I’m participating in Read an E-Book Week!
Time of Grace
A Knight’s Tale on Goodreads!
The Captain and Claire
It’s that time again…
The Smashwords annual weekly sale starts today and runs through next Saturday. I have two ebooks on sale, A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth, my medieval romance novel, and my latest contemporary M/M romance, Once You are Mine. They’re highly discounted! Check them out.
Reviews have been generally good and perceptive for Once You Are Mine, which I finished in late December 2020 and released into a still floundering—and politically toxic—pandemic world. One reviewer called it “dystopian fiction brought to the m/m genre,” which I found interesting. My view of the world may be too dystopian to write romance with strong heroes or heroines; I’m more interested in flawed LGBT characters who find enough strength within to keep loving the person they have fallen for. It is an internal type of journey.
An early reviewer touched me by writing, “This story grounded me. It reminded me of trust, hope, and the joy in all the little things. Thank you for this story.” Another reader found it beautiful and healing.
Some reviewers felt the love story strongly. Writer Gina Genovese wrote: “The main character, Alex, is a 20 year old man right out of jail, looking for a fresh start. As usual, West masterfully brought me into his world, and made me feel his struggles and challenges with an unnerving vulnerability. I grew to care for him more and more each chapter, and struggled with him as he reckoned with his past and made choices for his future. Without any spoilers, West did a great job expressing the passion of rushed love and the tidal wave of emotions that come with it.”
The big news is that we have passed 500,000 Covid deaths in the U.S.
The shocking thing is that I have not written about Covid since sometime last March. But that’s not too surprising. While the disease has not carried away any of my loved ones yet, it has been the backdrop to my days. I have barely been out of the house except to vote last November, and to grocery shop, and to go to the library once. With the news about the variants that are now quietly upon us, we have to live with the paradox of things seemingly improving (cases down, deaths down), while experts like Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics in Seattle, tell us that there is likely to be a surge, perhaps in the fall. He points to Peru as an example of somewhere that was hard hit, recovered somewhat, and then suddenly hard hit again. Will that be us?
With a sense of disappointment, I have observed two Democratic governors falling from grace during this difficult time. I wrote earlier with enthusiasm about Andrew Cuomo. His measured calm was a big help during the early days of the pandemic. He seemed to see the big picture. But did he? Now it appears that, while keeping his own elderly mother safe at home, he made the reckless decision to send seniors back to nursing homes while still recuperating from Covid—and hide the true numbers of deaths that ensued. Some 15,000 seniors died; families did not know that the governor’s actions had endangered their loved ones. He has recently been caught threatening an assemblyman who happens to be of Asian descent… in what is clearly not a first-time offense for him. Update: As of February 28, Cuomo has now been accused of sexual harassment by two women who worked for him. One, Charlotte Bennett, was only twenty-five and is also a sexual assault survivor. Her story sounds like textbook sexual harassment by a man she initially saw as a mentor. What’s clear is that Cuomo created a very incestuous working environment in Albany, where top female aides covered for him and normalized his verbal abuse and predatory behavior.
We want our politicians to be protectors. Sadly, they often seem to be most adept at protecting themselves, their image. California’s Gavin Newsom, who appeared so bright and nimble at the beginning of the epidemic, made an obvious blunder when he was caught dining indoors with a large group at uber-expensive restaurant The French Laundry in Napa last year. But what’s been more disappointing is how he has handled the vaccine rollout, and even his own Employment Development Department. He has stepped up in the sense that he has made himself quite visible at press briefings, but it’s become more obvious as time has gone on that no deep thinking has informed his decisions. Everything is done in a careless and slipshod fashion; in some cases, many thousands of innocent people have had to wait months for their unemployment claims to be reinstated at the EDD after their accounts were frozen (and billions, of course, have been stolen from the EDD due to fraud). Newsom has distanced himself from the chronic problems at EDD; after appointing a new director at the beginning of 2021, he simply doesn’t take questions about it now.
The vaccine rollout is another example of people simply wanting to know when they will get their shots. For a month or two there, the whole process seemed utterly compromised. Now, with federal dollars being poured into large vaccine sites around the state, there is perhaps light at the end of the tunnel… but there is currently an endless wait to get vaccinated for people who are under 65. (It has been astonishing and a bit of a wake-up call to see how much the State of California depends on federal money for any kind of effective programs.)
