Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Blues Day

Today is one of the rare days that I don’t sit for four or five hours working on my work-in-progress manuscript. I’m having a blues day that started late last night and ended up with me not sleeping, at all.

Normally, I like to work through these periods of depression or when I’m simply feeling under the weather. Writing helps me get back on track. But with no sleep, I simply can’t face that blank page. I’d rather not write than to write poorly.

Perhaps part of this feeling is that I’m drawing toward the end of the first draft—only six more scenes to write—and I feel strongly for these characters and this story. I don’t want to give them anything less than my best. As with all my previous manuscripts, I have trouble telling what is good from what is crap because I am so close to all of it, but I still try to make is all my best.

So today I’ll take a book to the park and try and screw my head back on right. The manuscript will wait patiently for my return (hopefully) tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Writing Tip: Get Your Facts Right

With fiction, you want to absorb the reader into the dream, which is the setting, characters, and plot of your story. You never want them to pull out of that dream, and nothing will pull them out faster than reading something that they know is not true. It not only pulls them out of the story, but it undermines their trust that the author knows what the hell they are doing.

I started reading a novel the other night, and twenty pages into the story the protagonist flies to Bangkok, Thailand, a destination I’ve been many, many times over the past dozen years. I got excited because I love Thailand, and wanted to read this author’s interpretation of that setting.

The author described the protagonist muddling through customs, and then going outside and being smacked in the face with a wall of humid heat. I chuckled because that is so true any time of year.

Then the author described the protagonist seeing a line of tuk tuks waiting at the curb to take passengers into the city. I pulled out of the story and said, “No way!” There are hoards of tuk tuks in Bangkok, but one never, never, sees them at Suvarnabhumi airport, only taxis. That’s because it is a forty-five minute drive on an elevated highway into Bangkok, and tuk tuks never go on the highways, only surface streets. I shook my head, knowing this author had never flown into Suvarnabhumi airport.

Still, I continued reading. The author described the protagonist being taken to a hotel in Silom, the gay district. Then he described the tuk tuk driver pulling the protagonist’s suitcase out of the luggage compartment behind the passenger seat. “NO WAY!” I said again. Tuk tuks don’t have a luggage compartment, or a trunk, or anything other than a bench that customers sit on. The only thing behind the passenager seat is a license plate.

At that point I knew two things: 1. This author had never been anywhere near Thailand, and 2. The author didn’t take the time to do his/her homework.

So twenty-five pages into a three hundred page story, I threw the book in the trash, where it belonged. If the author couldn’t be bothered to do research, I couldn’t be bothered to read their novel. I was not about to get pulled out of the story every other page with more untruths.

So, take the time to research. Always know more than your reader does.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Daddy’s Money

Tuesdays are the days I showcase my work on this blog. Today, I’d like to offer up a new excerpt from my lastest novel, Daddy’s Money.

Dreamspinner Press has released Daddy’s Money, my sixth (and perhaps my best yet) novel in paperback and all popular eBook formats.

Purchase links:
Dreamspinner Press:

Campbell took a deep, Adam’s-apple-bobbing swallow of wine, and it tasted like courage. He pulled his inhaler from his pocket, gave himself a blast, and plowed into the living room. He found Sayen sprawled on the couch with the relaxed sleekness of a big game cat sleeping under a shade tree. Campbell ambled to the tuner and flipped on some music, easing the volume nob down several notches. He turned off one of the room lamps on his way to the couch, and settled well within Sayen’s gravitational pull. He wanted so desperately to lean into this man, to lift that pout into a smile with a kiss. What is it, he thought, that makes a pouting face so damned sexy?

“Tell me more about this mysterious boyfriend,” Campbell said.
“We’re back on that subject? How boring.”
“So bore me, I don’t mind. What’s the attraction?”

Sayen took a long swallow of wine. “He’s a decent guy who helps me make ends meet.”

“You’re a kept boy?”

“Look, Cam, my middle name is Levon for a reason. I was named after that Elton John song because I was literally born a pauper, to a pawn, on Christmas Day.”

“I love it when you call me Cam. My little sister is the only one who ever calls me that.”
“You know, it’s all so easy for you rich guys. You don’t have a clue.”
“I’m not rich, my parents are.”

The sound system switched songs. The soft warble of Shane Mack singing “Lie to Me” floated on the air. Campbell shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position, and not finding one.

