Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: Our Time: Breaking The Silence of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by Josh Seefried

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Pages: 191

Our Time is an interesting, sometimes fascinating, often emotional compilation of first-person essays from gay and lesbian military personnel who had to hide their sexuality while serving in the US Armed Forces. It marks the end of nearly two decades of silence, and finally gives voice to the queer men and women who put their lives on the line in service to America under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Each story is only two to four pages long, a snapshot of the internal and external struggle that these service people had to live each hour of every day. Almost all branches of the service are represented, and these stories come from officers as well as enlisted personnel. These accounts detail the abuse—physical and mental—endured at the hands of their fellow soldiers and superiors, as well as the hardships suffered by the family members and partners of lgbt soldiers.

Now that these divisive policies are a thing of the past, gay and lesbian service people no longer need to live under the conditions outlined in these personal stories, but this book stands as a significant historical account of what was a legal injustice in this country, told by the people who suffered under the discrimination.

Each personal account records the unique experience of that service person, yet common themes weave through each of these stories:

Lieutenant Colonel Tim Walker writes, “I could not list my partner as a dependent on any forms. What were my rights—what were his rights—if I was hurt or incapacitated or killed? He would not even get notification if the worst happened. He was not eligible for my pension, benefits, visitation rights, counseling, or even the flag from my coffin if I died.”

Petty Officer Second Class Alex Johnson writes, “Part of my preparations for deployment included establishing guidelines for communicating with my significant other. We had to devise a way to hide the true nature of our relationship. So we created Yahoo e-mail addresses under fake names, and we developed a code to mask sensitive language. While I was deployed, if I wished to tell him I loved him, I would say, ‘One four three.’ We put other similar expressions in code so we could speak “freely” to each other.”

Warrant Officer Tania Dunbar writes: “For the past eleven years I have had to conceal my family from my friends. Soldiers, with whom I sweat, bleed, and cry, can’t ever meet the woman I love. Soldiers who depend on me for sound judgment and advice can never know who I myself go to when I need advice or solace. Friends who would die for me can’t ever meet the person who makes me want to live. Don’t get me wrong—there are a few soldiers who know I am gay, but it takes a long time to learn if you can trust someone with a secret that can ruin your career. So I don’t make friends easy, I don’t go to military functions very often. For me, home life cannot mix with work life.”

My one minor complaint about this book is the repetitiveness. There are over forty stories, and many parrot similar experiences. Still, throughout these many accounts the thing that shines through is the bravery and selflessness of these soldiers who defend our liberties while their own freedom was denied.

This is a significant book, both personally and politically. Josh Seefried, an Air Force officer and codirector of OutServe, has done a splendid job of presenting these voices of anguish and struggle and hope.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rudyard Kipling poem for the season

My friend and fellow writer, Victor Banis, passed around a seasonal poem that I thought everyone would enjoy, so I posted it below for your enjoyment.

Eddi’s Service _ Rudyard Kipling

Eddi, priest of St. Wilfrid
In his chapel at Manhood End,
Ordered a midnight service
For such as cared to attend.

But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,
And the night was stormy as well.
Nobody came to service,
Though Eddi rang the bell.

"'Wicked weather for walking,"
Said Eddi of Manhood End.
"But I must go on with the service
For such as care to attend."

The altar-lamps were lighted, --
An old marsh-donkey came,
Bold as a guest invited,
And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,
The water splashed on the floor,
And a wet, yoke-weary bullock
Pushed in through the open door.

"How do I know what is greatest,
How do I know what is least?
That is My Father's business,"
Said Eddi, Wilfrid's priest.

"But -- three are gathered together --
Listen to me and attend.
I bring good news, my brethren!"
Said Eddi of Manhood End.

And he told the Ox of a Manger
And a Stall in Bethlehem,
And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider,
That rode to Jerusalem.

They steamed and dripped in the chancel,
They listened and never stirred,
While, just as though they were Bishops,
Eddi preached them The Word,

Till the gale blew off on the marshes
And the windows showed the day,
And the Ox and the Ass together
Wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him,
Said Eddi of Manhood End,
"I dare not shut His chapel
On such as care to attend."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Anatomy of Stress

I’ve had an epiphany today: Stress is a condition caused by not knowing. An example would be struggling to meet a deadline and not knowing if you will get the job done in time. Or struggling to pay all your bills and not knowing if there will be anything left over for food.

It seems that once you know one way or another, stress is reduced and transforms into some kind of action. If you can’t make the project dates, you take action to push out the timelines. If you don’t have enough money for all the bills, then you decide which bills won’t get paid this month. But one way or another, once a thing is known, the stress levels are reduced and you move on.

I realized this today because I’m trying to sell my house so that I can purchase a house in Palm Springs, California. A buyer has made a generous offer and I have accepted his offer. The problem, the buyer is having trouble securing a loan. Not too surprising in the current financial environment.

But the thing that has my stress levels going through the roof is that we are supposed to sign all the ownership transfer papers tomorrow, both to sell my current house and to buy my new house in PS, and less that twenty-four hours to signing I still don’t know if said buyer has the money available to buy my house.

One would think that with a day to go, they would have let us know if they had not secured the loan. These folks, however, have not been the best at communications. Meanwhile, my husband and I have been snapping at each other for two days, both keyed up over not knowing if this deal is going through. We have seen other real state deal fall apart at the last moments, so it is not inconceivable.

The funny thing is, knowing that stress is caused by not knowing does nothing to minimize the stress. So I suppose we have another day to swipe at each other before we know, and can move one way or another.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: For the Ferryman by Charles Silverstein

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Pages: 336

Charles Silverstein is not a name that I’ve heard pop up in discussions about the Gay Rights Movement, yet he quite possibly may have had more impact on securing equal rights for the lgbt community than Harvey Milk and others more famous. In this fascinating memoir, Silverstein uses the first half of the book to recount his career of fighting for gay rights, particularly in the psychiatric community, and he uses the second half of the book to narrate his twenty-five-year relationship with his life-partner, William Bory.

Silverstein’s most important contribution to the gay community was his historic 1973 presentation before the “Nomenclature Committee” of the American Psychiatric Association which led to the removal of homosexuality as a mental illness from the diagnostic manual, which eventually was responsible for decriminalizing gay sex between consenting adults. He went on to establish two gay and lesbian counseling centers in New York, and also was the founding editor of the Journal of Homosexuality, now in its fifty-seventh volume.

Silverstein is best known for co-authoring the groundbreaking 1977 The Joy of Gay Sex with Edmund White, and co-authoring the sequal 1992 The New Joy of Gay Sex with Felice Picano, which brought the original book up to date with regards to the AIDS crisis. Silverstein also authored a book geared to the parents of gay youth: A Family Matter: A Parents’ Guide to Homosexuality, 1977. So as you can see, the author is no lightweight. He has had a tremendous impact on gay rights, and the personal accounts of his activism are both fascinating and inspiring.

The author’s relationship with William Bory was both touching and riveting. Silverstein speaks candidly of their relationship, their travels to many exotic locations, William’s plunge into drug addiction that included crack cocaine and heroin, and William’s battle with AIDS. The author paints Bory as an eccentric genius that Silverstein loved deeply despite titanic flaws. Their relationship was loving, yet vexing, and the reader is never sure what will happen next.

I’d like to include a passage that shows the author’s personal and humorous style of writing:
When God gave out physical attributes, he did not do it equitably. For all-around attractiveness, the Germans cannot be beat (“God’s little joke,” William mused.) The Scots were given the most perfect asses (not that they knew what to do with them the year William and I were in Scotland.) To the Dominicans he gave large, beautiful penises that hung snugly over their testicles like those drawings of male genitalia in anatomy textbooks that make one wonder whether they are the sexual fantasies of the artists. I did not know about this physical attribute until I arrived at the Hotel Victoria.

So as you can see, this book is not some dry recount of someone’s career, but rather a fun and interesting account of two fascinating people during a time when equal rights for the lgbt community was exploding.

This is a book that is mandatory reading for anyone who has an interest in the Gay Rights Movement, politics during the AIDS crises of the ‘80s and ‘90s, or for anyone who simply wants to read an enthralling love story that happens to be true. For The Ferryman is a bold self-portrait of a distinguished and astounding life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Will and Jay Christmas stories

My friend from across the Atlantic, Alan Barker, has been busy writing more Will and Jay mini-stories. Here are the wonderful two getting to grips with Christmas. Enjoy.

Jingle Bash

"I'm really looking forward to Rae's Jungle Bash,Will," called an excited Jay struggling to put on his Scrooge's costume, "but why are you all dressed up in wrapping paper, couldn't you find any Dickens character left in the agency?"

"No Will, Rae's party caused a rush on them again," complained Will, "so I've improvised, can't you guess what I'm Christmas Present!"

