Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Review: Sal Mineo, A Biography by Michael Gregg Michaud

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Pages: 420

Sal Mineo was raised in a family who struggled to make ends meet. His father owned a casket factory in the Bronx, and his mother managed Sal’s early television and stage career. Sal appeared in a number of TV spots and big stage productions, including The King and I, staring Yul Brynner, before becoming one of the hottest teen stars of the fifties. His role opposite James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause made Sal into a teenaged heartthrob. Other notable movie roles were in Giant, The Gene Krupa Story, and Exodus. While still a teen, Sal was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Rebel and Exodus).

In Rebel, Sal’s character, Plato, was the first gay character to ever be shown in a Hollywood film. Many young gay guys, myself included, didn’t even understand what the movie was trying to show with that role, but we connected with it in ways no other movie role had ever done.  And of course, we fell in love with Sal. It made Sal a national sensation.

But when Sal grew into his twenties, and was no longer suitable for teen roles, his career began a long, downhill slide. Many other child stars have had difficulty making the transition to adult roles, but Sal had two other career setbacks to overcome: 1) his mother, as manager, had spent all his money supporting his family, leaving him virtually penniless;  2) He was gay, and rumors of his private affairs began circulating around Hollywood and Broadway, and that was the kiss of death for this remarkably talented actor.

Michaud does an excellent job of presenting Sal Mineo’s rise to stardom, his mother’s mismanagement of his career, and the wild life he unsuccessfully tried to keep under wraps. The book is extremely well written and paced, while still managing to include a great deal of detail of the actors life and untimely death.

The book goes into excellent detail regarding Sal’s movies and the major television roles, as well as Sal’s failed attempts at producing/directing. It also gives the dirt on Sal’s private life, with accounts from several of his ex-lovers.

Movie buffs will certainly enjoy this meticulous look into Sal Mineo’s highs and lows, his dreams and ghosts, but this book can be enjoyed by everyone, because it is not merely a presentation of Sal’s life, but also a peek into that elusive thing we call The Entertainment Business.  I thought it was brilliant, with something noteworthy on every page.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Lonely War has a Second Coming

I'm proud to announce that today, Dreamspinner Press has published the Second Edition of my award-winning novel, The Lonely War, (Previously published by Zumaya Publications) This was a big step for me because now the book is available in all ebook formats, including Kindle compatable formats. And I must say, I love the new Dreamspinner cover art.

The Lonely War By: Alan Chin | Other books by Alan Chin

Published By: Dreamspinner Press
ISBN # 9781613724590
Word Count: 113,481
Available in paperback and all eformats, including Kindle compatable.

The Lonely War swept the 2010 Rainbow Awards, taking 1st place in four categories:
Best Overall Gay Fiction,
Best Historical Fiction,
Best Characters,
Best Setting. 

This is what two of the judges had to say about The Lonely War:

This is a very demanding but oh-so-rewarding book. While I don't know if I would read it again--at 303 pages which included some rough passages I'd rather not experience again--I can honestly say that this is a book that deserves to be read by fans of m/m  who want a more realistic angle OR maybe something that is slightly off-center. It's a brilliant novel. One I'm happy I got the chance to immerse myself in. --Luce

This, I have to say, was the Jewel in the Crown of my Rainbow Award books. It was an EXCELLENT read. It kept me rapt and I can honestly say, that I never, ever, not once, knew what would happen next - but when whatever it was unfolded, I believed it. This, for me, represents very good quality writing. It is not predictable, it is realistic, emotionally engaging, engrossing and very well written. A truly worthy contender for the top spot in this category in my opinion. --Rosie

The realities of war are brutal for any man, but for a Buddhist like Andrew Waters, they’re unthinkable. And reconciling his serene nature with the savagery of World War II isn’t the only challenge Andrew faces. First, he must overcome the deep prejudice his half-Chinese ancestry evokes from his shipmates, a feat he manages by providing them with the best meals any destroyer crew ever had. Then he falls in love with his superior officer, and the two men struggle to satisfy their growing passion within the confines of the military code of conduct. In a distracted moment, he reveals his sexuality to the crew, and his effort to serve his country seems doomed. When the ship is destroyed, Andrew and the crew are interned in Changi, a notorious Japanese POW camp. In order to save the life of the man he loves, Andrew agrees to become the commandant's whore. He uses his influence with the commandant to help his crew survive the hideous conditions, but will they understand his sacrifice or condemn him as a traitor?

Part I
The Pilgrim
It has been said that “Common souls pay with what they do, nobler souls with that which they are.” And why? Because a profound nature awakens in us by their actions and words, by their very looks and manners. —Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays

Chapter One
March 20, 1941—0800 hours

IN THE spring of 1941, the Japanese army surged across the border from China to extend their bloody campaign to all of Southeast Asia. As war crept south, the French, English, and American foreigners scattered throughout Indochina hastened to Saigon, where they boarded ocean liners bound for their homelands. Meanwhile, the Japanese army massed at the outskirts of Saigon, poised for another victorious assault. The city held its breath as the invaders prepared for the onslaught.

