Saturday, April 30, 2011

More Will and Jay stories from Alan Barker

My Friend from Great Britain, Alan Barker, too time out from watching the royal wedding to send three more Will and Jay stories. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

A fishy tail

"It's great to see you two guys enjoy fishing so much, seeing it's your first time and getting so excited when your rods quiver," chuckled Paolo to his two friends Will and Jay, "being out of the city and chilling by the lake will do you the world of good, but I'm a little worried about you Will."

"It was awesome when I landed my first real catch," said Jay, "but Will here is a guy who never gives up even though he's only landed some muddy swim shorts, several condoms and an old boot!"

Kitchen sink drama

"Uncle Stefano's restaurant always gets busy at weekends," said Carlo, Paolo's husband, "Paolo will be along in a minute to show you around our kitchen, but first you must eat and drink, so pick what you like from the menu and enjoy."

"It's all very well you overflowing with 'Molto grazie's ' to him," said Will to his partner Jay, "you do realise that when he said that the kitchen desperately needed two new dishwashers, he was referring to us, so eat up, it's going to be a long, long night mate."

Pole Dancer

"Tom, Will told me you're an awesome pole dancer, but how do you feel performing in front of large crowds and begging for money," pointed out Jay, "and you wear only a flower here and a few leaves there?"

"Well, there are at least ten of us Jay so as we've got just the right blossoms to cover your embarrassment," encouraged Tom, " why don't you come and join in with the lads at dawn on May 1st and enjoy dancing around the Maypole on the village green for charity.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Writing Tip #27 Don’t Muddy the Waters

I recently read and reviewed a 750 page, self-published novel that was written by a talented writer, and yet, I had a great deal of trouble muddling through the story. Not only was I not totally satisfied with the read, but the author contacted me after I posted my review to let me know I had missed several of the themes he had woven into the story. I freely admit that, although I caught some of the more obvious themes, several he mentioned did blow right over my head. He was very disappointed. It was a shame because much of his story was quite entertaining.

I’ve been thinking about his novel, my review of it, and the author’s response to my review for weeks now. The most prominent complaint that I expressed in the review was that the story was simply overwritten, and could benefit from cutting up to three hundred pages from the story, to tighten the storyline and focus more on the major themes.

After weeks of thought, I stand by my first analysis. I believe the main, and possibly the only, problem was the writer tried to encompass too much, too many ideas, into his story. He was so ambitious, trying to make his story grand, that many of the themes got lost in the shuffle.

I often do this myself when writing a first draft. I don’t realize what the major themes are until I’m deep into act three and all the subplots are coming together for the climax. But once the lightning bolt hits and I understand what my subconscious was striving for, then I’m ready for a major rewrite.

Once I know the premises, I write a theme statement, or two if there are multiple major themes, and I post them on my tack board over my desk. From that point on, the theme statements are my litmus test for cutting or keeping.

Particularly while writing the second draft, anything I find that doesn’t advance the major themes gets cut. Once while writing The Lonely War, I cut the first two hundred pages in half. The result was a cleaner read, and everything that was left did advance the themes.

My point is, be clear about what ideas the subtext of your story is creating, and keep the number of themes to a minimum. Two is good, one is better. In short, don’t muddy the waters by trying to do too much.

For my stories, I like to have two different subplots going on that are loosely linked, each with it’s own theme. At some point, usually deep into act three, I bring the two subplots together to pound home one overall premise. This approach is nothing new. In fact, writers have been using this technique since Rome was a village.

Again, the point is, know your theme, and cut anything that doesn’t progress that idea. Hopefully, you’ll end up with a tighter, cleaner manuscript.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Short Story Review: Legend of the Mountain Ash by Ruth Sims

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by Untreed Reads Publishing
Pages: 14

This poignant story starts with these two sentences: There are places in this world where magic and miracles meet, and when they do a legend is born. This is the story of one such legend, and how it came to be.

This simple yet beautiful opening blossoms into a tale of how Ethan and Davey meet in an army hospital during the World War II, after Ethan was brought there courtesy of a German bayonet. It then describes a growing love as the British lad, Davey, nurses the American solider back to health, a love as tender as a young shoot, but with roots growing deep in fertile soil.

