Read an Ebook Week at Smashwords

Find "The Captain and Claire" under gay and lesbian fiction.

Find “The Captain and Claire” under gay and lesbian fiction.

Once again, Smashwords is holding their annual Read an Ebook Week promotion (March 1–7). I always find out about this at the very last moment and put a few of my books into the pile. This time, Time of Grace is 50% off (and my ADHD memoir Connecting the Dots is also 50% off).

“The Captain and Claire,” my historical erotic romance short, is free. My latest memoir, It’s Not You, It’s Me is free as well :) You can locate all my books here :

And here’s the main RAEW page, where you can search for whatever category you desire:

Read an Ebook Week 2015 

Have fun!

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The Year of the Sheep Starts Today…

Its Not You, Its Meyear of the sheepDid you know that Chinese New Year starts today? It’s  the Year of the Sheep (also called ram, or goat). Happens to be my own astrological sign, as well. I like it that creative, sensitive, and not-particularly-good-with-money people have their own sign in the Chinese zodiac :)

I won’t miss the Year of the Horse, which took away a number of our most colorful and beloved figures. Joan Rivers, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Bob Simon, and, most recently, the ebullient New York Times journalist David Carr, who was only 58.

Literary news: I wanted to mention a number of specials that I’m running on Smashwords. My first novel, The Leaving, is now available on a “reader sets the price” basis. I published it in May of 2011—it was the first ebook I ever uploaded. Novelist Kate Genet called it “a brilliant and beautiful book.” See

Made it through Valentine’s Day and feeling blue about relationships? Now available through the end of the month for free on Smashwords and the other non-Amazon platforms is my latest memoir, “It’s Not You, It’s Me.” If/when Amazon price-matches, it will be free there too. Find it here:


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This Writing Life: Two Opinion Pieces

Turns out Cervantes ended up a pauper.

Turns out Cervantes ended up a pauper.

I was listening to the radio in the kitchen the other day, and the NPR announcer was talking about the search for the bones of the great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.

Cervantes is very famous now, of course, but the reason why they were searching for him, the announcer went on, is because he died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave.

I stood at the stove and laughed at the absurdity of it: that this famous writer, thought by some to be the father of the novel, died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave.

But are writers today doing any better? The writing life has grown to be economically unviable, and a recent piece in ( underlines this. Ann Bauer writes about being financially “sponsored” by her husband and the difference this makes in terms of energy and time to write. She has seen both sides, since she struggled in the past with work, raising kids, and a divorce. Needless to say, she barely wrote anything at that time in her life.

Bauer’s bigger point, which is hard to hear, is that most writers who are successful today have family money, connections, or are subsidized by their spouses. I can’t dispute Bauer’s point, although some indie writers seem to have a slightly easier go of it. Read the comments for some fascinating stories.

What is the importance of home for a writer? Besides facing money issues, writers often feel adrift in their surroundings. I wrote a guest post over on Shannon Yarbrough’s blog called “The Dislocated Writer.” It addresses some of the problems of living in an expensive, changed city that I no longer feel connected to, a place where I once felt very much at home.

Check it out:

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Write or Wrong Part 7: Melinda Clayton can breathe just fine, thank you…

Gabriella West:

It’s been such a quiet January, so I wanted to kick things off here by reblogging one of the Write or Wrong posts on writer Shannon Yarbrough’s site. Write or Wrong is an excellent series where contemporary writers speak candidly about their writing process. My own guest post in this series is scheduled for this coming Thursday! (And it won’t be about process because for some silly reason I can’t write about that…)

Originally posted on The Lone Writer: Shannon Yarbrough:

I’m honored to have author Melinda Clayton as the guest blogger today! She is one of my favorite authors! No, seriously! She really is. I would like to note that Melinda and I have never met face to face. Several years ago I was in Robin Tidwell’s bookstore. She handed me Melinda’s first book and told me I should read it. I gave a big fat frowny face based on the book’s cover alone. It was a brown cover with a dulcimer and a moonshine jug on it that was out of focus. Robin turned the book over and pointed to the back and said, “Trust me.”

