teach him not only to sign, but to be proud of himself. He learns that talking hands are a thing of wonder and great beauty. Michael moves to New York City and falls into the gay scene during the time when AIDS was just becoming known.

At this point the story drifts. In New York, a close-nit group of gay deaf men regularly meet. They generally date hearing people, some are hustlers, most of them are dangerously promiscuous during a time when AIDS is rampant. The story follows Vincent, Lee, Eddie, Ted, Michael and Stan – some in first-person narrative, some third-person. Their stories are about fighting for acceptance, both from the hearing people and among themselves.

The last third of the story focuses once again on Michael, his dealing first with the lost of his lover and then going home to patch up relations with his family.

As with most stories that are structured to follow multiple characters, I had the problem of liking some and not liking others. I was most interested in Michael, so during the middle part of the story where it followed other characters, I didn’t find that nearly as interesting. I wanted the story to get back to Michael.

This is not an easy read. It is repetitious, with many characters who I found hard to keep straight. It jumps from first-person to third, past tense to present and back again. It follows several people, some interesting, some not. There were times when it felt jumbled, other times it seemed to wander aimlessly.

Fortunately, the story started and ended with Michael, who I found to have incredible depth and I found his story riveting. I won’t give away the ending, but after dealing with social acceptance, an uncaring family, the loss of a long-term lover, and a near death experience, Michael come to an ending I found very satisfying to his story. This is a story of finding your community, bigotry, losing loved ones to AIDS, and it ends on an uplifting note.

Here’s a tiny excerpt:

“Stop fighting yourself.” I sip from my glass of ice water. “Hearing people think that their real voices are inside their throats, but they’re so wrong. Their whole lives are their real voices, and it has nothing to do with how well they can hear or speak. Just how well they choose to live. Sometimes I think God made me deaf so that I could feel my own heart beating instead of forgetting to hear it like so many hearing people do.”

This was a touching and intimate look into the lives of a few deaf people. My mother is deaf, and I felt that this book gave me a better understanding of her and my relationship. In many ways I thought this story was wonderful, yet in other ways I found it muddled and confusing. It is a journey, however, both for the characters and the reader.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Writing Tip #12 – Editing for a Specific Purpose

When editing a mss, I used to slush through it, line by line, with the general goal of making it better. But a tip I learned from screenwriting also helps me edit my manuscripts – editing for a specific purpose.

For example, a month ago I finished editing a mss and thought I had it perfect. But then I decided to run through it one more time with the goal of cutting away unneeded words, be it a single word in a sentence or the entire sentence. I challenged myself to cut a certain number of pages from the manuscript. I limited myself to editing 10 pages per day so as not to try and speed through it. It took over a month, but I was quite surprised and pleased with the result. I cut over 25 pages from a 410 page manuscript. That’s over 6% cut away, and the result is cleaner, more efficient prose.

Another example of editing for a purpose is to take a single character, and go through to edit only that character’s dialog. By focusing on only one character at a time, you better insure the consistency of that character’s speech throughout the story.

When editing screenplays I regularly only look at the action lines and skip all the dialog in order to focus on making the action as crisp as possible.

Another example is to look at only the verbs to insure that you are using the most appropriate action verbs.

By making multiple passes through the mss, each with a specific purpose, it keeps you focused on the goal.

Does it take longer to complete a mss this way? Certainly. But for me, having the best possible end product is more important than how much time it takes to get there.

And with that in mind, I’d like to add another editing tip. Reading aloud. I recently found that if I convert my MS Word files to rtf formatted files, my MacBook Pro will read it back to me aloud. The voice is slightly mechanical but is good enough that I catch a ton of mistakes. You see, when I proofread, I often see what I think is on the page rather than what is actually there. But by selecting pages and having the computer read them aloud, I hear what’s actually on the page. I love my Macbook Pro, but this ability to have it read aloud is what I love the most.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Interview with E.M. Kahn, author of Deep Water, A Sailor’s Passage

I recently reviewed a book – a Deep Water, A Sailor’s Passage – and I so loved the book that I contacted the author, E.M. Kahn. We exchanged emails and I found him utterly charming. He agreed to be interviewed, and the result of that interview follows:

AC: When did you start writing?