Christmas Greetings

"I hate climbing that ladder, the lights are hurting my eyes and now I've found pine needles where pine needles shouldn't be," moaned Jay to his partner Will, "alright, we needed the money, but at this height I think I should be paid danger money or be given a parachute!"

"Ho, ho, ho, Jay, down here in the Grotto being Father Christmas is awesome," chuckled Will, "but I think a wobbling Fairy wearing shades and scratching her backside with her wand on top of the Christmas tree is very uncool mate."

All about Eve

"That was brilliant of you last night Willo, waking me up with that welcome Christmas kiss under the mistletoe and sharing the wine and mince pies we aways leave for Santa," said Jay to his partner, "and then leaving all those presents under our tree, I was so sleepy I hardly recognised you in that costume."

"Wasn't me Jay," laughed Will, "I left Stefano's restaurant a long time after you, crept into the flat, well after midnight and crashed out on the sofa, so just who was this visitor matey?"

More of Will & Jay in 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

They Like Me, They Really Like Me

I’m having a Sally Fields moment. Last year, my novel The Lonely War took top honors at the Rainbow Literary Awards, taking first place for Best Gay Fiction, Best Historical, Best Characters and Best Setting.

At this year’s Rainbow Literary Awards, my novel Match Maker was awarded first place in Contemporary General Fiction.

This is what one judge had to say: ““Match Maker” by Alan Chin is one of the best books I have ever read. The story was fascinating from page 1 to the end. And the characters were so realistic and intriguing. Once I started reading I couldn’t stop until I had finished it. Mr. Chin’s writing style is superb. –Verena”

So far, my first three novels have all earned awards. It is a fantastic feeling knowing that readers appreciate my work.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hillary Clinton's LGBT rights speech

Full VIDEO from Hillary Clinton's groundbreaking LGBT rights speech

It's long, but oh so worth viewing. Please, please listen.

alan chin

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Book Review: Junction X by Erastes

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing
Pages: 198

On the outside, Edward Johnson seems to have a perfect pin-striped life—wife, couple of kids, white-picket fence in one of the better suburbs, country club membership, and works as a stockbroker. He even gets an occasional blowjob from his buddy, Phil, on the morning train into work. Could life get any sweeter?

But then a new family moves in next door, and they have a beautiful seventeen-year-old son, Alex. A slow but powerful attraction grows between Ed and Alex. Ed has never considered himself a pedophile, so he fights the urge to flirt with Alex, but each time they are together, try as he might, Ed can’t control his growing desire for the boy. He stalks the boy until they have a sexual encounter while driving.

Ed is filled with gilt and remorse, and knows he’s going down an immoral path, but at the same time he lures Alex into a steamy affair. But how long can Ed juggle the responsibilities of family, office, and a teenaged boyfriend? And can Alex, being so young and inexperienced, control the volcanic feelings churning in his heart.

The first half of this story reads rather slowly, skillfully building in tension, and seems like a typical romance novel, albeit one with a middle-aged man falling for an underage boy. But shortly past the halfway mark, I realized two things: first, Ed was not the protagonist but rather, the antagonist; and two, this wasn’t a romance novel that would have a happily-ever-after ending. I was right on both counts.

This is a story about how unbridled obsession can ruin lives. Ed begins as a morally upright person with only a few skeletons in the closet. But his passion for Alex slowly leads him into being a pathetic, cheating scoundrel. And of course, he drags everyone connected with him into that same train wreck.

The plot is a simple one, without any subplots to cloud the water. But there is something to be said for a simple story told well, and this story is told extremely well. Erastes has obviously worked hard to improve her writing style and voice, and it shines here.

It is not often I come across a novel written in first person where the narrator is the antagonist. It gives the reader a rare glimpse into an unstable character, giving Edward tremendous depth as the author peals away his layers. He becomes a fascinating character, even as he disgusts. Yes, he’s a train wreck, but the reader can’t look away.

I did have one issue with this story. I felt that in the first ten pages, the author gave away too much, to the point where I knew most everything that would happen in the first 90% of the book. At midpoint, she broadcasted the other 10%. I would have been happier had she given away less and surprised me more.

That said, this is a passionate, emotional story. The characters pull the reader in and keep building the tension until the very last page.

If you are searching for a typical romance that will steam your glasses and make you feel good in the end, keep looking. If you enjoy a serious story of how mistakes cause pain, how passion can injure as well as please, then by all means, give Junction X a read.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Introducing Queerteen Press :: a GLBT YA imprint of JMS Books LLC

I recently saw a news release from JMS books announcing a new imprint for lgbt YA stories. I was excited by the idea and wanted to share it. Please read the following:

JMS Books LLC is pleased to announce its GLBT Young Adult imprint, Queerteen Press.

Queerteen Press publishes YA titles appealing to queer teens as well as their parents, teachers, and librarians. Books are available in electronic and print formats. A handful of titles are already available through QT Press, with several more scheduled for release in the early part of 2012.

We accept short stories, collections, and novel-length books in all genres of queer, literary, and genre fiction suitable for a young adult audience. This means books whose main characters are between the ages of 12 and 21.

Submission Policy:

* Electronic unsolicited submissions are accepted at any time.
* We do not accept multiple or simultaneous submissions.
* Submissions should include a QUERY LETTER, full SYNOPSIS, and 2,000 word EXCERPT in RTF format.
* Submissions are acknowledged within 2 business days.
* If we like your submission, we will request a copy of the full manuscript for review. Manuscripts must be in electronic format only. The review time is between 1-3 weeks.

Contract terms:

* Authors earn 50% net royalties on all sales (e-book and paperback)
from all distributors.
* Contracts are for a period of 2 years and auto-renew annually.
* We require exclusive electronic and print rights, but can
negotiate if the story has been published in an anthology or
Full submission guidelines are available on our website at

J.M. Snyder
Queerteen Press
YA Imprint of JMS Books LLC

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A New Story by Alan Chin

I finished a novella today that has been knocking about in my head for the last two years. I’m super excited about it. It started out as a short story to give away on my website, but it grew in both depth and length, and now is a novella that I think is good enough to publish.

It’s the story of a dysfunctional gay couple who travel to Thailand and pay to live as monks for a month. That is a real program that was offered in one of the temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand (I considered doing it myself at one point). There is a killer on the loose roaming the town; at the same time another monk comes between the couple. Both events have disastrous effect on everybody’s karma.

I am giving this story out as a freebie. If you would like to read my work, go to and click on the FREE STORY button.

Alan Chin

Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

I try to stay clear of politics, mostly because I get so angry at it. But I was recently cornered by a guy discounting the Occupy Wall Street Movement as the lunatic left that don’t know what they are doing, or even what they stand for. They simply want to protest. This guy, IMHO, was a conservative shill (read: GOP and/or the nitwits supporting them), bought and paid for by corporate interests spinning a viewpoint that has a tiny kernel of truth upon which to divide public opinion.

He zeroed in on students complaining of having to pay back student loans, building a spiel around this specific group upon which to label, demean and discount the whole of those participating in OWS. He tried to convince me that the whole OWS protesters are ungrateful brats unable to fend for themselves. He's broadly painting the protesters as an entitled generation with discretionary income, expensive high tech toys, lolling around sipping their upscale coffees, all the while complaining and whining.

But there is another, much larger face to the protesters, those working class people struggling to build a career or who have already retired. He didn’t acknowledge that many of those protesters are the laborers employed, or laid off, by the corporations. He didn’t acknowledge that there are people protesting the foreclosure on their homes by the banks (like my sister), nor those angry that their retirement funds have been ripped off by the investment bankers.

There are many, like me, who are angry over the bailouts for Wall Street's fraud and deceit, and Congress's kowtowing to corporate power. The whole truth of the OWS protest is they all feel fear, frustration and anger about the corporate malfeasance and political corruption that has plundered the country's wealth and saddled it with debt.

The corporate interests will say and do all they can to dilute the power of the 99%. I commend the protesters for their courage and it saddens me that our country does not practice what it preaches and chooses to resort to force to stifle dissent.

I pray that this movement grows and grows in power and influence, and leads this country back to a more just way of dealing with the middle class, which is what made this country great in the first place.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Madness

There is no explaining this.... WATCH a near riot breakout over $2 waffle makers


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: CAREGIVER by Rick R. Reed

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 205

Dan and Mark have their difficulties. Neither are working and Mark seems not to be sexually interested in Dan. The honeymoon is definitely over for this couple. The problem? Cocaine. They had recently moved from Chicago to South Florida in a failed attempt to pull Mark away from his drug addiction.

While Dan beats the bushes for a job, he also finds plenty of time on his hands, so being a giving person, he volunteers at the Tampa AIDS Alliance to be a buddy to people suffering from AIDS. This story takes place in 1991, before the cocktails that prolonged AIDS-suffer’s lives, so there are plenty of buddies to choose from.