Andrew Waters pursued his father across a bustling wharf, still wearing his boarding-school uniform and clutching a bamboo flute.

The ship that loomed before him was a floating city, mammoth, with numerous passenger decks topped by two massive exhaust stacks muddying the sky. It had berthed at the port of Saigon—an inland port on a tributary of the Mekong—for a full week. Now, Andrew saw the crew scurrying to get underway.
The wharf trembled slightly. Andrew heard the rat-tat-tat of gunfire over the sirens blaring from the center of the city.

Andrew’s father sported a tussore silk suit of superlative cut and a Panama hat tilted so that the brim hid his right eye. His tall figure marched purposefully toward the black-and-white behemoth, and his normally long gait lengthened with a noticeable desperation.

Andrew, who was nearly eighteen, paused while panting from an acute nervy rush. He searched the sky for planes. They were still beyond his field of vision, but the drone of bombers echoed through the cloud cover. The rumble of explosions grew loud and the air carried the faint stench of sulfur.
He hurried on, jostling through a mélange of beings: Caucasians dressed in fine Western clothes (like his father), rich Chinese in their silks, merchants in long-sleeved jackets, coolies wearing only tattered shorts. Voices around him were shouting while the harsh twang of a military band playing “Auld Lang Syne” vaulted above that unbridled fusion of humanity.

Behind Andrew trotted an aged wisp of a monk who wore the traditional orange robes and held a string of wooden prayer beads. Each bead was the size of a marble and had the chalky gray coloring of Mekong silt. The monk’s thumb deliberately ticked past each bead, one after another, like a timer counting down the seconds. Behind the monk came the porters carrying four steamer trunks.
At the gangway, his father told Andrew to make his good-bye, and he sprinted up the ramp with the porters in tow.

Surrounded by a press of bodies, the youth reverently embraced the monk. The old man’s arms wrapped around Andrew and drew him nearer. The monk’s breath tickled his neck, which helped to dissolve his anxieties.

Using the native tongue of South China, he whispered, “Master, I’ll come home as soon as I can.”
The monk’s face contracted, as if Andrew had posed a difficult question. “Andrew, war and time will whisk away everything that you love. This is our farewell.”

The youth wiped away a tear that broke free from his almond-shaped eyes and slid down his amber-colored cheek. “Master, I will remember everything you have taught me.”

“You will forget my lessons, Andrew. Such is the nature of youth. But remember this: you are American by birth, so they will surely draft you. On the battlefield, resist the hate that is born from fear. Nurture only love in your heart. To love all beings is Buddha-like and transcends us from the world of pain, for love is the highest manifestation of life. To experience love’s full bounty is life’s only purpose, so tread the moral path before you and sacrifice yourself to love. All else is folly, a dream of the ego.”
“Master, I do not understand about sacrificing myself to love.”

The old monk’s eyes opened wide and his lips spread into a grin. “Meditate on what I have said. Understanding will come when you are ready.”

The monk methodically bundled his string of beads into a ball, roughly the size and shape of a monkey’s skull, and forced them into Andrew’s left pant pocket. “Keep these beads to remind yourself of our time together.”

The pressure against Andrew’s thigh felt awkward. As the monk pulled way, Andrew became distracted, thinking of how fortunate this man was to be wise and compassionate in the midst of the impending carnage. Andrew realized that it took impeccable courage to maintain one’s morality during perilous times, courage that he himself did not possess. He had always assumed that he would live a quiet, studious, and spiritual life under this old monk’s guardianship and eventually become the old man who stood before him. But that image, of course, had been shattered when war turned the world on its head. Now all Andrew could think about was getting on that ship and sailing to safety, if such a thing existed.

The ship’s whistle cut the air, long and terrible, and loud enough to be heard throughout the city. The monk pressed his hands together in front of his forehead and bowed, silently, with finality.

Another blast from the ship’s whistle sent the youth running up the gangway, leaving the earthy world of South China behind. He joined his father on the first-class deck. Entombed in steel—underfoot, heavy riveted plates of metal curved into walls—Andrew jammed together with the other passengers at the railing, peering down at the apprehensive faces. Their body heat added to the stifling temperature. Sweat dribbled down his neck. He had to gasp to get enough air.

Lines fell away; the gangway was hauled aboard. Tugs pushed the ship into the middle of the channel and withdrew, leaving the ship to the whim of the current.

Andrew stared straight down at the seemingly dense, opaque surface of the river. It reflected the cloudy sky, making the water seem gray rather than its usual brown, with yellowish streaks of oil running with the current. To Andrew, the flat, moving surface seemed strangely alive, carrying him along, muscling him downstream, as if it was some overwhelming force whose motives he could only guess at.
On the dock, Asian women held their infants over their heads for a last look. Handkerchiefs waved. The band played on.

Andrew saw the first planes against the darkening sky, droning above the city. Explosions grew even louder. From his perch on the first-class deck, he saw sections of the city erupting. He turned northeast, toward his boarding school. Flames. That entire section of the city was engulfed in fire, as if Hell had opened its mouth to swallow it whole.

“Clifford,” he whispered.