E.M.K.: Hard to pinpoint but I read a lot as a lonely kid, and especially the New York Times. I was pretty good in school with reports. By college I wound up as the editor of the school paper. I was the only one good a both writing clever headlines and counting picas, the old typesetter’s unit.

AC: Your book, Deep Water, A Sailor’s Passage, was so well written and so moving that I’m guessing you write all the time. Yet, I was only able to find one published book by you. Other than Deep Water, have you published any other books?

E.M.K.: I was writing a newsletter for a gay sailing club, KSA. I was among the founding members back in 1995. I wrote a short story about a trip the club took from City Island through New York Harbor and out to Sandy Hook, NJ. That formed the initial core to build the book around. Actually, that became the closing chapter called “Estuary.”
Remember, I went into carpentry after a few years as a newspaper reporter back in the 70s. It was a more reliable profession and I’d be on my own – which I needed. Writing took a back seat, after Bard College, where I did nothing but write. This book has brought me back full circle in a way to where I began.

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

E.M.K.: Family, not really, though my mother read “Wind in the Willows” to me and I loved it. Teachers profoundly helped and encouraged my nascent talent. As for a book, probably Thomas Wolfe’s “Look Homeward Angel.” I still re-read the poem at the opening of the story, “…a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf a door. And of all the forgotten faces.” I also start sentences sometimes with just “and.” I love the rhythm and the sense of longing. It stuck deep in me.

AC: Who are the authors who most influence you today?

E.M.K.: Well, I am still an old newspaper man, I like a story that moves along with emphasis on good strong verbs, and of course I look into underlying motivations. I like my work to move towards some kind of revelation, usually an inner discovery. Right now I am re-reading “The Catcher in the Rye” and can’t stand it, now. But as a kid, I was taken by Holden’s disgust with all the phoniness he sees around him. I guess I was taken with that sense of having too much insight, a vision that sets you apart.

AC: Regarding Deep Water, A Sailor’s Passage, what made you decide to write about such a tragic and personal event?

E.M.K.: Simple. Kevin died in my arms, in my own house. I was awestruck that amidst so many just awful AIDS deaths, so much heartbreak, here I was given this unimaginable insight into the passing of another’s life in my hands – exactly as I had planned when I brought him home less than a week before from Lenox Hill Hospital. Who was I to be able to orchestrate another’s life to the very last breath? Why should I have been given such a responsibility and such a gift? It’s all in the book, just like that. I was a glorious summer morning. I could hear birds singing in my backyard. It broke my heart to lose him, at the same time I felt I had been singled out, that I had been chosen to become a conduit of some kind. Yeah, one of those Burning Bush moments some of us are stuck with. This was a story that had to be shared.

AC: It’s been 10 years since the publication of Deep Water, A Sailor’s Passage. Are you working on any other stories you hope to publish? If so, can you tell us about them?

E.M.K.: Very much. I have a complete MSS for a book called “Jesse’s Key” a novel that deals with a sexy but very screwed up young gay guy stuck with a hopeless sex and crystal-meth addiction. I send him trekking one night halfway across Brooklyn as a kind of wandering in the bleak desert of his life. Eventually he is taken in by and elderly and very compassionate black woman, Jesse, a housemaid to an Upper West Side white family. It’s through her open arms that he hits bottom and just maybe can begin his recovery. It’s a very graphic story, I’ve walked every street in it. The writing here is much stronger, more mature, more consistent than “Deep Water.” No one gets shot but there’s a lot of emotional turmoil – the real stuff we all struggle with. Now help me find a publisher, or at least an agent.

AC: Do you enjoy writing, I mean, do you find it fun?

E.M.K.: It is work, intense focused stuff that I still can only do at night, late. I wrote almost all of “Deep Water” after 11 pm at night. There are no distractions at night, and I don’t watch much TV or films. Another part of my brain takes over, a free flowing creative part that I am too frantic and busy all day to let loose when I am busy with carpentry work. I write fast and don’t go back. I write like a newsman on the run, cranking out the meat of the story fast. But I do read my work out loud to see if it rings authentic. In the end, it is the only thing that I do that is uniquely mine and the only work I produce that I feel justifies my time here.