Dan’s HIV buddy, Adam, turns out to be light years beyond all expectations. Adam is flamboyant, witty, wise, giving and charming. He is the type of friend one finds only once or twice in a lifetime. The two quickly bond (non-sexually) and become friends for life. In their short time together, Adam teaches Dan several life lessons, including how to be strong and stand up for himself, something at Adam is a pro at.

Dan also befriends Adam’s lover, Sullivan, who is easy on the eyes but a bit standoffish. Dan is attracted to Sullivan, but is too much the gentleman to go after Adam’s man.

All seems well for Dan until Mark falls off the wagon and plunges the couple into an unknown landscape, while at the same time Adam lands himself in prison. The problems (as often happens in Rick Reed’s novels) seem insurmountable. But while this author leads his characters into hell, he always leaves them a trail of breadcrumbs to follow back. But will they?

Having lived my young adult life in an epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, and having lost my share of friends and loved ones to the disease, it is clear to me that the author draws from personal experience in writing this gripping story. I found that, although this story is set in the height of the AIDS epidemic, it is a story about friendship, love and finding courage. It is a sad, often humorous, and inspirational journey.

This is a story that resonates with me. I enjoyed the characters and their undertaking, and I can recommend it to all who enjoy a dark and complicated tale.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living a Life of Gratitude

It’s rather cold and raining on this Sunday morning. Still, I’m sitting at my desk, looking out over the grey gloom, and brimming with gratitude. I’ve recently been thinking about how lucky I am, being an openly gay man, living in this time in American history where gay rights is front and center in our political landscape. This entire gay-rights movement started at a time when I was discovering that I was gay, and has been a part of my life, my struggle, for forty years.

I’ve seldom marched in picket lines and I’ve never been bashed in the head with billy-clubs, but I’ve always been part of the fight. It was impossible to avoid it while living in San Francisco. I’ve worked with AIDS organizations and marched in countless Gay-Pride parades, but the thing I’ve done constantly through out my life to advance the rights of gay and lesbian people is to live openly, to get in everybody’s face and say “This is who I am and I’m not about to change, so deal with it!”

I must confess, I’m very proud of the fact that Herman and I were the first male couple legally wed in Marin County, California. We did that solely to make a political statement. We had already lived together for fifteen years and certainly didn’t feel the need for a piece of paper from the state to legitimize our relationship, but that was our way to advance this equality movement. It was this same idea that led me in 1999 to legally change my last name to “Chin” so that Herman and I would have the same family name. We wanted everyone to realize, even back then, that we were a wedded couple.

I never in my younger life dreamed that I would actually be married in the eyes of the state, or that gays and lesbians would be allowed to openly serve in the military. The strides we have all made are tremendous, even though the fight continues. And I welcome the opportunity to do more.

For the first time in my life, I’m actually beginning to think that I will see the end of discrimination toward my queer brothers and sisters in this country, and I’m feeling immensely grateful that I’ve played a small but important part in making that happen. Yes, it is a fantastic time to be gay, or even gay friendly.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A sexy new book by Jamie Fessenden

A fellow writer and friend, Jamie Fessenden, has just published a new book that I'd like to call everyone's attention to -- The Dogs of Cyberwar.

It's published by Dreamspinner Press, which is also my publisher. If you enjoy the excerpt below, the buy link is:

Blurb: Connor is a netrunner: a hacker who ventures into cyberspace to steal data from corporate computers. As he hides out in the slums of Seattle, he’s attacked by a street gang and, incredibly, rescued by one of the members. His rescuer is a man named Luis, who has decided Connor needs his protection.
But instead of providing safety, Luis’s presence wreaks havoc with Connor’s online identity, and they find themselves hunted by a lethal security force. While they attempt to escape the city, Connor finds himself struggling to survive with the most lethal killer ever pitted against the corporations that control the FreeCorp—and he risks losing his heart to the same man.

EXCERPT -- Rated PG -- M/M --

The gym had sleep capsules in a room off to one side of the locker room. These were “rooms” just big enough for a person to crawl into and sleep. But
they were comfortable enough and provided access to the Net, which Connor would need in order to finish the job he’d contracted for.

But when he swiped his wrist across the reader and the door swung open, he discovered a new drawback to having Luis for his bodyguard.

“Is that big enough for both of us?” the Latino asked, peering into the capsule.

This took Connor aback. “What? No, not really. Can’t you get your own?”

“I don’t have any money,” Luis reminded him.

Jesus. Just how much was this deal going to end up costing him on a regular basis?

“I suppose I could rent you a capsule,” Connor said, not bothering to hide his annoyance. The capsules were pretty pricey.

“That’s all right,” Luis replied. “I’ll just keep watch out here.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You have to sleep.”

“If I’m locked in another capsule, I might not hear if somebody comes after you.”

“It’s not like I get attacked every time I try to sleep,” Connor protested. But he could see from the look in Luis’s eyes that this argument wouldn’t get him anywhere. Luis had decided that Connor needed to be protected. And that meant not leaving his side, apparently. “So your idea of being my bodyguard is pretty much what other people would call a ‘stalker’?”

“Don’t you think your bodyguard should be nearby whenever you need him?”

“If I have to take a shit, are you going to come into the stall with me?” Connor asked him, irritated. “No, don’t answer that. We’ll save it for a surprise. In the meantime, if you’re going to be like this, you might as well just get in the goddamned capsule with me. They’re big enough for two, if
you don’t mind being snug. But leave everything you don’t need in the locker.”

Following his own advice, Connor stripped to his underwear. There certainly wasn’t going to be room in there to undress if Luis was inside with him. The one thing he brought in was his cyber deck.

Luis followed his example and stripped to his underwear, though he insisted on bringing his gun with him into the capsule. Connor prayed neither of them rolled over on it in the night.

It was pretty cramped when they were both inside and the door was locked, but thankfully the capsule had air conditioning. Not that Luis smelled bad. In fact, once he was stretched out beside Connor, his chest at the level of
Connor’s face, Connor found that he liked the faint masculine musk Luis seemed to radiate. The scent was clean and held a trace of the generic liquid soap available in the gym shower, but it was unmistakably manly.

It was impossible for their skin not to touch in this close space, but Luis didn’t seem to care. When Connor glanced up at his face, he found Luis looking at him thoughtfully with those beautiful dark eyes. Not for the first time, Connor wondered whether Luis was gay or straight. So far, he hadn’t given much indication—unless the fact that he had a strong desire to make himself subservient to another man was a sign.

“Um… just so we’re clear about this,” Connor began, uncertain how exactly to phrase the question, “Are you…expecting sex out of this arrangement?”

Luis shook his head, smiling at his discomfort. “No. Although I did my time giving hand jobs for money, so if you want me to get you off….”

“No,” Connor answered quickly. Luis was certainly not the first guy he’d known who’d resorted to prostitution to get by, so he didn’t fault him for it. But he didn’t want some guy helping him “get off” if the guy wasn’t enjoying it himself. “So you don’t like guys, then?”

Luis shrugged. “I guess I don’t really care one way or another. If I like someone, I’ll fuck them. It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female.”

“All right. That’s cool. I generally just like guys, myself.”

“Muy bien.”

That seemed to end the discussion. Connor wasn’t certain if he liked the fact that Luis had left the possibility of sex open. This guy was already complicating his life. If they started fucking around, it would get even more complicated.

* * *

Luis smiled at Connor and lowered his head to the pillow they’d be sharing. “I already have a job as a bodyguard.”

“I can’t pay.”

“Just feed me. That’s all I need.”

“And a ‘purpose’?”

“I want someone to protect,” Luis said, his voice beginning to sound sleepy. “I don’t like being the bad guy. Is that wrong?”

Connor sighed. “No, it’s not wrong. But you realize you’re protecting someone who steals and destroys data, don’t you? I’m not exactly a ‘good guy,’ myself.”

There was no response, and Connor glanced up to see that Luis had drifted off. Asleep, there was something innocent and childlike in his beautiful face. Of course, Connor had to remind himself, this was the man he’d just seen cut two men into tiny pieces.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

When Telling Is Too Much

I’ve just put down a book after being 130 pages into it. It was a marginally good story with lots of emotions I could identify with. The problem? The damned author was telling me every last detail, every nuance of emotion each character was feeling. He left nothing for me to discover, nothing to engage my brain. He spoon-fed me everything. He must think I’m a moron. What I think is, the story was boring because of the way it was told.

Unfortunately, the last two books I’ve read, by authors I respect, have shared this identical problem. It’s maddening. It’s sloppy writing and laziness on the part of the author. Yes, it takes more effort and creativity to show what characters are feeling, rather than simply telling the reader. If they want easy, then they should find something else to do other than writing. There is already enough bad writing on the market without them adding to the heap.

Give me actions!!! Don’t tell me the protagonist is mad. Show him punching his fist through the wall. Show me what they are doing, and let me figure out what the characters are feeling.