I read the description and immediately thought, “This is what this book is about!?”  I bought it, started reading it, couldn’t put it down, and have since read almost all of Melinda’s other books and will continue to read anything she puts out…

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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Views are up from last year. Thanks, readers!

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Here’s how Seth Rogen and James Franco responded to today’s release of ‘The Interview’

Gabriella West:

Sony gave everybody a belated Merry Christmas by releasing ‘The Interview’ to a couple hundred independent theaters and widely online. Now hopefully Comcast will step up to the plate as well. They should.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Originally posted on BGR:

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen… it’s a Christmas miracle. After Sony Pictures Entertainment announced last week that it was cancelling the theatrical release of “The Interview” after hackers threatened Sony employees and moviegoers, the company had a change of heart. On Tuesday, Sony confirmed that the movie would get a limited theatrical release on Christmas Day. And then on Wednesday, Sony ended up releasing The Interview online for rental and purchase.

Now, the film’s stars Seth Rogen and James Franco have responded to the movie’s release (warning, NSFW).

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You Can’t See The Interview, But I Did

Gabriella West:

Just bizarre! Since the new James Franco-Seth Rogen movie The Interview has been CANCELED—which I find outrageous—due to North Korea’s breathing down the neck of the studio, Sony, here is at least a review of the movie from “Time.” What a crazy year it’s been…

Originally posted on TIME:

A decade ago, when Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police made mock of Kim Jung Il, the North Korean regime didn’t threaten retaliation — maybe because Kim, like all the other people in the movie, was portrayed as a marionette.

The Democratic People’s Republic, under Il’s son Kim Jong Un, apparently had a more severe reaction to The Interview, in which two American TV journalists (James Franco and Seth Rogen) are charged by the CIA with killing the dictator while they’re in North Korea to interview him. Someone who took issue with this scenario hacked the computers of Sony Pictures, spilling internal gossip and downloading five Sony movies, including four yet to be released. As Stephen Colbert proclaimed on Monday night, the perpetrator “has to be North Korea. The only other person with that capability is a 12-year-old with BitTorrent.”

Hollywood’s escalating tension about cyber-terrorism…

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Review: The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt's third novel got critics and readers talking.

Donna Tartt’s third novel got critics and readers talking.

Ah, The Goldfinch

This has to be one of the books I waited the longest to read. Got it on my Kindle when it first came out, was a bit put off by the hype, started plowing into the initial museum-explosion section (where 13-year-old New Yorker Theo Decker is trapped in the Met after a bombing that kills his beloved mother and takes off with the titular painting), found myself very bored, found the writing pretentious. Stopped reading, dismayed.

And then I went back recently, picked it up again and found, to my surprise… that once Theo moved in with his school chum Andy and the wealthy Barbour family, the writing perked up, the book gripped me, and I swept through the rest of it as fast as I could. I was particularly taken by the Las Vegas section where Theo is dragged off to live by his scoundrel of a father, who gambles for a living, and takes up with a young Ukrainian/Australian, Boris, who is even more rootless and unparented than Theo himself. Theo and Boris take lots of drugs, steal for kicks, they experiment sexually… Donna Tartt’s writing here is superb, showing the boy’s world opening up rather than shutting down.

But back in claustrophobic New York, torn away from Boris by his father’s timely, or untimely, death, depending on how you look at it, Theo hits a bit of a slump that seems like it will last the rest of the novel. Still taking plenty of prescription drugs, he ends up as a salesman of antiques in Greenwich Village, some of them fakes, while his virtuous partner Hobie, a reassuring father figure, restores antiques in the back of the shop.