A searing stab of regret lodged in his chest. He had been forced to abandon the object of his adolescent love, and he imagined himself dashing through the chaotic streets to reach the boarding school. There was still time, he thought. They could disappear into the forest. They could live on, together. He wanted to perform that fatal act of love, but he wondered if he could muster the courage to defy his father.

Reluctantly (at least it felt that way to him), he climbed the railing to dive overboard, because he realized that the love he shared with Clifford wasn’t a trifling adolescent crush at all, but rather a deep and consuming love—a love that had somehow lost itself in the joys of youth, like water in dry sand, and was only now understood.

His father pulled him back, forcing him to stay and suffer what felt like an unquenchable loss. Locked in his father’s embrace, he entered a narrow canyon of desolation, knowing that the days and hours and minutes ahead would be heartbreaking and that he might not be strong enough to endure it.
The ship’s siren sounded three blasts for its farewell salute. The engines throbbed and propellers chewed the river. The noise swelled to a din like the ending of the world.

The passengers on deck could no longer hide their sorrow. Everyone wept, not only those people parting but the onlookers as well; even the dockhands and porters shed tears.

The ship launched itself downstream under its own power as the military band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

To Andrew, the orange-robed figure crushed within the throng on the dock seemed at odds with the fires raging across the city. He now fully understood the monk’s words—that war would steal everything he loved. A way of life, their way of life, had perished. Pain flooded his whole being, like a baby prematurely ripped from its protective womb.

He pulled away from his father and staggered further along the deck to cry without letting his father see. He positioned himself at the rail, one arm folded around a steel support beam and his face pressed against the hot metal.

People on the wharf seemed to hesitate, then regretfully turned and scurried away. He watched the smudge of orange, scarcely visible and standing at the edge of the pier, utterly still, quiescent, until the harbor faded from view and the land disappeared as well, slowly swallowed beneath the curve of the earth.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Gift From The Heart

I belong to several online writer groups, and recently a discussion popped up on one about what authors wanted from their readers. One lady, who I’ve not met in person and have not read her books, said, “Once they have bought my book, I don’t care if they read it or not. They can throw it in the trash for all I care, as long as I get my money.”

I can’t find the words to explain how sad that makes me. I shake my head, thinking this person may or may not have learned to write a good story, but she has missed the point of why we write. I’m aware that my attitude may sound elitist, but hang with me long enough for me to explain.

Writing is a two-fold gift. It starts in an internal place of silence, and bubbles up slowly from that place deep within to splash itself across the page. There in lies the first gift, from Creation to paper, with the writer acting as a lightening rod. The writer enjoys the thrill of exploring their souls, digging for those shiny nuggets. There is more delight when the story comes together, and the writer finally discovers what wonders s/he had uncovered from the depths of consciousness.

But once the writer’s work is done, and all the nuggets have been polished and molded into something unique and beautiful, the second gift presents itself. That is the gift from the writer’s heart to the reader. A good story touches deep to deep. There is no completion until the cycle is finished by the reader’s comprehension of what lay in the writer’s soul. Without that, the joy of writing is only half fulfilled.

Writing stories should be accomplished with respect for the reader, and given with love. It is the joy of creation, but more importantly, it is also the giving with love that makes writing special. If you can’t appreciate the unique bond between writer and reader, then you might as well be a bookkeeper, entering figures in a ledger all day. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Writing Tip #5: Your Protagonist Should Arc

Most, if not all, of your main characters should have some sort of arc, but let’s focus on the protagonist, because that’s who your story is about, and who should have the most dramatic arc.

What is an arc? It’s how a character changes from beginning to end. Stories are usually about a protag’s journey through a set of circumstances that are so powerful that they change him/her in some deep and meaningful way. In Lawrence of Arabia, Lawrence starts with a passion to avoid bloodshed; later, he comes to enjoy killing. In Casablanca, Rick steadfastly refuses to stick his neck out for anyone, yet by the end he risks his life and gives up the woman he loves in order to help the resistance.

The character arc is really what’s at the heart of a good story. What it takes to move the character from point A to point B is the story. If the character doesn’t change, you have no story.

Likewise, if you have other characters who have a more dramatic arc than your protag, they will overshadow the protag. And perhaps it’s really their story and you’ve chosen the wrong protag?

There are some famous characters who never arc. James Bond, for instance, never really changes from beginning to end. The same is true for many well-known detectives like Sherlock Holmes. That is one reason I’ve never warmed up to mystery novels. I think they’re boring. If the situation the protag battles is not somehow life-changing, then why bother? If it doesn’t affect them enough to change them in some meaningful way, why should it mean anything to me, the reader?

There is one gay mystery writer, whom I will not name, who writes a series of books, all with the same characters who never change. I’ve read several, and though he writes beautiful prose, the stories are dead boring. The protag solves the puzzle and that’s it. His protag always stands outside the story looking in, not really involved and has no personal stake in the outcome.

Yet, I’ve read several mysteries where the detective does have a huge personal stake, where s/he is pulled into a life-threatening position and goes through an arc while solving the mystery. So it can be done, and it makes for a much better, IMHO, read.