I feel like these writers should be made to write a screenplay because there is no telling, at all, in scripts. They would be forced to think about how to show what the characters are feeling. They would be forced to expand their creativity to find ways to express feelings through actions. That is the mark of a good writer.

The frustrating part for me is, I know both these writers can do so much better. I’ve seen them do it. They can both write rings around me when they are on…but not this time. It feels like they rushed to get these stories to market without spending the time to polish them. Sad.

Okay, I’ll step off my soapbox for now. I’m not mad, merely disappointed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ranting About Injustice

I could be premature about all this, but I’m very pissed at a situation that happened yesterday. Herman and I have put our lovely home up for sale and yesterday, Sunday, was another of the many open houses that we have had over the last six weeks.

While we were gone and our agent was riding herd over a multitude of browsers, one couple came through the house and let their little boy run wild. The boy thought the sliding glass door was open (which it wasn’t) and ran into it head first, shattering the glass.

Luckily, the boy only received a small cut on his nose and no other obvious injuries. His father, a lawyer, left his card before taking his family on to the next house on their list.

Herman called for estimates this morning. Cheapest was $300 if we bring the glass door to them, with only a four-day wait. The most expensive was $575, but they come onsite and fix it here, with only a three-day wait.

The problem: Who Pays???

We called our insurance company, you know, those guys who take huge sums of money each month and give nothing in return. Their advice is for us to pay for it ourselves. EXCUSE ME? How is this our fault?

Their logic is, if we file an insurance claim just before moving, it will effect us getting insurance at our new home in Palm Springs, and will certainly drive the policy price up.

But now the interesting part comes in. They advise us not to try and make the parents of the kid pay because that might piss them off and they could sue us. Let me see if I got this straight, some jackoff brings his Tasmanian Devil into our home and lets him run wild, and because the boy gets a bloody nose, they can sue us?

Back in the day (fifty years ago) when children were seen and not heard, this would never have happened in the first place, because parents would have controlled their damned kids. But if the unthinkable did happen and the kid caused $300 of damage to a strangers house, the parents (at least MY parents) would have whipped out their checkbooks in a heart beat and covered the cost, then taken me to the car and given me a $300 spanking.

IMHO, that’s what a gentleman should do—cover the repair costs, apologize, and send a bottle of pricy wine to make up for any inconvenience to the home owners. Yet, everyone—Herman, the insurance company, the realtor—are all walking on eggshells worried that this lawyer will sue our pants off.

What has this society come to?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

JMS Books LLC GLBTQ Short Story Call for Submissions

JMS Books LLC <> is a small queer press specializing in GLBT erotic romance. They release 3 e-books a week and 3 print titles a month. Authors receive 50% net on royalties from all sales.

There're currently looking for GLBT short stories in all subgenres. Stories must be at least 5,000 words and no more than 20,000 words in length.

Full submission guidelines can be found on their site at If you're
responding to this particular submissions call, please send us the FULL MANUSCRIPT and don't worry about including a synopsis.

What are you waiting for? Show us your shorts!

J.M. Snyder

A Queer Small Press

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: Deadly Kind of Love by Victor J. Banis

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 215

When Chris Rafferty returns to his room at a posh Palm Springs resort, he finds a naked man in his bed. This is not so unusual considering this gay resort is known for satisfying their clientele’s needs with young hustlers, but this hustler is a little too stiff for Chris’s liking. This hustler is dead. Even before calling the police, Chris calls his good friends, Stanley Korski and Tom Danzel, a gay couple who are San Francisco private detectives.

Once Tom and Stanley take the case, they drive to Palm Springs and meet with PS homicide detective Dick Hammond. The three men confirm that the deceased was a hustler who worked the resort, and that he was murdered and dumped in Chris’s room.

Tom and Stanley check into the resort, and are given the royal treatment while they investigate clues. They have a hunch that the killer was one of the well-to-do gay clients, and that he is watching their every move. The closer they get to identifying the killer, the more bodies pile up until the killer decides to target the detectives. The boys soon find themselves in a deadly game and in over their heads.

Deadly Kind of Love is the fifth novel in the Deadly Series, and the third one I’ve read. It is told with the same delightful voice and quick pacing that Mr. Banis captures with each of these Deadly books. Fans of this series will no doubt enjoy this latest offering, as I did, to follow these sexy investigators through plot twists and turns.

Banis has created something special with this detective duo, and the mystery and motives fall second to the interplay between these characters. Still, I felt something lacking in their chemistry in this 5th book. The magic that I’ve seen in other Deadly books was there, but not with the same wit and intensity. I also felt the author rushed to reveal the killer and wrap up the ending, which I must say was, none the less, exciting.

Followers of the Deadly Series as well as mystery lovers in general will no doubt enjoy this latest outing from master author Victor Banis.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Exerpt: Haji’s Exile, a short story by Alan Chin

This is a bittersweet coming out tale that follows a young rancher training his new horse for a handicap race. Like many of my stories, it is a yarn of two different cultures coming together, teaching each other, supporting each other, and eventually loving each other. Dreamspinner Press published it, and you can download the entire story, thirty-three pages, at:

Nathan has cared for horses all his life, but Haji is the first he’ll train on his own. When the Arabian stallion arrives at the Bitter Coffee ranch, Nathan thinks he is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. And then he lays eyes on Haji’s handler, Yousef. Nathan has much to learn about horses, about pride, and about love, but with the ranch’s hopes riding on Haji, he’ll also learn that all things have their price.

To an owl or an eagle or even the lark, man must seem a rather pitiful and forlorn creature; he is condemned to crawl the earth alongside only two friends. The dog and the horse are the only exceptions to man’s universal unpopularity. Man points with pride at these two contrarians and naively believes that both are equally proud to call him friend. “Look at my two companions,” says man, “they are dumb, yet loyal.” I have always maintained that they are tolerant at best, and if man didn’t feed them, they would quickly join ranks with the majority.

I have nevertheless depended on the tolerance of horses and dogs since my childhood. I believe with all my fiber that until a man has loved an animal, a large part of his soul remains unawakened. Even now at my advanced age if I were deprived of the gratification of caring for either dog or horse, I would lose all that I hold dear. I should feel as adrift as a Muslim who had lost touch with Allah.

Horses in particular have been as much a part of my history as breathing. I define every phase of my life by which horse I owned then, or ones my father owned. Some were intelligent, some valiant, while others were rogues. None were alike. Some won the big handicap races and some won the smaller unimportant races. My family’s red and blue colors have swept past grandstands from Santa Anita to Bay Meadows. Some horses my father brought from the Eastern Seaboard, where old money and long bloodlines defined the sport. But one horse my father brought all the way from North Africa.

That stallion’s name was Haji.

When he came to the Bitter Coffee ranch, I was a straw-haired boy who had recently graduated high school, with a lanky body and wide, blue eyes. He was an Arabian stallion, part royalty and part desert whirlwind. I was awed by his self-possession, and I couldn’t help wondering what he thought of me.

He arrived at daybreak, descending the ramp from a two-horse trailer with the slow and dignified steps of Bonaparte in exile. With his head held high and nostrils flaring, he breathed the thin air of the Nevada high desert for the first time. Like me, he was a bit slender in the chest, but unlike me, he had strong legs as clean as limestone.

Sword Bearer, out of Cairo, had sired him, and noble blood flowed through his arrogant veins.

He was a sorrel, and his reddish coat gave off a golden sheen in the strong morning sunlight. Once his hooves stood on solid earth, his body shivered and his lungs let out a rush of air, as if letting me know he craved the freedom of open space again after being cramped in a ship’s hold and then in that trailer for so many thousands of miles. I heard a ring of certain gratitude in his undulant murmur.

Then I laid eyes on Haji’s handler. He had made the long voyage with the horse. The dawn’s rays lent his flowing white robes and tarboosh a shimmering orange-yellow hue, and I found myself momentarily stunned with a frozen gaze. Was it the splendor of the light reflecting off his flowing gown that dazzled me, or simply that this young man would wear a dress in broad daylight? Or could it have been his face, that porcelain-smooth skin the warm color of creamed coffee, accented by pitch-black eyebrows? His coloring was similar to the Mexican ranch hands who worked for my father and yet somehow softer. Whatever the cause, my compulsively chattering mind gave pause, and I was mentally whisked into a space of pure silence, broken only by the pulse beating at my temples.

My father walked to the thoroughbred and held the animal’s head steady, gazing into those large moist eyes. It was clear to me that the horse knew men. In his three short years, he had probably been around more men than his own kind, and from the bold stare he gave my father, I sensed that Haji understood that men were there to serve him, that we were his servants.

A tremor ran through the stallion, and he grew impatient. He shook his head free of my father’s grasp, bent the sleek bow of his neck, and kicked at the ground with a hoof. I instinctively knew that it was not that my father was a stranger but that Haji didn’t trust a man who did not smell of the earth. Even though my father owned a seven thousand acre ranch, he was a businessman and spent his time in his office or traveling.