Davey follows his lover back to America and they settle in a farming community, but bigotry from the townsfolk forces them to move on. They search for a place where they can live, free to express their love openly, so as to let it grow strong, and toughen into something that neither people nor time could destroy. In the Appalachian hills, they found such a place, a place where magic and miracles meet. The Legend of the Mountain Ash is, as so many legends are, a story of love and loss, sacrifice and redemption.

Sometimes the simplest stories are the most powerful. Such is the case with this tale, and under Ruth Sims’s skillful hand, this story also blends beauty and grace with that power, and she adds a dash fanciful magic to create an inner journey for the reader, a passage that leads to a bittersweet joy. As the lovers scratch out a life for themselves in this backwoods paradise (a reflection of their love), stone by stone, stick by stick, crop by crop, they also build a structure within the heart and mind of the reader.

The characters will pull at your heartstrings. The enchanting prose will tickle your whimsical soul. The ending, although somewhat predictable, will charm and sadden and uplift. This is one of those rare stories that is felt. And long after you put it down, you will continue to feel it, because it will awaken something in you, at least it did for me. I can highly recommend this story to all readers.

To read more about this story/author go to

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How Old Are You?

Thought I would share some fun today. Check out this memory test. I only missed two of twenty.

NO Cheating - don't look at the answers until you take the test!!!!

History Exam...
Everyone over 40 should have a pretty easy time at this exam. If you are under 40 you can claim a handicap.

This is a History Exam for those who don't mind seeing how much they really remember about what went on in their life.

*** Get paper & pencil & number from 1 to 20.
****Write the letter of each answer & score at the end.

Then before you pass this test on, put your score in the subject line.

1. In the 1940s, where were automobile headlight dimmer switches located?
a. On the floor shift knob.
B. On the floor board, to the left of the clutch....
C. Next to the horn.

2. The bottle top of a Royal Crown Cola bottle had holes in it.. For what was it used?
a. Capture lightning bugs.
B. To sprinkle clothes before ironing.
C. Large salt shaker.

3. Why was having milk delivered a problem in northern winters?
a. Cows got cold and wouldn't produce milk.
B. Ice on highways forced delivery by dog sled.
C... Milkmen left deliveries outside of front doors and milk would freeze, expanding and pushing up the cardboard bottle top.

4. What was the popular chewing gum named for a game of chance?
a.. Blackjack
B. Gin
C. Craps

5. What method did women use to look as if they were wearing stockings when none were available due to rationing during WW II.
A. Suntan
B. Leg painting
C. Wearing slacks

6. What postwar car turned automotive design on its ear when you couldn't tell whether it was coming or going?
A. Studebaker
B. Nash Metro
C. Tucker

7. Which was a popular candy when you were a kid?
A . Strips of dried peanut butter.
B. Chocolate licorice bars.
C. Wax coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside.

8. How was Butch wax used?
A. To stiffen a flat-top haircut so it stood up.
B. To make floors shiny and prevent scuffing..
C On the wheels of roller skates to prevent rust.

9. Before inline skates, how did you keep your roller skates attached to your shoes?
A. With clamps, tightened by a skate key.
B. Woven straps that crossed the foot.
C. Long pieces of twine.

10. As a kid, what was considered the best way to reach a decision?
A. Consider all the facts.
B. Ask Mom.
C Eeny-meeny-miney-MO.

11. What was the most dreaded disease in the 1940s and 1950s?
A. Smallpox
C. Polio

12. 'I'll be down to get you in a________, Honey'
B. Taxi
C. Streetcar

13. What was the name of Caroline Kennedy's pony?
A. Old Blue
B. Paint
C Macaroni

14. What was a Duck-and-Cover Drill?
A. Part of the game of hide and seek.
B. What you did when your Mom called you in to do chores.
C. Hiding under your desk, and covering your head with your arms in an A-bomb drill.