Most readers want someone who is involved, who has a huge personal stake in the outcome, so much so that it changes how they see and interact with the world.

Character transformation is critical. Readers want goodness and justice to triumph, but we also want the characters to figure something out about themselves, become something they were not at the beginning (hopefully something that makes them a more complete person.)

I know some very talent writers who first determine how they want their main characters to be at the end of their story, then they make them exactly the opposite at the beginning, and try to figure out what must happen to change them so dramatically. Scrooge is the classic example of this. It took three ghosts and some hair-raising insights to turn him from a miserable miser into a generous and joyous person. But he arced from totally opposite poles within the span of the story.

These changes are internal, and to understand how your protag changes, you must have a very clear and detailed idea of their internal makeup at each point of your story. That means knowing your protag inside and out, and how each different adventure affects him/her. For me, that means creating comprehensive character profiles, not only for my protag, but for all my main characters. That takes work, but then, nobody ever said writing was easy.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: Taxi Rojo by Erik Orrantia

Reviewer: Victor J. Banis
Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing
Pages:  212

Rating, 4.5 stars out of 5

Tijuana—the melting pot of Mexico, the gateway to the U.S., the armpit of Baja California. Two million souls struggle for survival, each searching for a way to become ... something, anything better. Fate brings a few strangers together one night in a crowded taxi rojo. When the red taxi crashes down a canyon, it creates a connection between the passengers that, like the international border within sight of the crash, draws a line between triumph and defeat, hopelessness and perseverance, life and death.

Erik Orrantia is the Lambda Literary Award winning author of Normal Miguel (Cheyenne Publishing, 2010) and The Equinox Convergence (Etopia Press, 2011). He brings you a first-hand view of life on the south side of the world’s busiest international border Taxi Rojo.

The Review:
Author Erik Orrantia returns to something near top form with this, his third novel. In the style of Thornton Wilder’s classic The Bridge of San Luis Rey, the novel uses a tragic disaster – in this case, the crash of one of Tijuana’s route taxis, the eponymous red taxi of the title – to link together the stories of a diverse group of characters.

Pancha (Francisco at his birth and Sponge Barbie on stage) is a drag performer at the Tijuana bar El Taurino.

Rigo and Cristian are in a long term relationship, but Rigo is in a hot relationship with Toni, who is married and sees himself as strictly heterosexual despite his sexual encounters with Rigo and other males.

Oscar Sepulveda is an old man with, on this particular night, a new young trick, Derek.
Julia is a straight woman, overworked as a domestic for an American family in San Diego, commuting every day from the suburb, Playas de Tijuana, and worried that her visitor’s visa is soon due to expire, leaving her unemployed.

Fate brings these people together in the same taxi, the night it runs off the road and crashes. Julia blames herself for causing the accident in which Rigo breaks a leg and Pancha loses a tooth. The driver is killed, as is Oscar Sepulveda, and Derek disappears with Oscar’s wallet, leaving Oscar without identification and condemned to a common grave for unknowns.

Like the ripples in a stream when a pebble is cast into it, the consequences of the taxi crash continue to radiate out into the lives of the survivors.

Orrantia’s strength as a writer is in his ability to conjure up ordinary people struggling with their own personal, and often prosaic, problems–a young gay couple sorting out issues of fidelity, a latent homosexual struggling with his identity, a good-hearted but overtaxed woman trying to care for her family, a drag queen finding love where he least expects it – Clearly these are not earth shattering matters, but they are of a sort with which most of us can identify.  Which is to say, most of us have known these people, even shared their burdens.

The author uses that gift here to usher us not only into the lives of his characters but into their hearts as well. And Sin City itself, Tijuana, becomes very nearly another character in the book. Having spent time in some of the locations the author describes—even to riding in a taxi rojo—I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read – yes, I’ve walked by that fountain, been in those bars, down to Playas, and stood in line at that border crossing (the busiest in the world, I’m told.) All of them are brought vividly to life here.

The novel is not without its flaws, perhaps the worst of them being that too many of the problems seem to just vanish, rather than being resolved by the characters struggling with them. Happy resolutions pop up gratuitously, important actions are left unexplained, and coincidence plays too big a role. And a more careful edit would have been welcome.

Still, the author’s affection for his characters is palpable, and most readers will find it easy to share and to savor their triumphs –yes, admittedly they are sometimes mundane triumphs, but of such is much of life constructed. Few of us win the great fortune, or find ourselves the love object of the gorgeous alpha male or any of the other fairy-tale endings common to so much fiction. For most of us, day to day happiness is more likely to resemble the quasi-Italian dinner Julia and Roberto share, or just the fellowship of good friends like Pancha and his “sisters” in drag—what triumph can equal the cementing of real friendships? Orrantia’s stories are securely grounded in the day to day vicissitudes of real life, where just getting the use of a wheelchair, or scoring a new visa, can feel as grand as winning the lottery.

And it would take a genuine churl not to enjoy the special performance that Pancha and his sisters put on for the Great Second Anniversary of the Third Grand Opening of El Taurino. One can all but smell the smoke-filled air, hear the loud music and the cheering crowds. When the show concludes with this scene, it is indeed easy to believe that, in the words of the song, “Ooh Child, things will get brighter.”