My father stepped to the handler and laid a hand on his shoulder. “You must be Yousef. Welcome to the Bitter Coffee. Nathan will show you to your quarters. Come up to the house for breakfast after you’re settled.”

“Yousef,” I repeated in my head several times as I moved forward and grasped Haji’s halter. I felt foolishly happy at how the sound of it tumbled through my head. The stallion did not flinch at my touch, and as he took in my smell, he blew a snort into my straw-colored hair to warn me he felt nervous. I laughed, a low gentle sound which seemed to set him at ease.

The handler pulled a carpetbag from the horse trailer and stood beside me. As I glanced into Yousef’s cautious eyes, I inhaled his spicy fragrance, a mixture of horse and something else I could not identify, something vaguely like toasted sugar.

I tugged at the halter and both Haji and Yousef followed, flanking me all the way to the stables where I had already prepared the stallion’s stall. Haji stared straight ahead, glancing neither to one side or the other as if he were walking alone, like abdicated royalty, and we were merely servants trailing in his wake. He must have felt forlorn in this country of different sights and smells. It would be my job to manage him, and that included making him comfortable in this new environment. I felt much pride in that. Haji was my first horse to train. All my life I had cared for horses, learning their needs and habits, but always under the guidance of the foreman until now. Because of financial hardships, my father had let the foreman go. Haji was my responsibility, and Yousef would answer to me.

I could tell the stallion found the stall to his liking. The stable harbored a dozen other horses in a long row of stalls, but Haji’s quarters were separate from the others and twice as large.

Yousef seemed equally pleased with his own quarters next to the tack room, and though he didn’t say a word, he seemed surprised that he was given a room to himself. When he slid the tarboosh from his head, I realized he was much younger than I had first thought. I now guessed he was only a few years older than me, perhaps twenty, twenty-one at the most. And right then, he looked far more beautiful than moments before and seemed in desperate need of a friend.

I told him my name: Nathan. He repeated it twice and told me his name in broken English: Yousef Ruta. I knew then that it would be my job to teach him how to speak my language, which would be no small task. With hands waving and pointing to my own pants and shirt, I indicated he should change into more suitable work clothes and join me for breakfast at the house. It took several attempts, but he finally smiled and began to pull the white robe over his head. Much as I wanted to stay and see if the rest of his skin had the same warm coloring as his face, I turned and hurried out, giving him his privacy.

Later, after Yousef had changed into working clothes which included a shirt with flaps that hung to his knees and we had feasted on flapjacks, Yousef and I returned to Haji’s stall. While Yousef separated the good straw on the floor from the straw already soiled with urine and manure, I began to brush the stallion with clean, even strokes from mane to tail. As I worked, I felt anger rising within Haji, but I was not prepared when he bent his neck around and gripped my arm above the elbow with his teeth, biting down with enough force to make me yelp before flinging me against the wall.

I crumpled to the ground and lay in the trampled bedding for a moment, looking up into Yousef’s dark eyes. A wave of shame washed through me. I scrambled to my feet and marched to the tack room, selecting a riding crop that I had never needed before now.

I approached the stallion with a brush in one hand, the crop in the other. I spoke to him in soothing tones, telling him that he might have Sword Bearer’s blood, but I had a whip and I knew how to use it.

I began to brush him again while continuing to use soothing tones. But once more, I felt his anger swell. His hooves stomped, and his head turned with teeth bared. This time, however, I was expecting him. I struck his muzzle with the whip, hard and without mercy. I think he was more startled by the act than by the pain. The alchemy of his pride transformed the pain to rage that must have blinded him. He tried to bite again, and I struck his soft muzzle with all the force I could muster. He tried to whirl away from me but Yousef jumped to help and we held him firm. He reared upward, cutting the air with his hooves. Plunging, he felt my crop bite his muzzle again and again.

At that point, Yousef pushed me back toward the far wall and began to sooth the horse with caressing hands. The stallion slowly calmed under his touch.

When Haji became composed, Yousef lifted my brush from where it had fallen and began to brush Haji’s withers with a kind of intimate knowledge of how this horse wanted to be treated: that is, without any sense of possession.

I felt the sting of resentment, but then, more slowly, comprehension took its place.

Yousef waved me over. With he on one side of Haji and me on the other, I mimicked his strokes with my bare hands. The horse now accepted the soothing touch of my hands. Across the horse’s back, Yousef smiled at me in a way that made my stomach do a slow somersault.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Review: True Stories – Portraits from My Past by Felice Picano

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Pages: 220

This charming collection of memoirs by author Felice Picano is written in fifteen vignettes. The author recounts tales of his childhood, his experiences as a GLBT publisher, his co-founding the now-famous Violet Quill Club, his early years as a journalist, and his encounters with the rich and famous—including Bette Midler, Tennessee Williams, W.H. Auden, Charles Henri Ford, and the queen of Twentieth-Century fashion, Diana Vreeland. For the most part, the author tells his story via his relationships with an array of fascinating people that helped guide his destiny.

I found this read to be compelling and deliciously entertaining. Many of these stories span the gulf between the post-stonewall flowering of gay culture to the harsh years of AIDS. Picano writes with wit, sensitivity and vivid detail. It is still hard for me to imagine that one person could cross paths with so many interesting people in only one lifetime, but the truly remarkable aspect is that he was able to capture those experiences in such a delightful collection of anecdotes and portraits.

Each vignette is equally entertaining as the others. Whether he’s talking about partying down with Bette Midler at the Continental Baths, or a not-so-simple road trip with his father, or caring for a dying business partner, or lunching with the dragon-lady of New York high fashion, I could not put it down. This is a book I will read over and over.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween is my least favorite Holiday

Easter, Mother’s Day, Groundhog Day, any of the special days, for me, are preferable to Halloween. I am always glad when October is over and they stop playing all the slasher movies on TV and the theaters. I’ve never cared for horror stories, books or movies, which is mainly why I don’t like this holiday. There are some exceptions:

1) The Birds
2) The first two Alien movies
3) The Shining

But all the rest, the monster, gore and slasher movies, you can shitcan for all I care. I’ve never understood why people enjoy them. But then, I suppose that’s why there is chocolate as well as vanilla. People have different tastes.

The only good thing about his day is seeing the very creative costumes people come up with. That I like, not for myself, as I’ve seldom liked going in costume, but I’ve seen others get incredibly creative, which is always fun.

So starting tomorrow, hopefully we will all have had our fill of ghosts and goblins and monsters and Freddy Crueger, and we’ll all settle into looking forward to Thanksgiving with more wholesome movie selections.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Feeling Grateful this Weekend

Herman and I are leaving our house in the hands of our Realtor today while we go to a lunchon with some new friends in Northern California. The day is sunny and warm, indian summer is still upon us, and I'm feeling grateful.

We are having our fourth Sunday Open House today, and we're hopeful that we find a buyer so we can complete our purchase of a house in Palm Springs. Still, I keep looking around this wonderful home that I've lived in for the past thirty years and I can help feeling grateful for the time I've spent here. Life is good, and has been that way for some time.

The future is wide open, but I'm taken time now to love this present moment. Something I should do more often, I'm thinking.

Hope everyone reading this is also in a great space today. My best wishes go out to you all.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writing Tip #32 - Building Readership

I belong to several online writing groups where topics about writing/publishing are bantered around endlessly. Most of it is both entertaining and interesting. Yesterday a writer posted his frustrations about not being able to grow his readership. He explained that he writes in a variety of genres—contemporary romance, historical, steampunk, paranormal, etc.—and his readers who like one genre drop him like a stone when they read another genre by him that they don’t like. He posed the question whether he should focus on one or two genres while he builds his readership.

He received an avalanche of advice—everything from narrowing his focus, to publishing many more books faster, to writing a series where the same characters are featured in several novels. I didn’t offer my $0.02 because I’ve not done that great a job of expanding my readership. But the question has been percolating in the back of my head so I thought I would blog about it as a way to clarify my thoughts.

It seemed to me he is focused on the wrong issue. His focus is on how to get more readers. It seems to me his focus should be on writing high quality stories, something that will knock the socks off readers, regardless of what genre it follows.

Admittedly, you can gather what I know about readers into a thimble and you’d still have plenty of room for other things, but I think what readers (at least this reader) enjoys most is: a great hook, fascinating character development, impeccable prose, a captivating plot, and an unexpected yet satisfying ending. Easy peasy, right? (grin)

My point is, in my view most readers don’t care if it’s contemporary vs. historical vs. paranormal. What they crave is a gripping, emotional story with quality writing. They want their emotional buttons pushed, and they want to enjoy the prose while that’s happening. If you can deliver that every time, in my humble opinion, then your readers will not only stick by you, they will clamor for more and tell their friends in the process.