AC: What do you like to do when you’re not sailing or writing?

E.M.K.: I am so glad you ask me that. I have become a complete maniac all over again with bikes, but in particular fixed gear bikes. It’s like I am 19 all over again, and the bike – this kind of bike with no gears and no brakes – is a rush and a real challenge. I don’t even walk to the corner anymore, I use the bike more now than I rode 20 years ago. It’s what all the kids and messengers ride, and the speed and nimbleness and responsiveness of the bike kind of makes you crazy; you can get away with a lot of dangerous stuff out there on this kind of bike. Other than coffee, it’s probably as close to an addiction as I would ever get. I’ve built two bikes already. I am doing stuff I was doing - working on light and fast bikes - when I was a teenager. Bikes changed my life, saved me from becoming a total sissy boy. I might be queer, but I am very competitive and still pretty fast considering my being 63 years old now.

AC: Do you still spend as much time on the water now, and if so, where do you sail these days?

E.M.K.: That’s a bit trickier. First, having been a skipper of my own boats for 28 years, I am used to being in command, knowing everything that’s going on all over a boat, knowing everything that’s going right and wrong. I was a very technical sailor, very performance and detail oriented. Second, it just brings up too many memories of my 13 years with Kevin. I’d keep thinking, “We were here, once before, Kevin and I, long ago.” Yes, I still feel totally at home with a moving deck underneath my feet, but I also feel too haunted. In the last chapter of Deep Water, I have recollections of not only Kevin – who is already gone – but of Kevin’s father, who died long before I knew Kevin. I recall long gone tugboats from once thriving railroad lines. Stuff like that comes up for me, a huge burden of memories that sailing and just the water brings up for me. And finally, third, stuff is always going wrong on boats. It’s just the nature of the beast. Too many headaches. Too much anxiety.

AC: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?

E.M.K.: My own country’s stumbling arrogance. We are so naive at understanding much older cultures, like the Chinese, the Russians, the Vietnamese, the Afghanis, the whole Arab world. We are like the rich kid with all the best toys – and we think all these wonderful goodies we have inherently make us better people. Maybe a big turning point for me was Abu Ghraib, the whole prison and torture outrage of what we had gotten ourselves into through a conviction of our superiority. We still think we can change things, change people with all the incredible technical stuff we have, weapons, machinery, medicine, food, aircraft. All those thousands of twenty-year old soldiers, getting blown up over in the mid-east, what are they dying for every day?

AC: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?

E.M.K.: I love my little house in Brooklyn. Probably the best thing I have ever done. It is a refuge and also a source of security for me now. I love living in an older house, something close to 100 years by now. So many lives have come and gone before me, probably after me too. How many wars and recessions and depressions and booms have these little old brick row houses gone through by now? I’ve also been very lucky with next-door neighbors with whom I am very close. I have keys to both their houses. I feel very fortunate to have space, several rooms, a back yard, a basement for my shop and bikes. The neighborhood has also changed dramatically in 22 years. It’s full of kids and babies everywhere. I find that wonderful – even if these kids are too young to help pay my Social Security. While I don’t have the burden of being a parent I can appreciate just the sound and smiles of children everywhere. I find it very encouraging regardless of what’s on the news each day.

AC: Where can reads learn more about you and your writing?

E.M.K.: “Deep Water” really is an honest memoir of my life. Someday I’d love to put out a collection of short stories I have written. I recently wrote something for my college alumni about going back to Bard and realizing how much I had changed since I was back there at 19 or 20.

AC: Anything else you’d like to share?

E.M.K.: I keep hoping to find a new boyfriend, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I wonder if in truth I am quite happy with my house, my two wonderful dogs – who do sleep with me – my bikes, my shop work. Maybe I am no longer quite so flexible to go through all the changes to accommodate a companion anymore. It’s a lot of adjustments that maybe are much easier when your 20 or 30 or 40 than for me now. I am told that all the connections now are on the internet, yet I find that such a sink hole of time and too much bullshit. Everyone lies about themselves. I suspect I am a bit too eccentric by now to get along with anyone full time. I do not quite fit any typical gay stereotypes. Then too, maybe I am hunting after much younger guys who really want their own kind to be close with. I’m still looking for queer young fixed gear biker.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


In and effort to support our local gay bookstore, A Different Light, the following is their May events.