15 ... What was the name of the Indian Princess in the Howdy Doody Show?
A. Princess Summerfallwinterspring
B. Princess Sacajawea
C Princess Moonshadow

16. What did all the really savvy students do when mimeographed tests were handed out in school?
A. Immediately sniffed the purple ink, as this was believed to get you high.
B. Made paper airplanes to see who could sail theirs out the window.
C. Wrote another pupil's name on the top, to avoid their failure.

17. Why did your Mom shop in stores that gave Green Stamps with purchases?
A.. To keep you out of mischief by licking the backs, which tasted like bubble gum.
B. They could be put in special books and redeemed for various household items.
C. They were given to the kids to be used as stick-on tattoos.

18. Praise the Lord , & pass the _________?
A.. Meatballs
B. Dames
C. Ammunition

19. What was the name of the singing group that made the song 'Cabdriver' a hit?
A. The Ink Spots
B.. The Supremes
C. The Esquires

20. Who left his heart in San Francisco ?
A. Tony Bennett

B. Xavier Cugat
C. George Gershwin
----------------------------- --------------------------


1. (b) On the floor, to the left of the clutch Hand controls, popular in Europe, took till the late '60's to catch on.

2. (b) To sprinkle clothes before ironing.. Who had a steam iron?

3 (c) Cold weather caused the milk to freeze and expand, popping the bottle top...

4 (a) Blackjack Gum.

5.. (b) Special makeup was applied, followed by drawing a seam down the back of the leg with eyebrow pencil

6. (a) 1946 Studebaker.

7. (c) Wax coke bottles containing super-sweet colored water.

8. (a) Wax for your flat top (butch) haircut.

9. (a) With clamps , tightened by a skate key, which you wore on a shoestring around your neck.

10. (c) Eeny-meeny-miney-mo.

11. (c) Polio. In beginning of August, swimming pools were closed, movies and other public gathering places were closed to try to prevent spread of the disease.

12. (b) Taxi , Better be ready by half-past eight!

13. (c) Macaroni ...

14. (c) Hiding under your desk, and covering your head with your arms in an A-bomb drill.

15. (a) Princess Summerfallwinterspring. She was another puppet.

16... (a) Immediately sniffed the purple ink to get a high.

17. (b) Put in a special stamp book, they could be traded for household items at the Green Stamp store.

18. (c) Ammunition, and we'll all be free.

19. (a) The widely famous 50's group: The Inkspots.

20. (a) Tony Bennett, and he sounds just as good today.


17- 20 correct : You are older than dirt, and obviously gifted with mental abilities. Now if you could only find your glasses. Definitely someone who should share your wisdom!

12 -16 correct: Not quite dirt yet, but you're getting there.

0 -11 correct: You are not old enough to share the wisdom of your experiences.

Send this to your ('old') friends with your score in the subject line

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: The Quest for Brian by Jeff Graubart

Reviewed by Alan Chin
Published by CreateSpace (November, 2010)
Pages: 744

In the early 1970s David Rosen learns that his boyfriend, Brian, lost his job as a teacher because the school board found out Brian was gay. That injustice launches David on a quest for gay liberation, and once on that path he finds the fight a consuming passion from which there seems no escape. But the noble fight for justice does not lift David to a higher plane, rather, he falls farther away from the man he loves and seems to lose every battle, every friend. Because of his extreme and eccentric views, both Brian and the fellow gay liberation fighters distance themselves from David. From Champaign-Urbana to Chicago, to California, and back to Champaign, David descends into a web of obsession, drug addiction and instability.

Much of this story is the author’s memoirs, so the reader becomes witness to actual historical events, heretofore unprinted, starting in the early 1970s and going until the White Night Riots in San Francisco when Dan White got away with murdering Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. This autobiographical historical fiction is an important work, and should raise questions in the soul of every reader, gay or straight, red neck or liberal.

This was not a read I enjoyed, but rather, a read I found interesting. Brian was not a likable character, but he had noble qualities and a sense of justice, which made him a good protagonist. He was a young gay man who somehow linked his unrequited love for Brian Powers with the Gay Liberation Movement, and David’s obsession with both led him down a path of drug addiction and a lust for violent resistance that I found distasteful, as did everybody else in this story. David soon found himself a pariah in the gay community, with nothing to grab onto but the fight.