My advice: write the stories you feel compelled to write, but focus on quality. If it takes you three years to deliver a quality product, then take three years. One of my favorite writers, Alex Jeffers, has only written three or four books in the last ten years, and each one is impeccable. I don’t care what genre he writes in, I will read anything he publishes because I know it will be great work. He never releases anything until it is entirely thought out and polished to a dazzling sheen. I have no idea if he has a large following, but I do know that all of the readers I’ve talked to who know him are as devoted as I am to his work.

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting that my stories are in the same league as Alex Jeffers and Felice Picano and others of that caliber. What I’m saying is my focus is on improving my craft so that one day, hopefully, I will publish the kind of superior stories of those writers I so admire.

Build a quality mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door, or so the saying goes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Simple Treasure Excerpt

This story started as a screenplay that has yet to find a producer. I’ve turned it into a novella, and I think the story is stronger in prose format. Simple Treasure was released in all ebook formats on Aug. 31st of this year at Dreamspinner Press.

Here’s what Victor Banis had to say about Simple Treasures: “I just finished reading this - what a thrill I got from it. This is the 
mega-talented Alan Chin at the peak of his form, one of those miraculous
occasions when he surpasses mere writing and enters the realm of art. If
 your spirit is hungry, here is manna.”

Buy Link:


Newly released from a mental institution, Simple’s first job is caring for Emmett, a crusty drunkard dying of cancer on a ranch in Utah. Simple’s first fragile friendship is with Emmett’s grandson Jude, a gay youth in Gothic drag who gets nothing but grief from his grandfather. In an attempt to help both men, Simple, a Shoshone Indian, decides to perform a ceremony that will save Emmett by transferring his spirit into the body of a falcon.

Working to capture a falcon will bring Emmett and Jude closer as Jude and Simple’s growing love for each other blossoms, but all is not well. When the ranch, Jude’s future, and Simple’s happiness are threatened, more than Emmett’s spirit faces a bleak future.


In the faint flush of predawn, a Kenworth sixteen-wheeler topped a ridge, forty miles east of Saint George, Utah. With only a half load to hinder it, the rig barreled along the interstate at twenty miles an hour over the speed limit. The driver hoped to make Las Vegas in time for breakfast. The truck rumbled on, unrelenting.

Simple rode shotgun, staring at a dusting of lights that looked like a pocketful of stars cast across a vast and lonely mesa. The iridescent specks reminded him of flickering candles at a funeral, although he had no memory of ever attending one, and he wondered if that metaphor was some ominous sign of what lay waiting for him in Saint George.

He had stayed awake all night, too excited to sleep. His eyes burned, and his mouth felt parched. He wanted a drink, but his water bottle was stashed deep in the backpack that rested on the floorboard, between his feet. Outside, the crowns of cottonwoods, tinged pink with the coming dawn, appeared to be pasted upon a gunmetal-gray landscape. With his peripheral vision, he saw the rearview mirror reflect beams of pale orange light that now chased him across the mesa.

The driver, Dale McNally, a high-school dropout with rough manners and rougher speech, couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. His eyelids drifted toward his cheeks at about the same rate as the Kenworth swerved off the highway. When the right front tire gouged into the skim of gravel on the highway shoulder, Simple grabbed McNally’s thigh and shook it. McNally’s eyes popped open, blinked. He eased the rig back onto the blacktop.

McNally had his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, showing the thick, ropy muscles of his forearms. He wore a cowboy hat with a rattlesnake-skin band. The dashboard's lights cast an eerie glimmer across his face, and a thatch of dark hair spread out below his hat, covering his ears and hanging over his frayed collar.

“Christ sakes,” McNally barked, “I picked you up so’s you could keep me awake. Help me out here, boy.”

That happened often. Simple was twenty-five years old—a stoic ranch-hand life had made him look closer to thirty—but even men his own age, like McNally, called him boy, son, or kid.

“How?” Simple asked, suspiciously.

“I didn’t mean that. You made yourself perfectly clear about that.”

Simple relaxed.

“Talk to me. Do somersaults on the hood if you have to; just keep me awake.”

Simple cracked his passenger window an inch, enough for a frosty breeze to whistle through the cab. He stared out the windshield, silent as a stone, trying to think of something to say.

“Someone should invent an electrical device for drivers to wear under their hats,” Simple said, “to zap their balls whenever they get drowsy. It could trigger from the change in blood pressure at the temples when the eyelids start to fall.”

Dale snarled, “Don’t be talkin’ about my balls if you ain’t goin’ to do anything ’bout ’em.”

Simple changed the subject, babbling on about the city lights mirroring the stars on the horizon. The hypnotic cadence of his voice made McNally yawn, a mouth-stretched-wide-open yawn, that pulled his eyes off the road for a dangerously long time. His eyelids became heavy again, drifted to half-mast, then closed altogether. His head leaned forward, and the Kenworth wandered into the oncoming lane.

Headlights from a tour bus illuminated the cab like a prolonged flash of lightning. The light triggered a memory in Simple’s head. Blinding light, someone grabs a handful of Simple’s hair and yanks his head back while four men wearing white scrubs hold his arms and legs. He fights with all his will, but they overpower him. A voice bellows in his head, “Get his pants down.” Clothes are ripped away. The orderly holding his hair positions himself between Simple’s naked legs. Simple hears the echo of harsh laughter.

Simple shook the image from his head. He grabbed McNally’s thigh again and barked, not really a word, but rather a harsh warning.

McNally’s eyes flew open and he jerked the wheel to the right. The Kenworth swerved back into its lane, and McNally struggled to keep it from careening out of control. “I’m telling you, boy, you got to help me. Talk to me.”

“Tell you what?”

“Tell me what an Indian boy like you is runnin’ from.”

“I ain’t running from; I’m running to.” One of Simple’s clearest childhood memories was constantly sneaking away from home with a library book under his arm. He felt the need to read alone, so that his family and the other kids wouldn’t tease him. Reading was not what boys did on the reservation. But he did. He had a favorite hideaway, in the cool shade of cottonwoods near the creek, where he would read the days away in the company of Twain, Hemingway, London, and Melville. But late in the afternoons, he would hear a door slam, and his mother’s voice calling the family to dinner. Then he would run, lickety-split, back to the house. All too often, by the time Simple had rushed to the kitchen, his grandfather was slathering the last ear of corn with butter, saying, “Too late, bookworm.” Simple would stare forlornly at the empty serving dish. Although Simple had few memories left, he suspected that he had been running all his life, that he was still running, as fast as possible, trying to claim that last ear of sweet corn.

“Shit,” Dale spat. “Even a knuckle scraper like me can see that you’re fresh out of prison. All your clothes still have the K-Mart tags.”

Simple lifted his arm and saw a price tag dangling from his cuff. He ripped it away and searched for a place to trash it.

Dale said, “Toss it out the window.”

Simple stuffed the tag in his shirt pocket. “I don’t remember much, only that they had me locked up. Not prison, some kind of clinic, but I have a job waiting for me in Saint George—” Simple pulled a sheet of paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it, and read by the light of the dashboard, “—working for Lance Bishop.”

“Why do they call you Simple?”

“My grandfather named me that to always remind me that a warrior’s life is filled with simple treasures.”

“Could be worse,” Dale scoffed. “Be thankful he didn’t name you after Buttface Canyon, Nevada.”

“Sing me a song,” Simple said. “That will keep you awake.”

“I only know hymns, from when my mama took me to church.”

“Works for me.”

Nodding, McNally cleared his throat and bellowed, “‘Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me’.”

Dale’s whiskey-tenor voice soared over the engine’s growl. The tune was uncomplicated, with trilling and mournful notes, resembling both music and a sorrowful cry. It reminded Simple of a Shoshone death chant that his grandfather sang the day Simple’s parents died. He loved the way the long, flowing vowels tumbled from McNally’s lips, like a river meandering through a forest. Simple heard each tone and also the slices of silence separating the notes. It sounded stark and sometimes discordant, yet staggeringly beautiful.

In the gritty bedroom of a rundown trailer house, an alarm clock buzzed. Jude Elder’s head swiveled on a pillow, his body folded into a fetal position. He came awake and looked around the room, confused. He cleared his congested throat and banged the alarm off.

He flipped on a bedside lamp, squinted. Rings adorned his lower lip, nose, eyebrow, and a half-dozen crawled up one ear. His mascara was ghoulishly smudged. He rolled off the bed, stepped over a pile of laundry, and staggered to the doorway. As he opened the door, light from the hallway lamp revealed dozens of angry red scars crisscrossing Jude’s torso and belly.

His head hurt too much to think. He focused all his attention on not falling over.

He tottered to the shower and turned on the water. As steam rose, he stepped in, grabbed his dick, and began to masturbate—eyes closed, mouth ajar. Soon his hips bucked and his mouth twisted into a look of quasi-sexual pain. He opened his eyes and they rolled back. He groaned.