For his finale, Sponge Barbie, or Pancha, or Francisco, had made an impulse decision. He wore a pair of khaki shorts and a white T-shirt; he had a knit beanie set back on his head, covering all but the front part of his short hair. The audience stayed quiet as the first notes of the final number came through the speaker. “Things Are Gonna Get Easier,” by the Five Stairsteps.

The English was simple enough for the border town population, most folks at least vaguely familiar with the song and its meaning. Pancha used only charm as she sang the words without dramatic flair, thinking as she did so of her past, her struggles, and the sunshine she now enjoyed. For this crowd, it was a universal story.

Halfway through the song, the dressing room door swung open. Rosa Fuschia came out first, having partially undressed already, which left her lame arm and its scrawny musculature on public display in her sleeveless undershirt. She stood beside Francisco and yanked off her own wig to the delight of the crowd.

Debi Do and Arturo followed. Debi had changed into a homemade muumuu in orange tie-dye, and Arturo wore the bottom half of a leotard, his shaved chest bare. They came out and formed an impromptu line, the lack of advance planning resulting in a bit of clumsiness utterly different from the radiant choreography of the rest of the show. They swung their hips together in their dressed-down glory, each of the girls guessing at the lyrics and smiling brightly while living the moment. A few lighters flickered around the bar. After a minute, an older gay couple dared to come up to the stage and join them, and a couple of tears streamed down Francisco’s cheeks…

Good show, Mr. Orrantia.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Writing Tip #4: Write about something you care about.

John Truby said: “Write a screenplay that will change your life. If you don’t sell it, at least you will have changed your life.”

I feel the same way about novels and short stories. If you are not writing about some topic you care deeply about, even if it’s hidden in the subtext, then why are you bothering? Because, frankly, if you’re not invested in the theme, why should anyone else be interested?

Writing is not for wimps. To be good, it takes immense mental and spiritual focus. It’s damned hard work. So before you begin, for God sakes, have something worthwhile to say. And if all you want to do is write some saucy exotica, with no real theme or plot or multi-layered characters, just so you can call yourself a writer, please do us all a favor and don’t. There’s already too much of that trash out there already. Rather, challenge yourself to write something significant. Something that taps into human problems, makes a statement about what you believe, about who you are as a writer and a person.

When I wrote my first novel, Island Song, I wanted to write a beautiful love story, but if that’s all that I had invested into it, I would have never finished the first draft, let alone rewritten it four times over a period of five years. But within this love story, I wove several threads that I cared about: gay bashing, alternative families, being open to starting over, loyalty to elders, the church’s ignorant stand on gays. I could go on. I made that story a soapbox to expound upon all these topics that meant something to me. So when the going got tough, I cared enough about the material to keep slugging away. And you know what? It did change my life in several positive ways. And because they were issues that touched me, they also touched many other people in positive ways.

Same with my second novel, The Lonely War. I wanted to make a political statement about gays in the military and a slam against DADT. I did that, and in the process wove several other topics into the mix, again about family, loyalty, dignity, love. I didn’t mind spending three years writing and rewriting because it spoke a message I was totally invested in.

That is the power of writing – to convey ideals, the writer’s ideals. Like I said, it’s damned hard work, but you end up with something you can be proud of. And something that not only changes you, it changes the reader as well. Maybe in minuscule ways, maybe in ways you as the writer didn’t intend, but they will be changed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Butterfly’s Child -- a novel about gay parenting

It's Tuesday, and that mean promo day on my blog. Today I'm featuring one of my favorite works, because it has to do with gay parenting, and much of the story is seen through the eyes of Jem, a seven-year-old.

Butterfly’s Child by Alan Chin
Published by Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 274

A few years ago, while there was considerable controversy about gay couples adopting children in some southern states, I decided I needed to write something regarding gay-parented families. I wanted to make a statement that traditional, straight parents did not necessarily provide a better environment for children, and that gay couples could provide a stable, loving atmosphere where kids could flourish. This is a story I slowly, but assuredly fell in love with through the telling – mostly because of the kids.

Buy Link:

While back in the West to attend his grandmother’s funeral, Cord Bridger uncovers two shocking revelations: his grandmother had a lesbian lover named Juanita, and he has a teenaged son named Kalin. Fate brings all three together, but to preserve his new family, Cord must leave his safe life in New York City behind to carve a living from the harsh ranch lands of Nevada.

To forge a life with Juanita and Kalin, Cord must first discover the dark secret burning a hole in Kalin’s heart. With the help of Tomeo, a handsome Japanese veterinarian, Cord travels a gut-wrenching road of triumphs and tragedies to insure his son will survive the sinister violence of his past. But as Tomeo becomes more than just a helpful friend to Cord, a new set of problems arise between Cord and Kalin that may threaten the happiness of them all.

Cord moseyed back to the porch swing and stayed there long after the rain had stopped and the boys had gone to bed. A lustrous sheen spread over the work yard as the moon peeked through the clouds. The light grew brighter as the clouds parted, revealing a full and lovely silver face and throwing down bushels of light.