“Right,” Sayen said, “you’re one of those lucky trust-fund fucks who uses daddy’s money to get whatever you want. You just point and take. But I’ve worked my ass raw to get to a position where I’m set. A few more years of grubbing, and I’ll be one of those takers. Until then, I’m not rocking the boat.”

Campbell picked up a remote control and notched down the lighting to a romantic glow. “Not rocking the boat? Hom, dating a married man is like standing in a leaking rowboat, for God sakes. I’m offering you the QE2.”

“Modesty so becomes you.”
“Are you this hard on everyone who falls in love with you?”
“Love?” Now it was Sayen’s turn to shift around, looking for a more comfortable spot. Campbell leaned closer, giving no route to escape. Sayen looked away, his expression complicated, unreadable.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed,” Campbell said.

Sayen took another deep swallow of wine. “I don’t even know what love means, and neither do you. You see something you want and you take. Well, guess what, I’m not a something.”

“I do know about love.” Campbell grinned while repouring Sayen’s glass. “You go all out for what you want, you don’t let a lack of money stop you from your dream, and you’re the kind of man who joins DWB and learns to deal with your phobia about blood in order to help your people.” He looked up from filling his own glass. “You’re special, and that intrigues me. Everything about you intrigues me. Isn’t that important?”

Sayen cleared his throat. “Before my mother died, I promised her I would become someone respectable, someone everybody looked up to. Right now, for me at least, that’s all that’s important.” Sayen pulled a white monogrammed handkerchief from his pocket. It unfolded and hung between them.

Campbell smiled. “You’re surrendering?”
“This is yours, remember?”
Campbell pushed it back. “Consider it the first of many presents I’ll lavish on you.”
“Wow, Mr. Big Spender gives me a handkerchief. I’m so impressed.”
“You should be. You see that monogram? My mother hand-stitched that. It’s the only thing she ever made for me, and she only made two. So you see, I’m giving you something I cherish.”

Sayen pressed the cloth to his cheek. “Wow, I am impressed. But what would you tell your lily-white, Catholic parents? They’ll think I’m a terrorist.”

Sayen’s question somehow sounded like a capitulation. Campbell felt something reckless well up inside him; a sense of euphoria filled him to overflowing. He set down his wine, inched closer, and slid one arm over Sayen’s shoulder. “I’m going to help you fulfill that promise you made to your mother, even if it hair-lips the Pope. Here’s the plan.” He unbuttoned the top button of Sayen’s shirt. “Step one: admit that you would rather be with me than some old married dude who’s afraid to be seen with you.” Campbell briefly kissed Sayen’s shoulder while Sayen closed his eyes and spun the wine in his glass round and round as if he were turning a prayer wheel.

Campbell unbuttoned the next button and found a patch of silky hair covering hard muscle. The fine hair curled around his fingers as if with joy for having been discovered. His head began to tingle at that feathery touch. “Step two: you move in with me.”

Sayen’s eyes pinched more firmly shut; the soft pink of his lips nearly disappeared. Campbell kissed Sayen’s neck, and unclasped the next button. “Three, take your boyfriend to your favorite restaurant and tell him you will always be grateful to him, but I’m taking care of you now.” He kissed Sayen’s cheek as he brushed his hand through that glorious forest of chest hair. He undid the last button. “Then you let my charm and Daddy’s money make your promise come true.”

He kissed Sayen’s lips, longer, fervently. He spread Sayen’s shirt open, ran his hand down Sayen’s chest. After years of cautious glances and hopeful yearning—on the basketball court, in the gym locker room and showers, even watching Sayen at the library losing himself in a book—he could now barely contain himself. Though he’d had sex with other men, touching had never felt like this. The fullness in Sayen’s shoulders and chest was chiseled without seeming bulky. The texture was supple skin over granite muscle, and that hair, that splendid fur curving into a thin, dark line that journeyed down the middle of his rippled stomach and widened again below his navel. Having seen Sayen in the gym showers, Campbell knew he shaved his underarms as well as his pubic hair, apparently a custom in some Muslim cultures, but thank God he didn’t shave his chest, arms, and legs.

Campbell rolled an erect nipple between thumb and forefinger. He edged closer until he felt an unbearable fire spread over his own chest and groin, extending into a faint wash of heat through his head. He could smell the fruit of wine on Sayen’s spent breath, feel the muscles tightening at his touch. That skin, that supple, bronzed softness seemed to burn his fingertips. He pulled back to admire the treasure trail leading below.