Unlike many of the reviewers on Amazon, who loved the first, “arty” section of the book, and hated the philosophical, open-ended ending and the scenes in Amsterdam, I found that Tartt exploded her own pretensions by driving a bus through her own literary novel. Theo’s carefully constructed world “explodes” again at the end, and we’re led to believe that at least he is taking his life in his hands…somewhat. (Mostly by not killing himself, ironically.) But what would have really pleased me would have been a recontinuation of the relationship with Boris. These are two characters who seem to want to be together, no matter how much their author wants to dub them as straight, on different tracks, etc.

To sum up, I’m very glad I read The Goldfinch! It’s a nineteenth-century novel at heart; it luxuriates in its own length. Theo’s “bad” friend Boris ends up giving him closure on the biggest wound of his life outside of his mother’s death, his ownership of the famous painting, which has become a terrible burden. Once he realizes that he hasn’t even had the painting in his possession for years—a delicious twist that Tartt pulls off well—Theo’s life begins to change.

And for a book that says over and over again that people can’t change, Tartt does offer a little smidgen of hope for Theo. But it IS a long, dark and sad book, no doubt. Those who have suffered loss and who have PTSD (and Tartt does not shy away from labeling Theo this way) will understand and appreciate the bleakness. Theo’s female love interests are flimsy and brittle. Without the tragicomic character of Boris to the rescue, then, this book would have been a terrible slog. Luckily, Tartt allows that relationship to become central, and, to my mind, it saves the novel.

The Goldfinch is still available on Kindle for a very reasonable $6.99. though I wouldn’t mind also owning a copy of the physical book now.

For more information about how critics are divided on The Goldfinch’s literary merit, I found a Vanity Fair article here (followed by thought-provoking comments).

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The Amazing Life of Daniel Defoe

Gabriella West:

A fascinating piece about Daniel Defoe…who was actually pilloried at one point in his long and tumultuous life. Just reading the list of his pen names gives a great sense of the man. I’d like to read “Journal of the Plague Year” and “The Storm.” (Sadly, I’ve never found his fiction compelling.)

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

Daniel Defoe has been called the father of the English novel. But what is less well known is the fascinating life he led. It involved more than one brush with death, destructive fires, outbreaks of plague, and many encounters with the authorities. He found himself before the law, in the pillory, with his house falling down around him, with his entire neighbourhood laid waste. His work as a journalist was groundbreaking (no pun intended on his house falling down). And his countless pen names are absurd, hilarious, and revealing.

Imagine a world without Daniel Defoe. To start with, the novel as we know it would be … well, would not be as we know it, without Defoe’s input and influence. Journalism, too, might have been different, if it hadn’t been for Defoe’s pioneering work in that field. But what’s remarkable is that Defoe did exist, and survived – on several…

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November Book Promotions

Its Not You, Its MeNovember seems like a good month for a promotion, so with that in mind my recently published memoir It’s Not You, It’s Me will be free for three days starting tomorrow. (Nov. 10–12) And just so it won’t be lonely, my LGBT historical novel Time of Grace will be available for 99 cents on all platforms for a limited time.

New site PeopleReads will be featuring It’s Not You, It’s Me in their freebie spotlight on Nov. 12!

This perceptive 5-star Amazon review expresses exactly what I wanted to achieve with “It’s Not You, It’s Me”:

“It’s Not You, It’s Me” follows the raw, exciting, and painful trajectory of a “wrong” relationship. We’ve all been there.

West slowly and deliberately lets us walk with her down this path, knowing things will end poorly but hoping we are mistaken. All the allure and insecurities of a new relationship are present at the beginning of West’s relationship with Eileen. We nod our heads in agreement as West struggles with nagging doubt. But we second-guess with her as she wonders if it’s just the regular dance of two people revealing their true selves while the projections fall off.

West courageously exposes her own vulnerabilities as we see the synergy of two people who probably shouldn’t be together. It’s an energy that is hard to break and impossible to endure. Yet, as West demonstrates, the end, while painful, has the potential to bring more knowledge of self and more commitment to follow one’s own path. Well done.

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