Saturday, May 1 @ 4pm
ABBY DEES, Queer Questions Straight Talk
There are no "wrong" answers, an invitation to talk with our straight loved ones about what it really means to be LGBT, including: stereotypes (Is one of you the man?), coming out (Were you afraid to tell me?), homophobia (Has anything frightening happened to you?)and – yes – sex!

Thursday, May 6 @ 7:30pm
FELICE PICANO and special guests, Van Gogh’s Ear Issue 7
Picano edited the last edition of the international anthology series based in Paris and published in conjunction with Allen Ginsberg's Committee on Poetry in NYC. Contributors include Edmund White and Andrew Holleran.

Saturday, May 9 @ 4pm
FREDA WAGMAN, Snippets from the Trenches: a Mother’s AIDS Memoir
A mother’s becomes involved in the AIDS cause as a way to cope with her son's death. “She becomes indispensable at the bedsides of countless other people, but when her son is dying, she still feels helpless, disconnected… Because nothing can prepare her," Susan Choi.

Saturday, May 15 @ 4pm
GREG MIRAGLIA, Coming Out from Behind the Badge
Miraglia, host of OutBeat Radio, leads a Cop Week discussion around how LGBT law enforcement officers are coming out on the job despite the prevailing homophobia that still exists in the profession. We will be joined by members of the San Francisco Police Department Pride Alliance.

Tuesday, May 18 @ 7:30pm
R.W. Gray, Crisp
This collection of short stories confronts the unspeakable parts of memory, meditating on characters caught in isolation and struggling to make sense of grief, disappointment, and the occasional dinner party gone wrong.

Tuesday, May 25 @ 7:30pm
ELAINE BEALE, Another Life Altogether
Recalling such novels as White Oleander and Anywhere But Here, this book is a keenly observed coming-of-age story about the effects of a mother's mental illness on her young daughter.


Events blog:
A DIFFERENT LIGHT on Twitter & Facebook

For more info, contact:
Oscar Raymundo
Events Coordinator

A Different Light
489 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

(415) 431 0891

Friday, April 16, 2010

Read with GuyWriters and K.M Soehnlein at the National Queer Arts Festival

GuyWriters is looking for poets, prose writers and playwrights to participate during this year's National Queer Arts Festival. Members of GuyWriters, along with award-winning writer K.M. Soehnlein, will be reading at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on Friday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m.

This year's reading is called "Small Town Boys: Gay Men Revisit Their Histories and Hometowns."

GuyWriters is looking for writers to contribute pieces about coming of age as a gay man in a small town. Whether you are from the Bible Belt or the Rust Belt, the Gulf Coast or the Eastern Seaboard, we want to hear your stories.

We want poetry, fiction, plays and essays on life outside the big city. We want you to share your stories about the gay experience outside the San Francisco bubble. Submit pieces on gay life in Middle America and beyond, and stories of your childhood haunts. We want to know about the hometown you left behind and why you came to San Francisco.

Those interested in being considered for the event should send submissions to Please put NQAF submission in the subject line. Deadline for submissions is May 7.

K.M. Soehnlein is a Lambda Award winning author. His work has appeared in several anthologies, including "Boys To Men: Gay Men Write About Growing Up," "Love, Castro Street" and "Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys." His novel "The World of Normal Boys" is currently being developed as a feature film by Telling Pictures. A sequel to the book, "Robin and Ruby," was released in April. Soehnlein is originally from New Jersey, but currently lives in San Francisco where he teaches at the University of San Francisco.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing Tip # 11 – Screenplays vs Prose, the naked truth

I’ve been struggling to complete a screenplay these last few weeks, and I’m almost there. It is my second screenplay. And with all the work I’ve put into this story, I’d like to focus this tip on some misinformation that led me down the screenwriter’s path to begin with.