Does he really want me, or only Daddy’s money? What the hell am I doing? I will never be worthy of him; he is too fine, too good-looking, too pure. He will never be interested in me. No, damn it, sit up straight, look sexy, be confident. I can do this.

Sayen opened his eyes, and a faint light seemed to shine from within their depths. That piercing look froze all Campbell’s thoughts. It was the same look Sayen had shown when they had held that baby between them, caught in the wonder of new life. But then those eyes, blue as sapphires, seemed to slide away, to look across the room. Searching for an escape route?

Campbell read something in the sudden change in mood. Fear? Guilt? An anguished indecision? Or was Sayen’s wary caution morphing into something like mourning?

Campbell shivered in the instant he lost all his confidence. He knew he had done something wrong, pushed too fast, too hard. He had somehow caused this beautiful man to feel pain.

“I’m sorry,” Sayen said. “All this is new to me. I’ve only had two lovers. The first was my brother, Mahmud. He was twenty then, five years older than me. We slept in the same bed. One night he came home after he had been drinking with his chums. He was crazy with lust. He pulled my pajamas down and fucked me, and because he was my older brother, I had to submit. In my culture it’s not that uncommon. He’s not gay; he just needed to get off, and I was available. When that began to happen regularly, my mother brought me to the United States to protect me from Mahmud’s lust. She said it was to keep me from the growing violence against our family, but I know the real reason. What neither of them knew was how deeply I loved him, before and after he raped me.”

Campbell sat shocked and embarrassed. His feelings about any type of incest was unadulterated revulsion. To hide his own prejudices, he tried to move the conversation to safer ground. “And the second one is this married sugar daddy?”

“After my mother died, I couldn’t go back to Tripoli because by then I knew I was gay, and life for a gay Muslim in North Africa is no picnic. I needed someone to help me survive here, and he has. Before I met him, I was adept at dining on fumes.”


“I’d sit at a table nursing a coffee or latte, and absorb the delectable fragrances of the meals being served all around me. I could make a single latte last a whole evening.”

Campbell pressed his face to that beautifully formed neck and lingered below the jawline until the pleasure grew unbearable. His lips brushed Sayen’s satiny mouth before pulling away.

The room grew intensely quiet despite the soft music.

Campbell fingered Sayen’s shirt, pulling it further open to reveal more flesh. “We’ve run out of buttons,” Campbell said to ease his sudden discomfiture.

A smile graced Sayen’s face, and in the dim light he looked like a lost angel, luminous and acquiescent. He breathed faster, harder, and stammered, “There’s one more.”

Even before Campbell’s mind reengaged to understand what those three little words meant, his fingers had already reached for the button on Sayen’s jeans. This time Sayen kissed Campbell, forcefully moving his tongue into Campbell’s mouth, as if laying claim to new territory. A devouring, breathless kiss. When Sayen pulled away. “You really love me?”

Campbell saw a plea in those alluring eyes; it drew him closer. Those eyes were begging, but then they glazed over while moisture collected in the corners, until a single drop formed, trapped in those lashes until he blinked. The drop slid down his cheek, and he brushed it away with the back of his hand.

Campbell popped that last button open.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Joy and Sorrow of Reading A Master

Yesterday, I began reading a book, The Master, by one of my favorite authors, Colm Toibin. So far, I’ve only read an anthology of short stories by this writer, yet his style is so clean, so sparse, and at the same time so rich, that he jumped to the top of my favorites list. I often reread his paragraphs or pages for the simple pleasure of experiencing the rhythm and depth of his prose. I will, in time, read all of Toibin’s published works.

For me, this is one of the delights of reading, finding a writer who not only knows how to structure a absorbing plot and create noteworthy characters, but one who has leaned his/her craft to the point where there are no wasted words, no melodrama, no showing off with sugary metaphors, and nothing added that detracts from the images and feelings he creates with words. His prose is understated, yet so rich with depth.

Reading a writer of Colm Toibin’s caliber brings such joy and heartache to me. It makes me realize what is possible, what I am striving for day after day when I face that blank page, and yet it reminds me how minimal are my talents and how far I have to go with my own writing.

That recognition of joy and heartache is a Zen thing—understanding that everything has two sides, that each bit of delight holds sorrow waiting in the wings for its turn.  For now I read and appreciate and learn, day by day, with the hope that I will hone my skills as comprehensively as Colm Toibin.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: The Confessions of a Sex Addict, Part 1 by Michael Wynne

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Kiss and Tell Press, London
Pages: 70

This book is a first-hand account of one man’s experiences in some of London’s saunas, sex clubs, and phone-sex chat-lines. To a lesser degree, it is also the story of Michael Wynne’s journey to become a writer, as well as his lesbian painter friend.