The story chronicles David’s few successes and many failures throughout this turbulent decade. One of the things I found most interesting was the variety of different gay political groups, and their intrigue, backstabbing and infighting that was a constant theme. Groups would form and dissolve at the drop of a skirt, and seemed more social than political.

The main issue that kept me from enjoying the storyline is that I found the book to be completely over-written. I felt the author could have easily cut out three hundred pages, and the result would be a tighter and more interesting story. As it is, I often found myself wading hip deep in detail that didn’t add much to the story. This was a problem from page one to the end.

This is a long, slow, repetitive, and often entertaining read. I recommend it for those readers who are interested in seeing a unique view of one of the most important and volatile periods in gay history. The following is an excerpt from the book that shows what the political situation was at that time:

In the film Milk, many got their first glimpse of the gay rights struggles of the 70s. Were those struggles an exercise in futility? Consider the following about 1980:
-­It had been just six years since Los Angeles police were ordered to harass and arrest homosexuals.
-­It had been just eight years since many states had special camps for incarcerating homosexuals.
-­It had been just ten years since it was illegal for bartenders in New York City to serve homosexuals.
-­It had been just eleven years since it was illegal in Dade County, Florida, for three or more homosexuals to congregate in public.
-­It had been just twelve years since a Time Magazine poll showed that most Americans despised homosexuals more than murderers.
-­It had been just fourteen years since a respected judge on the Florida Supreme Court wrote in a ruling that Americans would view the death penalty far more favorably if it was used against homosexuals.
So, suppose there was no uprising. Suppose Bryant and Briggs and Walinsky had won. Suppose the religious right was at peak strength in 1980, instead of in tatters.
And then the plague came.

Anita Bryant, who was fired from the Florida Citrus Commission, divorced by her husband, ruined in her career as a singer, and driven into bankruptcy; but those who choose to use God to justify their prejudices had better take note.

For more information about his book or author, go to

Monday, April 18, 2011

A new tool saves time & money with my writing

I use a Mac laptop to write, and I have a wifi interface in my home to connect me to the Internet. My screenwriting partner, Ed Harris, has the same Mac/wifi setup in his house in San Francisco, which is thirty miles away. In the past, I always drove into the city and spent the day working at his house, then of course drove home.

Driving time = 2 ½ hr round trip,
Gas = 4 gallons = $17 dollars at today’s prices,
Bridge Toll = $5,
Foul mood after fighting traffic = priceless.

Enter FaceTime, a Skype-like product -- runs on Macs, iPhones and iPads -- that lets me make calls over the Internet and see the caller who also has the FaceTime software.

Now, instead of meeting once a week because of the hassle and expense of driving to the city, my writing partner and I meet three times per week, he in his home office and me in mine. This video conferencing is FREE. We just downloaded the software onto our Macs, entered each other’s email address, and we were good to go.

We can have a number of documents open on our screen, and then in one corner of my screen is a window with Ed talking to me. It’s as if we are sitting across the table from each other. We are 10 times as productive as we were the old way.

I can’t tell you how much I love this product. Anyone who has a Mac can install this software in minutes, and carry on free long distance conversations, Mac to Mac, or Mac to iPad, or iPad to iPhone. It’s fantastic.

If you purchase this software at the online Apple Store , it costs 99 cents. I however did a google search on “Facetime Free Download” and found a site with free downloads.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Three new W&J stores from Alan Barker

Here is another installment of Alan Barker's Will and Jay two sentence stories. Hope you enjoy. For the first time, I'm able to include a picture of the author.


"Mmmmm...mmmm....awesome," drooled Will to his partner Jay, "floating on my back is such a full-on experience and the gentle wave motion makes me feel as if I'm slowly drifting out to sea under that warm Italian sun."

"Dream on matey," teased Jay, "don't you think wearing your shades and designer beach shorts is a bit of an over-chill just to test out our new waterbed?"

