Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top Pick LGBTQ themed Books for 2013

Of the forty-three books I read this year, I finished and reviewed thirty.  They were a mix of older releases and new, LGBTQ themed and general fiction, well-known authors and not-so-well-known. This year I was all over the map with my reading. I also read several classics (Steinbeck, Hemingway, Capote, etc) that I didn’t bother to review. Of the LGBTQ-Themed books I did review the following I found the most enjoyable.

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

Peter and Rebecca Harris seem to have it all. Midforties, denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, and within reach of the pinnacle of their careers in the arts—he’s a dealer at a second-tier gallery, she’s an editor at an art magazine. They own a fashionable loft, have a daughter in college who’s living with an older woman, enjoy influential friends, and Peter has an opportunity to take on a hot artist who will catapult his gallery into that sought-after first tier. Could life be any sweeter?

Then Rebecca’s younger brother comes for an extended visit. Ethan (given the pet name Mizzy, “the mistake”) is a handsome, beguiling, mid-twenties drifter with a history of drug problems. He is looking for direction, and Rebecca and the rest of her family is determined to help him “straighten out his life.” But rather than helping Mizzy find himself, Peter begins questioning his own career, his marriage, even his sexuality. Suddenly, Peter’s carefully constructed world doesn’t seem so appealing.

Wolverine Cirque by Joseph Olshan

Sam and Mike are hikers and skiers. They don’t just ski, the hike to the top of mountains with their skis strapped to their shoulders, so they can experience the thrill of skiing the most dangerous, almost vertical runs, in the world. Wolverine Cirque is such a mountain, set in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.

Sam is forty-five years old; Mike is forty.  They’ve skied some of the scariest terrain on the planet. Wolverine Cirque will be a stretch, even for their advanced level of experience. It will challenge their skill, courage, and their ability to survive.

Enmeshed within their struggle with the mountain is Sam’s reminiscence of his doomed relationship with Luc, a professional soccer player. Though the flashbacks of their love affair, the reader realizes that Sam’s battle with the mountain is really a futile effort to hold back the course of his declining youth.

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Call Me By Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy, Elio, and a summer guest at his parents’ mansion on the Italian Riviera. It is a story of one boy’s coming out, about a slow and simmering desire, and about how love develops.

This is a simple story, beautifully told. Andre Aciman shows significant talent in his characterizations, plot development and attention to detail. This novel is an excellent coming-of-age story with which many gays and lesbians can likely relate. Every phase of adolescent love unfolds in striking detail—each fear, each ache, each lurch of the heart, every giddy rush of sensation.

The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin

Set in Ireland during the early 1990s, Declan is dying of AIDS. With the help of two gay companions, he leaves the hospital to spend a few days at the seaside home of his grandmother. There, at the crumbling place of his youth, his sister Helen, his mother Lily, and his grandmother Dora gather after a decade of estrangement.  The three women had no idea Declan was gay, let alone terminally ill with AIDS. Once they recover from the shock, their primary goal becomes caring for Declan, who had always been the binding force in this dysfunctional family.

 Like six castaways on a desert island, from different generations and with clashing beliefs and lifestyles, they are forced to face their own dark histories in order to deal with each other to achieve the common goal of keeping Declan alive and comfortable.

Time On Two Crosses – The Collected Writings Of Bayard Rustin Edited by Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise

Bayard Rustin was a key civil rights strategist and humanitarian whose staunch advocacy of nonviolent resistance shaped the course of social protests from the 1950’s through the close of the twentieth century.

Many people today see him only as an African American working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other power brokers in organized Labor and the Democratic Party for civil rights for African Americans. Yet, he was both a black man and an openly gay man, fighting for the civil rights of all oppressed people. Few African Americans engaged in as broad a protest agenda as did Rustin; fewer still enjoyed his breadth of influence in virtually every political sector, working with world leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, President Lyndon Johnson, and Golda Meir.