Moments later, with both his hands covering his face, he began to sob.

He lifted a razor blade from the soap dish and sliced two lines across his chest. Blood trickled over his pasty torso as tears streamed down his cheeks.

A few minutes later, Jude ambled down the hallway into his choky little kitchen. He had wrapped a towel around his waist, bandages covering his fresh wounds. He opened the refrigerator and snatched a Budweiser longneck, twisting the cap off and downing half. He seized a prescription bottle and shook the few remaining pills into his palm, knocking them back and washing them down with more beer. He tossed the two empty bottles into a sink filled with dirty dishes.

Jude grabbed another Bud from the fridge and cracked it open.

In the bedroom, Jude sifted through the pile of soiled clothes. He stepped into a pair of boxer shorts, his only pair of jeans, socks, and cowboy boots. He lifted a white shirt from the pile, sniffed the underarms, and tossed it aside. He picked up another, sniffed, tossed it. The third and last he didn’t bother to sniff. He laced his arms into the sleeves and buttoned it up.

He jerked a roach from an ashtray beside the bed, fired it up, inhaled, and downed more beer. He took another hit, then strolled back to the bathroom to reapply his eye makeup. In the mirror, he only looked at his eyes as he painted his mask. He couldn’t bear to see the rest of his face or the scars at the base of his neck.

On his way to the front door, Jude lifted a ring of keys off a plate on the kitchen table, then he stopped in front of a mynah bird chained to a perch beside the door. He snatched a food carton and shoveled seeds into the bird’s bowl.

“Loser! Loser!” the bird cawed.

“Now you sound like my dad, shithead,” Jude said.


Other work by Alan Chin
Novels: Island Song, The Lonely War, Match Maker, Butterfly’s Child
Screenplays: Daddy’s Money, Simple Treasures, Flying Solo ( articles)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: August Farewell by David G. Hallman

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.
Pages: 167

In August of 2009, Bill Conklin was diagnosed with stage-four, pancreatic cancer. Only sixteen days later, Bill died. Bill’s partner of thirty-three years, David Hallman, narrates this sixteen-day journey interspersed with vignettes drawn from their rich and varied life together.

For the most part Bill was unconscious during his last weeks, so this memoir is more of David Hallman’s experience of caring for and letting go of his lover after a long and beautiful relationship. This book started as a personal account for David, as he wanted to document the details of those last weeks together before his memory began to fade, and much of it does seem like a personal diary.

I found the book well written with good pacing except for one issue. It is written in present tense. The author states up front that all these events happened in 2009, and then voices his story as if it were happening as he tells it. I found this very jarring, something that bothered me from first page to last.

One thing I found fascinating is that, one week after Bill’s diagnoses, he was bedridden, in much pain, couldn’t eat, couldn’t talk, didn’t even have the strength to suck water through a straw, yet they continued to keep him alive for as long as possible—another nine days of pain. If he were a horse, they would have mercifully shot him. Why, in this day and age, can’t we find the compassion for humans that we have already found for animals?

This is not a pleasant story. It is told with poignancy, humor, affection, and a good deal of tears. But be aware, I found this to be a depressing read. A bright spot is that the author delves into their life together: their commitment to environmental justice, love of the arts, love of traveling, and their deeply felt Christian beliefs.

This is a tale of letting go, a journey through the past to gain the strength to endure the separation. This is not a book I can recommend to all readers. Perhaps to readers who have made similar journeys, or people preparing for their own loss.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reading John Cheever

I’ve recently been trying to buy a house in Palm Springs, so I’ve been on the road what seems most of the time between San Francisco and PS. It is a nine-hour drive along some of the most boring farmland in Central California. The good news is that Herman and I have found the perfect house for us. We’ve put in an offer and it has been accepted. Now all we have to do is sell our home in Northern California, which has been on the market for three weeks. (No takers yet)

I’ve not been getting a lot of writing done on those long drives. This last trip I took along a collection of John Cheever short stories. I confess I knew zilch about Cheever before I began to read his elegant prose. But after the first story, I fell in love with this writer. He writes rather dark, poignant stories about upper-class families, who always seem to fall from grace. His copyrights range from 1946 to 1972. I’ve read six of his stories so far—loving each one—and there is not a happy ending in sight. He deals with real human dramas, that leave the reader hanging a bit, because that is the way life is.

One of his stories, The Swimmer, was made into a movie some decades ago and stared Burt Lancaster. I had a bit of a crush on Bert so that movie has always haunted me, and reading it today has rekindled that feeling. It’s a brilliant story of a man who uncovers his past by swimming in all his former neighbors swimming pools on his way to what he thinks is his home.

I’ve always loved short stories, but in the hands of a master like Cheever, I am reduced to worship. The short story, to me, is the hardest medium to write. One has to totally capture a turning point in a characters life, with little backstory and the mere hint of what the future holds. To do it well takes brilliance.

It’s sad and also funny for me. When I read authors I admire, like Alex Jeffers and Victor Banis, I realize how far I still need to travel down this literary path before I’ll consider myself an accomplished writer. But when I read writers like Cheever and Steinbeck and Capote and so many others, I begin to think that I don’t have enough time left in my life to travel that far.

But as Homer points out in The Odyssey, it is not the destination but the journey. So I trod on.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: Bob the Book by David Pratt

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Pages: 184

Bob is a book about pre-nineties gay porn, complete with many hot pictures. He is delivered to a Greenwich Village bookstore, where he goes on sale beside another book, Moishe, whose title is Beneath the Tallis: The Hidden Lives of Gay and Bisexual Orthodox Jewish Men. Bob and Moishe fall in love, but are separated by an unlikely buyer.

As Bob journeys through sales tables, used book bins, different owners, and lecture halls, he meets a variety of other books and people, but he’s always hunting for Moishe.

Bob finds himself in a peculiar position; both he and his owner are searching for love. Both seem to find something, but it’s not ideal for either of them. Can Bob, being at the mercy of people, somehow find fulfillment? Can his owner find the same contentment? All I can say is, it’s not easy being a book in love.

This is one of the most delightful stores I’ve read all year, and the fact that it is a debut novel only adds to the pleasure. On the surface it seems like a whimsical love story, both for Bob and his human owner, as well as several other book couples. But under that simplicity, there are some important life lessons to be examined. There is much Zen-like wisdom woven into this enchanting tale, lessons on taking one’s self too seriously, and of striving for things that are not important, just to name a few.

The pace and tone never drags. This story carries the reader along with many funny twists regarding the literature industry. Of course it’s not at all believable, but it is an extremely well constructed love story, both for the books and human characters.

What amazed me most was in the examining these books’ personalities. By giving them human characteristics, the reader clearly sees where humans spin their wheels dealing with unimportant life issues.

Readers who are familiar with the publishing industry will especially appreciate this novel, but all readers can enjoy this wonderfully smart and touching book. Because the main characters are books, it transcends every boundary of gender and sexual orientation, making it an entertaining read for men and women, boys and girls, gay and straight. That’s its genius.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Launch Party and Triple Author Reading.

Tuesday, October 25th at 7:30pm
Location: Books Inc. at 2275 Market Street in San Francisco

Book Launch party for Rob Rosen's new book, Southern Fried. With guest authors from the neighborhood, Alan Chin reading Butterfly's Child and Simple Treasures, and Mark Abramson reading Wedding Season as well as from his soon to be released new book.

If you’re in the SF Bay Area, come out to the Castro and join the fun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Coming Out Day

Today (October 11th) is National Coming Out Day. I’ve been out of the closet for the past thirty-five years. But I still remember the painful fallout that occurred when my family and some friends failed to understand and support me. Thankfully that is no longer an issue with me, but I know many young (and not so young) people today are faced with the same discrimination I felt, or they are firmly locked in their closets fearing that discrimination.

To these people and others, I continue the fight to support equal rights for every man, woman and child, regardless of race, sex, religion, or sexuality. I fight bigotry in my writing, in my actions, and in my attitude towards others.

I am no saint. I am nobody special. I am no better or worse than any other person. I simply see the truth that we are all equal. We are all human. We all have our differences, our fears, our joys and our contributions to the whole. We all have the right to live a life free of discrimination for who we are. We all have the right to share our life with the person(s) that we choose to love.

Voltaire said: “We should be tolerant of everything except intolerance.”

But my favorite quote on this subject comes from Dr. Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review: Butterfly Dreaming by Dave Lara & Bud Gundy

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: CreateSpace (Nov. 14th, 2010)
Pages: 334

Banat Frantz is a Jewish boy growing toward manhood in Germany when Adolf Hitler comes to power. At an early age, Banat already feels the animosity directed toward his family. He experiences shame and fear, but doesn’t understand what it is that makes him different from those who hate. His upper-class family is stripped of almost everything before fleeing to Holland, where they think they have escaped Hitler’s grasp. But within a few years the Nazis invade Holland and they are made prisoners and shipped to work camps.