The Jeep pulled into the workyard and parked at the stone house. Tomeo went inside, but he left the front door half open. A minute later a yellow light brightened the interior, and Tomeo placed the lamp near the front window.

Cord was thankful Tomeo didn’t restart the generator to have electric lights. The lamplight glow brought a quiet comfort. A figure in the window drew Cord’s attention.

Tomeo stood with the curtains falling against his bare shoulder. He had shed his shirt and leaned against the window frame. Cord studied the column of his neck, the curve of his shoulders. His gaze traveled down the length of slender torso to find a patch of white hugging the man’s waist. Yes, he had stripped down to his briefs. A smile adorned his face, which meant he knew Cord sat in the shadows, watching. His left arm raised and curled above his head, posing.

Cord sucked in his breath and held it. The lamplight turned the slightly muscular frame amber. It was the sexiest thing Cord had ever seen. It felt like a cool river flowing through the middle of his chest.

Tomeo moved away from the window, but Cord kept staring, hoping he would slip back into view.

A minute later the yellow lamplight moved to the bedroom window, spilling across the workyard. The front door still hung open. Cord’s eyes went from the door, to the bedroom window, to the door. His heart was not even thumping; the invitation was clear enough. They had come to a silent understanding by using the ancient language of flirting.

Cord hesitated another moment, listening inside the big house to insure everything was as it should be. He stood, still trying to decide what to do. He heard a window opening upstairs. He cocked his head, listening to the slight stirring from the boys. That was enough to cast a shadow of reservation across Tomeo’s open door. Still, the prospect of making love to that sexy man pulled at him—the intimate comfort, the pleasurable sharing of flesh and feelings. So intimate, so pleasurable, that he knew he would not cross the workyard.

He retreated to his own bedroom, stripped off his clothes, and settled under the top sheet. Was it absurd, he wondered, to throw away a relationship with Tomeo in order not to damage his fragile relationship with the boys? Could Tomeo be some sort of wedge? Possibly—as much progress as he and Kalin had made, their relationship was not wedge-proof.

He felt confident he had made the right decision. However, he was too excited to sleep. He lay awake in the darkness, naked, covered by the sheet. The thought of Tomeo so close, stripped to his cotton briefs, had his mind sizzling. He imagined pressing his cheek to that soft fabric, nuzzling the hardness hidden beneath. He felt his flesh turn electric; hot sensations gathered in his groin. He shook the thoughts from his head before his hand reached for his own erection.

He glanced at the nightstand. There in the moonlight, barely visible, was a book: another of Tomeo’s texts on Buddhism. His scattered readings and occasional attempts at meditation had not made him the least bit mindful. When he read the text, he thought he understood the theory—nothing is permanent, everything is in a constant state of change until it breaks down and dies, and this is why attachment to things causes suffering. But he thought about the boys asleep above him, and he wondered what was so damned wrong with attachments? Why shouldn’t we allow ourselves to love wholly and break our hearts when it changes, fades, and dies? Isn’t the ecstasy worth the pain? Or is there a middle ground? He had so many questions the book failed to answer. He wanted to talk this over with Tomeo because he felt he must be barreling down the wrong path. But he remembered the Buddha’s last remarks: be your own light, work out your own salvation with diligence.

As he stared up at the dark ceiling, he heard the back door creak, footsteps, then a tall figure slipped into his room, still wearing those white cotton briefs. He moved to the bed and knelt beside Cord. His hand slipped under the sheet, touching Cord’s shoulder, then wandering down his flank, running in a smooth arc over nipple and abdomen.

“What are you doing?” Cord whispered.

“Taking the bull by the horn,” Tomeo said as his fingers tightened around Cord’s erection.

Cord tried to protest, but before he could, his mouth was smothered by satiny lips. Surprisingly, Tomeo’s breath tasted sweet; the life rising out of his throat felt as hot as a furnace.

Tomeo slowly, passionately, sucked away Cord’s breath, and with it went his resistance. His fingers reached up, not to push away, but to stroke those sunburnt cheeks and roam across neck and shoulders. He wrapped his arms round Tomeo’s solid torso and drew him into the bed. Tomeo banged his head against the headboard, and they both stifled a laugh.

Tomeo stretched against him as their legs tangled in the sheet. Cord felt the distended fabric of Tomeo’s shorts against his belly, heat waves enfolded him, and their lips pressed into a continuous kiss. Cord was shocked at how good this man felt, as though Tomeo reached deep into Cord’s body with velvet fingers and caressed him from the inside out, setting fire to his nerve endings, making him twist and rise and arch at Tomeo’s will, like a puppet being manipulated by a master puppeteer. Cord had never experienced anything like it. Nothing before this came close.

Tomeo pulled away and whispered, “I love you, Cord Bridger, and I intend to do whatever it takes to make a life with you.”

Cord received those words all the way to his marrow. It felt satisfying and simultaneously not enough. He buried a moan in the soft of Tomeo’s throat while hugging him tightly enough to crack ribs. He needed to fuse with this hot skin and be devoured. Cord kissed the man again, kisses that said yes, yes.