A few years back, after the publication of my first novel, Island Song, I felt dissatisfied with writing novels for two reasons. 1) A three-hundred-plus page manuscript took me four months to write the first draft, and another dozen-plus months to edit and polish. The time involved hardly seemed worth the payoff. And 2) Like most unknown authors, I was on my own when it came to marketing my novel, which is something I suck at.

So I began taking classes in writing screenplays. I thought writing screenplays would be easier and faster, since a typical screenplay is only 120 pages or less (general rule is one page for every minute of movie). And the way the pages are formatted, there are half as many words per page. Simple I thought. I also like the idea of turning my finished baby over to a production company and letting them deal with promoting the movie.

I now look back and realize that I was soooo naive. I can say with some authority that, at least for me, writing a 110-page screenplay takes more time and thought and effort than writing a 400-page novel.

In a novel, you delve inside the characters’ heads to help tell their story. In most novels, the characters tell their own story with their thoughts, opinions and judgments. Where as a screenplay has only action and dialog to tell the story – everything must be shown, everything – and that, ladies and gentlemen, is a very difficult task to pull off. If you can’t see it or hear it, it doesn’t go on the page.

The other thing that makes it especially challenging, is that you are still dealing with a 300-plus page story, but you have to find a way to cram that story into 110 pages. Every page is considered very expensive real estate, and every word has to fight in order to survive and take up its allotted space. You need to trim everything to the bone, and then find clever ways to trim more. The description of a scene takes one line. The description of a character, no more than two lines. Imagine trying to cram Yeats into a five-line haiku poem, and you begin to sense the level of difficulty.

Then there is the marketing aspect. It may be true that the writer doesn’t participate in marketing the movie, but before the screenplay is made into a movie, the writer must market it to the studios, directors, actors, or anybody that knows anybody in the business. Trying to get a movie contract is a hundred times harder than getting a book published, because it is a very tight community, and if you don’t know someone on the inside to make things happen, you’re basically screwed.

So, am I sorry I went down this path? Hell no. I love writing screenplays. It is a fantastic challenge and it’s even improving my prose writing. I think I’m actually getting reasonably good at it, considering my limited experience. But if you’re a writer looking for an easy path to get your stories out there fast, run, don’t walk, away from screenwriting.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Review: Deep Water, A Sailor’s Passage by E. M. Kahn

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Harrington Park Press
242 pages

Gene lives and works in Manhattan, but he spends much of his free time sailing the waterways in and around that metropolis, from New York harbor, to Long Island Sound, to Martha’s Vineyard. He hires a woodworker, Kevin, to work in his shop, and the two soon become lovers. Kevin is a decade younger, a handsome blond, and emotionally needy. Gene considers himself lucky, and commits to this relationship wholeheartedly, even though Kevin likes to sleep around. They manage a fragile relationship.

Although Kevin does not share Gene’s love of sailing, he acquires a small skiff and learns the sport. As their relationship deepens, so does their love for the sea, and for adventure. Gene trades his nineteen-foot daysailer in on a twenty-two-foot boat so that they can take overnight trips. As the years roll by the boats get more seaworthy and the trips longer. Sailing solidifies their relationship. Their love for each other seems bound to their, now mutual, love of adventure on the water.

This sensitive journey through the comedy and tragedy of life is beautifully written. Simply put, I loved this book. I love any story that opens my heart, makes me believe in humanity, and teaches me how to be a more compassionate human being, and this tale scored a bulls eye on all counts.

It a tale of two loves – love of the sea, love between two men – and both were delightfully intertwined. This is one of those rare books with the wisdom to shed light on my own sixteen-year relationship.

Unlike most books I’ve read that deal with the loss of a loved one to AIDS, this story did not dip too heavily into the pain, frustration and suffering. That part of the story was mercifully brief. This is a love story, a story of survival, and how Gene’s love of the sea play a part in both.