There is not much plot to this book. It is a non-fiction account of the goings-on of gay men in subterranean London. It is told with honesty, and because of that, is an interesting read. Although it certainly has erotic elements, it is not what I would classify as an erotic story. I saw it more as psychological study of loneliness.

I think the author best describes his meaning when he writes:

“And that’s the thing about those of us who have multiple sex partners, that’s our gift, the ones who fuck around often… our way of seeing the world – our stories the way we experience our beloveds – is unique, different to the lives of those who mate for life. A few hours contain an entire relationship: love and sex and intimacy reduced to its essence.”

This is an entertaining read that I recommend.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When The Exotic Becomes Too Familiar

I arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand last week and have been spending a relaxing time hanging out in this second largest, Thai city.  I’ve always loved it here. The city is small enough that I can walk to everything interesting, and it has several significant Buddhist temples that I enjoy hanging out at and talking with the monks. It also has several interesting markets and dozens of wonderful mom-&-pop restaurants. I’ve been here many times, and often spend a month or two in this charming city.

On this trip, however, I’m finding the city rather tarnished and crawling with tourist. It normally has an abundance of tourists, but this year there are at least 25% more foreigners roaming the streets than at any other time I’ve been here. I’ve noticed that many of the visitors are Chinese, on holiday from Mainland China. These Chinese tourists are well to do (rich), loud, and very hip. It is exciting to see that the Chinese are now affluent enough to become world travelers, but the added influx to the Chiang Mai streets has made this city a bit of a turnoff.

I’m beginning to think that I’ve simply become too familiar with this city; to the point where it has lost it’s charm for me. I’ve been here at least a dozen times, and have fallen into the rut of going back to the same temples, same restaurants, and same activities, and now all of my favorite places are pack with people. I suspect it is time I found a new, fresh place to spend my time while in SE Asia.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Writing Tip: Building Readership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: Daddy's Money by Alan Chin

Tuesdays are the days I showcase my own published work. Today, I'd like to share a review of my latest novel, Daddy's Money.

Reviewer: Alex at Rainbow Reviews
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Dec. 10th 2012)
Pages: 210

Everyone needs a little help now and then. For gay Muslim Sayen Homet, that help first came from his understanding mother, who brought him to America from the Middle East. Now that he’s working his way through Stanford Medical School, his help comes from a secret sugar daddy. But Sayen might be able to end their arrangement soon now that he has a boyfriend he can depend on, A student Campbell Reardon. Campbell is more than willing to support Sayen, even if it means coming out to his conservative family.

But when Campbell takes Sayen home to meet his parents, everything falls apart. Campbell doesn’t realize how his boyfriend pays for school… and neither of them knows Sayen’s sugar daddy is Campbell's father, Blake.

While everyone involved struggles to overcome their shock, it becomes obvious Blake will do anything to keep Sayen. Campbell and Sayen love each other, but in the face of so much hurt and betrayal, love might not be enough to hold them together.

This is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. I picked it up and finished it in just over three hours because I simply could not put it down. At its end, I had tears in my eyes and I don’t know if it is because the story was so lovely or because it is so well written. I highly recommend this brilliant multicultural, contemporary male/male romance novel. Stunning in its ability to be both simple and complex, Mr. Chin captures the nuances of the Muslim lifestyle and that of the wealthily political family with equal aplomb, instilling the story with thorough, emotional passages that give great depth to both the lead characters, Sayen the Muslim medical student and Campbell the wealthy son of a judge, and the supporting cast alike.

Impoverished, but brilliant, medical student Sayen stays abreast of his tuition fees because he has a wealthy, albeit secret and married, sugar daddy as a lover. Well-to-do fellow med student, Campbell, has repeatedly made advances to him and is slowly wearing him down. He is attracted to Campbell whom he has much in common with and who is his own age. Plus there would be no need to hide a relationship with Campbell, but realistically Sayen cannot give up his entire medical future simply for a relationship. Without the money to finish his education, his promise to his mother will be broken and his plans to help others won’t pan out.

All bets are off when Campbell seduces him one evening, confessing love and offering to foot his bills. Forced to make a decision and realizing that what he feels for Campbell is growing ever stronger, Sayen breaks up with his sugar daddy and the two students become live-in lovers. 