Baby face

"Oh Will, you did look so sweet in your little sailor suit and blue booties," said Jay, looking the the photo album,"and I can see why you won the first prize in the 'Baby Face' competition hugging that awesome teddy bear wearing a sailor's cap."

"Well, you were a great success too at Rae's 'Baby Face' themed party, replied Will, "trouble is mate, you looked quite a hunk wearing that large bib and bonnet, but I didn't have the heart to tell the other guys that the secret weapon you had in your diaper was only your cell phone!"

Cover up

As Will and his partner Jay paddled slowly along the water's edge looking out to sea at the setting sun, their fingers touched as Jay said, "remember it was just a few hours ago when you naughtily buried me up to my neck while I was sleeping."

"All too well," replied Will with a devilish grin, "and I will never forget the look on your face when you saw where I had placed two small ice-cream cartons and a pop bottle!"


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why I Write

I’ve gotten to the point where I regularly receive emails from readers telling me what they thought of my stories, and although I love reading them, I no longer get too excited over them. But every once in a while one pops up in my inbox that is special. I’d like to share one with you that came today. She is talking about The Lonely War, and my offer to send all profits to the Red Cross Japanese Relief Fund.

Dear Alan,

So beautifully written, and so very bittersweet. Thanks for what you did with it. I got it at the beginning of the month so that the funds could go to Japan. I should have had two boxes of facial tissues handy before I started reading though...I went through one and had to resort to drastic measures (papertowels, lol). Bravo.

For myself I'm declaring this week Alan Chin week. Because right now you're my own personal newly minted hero. Thank you for helping me remember that each person can make a difference.

May You Be Well,

And I responded to her with a heartfelt, thank you back, for helping me remember why I write. Because it’s true, one person can make a difference in the world.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: Butterfly’s Child by Alan Chin

My book, Butterfly's Child received a glowing review over at Wilde Oats Literary eZine, and I wanted to share a portion of that review with you:

Book Review: Butterfly’s Child by Alan Chin
Reviewed by Piet Bach at
Wilde Oats eZine
4 ½ stars

Alan Chin has taken Butterfly and both re-set it in high-desert Nevada and re-imagined it in two different time lines, to stunning effect. Essentially, he has written a sequel to the opera, an opera in prose form. Such an undertaking requires both nerves of steel and a sure hand, and Chin demonstrates that he has both. Some of the dramatic development is unexpected at the very least, but the character development is both subtle and deeply felt. The axis of both opera and novel is the character of Suzuki, which my Japanese friend told me translated as “Perfume of Pines”. As a name, it gives us a hint that the maid will be the strong survivor of the household, and in Chin’s tale it is indeed the maid/companion Juanita around whom the homestead revolves. Tough and resilient as a high-desert evergreen, scoured to essentials by wind and cold and desert heat, she holds the ranch together while disaster nearly consumes the family created by Butterfly’s child. The child has grown into a young man haunted by loss and grief, and whose preternaturally acute hearing has made him a misfit in the Manhattan environment he inhabits. His grandmother’s death and the necessity of returning to the family ranch to settle her affairs uproot him from life in the musical world, setting him on a course of growth and maturation. Along the way he sees one love wither and another blossom, witnesses deep devotion and fidelity, sees others’ loves grow in both romantic and non-romantic forms, learns what it is to be a man, and re-discovers a joy in music that he thought had faded completely away.

The characters of Butterfly’s Child are sensitively drawn; from the novel’s protagonist Cord, to the small boy Jem, they are believable and engaging. As the story progresses, we are pulled into the extended family. In the broadest sense, this is a romance, but it is far more than that. The tale is compelling – I was so transfixed by it, in fact, that I read the entire novel in one long sitting, stopping only when hunger drove me to the table and returning to the book as soon as I set my fork on the empty plate. Short scenes and longer set pieces are intelligently balanced, and the pace never feels either rushed or inhibited. I did feel a twinge of annoyance a couple of times when a passage of recitativo ran too dry: the hero’s ruminations on Zen Buddhism could have been abbreviated without damage to the score. But that’s a minor point. You don’t have to be a fan of Italian opera to respond to this dramatic tale of high romance, just be ready to fall in love.