Here’s a taste:
“I felt I had a lot to teach him, not about sex, but about feeling entitled to love, learning to expect it as a regular thing, like the sun and rain, every day. I suspected that he operated from a belief in scarcity, whether of money, good fortune, or love. Loving was like breathing and peeing and it flowed through us like the tides, with its source unstoppable and ever renewed.”

There is another line in this marvelous book that reads “Long live the voices of those who plead for mercy.” Well, I’d like to add, long live the writer who can so masterfully weave a tale of love. Thank you, Mr. Kahn, for sharing your life.

To lean more about this author and book, press here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lambda Literary Announces 2010 Writers' Retreat Faculty

FICTION: Nicola Griffith
NONFICTION: Ellery Washington
POETRY: Ellen Bass

The Lambda Literary Foundation is proud to announce faculty for the 2010 Writers' Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices.

"In Nicola Griffith, Ellery Washington and Ellen Bass we have three gifted writers who are also outstanding teachers," says LLF Executive Director, Tony Valenzuela, "This year's faculty will inspire and challenge our emerging writers with an unforgettable week in their careers."

Comments LLF Board President Katherine V. Forrest, "The Writers Retreat has been a invaluable experience for our emerging LGBT writers, proved by all the published work coming out of previous Retreats. It's not only a week-long, full immersion in all aspects of craft with our finest teachers, it means linking up with a peer group and interfacing with publishing professionals. This is one of Lambda Literary Foundation's best and most important programs."

Equally distinguished guest faculty will also be presenting workshops and panels; those names will be announced at a later date.

The Writer's Retreat will be held August 8 -15 in Los Angeles. Applications and scholarship requests are due by May 1.

Fiction: Nicola Griffith

Nicola Griffith is an English novelist, essayist and editor who lives in Seattle with her partner, Kelley Estridge.

Nicola has published 5 novels, numerous stories and essays, and a memoir. She also co-edited the award-winning Bending the Landscape series. Her work has been translated into 10 languages and won 16 national or international writing awards, including the Nebula Award for Slow River, the Tiptree Prize for Ammonite, the Premio Italia, and 6 Lambda Literary Awards (most recently for her multi-media memoir And Now We Are Going To Have A Party).

Her short fiction and essays have appeared in Nature, New Scientist, Out, the Huffington Post, and a variety of "Best Of" anthologies.

Nicola has taught workshops and classes in the US and UK at the beginner, graduate and professional levels in academic, corporate and continuing education settings, including Emory University, the Clarion West Writers Workshop, the Romance Writers of America, and the Arts Council of Great Britain.

Writers she has edited or taught have been honored with the Nebula Award, World Fantasy Award, NEA Award, Stonewall Book Award, Lambda Literary Award, American Academy of Arts & Letters Sue Kaufman Prize, Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Locus Award, Northeastern Minnesota Book Award, USA Today Notable Book selection, and collection in a variety of "Best Of" anthologies.

Nonfiction: Ellery Washington

Ellery Washington is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Pratt University, in New York City. He has a graduate degree in Contemporary French literature from the Sorbonne University, Paris, France, where was also a lecturer in the graduate comparative literature department.

He is recipient of the PEN Center West - Rosenthal Emerging Voices Award and the IBWA prize for short fiction. His stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies, and literary publications, including The New York Times, Ploughshares, the Berkeley Fiction Review, The International Review, Nouvelle Frontieres, Out Magazine, and the Harper Collins/Echo Press National Bestseller State by State, 'A Panoramic Portrait of America'.

He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Poetry: Ellen Bass

Ellen Bass's most recent book of poems, The Human Line, was published by Copper Canyon Press in June 2007 and was named a notable book of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday, 1973), has published several volumes of poetry, including Mules of Love (BOA, 2002) which won the Lambda Literary Award. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Progressive, The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Sun. She was awarded the Elliston Book Award for Poetry from the University of Cincinnati, Nimrod/Hardman's Pablo Neruda Prize, The Missouri Review's Larry Levis Award, the Greensboro Poetry Prize, the New Letters Poetry Prize, the Chautauqua Poetry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and a Fellowship from the California Arts Council. She is also co-author of Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Youth (HarperCollins 1996) and The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (Harper Collins 1988, 1994), which has sold over a million copies and has been translated into ten languages. She teaches in many beautiful locations and at Pacific University's low-residency MFA Program.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Back to Being Productive

During the four months I was in Asia, I worked almost every day but I didn’t feel that productive. I never got into a standard routine that allowed me focus on my work for long periods of time. And although I’ve been back home for almost a month, I had not, until this week, kicked into high gear. But something clicked this week, and I’m now beginning to feel productive again. I have two projects that I’m on track to finish before the end of this month.