Yet, for all his influence and all his tireless efforts, Rustin remained an outsider in black civil rights circles because they refused to accept his homosexuality. The very people who he was fighting for shunned him. Yet even though the civil rights powers that often dismissed him, perhaps no other figure contributed so much to the civil rights movement.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Images of Chirstmas

I’m sharing some images of my Christmas. Can you guess where I spent the holiday?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Book Review: The Attack by Yasmina Khadra

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Anchor Books
Pages: 257

Dr. Amin Jaafari is an Arab-Israeli surgeon at a hospital in Tel Aviv. As an admired and respected member of his community, he has carved a space for himself and his wife, Sihem, at the crossroads of two troubled societies. Jaafari’s world is abruptly shattered when Sihem is killed in a suicide bombing.

As evidence mounts that Sihem could have been responsible for the catastrophic bombing, Jaafari begins a tortured search for answers. Faced with the ultimate betrayal, he must find a way to reconcile his cherished memories of his wife with the growing realization that she may have had another life, one that was entirely removed from the comfortable, modern existence that they shared.

It is one of the most powerful and haunting stories I’ve ever read, and I loved every page. Khadra brilliantly paints the human costs of terrorism with sweeping, compassionate strokes. The characters, situations and emotions are real. The plot is consummately conceived.

This is a story of the protagonist turning his hate of what his wife (and the group that put her up to it) did into understanding, and then forgiveness.

I haven’t read a book in many years that showed me the human side of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
the way this one did, nor of a story of so much compassion for both sides. It is a tale about finding understanding in a sea of hate, and letting that flower into forgiveness, and even love. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

How To Send eBooks as Gifts (for you last-minute shoppers)

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Many people have emailed me asking how they might be able to give books as gifts this holiday season. Below is a guide to the various retailers with steps on how to purchase a title for that special someone on your list. We've also included some helpful ideas for those who deserve coal in their stockings.

Purchasing from Amazon means your recipient either has a Kindle or uses the Kindle app on their computer or device
1. Find the title on Amazon.
2. In the green box on the right of the title's detail page, you'll see a button marked "Give as Gift."
3. Log into your account (if you're not already) and enter the recipient information.
4. You're done! 

Purchases from B&N will NOT work on any Amazon devices or apps, but will work on every other device/computer.
1. Find the title on Barnesanoble.com.
2. On the title's detail page, directly to the right of the big orange "Buy Now" button is a small link that says "Buy As Gift." Click the link.
3. Log into your account (if you're not already) and enter the recipient information.
4. You're done! 

Purchases from Apple will not work on any Amazon devices or apps, but work perfectly on any Apple device or Apple computer.
1. Find the title in Apple's iBookstore or by searching the iTunes Store.
2. Underneath the cover image on the title's description page will be the price and a little drop-down arrow. Click the arrow and choose "Gift this Book."
3. Log into your account (if you're not already) and enter the recipient information.
4. You're done!

The recipient gets to choose which format they'd like to receive: PDF, EPUB or Kindle.
1. Find the title on the site.
2. On the title's description page, in the block that lists the price of the book, choose the button with the present images that says "Gift."
3. Follow the checkout process and the instructions for notifying your recipient.
4. You're done! 

Purchases from Kobo will NOT work on any Amazon devices or apps, but will work on every other device/computer.
1. It isn't possible to gift individual titles, however you can buy an electronic gift certificate by going to http://www.kobo.com/egiftcards
2. Fill out the information requested.
3. You're done! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Now It’s So Easy To Send eBooks as Gifts

Do you know how easy it is to give ebook gifts to your friends and relatives? All you need to know is their email address, and with a few quick clicks at Amazon, you can swiftly send them a gift designated to arrive in their email box on whatever day you choose.

Barnes and Noble, Apple's iBookstore, OmniLit.com and AllRomance.com all offer gifting options also, just in case the person on your list doesn't use/doesn't like Amazon.