To view the entire review, go to


Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Review: Traveling Light By Lloyd Meeker

Reviewed by Victor J. Banis
Published by MLR Press
ISBN: 978-1-60820-318-5

5+ stars – a definite keeper

Summary Review: A unique and wonderful tale of love and wisdom spanning centuries

The Blurb: An eye for an eye…
Ian McCandless is a hospice nurse, training to become a shaman. When his mentor orders him to make peace with his estranged family, reluctantly agrees, anticipating another conflict-filled visit. On their way home from the airport Ian’s older brother, Will, interrupts a convenience store robbery and is shot, dying in Ian’s arms and calling to him for vengeance.
Ian uses his shamanic abilities to track down the killer, but his quest soon turns into a hunt for revenge—forbidden to any shaman. Ian’s pursuit jeopardizes his relationship with the spirit world, endangers the lives of those he loves, and threatens to banish him from the only path that gives his life meaning.

The review:
I confess, when I finished reading Traveling Light, I found myself wondering what on earth I was going to say about it. Well, of course there were certain things that could be and must be said—for starters, that this is a beautifully written novel, an almost perfect marriage of style and story.

But how, I wondered, to explain the story. It is one of those that defies classification, for starters. It’s a gay novel—sort of. It’s a romance—sort of. It’s a two-spirits tale—sort of. It’s a paranormal and a time travel and all kinds of other things…all sort of. In fact, it’s not really much like anything I’ve read before, though that may be more of an indictment of my reading habits than a description of the novel. What it is, for certain, is a wonderfully compelling read.

Ian is an apprentice shaman, in contemporary Vancouver. He is on a trip to try to patch things up with his estranged family in Halifax when his older brother, Will, is shot in a convenience store robbery, and Ian thirsts for revenge—a dangerous emotion for a shaman to hold onto, as his mentor Ang warns him. Nonetheless, angry and determined to find justice, Ian begins to search for his brother’s spirit, and for the man who shot him.

Ta-Kuat is an apprentice shaman in a 13th century Anasazi village whose mentor, Chiyuskanek, seeks something called the Door Stone that he believes will bring critically needed rain and save their village from extinction—but Chiyuskanek’s motives are not pure. He wants to bring the rain so that the succeeding generations of their tribes will sing his praises. And because his aims are not pure, he can no longer do the spirit travel necessary to search for the Door Stone. In his place, Ta-Kuat begins a search for the Door Stone.

Ta-Kuat and Ian meet on the spirit plane, and are drawn to one another. Bear in mind, on the physical level, they are centuries apart, Ta-Kuat dead long before Ian was even born. Now, if, like me, you’re thinking there’s no way they can make it happen on the spirit level, you’re in for a big surprise:
“He couldn’t bear his own ecstasy, yet knew it without effort, just as he knew Ta-Kuat’s. They formed one being, one matrix of power, one undulating wave on the vastness that lifted them, drowning them.

He became vast, permeable, fluid, gas, solid, a tree’s memory, desire fierce as a hawk’s cry…Ta- Kuat was a volcano and Ian an ocean meeting him, infinite welcome. He evaporated and condensed again around the heat of newborn rock, caressing him with his eternal waves…Then, helpless and all powerful, all his chakras flowered open, his body swelled, failing to contain his essence, bursting open into stars rising in a spiral fountain, twining together, together melting and falling—into spent ash, soil, stone, silent water, root, rest—complete.”

Whew! I’m telling you, I was ready to trade in my gonads. And that’s the condensed version.

An evil spirit guide, Sheen, convinces Chiyuskanek that the way to achieve power is to kill Ta-Kuat and replace his heart with the Door Stone. Ian, meanwhile, foresees the murder and tries to avert it—thus interfering in the thread of Ta-Kuat’s life—another mistake for a shaman.