The first is my manuscript, Match Maker, which my literary agent has been trying to sell for the past fourteen months. I received a note from in early March that she was giving up on it. Ok, I thought, I’ll do another rewrite and polish before trying to find a publisher myself. That is what has taken the majority of my time for the past month, rewriting and fine tuning. I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve been able to tighten up the prose, and I’m feeling confident that it is so much better written now that I will be able to find a publisher.

The second project it a screenplay that I’ve been working on for the last six or seven months. It’s a great little story about relationships and dying on your own terms. It is almost complete, and I will start the (hopefully) last polish today. Five polished pages per day should have it finished this month.

So I’m feeling good about closing these two projects and moving on. I’ve got lots more projects to write, and I’m getting excited about them.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Writing Tip #10: The B Subplot Must Influence Your Storyline.

In most novels and movies, there are at least two stories going on – the A story (main storyline) and the B story (a subplot). There is sometimes a C, D and E subplot as well, but lets keep this discussion simple by focusing on just two.

Strangely enough, with most love stories, the actual love plot is normally the B story. For example: one of the great love stories was Casablanca. The main story was what was happening to the letters of transit. They were the only way out of a horrid situation, and people were dying to get them. The love story between Rick and Ilsa was the B story.

In writing a plot, the A and B stories wander along in parallel, like two trains going down different tracks, yet racing in the same direction. But at some point usually near the end, the B story must collide with the A story, and affect it in such a way that neither story will ever be the same.

In the example above, Casablanca, the letters of transit fall into Rick’s hands, yet Ilsa desperately needs them so that her husband, Victor Lazlo, can fly to freedom. Ilsa sacrifices everything, promising to abandon Victor and stay with Rick, if he will only give up the letters. Rick, of course, sacrifices Ilsa and gives her the letters out of love, and loyalty. Ilsa and Victor fly to freedom, Rick joins the freedom fighters.

Another example: To Kill a Mockingbird, the A story leads to Tom Robinson’s trial and the hatred of Atticus Finch by Bob Ewell. The B story is Jem and Scout’s developing relationship with Boo Radley. At the end, the A and B stories collide when Ewell tries to kill the children and Boo stabs Ewell to save the kids.

If you have a B story that doesn’t significantly affect the A story in the end, then rewrite it so that it does, or cut the B story. It’s only function is to boost the A story. If it doesn’t, then it’s dead weight.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Book Review: The Moonlit Earth by Christopher Rice

Scribner; April 2010
368 pages, $25.00
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9407-2

At thirty years old, Megan Reynolds is an outsider in her affluent hometown of Cathedral Beach, California. She has recently come home with her tail between her legs after losing an altruistic job and her free-thinking boyfriend in San Francisco. Living with her mother, with financial help from her cousin, she finally lands a dream job that will allow her to start over.

Half a world away an explosion rips apart a Hong Kong hotel, killing 60 people. Security cameras partially record this apparent act of terrorism, showing a Middle Eastern man leading an American away from the building only moments before the deadly blast. Watching the media broadcasts, Megan recognizes the American as her beloved gay brother, Cameron.

As the media and the FBI line up to embroil her brother in a terror campaign, Megan is the only one who seems to know he didn’t’, couldn’t, do such a thing. But no one can find Cameron. He has gone underground. Playing the role of White Knight, Megan flies to Asia to find her brother and prove his innocence. Her journey pits her against her mother, her estranged father, a wealthy tycoon, a royal family, and the FBI.

With the clock ticking and bullets flying, Megan uncovers the last thing in the world she was looking for, family secrets so shocking that it will rock her entire universe.