And why not? What Tomeo’s books had taught him was that love is a peach. It’s ripe for the briefest time. If not picked and eaten, it falls to the ground, turns brown, and rots.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012


I love beginnings—the start of a friendship, the first sentence of a great book, that sensual kiss that leads to foreplay. One beginning that I love most, one I experienced today, starts with an idea and a blank sheet of paper.

Yes, I started a new manuscript today. It will eventually turn into a novel exploring homophobia in the military during the time of DADT. The story involves a straight, Naval Petty Officer who, because of financial difficulties with supporting his wife and child, takes a second job delivering flowers for a florist. Because it is well known that the florist owners are gay, word begins floating around the Navy base that the Protagonist must be gay as well. The wave of homophobic hate that is directed at him will shake his foundations and threaten his family.

About a year ago, I wrote a detailed outline for this story. My husband, Herman, liked the plot/premise so much he decided to write a screenplay version of the story. He and I worked for two months on the characters and plot development. It was a wonderful experience working together. We were in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and every day we would walk to a park and sit under shade trees beside a fishpond. We discussed each character and how they relate to each other. We developed a backstory for all the major players and even some minor ones.

Herman has written about half the screenplay, but then got sidetracked with buying a new house and getting us relocated. Now he is going back to the story, and I have begun writing the novel version.

This is the first time we have worked together on a story. Even though I enjoyed co-writing the outline and character profiles with him, I must admit, I’m a little concerned. You see, I’ve written one other story with a screenwriting partner that didn’t turn out well for me. I had an idea for a great story that involved a Native American tribe trying to buy a Las Vegas casino. I had a clear vision of the story, but of course my writing partner also wanted to express his vision of the story, and since it was a collaboration, who was I to say no? My problem was, when the story took new directions, and moved away from what I wanted to write, I lost interest. That was two years ago, and we have yet to finish the second draft because I have no desire to work on it.

However, with this project I’m willing to take a chance. Herman had a number of really great ideas and I’m sure he will continue to bring a fresh approach to this story. If we can pull it off, actually finish this, I feel certain it will not only be a great story, but it will pull us closer together. I guess worst case is we don’t finish it and we end up in divorce court.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book Review: Big Business by Carey Parrish

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Gliza Media Group
Pages: 281

The residents of Number 56 Kensington Street, Holland Park, London are off on a another adventure when a new tenant, Sandra Leverock, moves into a flat on the third floor. Sandra is an upwardly mobile attorney who is engaged to an Aerospace Tycoon, Edgar Allardice. Tensions rise when busybody, landlady Mrs. Shugart, with her ally Mr. Humbolt realize that Sandra is the niece of her old nemesis, Margaret Armstrong.

Mrs. Shugart finds herself grappling with a past she had hoped was dead and buried, while Sandra unwittingly becomes embroiled in a mystery that seems to center around her aunt Margaret’s controlling shares in a lucrative Aerospace corporation. When dead bodies begin to pile up around Sandra, the other tenants—American journalists Rob Brent, Jeff Schrader, and DJ Pack—get sucked into a messy situation while trying to investigate the mystery on Sandra’s behalf. They uncover a plot that involves murder, intrigue, and corporate ruthlessness that threatens every member of Number 56 Kensington Street.

Big Business is Carey Parrish’s sequel to his novel, Marengo, and I’m happy to report that this novel showcases the author’s talents at his best. As with Marengo, the author creates a cast of interesting and charming characters, and weaves them into a tense, thoughtful mystery. Bottom line is, this is solid storytelling.

The author creates a delightful voice that has a distinctly British tone. The plot is breezy and fun. Each character has his/her own set of issues to deal with, while at the same time working to help the others. I was often not sure who the protagonist was because Mr. Parrish does such an excellent job of delving into each of the main characters’ lives. The fact that I already knew most of these players added to my enjoyment, but it is not necessary to read the first installment, Marengo. Big Business easily stands on its own.

I did find the ending somewhat predictable, which did not lessen my enjoyment. The only minor issue I did note was that after the mystery had been resolved, the author when on for several pages, summing up the plot that I already knew. I believe Mr. Parrish could have tightened the ending by a dozen pages and the result would have been a more satisfying ending.

That minor issue aside, I can highly recommend this novel, and I look forward to the next adventure from the tenants at Number 56 Kensington Street, Holland Park.

Other novels I’ve enjoyed from Carey Parrish are: Marengo and The Moving Finger Writes. You can read more about this novel and the author at:

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Time Suck

A few weeks ago I finished a novel I had been working on—on and off—for two years. I felt it was some of my best work, and I also felt I was entitled to a little time off before starting my next manuscript project. So I planned a little two-week vacation from writing.

I planned to use that freed-up time to catch up on my reading, catch up on cleaning my desktop, and spend some quality time with my husband, Herman.

Problem is, that little task of cleaning my desktop mushroomed into the biggest time suck imaginable. Yes, I cleaned out my email inbox, but then another wave came in. Yes, I managed to clean my desk, but more papers stacked up. Yes, I managed to catch up on posting blogs entries, but there are new ones to post. You get the idea?