The subsequent trip home to meet Campbell’s parents rivals the 1967 movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” in charm, humor, and complexity.

Never straying from the escalating romance between the two leads, the novel holds a wealth of equally powerful tales concerning family dynamics, secrets, and the fears that bind. Magical and powerful, each chapter of the book held me in throes of anticipation and read like an entire story on its own. Alan Chin utilizes evocative atmosphere, emotional subtlety, and brilliant characterization to convey a beautifully moving story in a concise, extremely captivating manner. I found myself rereading entire passages simply for the ripple of delight I felt at the wordplay. Realistic and heartwarming, with an excellent attention to detail, dazzling lovemaking scenes, and a fantastic supporting cast, the book is a treasure hiding behind a rather humorous and pimped out cover.

Upon reaching its end, I was smiling even as a tear rolled down my cheek. I realized that I held something truly rare and precious in my hands… a male/male romance novel that I, for one, will savor again and again. Thank you, Alan Chin, for sharing this poignant and enthralling tale; I’m off to find your other books.

To read the full, original review at Rainbow Reviews, go to

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Words Of Martin Luther King

As the MLK holiday approaches, I’ve been reading several blogs where conservatives are using the words of MLK, 50 years after his famous I Have A Dream speech, as a means to limit or abolish affirmative action and programs intended to help the disadvantaged.  

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Many conservatives believe that "judged by the color of their skin" includes things such as unique appeals to certain voter groups, reserving government contracts for Hispanic-owned businesses, seeking more non-white corporate executives, or admitting students of color to college with lower test scores. They argue that King’s words mean we as a nation should give no special treatment to any one group based on race. On the surface, that sounds rather noble, but when a disproportionate number of people in poverty and in prisons are African Americans, would King really have wanted us to be a ‘color-blind’ society? I think not.

For me, it really comes down to a question of race in America. Actually, it’s more than race, it is diversity, because it includes the lgbtq community. Fifty years ago, when King made his speech, bigotry was widely accepted. Today, even though prejudice is soundly denounced, it is clear that people still (and perhaps unconsciously) pre-judge others.

I must agree with Bernice King, who doubts her father would seek to ignore differences. She said: “When he talked about the beloved community, he talked about everyone bringing their gifts, their talents, their cultural experiences. We live in a society where we may have differences, of course, but we learn to celebrate these differences."

It seems to me that the right-wingers are using King’s words as a barrier to keep underprivileged people down, to not give them a helping hand in a time of need. Giving the deprived a helping hand builds a better, safer community for us all, and would be the Christian thing to do.

We still have a long way to go before we reach a point in this country where people accept differences (race and sexual), affirm them, celebrate them, but don’t allow them to become barriers in building a better community for all people.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Cooper’s Promise by Timothy Jay Smith

Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Owl Canyon Press
Pages: 229

Cooper Chance was an army sharpshooter in Iraq who became a deserter. Now he is a mercenary in Africa, trading illegal diamonds to survive in a gritty labyrinth of thugs, prostitutes and corrupt cops. He develops a big-brother relationship with a young prostitute caught up in human trafficking, and he falls in love with a Muslim man, Sadiq, who is as lost in this troubled part of the world as Cooper is.

When huge oil reserves are discovered, the CIA offers Cooper a way to go back to the states without serving jail time. His mission: to assassinate a local warlord. He refuses the assignment but then in an effort to save the young prostitute from trafficking, he tumbles into a risky high-stakes mission that turns bad when unexpected consequences arise.

Cooper’s Promise is a well-crafted love story in the midst of the hell of poverty, diamond trading, and human trafficking. The author does a great job of putting the reader into this environment, and then making them care about the well-rounded characters.

This is a difficult story to read because of the nature of the environment. The author had tackled some pretty weighty themes that may make some readers uncomfortable. He does, however, weave these themes into the story with skill.

This story immediately sucked me into the action and held my interest throughout, but I must admit, as the plot unfolded, I found the storyline stretching the limits of believability, and also occasionally dipping into melodrama. These issues were easily overlooked because of the fast paced action and the depth of the characters.

If you’re looking for a heartfelt love story with a happily-ever-after ending, keep looking. This is a gritty, disturbing story of a love that blooms in the wrong place at the wrong time. If however, you enjoy a compelling action-filled adventure written with verve, then I can highly recommend this read.