For instance, try this link to send my newest novel The Plain of Bitter Honey: 


Just saying - . I’m hoping you’ll use this idea for last minute gifts, whether you choose my books or another author’s creations.

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing Tip: Secrets

Secrets are at the heart of many plots. In fact, if you study nearly any romantic comedy, you’ll fine that all the comic situations are built on secrets or lies, usually both. 

I have long believed that a good writer will allow his characters to keep secrets, and the secrets must be revealed before the end. But the question is when and why to reveal them. 

Something that I learned in a screenwriting class is, the best way to disclose a secret is when disclosing is the lesser of two evils. That is: if a character reveals a secret, s/he will lose respect or love or something worse. But, if s/he doesn’t reveal the secret, then something far more devastating will happen. 

So characters reveal secrets only when forced, to prevent something horrible from happening. A writer will do this to heighten the drama. 

Also, by having secrets, the reader knows that the truth will eventually be found out. So by introducing these secrets early on, it keeps the reader in suspense of when the truth will be revealed, and what the fallout will be when that eventually happens. 

Once a character withholds information, then the plot should twist the story so that the longer the character holds his/her secret, the more devastating the results will be when the information is finally exposed. It’s like a harmless little white lie that begins to build on itself, taking on bigger meaning and more damaging consequences until it will have a huge dramatic effect over everyone’s lives. 

Like any literary device, characters keeping secrets is a powerful tool in the writer’s hands. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Daddy’s Money Cast of Characters

Tuesdays are the days I showcase my own work on this blob. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the characters who populate my deliciously complex romance, Daddy’s Money.

Daddy’s Money
Cast of Characters

LOGLINE: Imagine that you finally meet your lover’s parents, only to discover that his father is the sugar-daddy whose been paying your way through medical school.

SAYEN HOM: Handsome, medical student, and Muslim. He is exotic, gay, and devout. Sayen was brought to this country by his mother, and she has passed away, leaving Sayen to fend for himself. He is determined to be successful, and he’s willing to use people to get what he needs. He has a sugar daddy who pays for his schooling in exchange for sex. But then a rich young student, Campbell Reardon, promises to give Sayen everything he has ever wanted. He reaches for the brass ring, thinking it’s golden.

CAMPBELL REARDON: Fresh, young, Stanford medical student holds all the promise of youth in love. Campbell has been in lust with Sayen for some time, but only recently had the guts to go after him. Between Campbell’s charm and his family’s considerable money, he manages to snare Sayen into a relationship, and love blossoms. He can’t wait to share his happiness with his family, and decides to take his lover home and introduce him to the folks.

BLAKE REARDON:  Campbell’s father, is a man of secrets. He loves his wife and children, he loves his position in society and the benefits his wife’s fortune brings him. He has hopes of running for high office, perhaps someday even the presidency. Yet, he is a gay man deep in the closet. He fell in love once in the Peace Corp, but that relationship ended badly. He found love again, and pays for the privilege of seeing this man once each week. Little does he know that his son, Campbell, is also in love with this Muslim boy.

MARILYN: Campbell’s mother, is a woman of means. She writes children’s books and maintains a cool aloof exterior. She is the power behind the Reardon household, and demands that everyone march to her tune. She always knows what’s best, and will protect her family’s image at all costs.

HALLE REARDON: Campbell’s Goth, teenaged, pregnant sister. She loves her brother Campbell more than anyone, but she has issues of self worth. She is high-spirited, rebellious, and speaks her mind. She will not go with the flow simply to please everyone. She will stir the pot whenever possible. Once she sets her mind on something, she goes after it with unwavering determination, and what she sets her mind on is her brother’s boyfriend, Sayen.

JET: Halle’s best friend. He is super cool, an artist, and gay. He likes older men. He is Chinese, wear’s leather jackets and has his long hair in a ponytail. He will do anything for Halle.