This is the first Christopher Rice book I’ve read, and I must say I am impressed with the author’s skill at creating tension. Rice delivers action, suspense, international intrigue, and sympathetic characters that have true depth. What amazed me most was the intricate plot, and the way it unfolded. He weaves a convincing tale that kept me more than entertained; it kept me turning pages well into the night.

It is a story of devotion and love. Not romantic or sexual love, but the love of two siblings who have shared the same upbringing and know the same pain. It makes a powerful statement about how secrets and a parent’s obsessive love for their children, can destroy a family. And yes, it is a story of bravery and integrity. I love stories with emotionally strong heroines, and The Moonlit Earth did not disappoint. I was slightly annoyed at the minimal amount of gay threads in this plot, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment.

I did have two issues with this book, and both occurred in the latter parts of the story. The first happened when the author introduces a rather long flashback in order to fill the reader in on some needed back-story. This managed to halt the story’s forward motion, stalling the story for a considerable time. I felt it killed the story’s momentum.

My second issue came after the heroine had completed her quest. The story felt like it was basically over. Certainly the action/suspense threads had been neatly put to bed, but then the author kept going for another 50 or 60 pages to reveal yet another layer of this tightly woven plot. I felt that that portion of the story, although interesting, simply droned on far too long. Getting quickly to the point would have made, in my opinion, a stronger, more satisfying ending.

Still, even with my two minor issues, this was a terrific read. One that I enjoyed immensely, and I’m sure I will gladly re-read this book in the future, but only after I’ve read some of his earlier novels.

For more info on this book, press here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lambda Literary Announces Pioneer Award Recipients

The Lambda Literary Foundation has named Larry Kramer and Kate Clinton as this year's recipients of its Pioneer Award, to be presented at the Lambda Literary Awards Ceremony on May 27th, 2010 in New York City.

The Lambda Literary Foundation bestows its Pioneer Award on individuals who have broken new ground in the field of LGBT literature and publishing. Established in 1995, the Award honors those who, through their achievements and passionate commitment, have contributed to the LGBT literary community in significant and tangible ways: through works of literature, or by establishing publishing houses, publications, archives, bookstores, or other institutions.

This year's Pioneers are powerhouse trailblazers in the LGBT community as writers, commentators and unstoppable activists. "There are very few individuals in our LGBT community whose enormous talent, political consciousness and professional achievement have had as great an impact as those of Larry and Kate," says Tony Valenzuela, Executive Director. "We are thrilled to honor their enormous contributions to our community at the Awards ceremony in May."

"Over the years," comments LLF Board President Katherine V. Forrest, "the voices of these two extraordinary Pioneers have rung through our literature and our culture to combat the forces aligned against us--Larry Kramer with his relentless and necessary rage and confrontation, Kate Clinton with her exhilarating, surgical wit that continues to heal us with laughter. It will be a joy to raise our own voices in honor and celebration of these two great individuals."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Smack Dab Open Mic

WED APRIL 21, 2010

Smack Dab open mic
hosted by Kirk Read and Larry-bob Roberts
8pm, open mic signup starts at 7:30

Featuring Daniel Owens
Daniel Owens grew up in San Deigo and lives in San Francisco. His music borrows from multiple music traditions such as rock, early R&B, folk, jazz and classical. He is known most for his emotional performances, song craft, and his ability to combine personal stories with a broader socio-political message. He is influenced by the likes of all the great early R&B artists, Elton John, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and Claude Debussy. He's won awards from the West Coast Songwriters Guild. In 2008, he released his debut full-length album entitled Stargazer. He is currently working on another full-length album and is performing regularly. All ages, all genders, all the time.

If you'd like to perform at the open mic, please bring five minutes of whatever you want to share. Musicians, one song. Prose writers: that's about two and a half double spaced pages of prose. We’re the friendliest open mic you’ll find but we pay attention to time so that nobody accumulates further open mic-related PTSD.

At Magnet, your neighborhood queer health center, 4122 18th Street between Castro and Collingwood.


Presented by Army of Lovers, a project of the Queer Cultural Center with support from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Horizons Foundation, TheatreBayArea and the California Arts Council