The plot is complex, and evolves on many levels, and I don’t want to give too much of that away here. Suffice to say, there’s metaphor and mystery, and riddles to be solved on many different levels and in many different time spaces. In the end, the author is writing about nothing less cosmic than the beginnings of Time, as we know it. One cannot help but come from this reading experience a bit wiser than before—but that makes it sound a bit too profound and far less fun than it actually is. This is a book to be savored on many different levels.

As to the characters, Ta-Kuat is a terrific creation, as is Ang. Chiyuskanek is particularly chilling because he does not himself see the evil of his ways. There is a wonderful cast of spirit creatures or guides: Shining Woman, Wolf Lady, Rattlesnake, Ghost Woman, Raven and the wonderfully creepy Sheen, a sort of cross between a dragon and a scorpion. Ian seems to me a little slow sometimes to “get it” but he’s endearing in his innocence. In truth, most of the characters in the “real world” – though you will begin to wonder as you read about that designation—are a bit less convincing than their spirit counterparts, maybe reflecting the author’s inclinations. And it may be that the author did this deliberately; I wouldn’t be surprised. The sexual element, e.g., is far more subdued on the physical plane than what I quoted above.

All in all this is a mystical tour-de-force, a spellbinding piece of writing—as I said, like nothing I’ve encountered before—I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this fully. But it does ask the reader to think. The truths that Ian and Ta-Kuat face are universal ones all of us must in time consider.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smack Dab open mic guest co-host Wonder Dave

Smack Dab open mic hosted by Larry-bob Roberts and guest co-host Wonder Dave

Wednesday April 20
8pm, open mic signup starts at 7:30
At Magnet, your neighborhood queer health center, 4122 18th Street between Castro and Collingwood.

Featured performer bio:
Liz Prescott from Washington D.C. joins us as featured performer.
Liz's photo can be found at

Liz Prescott’s poetry is physical – rooted in the body, in experiences that can be touched, felt, and seen. It can be sexy, painful, tragic, or grotesque. “My first poetry teacher told me that he could always tell what a writer was afraid of because they would write around it,” Liz says. “So now, whenever I catch myself writing around something, avoiding something, I deliberately push myself into that space.”

Liz was a semi-finalist in Capturing Fire, the first national, queer poetry slam. She has featured previously at the original Busboys and Poets, *Sparkle* a queer driven open mic at the 5th and K location, and The Garden open mic at Bloombars.

She’s a board member of Mothertongue, a spoken word open mic by women for women; a planning committee member of Small is Beautiful, an arts collective that promotes local artists; and a founding member of the Small is Beautiful writing workshop.

She lives in DC where she plays a mean bass guitar and works for a group that advocates for healthcare reform, giving voice to those who will benefit directly from system change.

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

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another gay bookstore closing

I heard on Twitter today that Different Light Bookstore in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro district is having a closing sale. I have no idea how much longer they will keep the doors open.

I’m finding this difficult to process. DLB has been a part of the Castro for as long as I’ve been going there. It has been more than merely a bookstore to the community; it has been a gathering place, a cruising spot, a place to organize events, and a place to see what’s happening in the world of gay literature. I have seldom walked around the Castro without popping in for a looksee at what was new. I will miss it dearly.

All brick-and-mortar bookstores have been hit hard this last decade, and the trend continues, but gay bookstores have been hit especially hard. A few years ago, before Island Song was first published, I compiled a list of over a hundred gay bookstores across the country. Now I know of only a handful of gay bookstores left. I’m sorry to say that this is one bit of evolution that I find depressing. Call me old fashioned, but I like the feel of books, and I like browsing through bookstores, seeing the covers, reading the first few pages, checking out what the hunk next to me is reading.

How long before there are no bookstores? How long before there are only ebooks? For me, books are a joy. I love to hold them, to be surrounded by them. I have a library full of leather-bound books. They bring comfort, knowing I can pick one up, take in a story at my pace, run my fingers over the tiny little ink strokes, flip pages back and forth. Granted those are small things, but pleasure is made up of many tiny delights.

There is nothing to be done it appears. Economics trumps quality of life once again. Progress charges onward and upward.