Sorry if I’m whining, but I’ve come to realize that promotion—promoting books and myself—is a full time job that will suck up as much time as I’m willing to give it. There is always more to do, much more.

I’ve feeling like I need to start working on a manuscript again, just so I’m doing something I like while sitting at my desk during these long hours. That, thankfully, will start on Monday.

I did manage to spend some quality time with Herman and some of our friends. We’ve dined out often, hiked the high desert, and read together by the pool. So all was not lost.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Smack Dab open mic, April 18, 8pm

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

With writer-musician Brent Calderwood as featured performer.
Wednesday, April 18, 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.

Featured performer bio:
San Francisco writer-musician Brent Calderwood's poetry has appeared in the American Poetry Journal, The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, and the anthology "Divining Divas." He is a current Pushcart Prize nominee and 2011 winner of the Atlanta Queer Lit Festival Broadside Contest, judged by Mark Doty. His essays have appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, OUT Magazine, and a forthcoming anthology on Joni Mitchell. He is the Literary Editor for A&U Magazine and Associate Editor for Lambda Literary and the poetry journal Assaracus. His music was featured in the 2009 film The Butch Factor, making him one of the few
gay poets on IMDB. His website is

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

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Writing Tip #3 Make the Protagonist Save a Cat by page 5

This has been on my mind the last few days because I’m reviewing a novel that has kept me at a distance from the protagonist. The result is, that after reading sixty pages, I’m bored to tears because I don’t care about the lead character and I don’t understand exactly what her problem is. And although the writing is beautiful, I will likely not finish it and I will certainly not review it due to lack of interest.

Here is an interesting description of plot, from Writing to Sell by Scott Meredit:
“A sympathetic lead character finds himself in trouble of some kind and makes active efforts to get himself out of it. Each effort, however, merely gets him deeper into his trouble, and each new obstacle in his path is larger than the last. Finally, when things look blackest and it seems certain the lead character is finished, he manages to get out of his trouble through his own efforts, intelligence, or ingenuity.”

I love this description, but the key element I want to focus on is “A sympathetic lead character…”

A reader doesn’t have to like or even find the protagonist sympathetic, but a read MUST be interested in the main character and understand what his/her problem is, and it is important that the reader somehow empathize with him/her.

Readers are desperate to attach to somebody from the moment the story begins, and you want them to attach to the protag, since it’s the protag’s story. It’s that attachment, that emotional connection, that deepens the reader’s interest in the story and keeps them turning pages.

But how does a writer establish that connection early on? By writing what Blake Snyder calls the “Save the Cat” moment. In the first few pages, make the protag do something nice (like saving a cat from a tree), or interesting, or funny – something that will push the emotional buttons of the reader so s/he can connect on a deep level with this character. You want to hook the reader on this character, and the bigger the emotional content, the deeper the hook is set. Saving a cat from a tree sets a smaller hook than rushing into a burning building to save a baby. The general rule of thumb is: this save the cat moment should happen the first time we meet the character, that is our first impression should be a positive and deeply emotional charge for the protag.

Once the reader has established this emotional investment in this character, then you can start lowering the boom on the protag. And when s/he get knocked in the head, the reader feels it, the reader cares, because you established that connection up front. The reader wants the protag to win, needs for him/her to win, and will stay hooked until s/he does win.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Simple Treasures by Alan Chin

I have decided that Tuesdays are Alan Chin Promo Day on this blog, so I'm starting out with an excerpt from my latest novel, Simple Treasures.

Here’s what author 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 fine art. If
 your spirit is hungry, here is manna.”

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)

Monday, April 9, 2012

One of My Favorite Things

Wait a minute, wasn’t “One of My Favorite Things” the title of a Julie Andrews song in Sound of Music? Sorry if I’m stealing, but I’m seldom able to enjoy one of my favorite things in the world, but last night I did (No, I’m not talking about oral sex!) and I wanted to tell everyone.

Palm Springs is hosting its annual White Party. It’s an event where several thousand drugged-up gym queens get together to parade around the pool and dance floor with no shirts on, and some with hardly any clothes at all. But that’s not my favorite thing. Yesterday afternoon they had an outdoor tea dance that lasted well into the night. At about nine o’clock, Herman and I wandered down to the event and stood across the street to listen to some pretty wild music and watch a really fantastic fireworks display.

Fireworks is one of my all-time favorite things. I’ve seen them in a number of different countries, with countless different themes. I’ve loved them all. There is something magical with lighting up the entire sky with dazzling-colored light. If I had my life to do over again, I would become one of those Pyrotechnicians. It’s got to be the best job on earth, working for months on one fifteen minute extravaganza that needs to be flawlessly timed. How I wish I could do that.

Last night’s display turned into one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. Not for the size, it was small considering some of the ones I’ve experienced. It was notable because it had several types of fireworks I’ve never seen before, and they were spectacular. I’m not often dazzled by anything, but I was last night. It was a pure adrenaline rush.

So that my fix until the fourth of July. Sad that we don’t use fireworks more often, but I suppose if they were more common, I would begin to take them for granted.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

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.