Banat grows into puberty while living in a concentration camp, and what he discovers is that his growing lust is directed at other boys, not girls. By now he knows to hide his feelings of being different than others. But when he meets Dovid, (yes, Dovid with an ‘o’), he falls in love. What starts as an adolescent crush deepens into a consuming love that will sustain Banat through the horrors that await him.

Soon the family is split up, and Banat and his father are shipped to a different camp. Over time they are shipped to several work camps, all the time moving closer to Auschwitz. Banat and Dovid are separated as well. By cunning and trickery, Banat does manage to survive the end of the war, and he goes about trying to track down his splintered family and bring them together again. There are joys and tragedies to be endured, and then the search for Dovid begins. Can Dovid have survived as well? Can the lovers reunite?

This is not an easy story to read, due to the shocking way the Jewish characters are treated by other Europeans. The horrors described both before and in the concentration camps is heartbreaking. But there are joys as well. Even in these brutal conditions and knowing what awaits them, they find love and tenderness, not just with Banat and Dovid, but other characters as well. This story is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit, and also of the power of love.

Banat is a perfect character, exhibiting both qualities and faults, as he comes of age and maturity within the most brutal conditions. He must fight for survival, yet with his being gay, he can’t confide in his own family. With death and anguish a constant, he must somehow explore the depths of love, need and joy. And he does so with virtue and morality.

But this story goes far beyond the concentration camps. Once the war is over, Banat must continue to strive in order to reunite his family. This brings both joy and sadness, and in the end grows bitter because he finally comes out to his family. Banat turns away from his parents and continues his search for Dovid. He becomes involved with the emerging gay scene in Paris, and begins to explore his sexuality. But the despair of not finding Dovid eventually drives him across the Atlantic, hoping for a new life in America, and a chance to forget. He finds that new life, but in a most unexpected and beautiful way.

This story is a fascinating inner journey from adolescence to manhood, from innocence to love. As I said, it is a hard story to read, but well worth the time and emotional turmoil. WWII history buffs will especially appreciate this tale, but this is a story everyone can appreciate and grow from.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Smack Dab open mic guest co-host Wonder Dave

Smack Dab open mic
hosted by Larry-bob Roberts and Kirk Read

Wayne Hoffman joins us as featured performer.

Wednesday, October 19, 8pm, open mic signup starts at 7:30 At Magnet, your neighborhood queer health center, 4122 18th Street between Castro and Collingwood.

Smack Dab is 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.

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

Featured performer bio:
Wayne Hoffman’s cultural reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, Village Voice, The Nation, Tablet magazine, The Forward, and The Advocate.
He's the author of Hard and the new book Sweet Like Sugar, which is about a young man wrestling with his faith, a man of faith wrestling with his youth. An unexpected friendship lies at the center of Sweet Like Sugar (Kensington Books), Wayne's new novel about fate, identity, and getting past our personal prejudices. But it’s also about Kurt Cobain, class stratification in the DC suburbs, Space Mountain, the Book of Esther, the war in Iraq, Israeli dance, Jewish summer camp, Barack Obama, Miami's bar scene, the Holocaust, interfaith relationships, immigrant communities in Jersey City, Will & Grace, crystal meth, kashrut, Sammy Davis Jr., and much more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Buying a New House

Today, for the first time in over thirty years, I made an offer on a house. Herman and I found a sweet little home in central Palm Springs that is a perfect living space for us. We love everything about it. We've been back four times to check it out, and with each viewing, we loved it more. So today we scrawled out signatures on a offer. We bid 75K less than the owners were asking, so there is no guarantee they will accept. However, our agent is very optimistic.

So if all goes well, Herman and I could be in a new home and a new city for the holidays.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Taking More Than You Need

I’m visiting some friends today, who happen to live in a three-story house on seven acres of land in the mountains east of Bakersfield. I visit here several times a year, and every time I do they put me to work. Today I pulled weeds and stacked three cords of firewood. On the inside, I scrubbed the kitchen down--sinks, walls, counters, and appliances.

Why all the work? As I said, these guys live in a gigantic house on seven acres. Pile on top of that the fact that they both work fulltime jobs, and you begin to understand that they never have enough time to keep their place up. There is always a ton of things that needs doing. Normally, they need to hire help to get things done, which is not cheap.

So whenever I’m here I try to help out. I don’t mind. I like to help in any way I can. I feel sorry when I see their garden go to pot, or their house fill with dog hair.

But each time I come down to work, I can’t help thinking that these guys have bitten off more than they can chew. The result seems to be that they are constantly working their weekends away to stay abreast of the upkeep, and there is a constant flow of their money into hired help when they fall short. At times it seems to me that this place is a prison for them, keeping them pinned here doing hard labor and keeping them behind the eight-ball financially.

Before they moved here, they rented a two-bedroom condo in town with a yard just big enough for one dog. Honestly, I think they were much happier then. They had lots of free time and plenty of cash for those weekend getaways.

To me this is a lesson in not taking too much. The more you have, the more time, money and energy it takes to care for it. This week I will be house hunting for a home for my husband and I, a place we hope to grow old in, perhaps the last place we’ll ever live. And our guiding principle will be "do not go after more house than we need." We want quality, but we also want to downsize. We’re looking for something easy to maintain as we age, only large enough to be comfortable.

The older I get, the more I realize the old adage 'less is more' can be very true.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Captain Harding’s Six-Day War by Elliott Mackle

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Lethe Press
Pages: 248

In 1967, Captain Harding is working his way up the promotion ladder within the U.S. Air Force. He’s a go-getter with a head on his shoulders and a talent for fixing problems. He is also gay.

The story begins with Captain Harding arriving at his new assignment, the post of executive officer for Wheelus Air Base in Libya. It’s a bit of a disappointment for Harding, who knows that he needs a tour in Viet Nam on his record before his next promotion will be approved. His mood takes a nosedive when he realizes his real assignment is baby-sitting the base wing commander, a loose-cannon named Colonel Adger. Harding is stuck taking care of administrative details while Adger constantly flies off to play golf with the bigwigs.

Captain Harding is on base for less than a week before he is bedding and enlisted medic and a rather studly major. Harding makes it clear that he likes to play the field, and is not the type of man to fall in love and be monogamous. And play the field he does, including going to a private party that turns into an all male orgy where he is the center of everyone’s attentions.

During his sexual adventures, he also strikes up a friendship with the American ambassador’s sixteen-year-old son. The two form an instant crush on each other, and Harding must wrestle with the ethical aspects of forming a relationship with a minor. The more his strong moral sense fights the idea, the deeper he falls for this lovely, precocious kid.

While dealing with a series of misadventures—including the murder of a gay serviceman, a flight-surgeon’s drug abuse, the death of his former lover in Viet Nam, and trying to protect a woman accused of being a lesbian because she refused to have sex with her superior officers—Harding must constantly protect himself from being exposed as a gay man. Three officers suspect him, and they attempt to out him at every turn.

In the run-up to Israel’s Six-Day War, a mob attacks the embassy in Tripoli, which takes Harding’s boss, Colonel Adger, over the edge and into madness. He steals a fighter jet and sets out to attack an Arab warship in order to force America into the war. To bring the colonel back safely and keep America out of the war, Harding must out himself while talking the colonel back to base. But can he do that? Can he throw his career away in order to save a man he loathes?

This is a rather compelling book that I have mixed feelings about. It is extremely well written, perfectly structured, and moves at a fast, exciting pace. Mackle captures a brusque voice that suits this military setting perfectly. There is conflict at every turn, and also tender moments.

Yet, I more than once felt I was being set up for something that the story failed to deliver. For instance: the opening pages describe the brutal murder of a young airman who was suspected of being gay. This seemed the perfect hook for a murder mystery, right? But then the story moves on and nothing else is said about the murder until the last twenty pages. I found it rather strange that a book that starts in such a way, simply drops that topic. There is no mention of an investigation, the resolution, nothing.

Then Harding’s last commanding officer, which Harding had some sort of sexual three-way relationship with, sends Harding a note threatening to expose the Captain. However, after the note, it also was dropped and nothing was done to deliver on the promise.

Lastly, the setting itself promised something grand, the Middle East leading up to the Six-Day War. I expected a rather smart, political thriller. Yet, the story focused on Harding’s sexual exploits and his efforts to keep them secret, along with his realization of deeper feelings for that special someone. I felt a bit disappointed that there were only a dozen or so pages that really delved into the war tensions.

Still, this is a compelling read. It is a very sexy story of finding love in the most unusual of places, and also a tale of battling bigotry to save yourself. The author does a brilliant job of defining the protagonists/antagonists. This is definitely a them-verses-us type story, and no matter how little or how much the reader likes Harding’s character, s/he cannot help but pull for him all the way to the last page.

The ending is a bit open ended, and very satisfying. This is a story that I can highly recommend.