There is an ongoing effort to recall Newsom that is likely to qualify for the November ballot. I won’t be voting for that. I have endured too many Republican governors in my 30-plus years here! But I think some of us are hoping for a better Democratic candidate in 2022. Meanwhile in New York, Andrew Cuomo is in disgrace; he may have his emergency powers stripped from him. His story is one of hubris, whereas Newsom’s is one of ineptness and complacency: a nice man and a good performer who doesn’t have the leadership skills the job needs and over-promises by default. What he does bring to the table is candor and energy. Update: You can see an example of one of Newsom’s recent press briefings here—he’s in Southern California almost daily!
We will soon pass 50,000 deaths here in the state. Which begs the question: Has California ever had a woman governor? I don’t believe so—and I think it’s time.
I wanted to do a belated review of a memoir I bought last summer and finished late last year, Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk (Grove, currently $4.96 on Kindle).
Hard to write a short review of this gorgeous book. I’ll say that what I got out of it most were not the reflections on Helen Macdonald‘s dead father, a London journalist, which were sometimes poignant but a bit fragmented, and not the protracted musings on the strange, unconventional author of The Once and Future King, T.H. White, though I loved them, but the amazing descriptions of the author, a young academic, training her goshawk, Mabel, in the Cambridgeshire countryside.
She can contemplate Mabel tearing into a partridge or rabbit, and it’s gripping. She runs underneath through golden stubbled fields as Mabel soars above, and most of the time she’s anxious about Mabel or sure she’s doing it wrong, but there is such a beautiful dynamism to these descriptions of what is left of the English countryside (quite a lot, as it turns out). I absolutely loved that part. I felt connected to the wildness and the archaic, obsessive absurdity of what Helen was doing.
After patient months of training, I learned, the goal is to fly the hawk free, with the understanding (though not the certainty!) that it will come back to you:
Flying a hawk free is always scary. It is where you test these lines. And it’s not a thing that’s easy to do when you’ve lost trust in the world, and your heart is turned to dust.
The hawk was a fire that burned my hurts away. There could be no regret or mourning in her. No past or future. She lived in the present only, and that was my refuge.
As she writes provocatively, “Hunting with the hawk took me to the very edge of being a human. Then it took me past that place to somewhere I wasn’t human at all.”
I liked the steady care that she conveyed for Mabel, as opposed to the unhealthy power games that White played with his hawk, Gos, who finally abandoned him one stormy night. Helen, to be honest, seemed at times a somewhat miserable and neurotic person (although maybe less of an outsider than she portrays herself as), but nature has a way of bringing out the most authentic and, ultimately, powerful sides of us.
The book did take a while to read. Once I got into its rhythm, though, I was motivated to finish. I’m looking forward to reading more of Macdonald’s work.
Hope everyone is having a Happy New Year, or as close as we can get in these bleak times.
I wanted to give blog readers a look at the cover of my new MM romance novel, Once You Are Mine, out NOW.
It has been decidedly odd, writing during a pandemic, and especially finishing a book in December… just before Christmas. Usually I find that when I write I’m able to block the outside world out to a large degree. This time, I incorporated the pandemic into my story, setting it close to home in rural West Marin, and hope that the topical nature of the story makes the characters’ relationship and anxieties more real to people. We are all under strain this year, after all. I like writing about people under strain—it doesn’t interest me to write about billionaires, for example.
The book is a snapshot of the tense, troubled summer of 2020, when cases were rising steadily on the West Coast, but hadn’t reached the crisis proportions that they are at now. And it’s also a budding romance between two unlikely men who find refuge in each other at a time when forming a relationship requires immense trust.
Smashwords asked me to choose a logline for the book. I came up with this:
Released during a pandemic, Alex has nowhere to go. Will Terry’s love be enough reason to stay?
Find Once You Are Mine on Amazon here
On Google Play
and Barnes and Noble.
In “times of trouble,” as Paul McCartney put it once, we all need a little Beatles reminiscing. Here’s Paul looking back on his friendship with John and George.
And… Smashwords started its End of Year sale early this time! The ebook sale is on now and runs through January 1. All my novels plus Connecting the Dots are 50% off. You can find them here. Scroll down to see the books.
You’ll also get a sneak peak at my new novel, Once You Are Mine, currently on pre-order, which is releasing on Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo January 5! Look for it on Amazon and Google Play around January 4, 2021. Yes, folks, there will be a 2021!
It’s a quiet, chilly, blustery day here. While the Covid news is obviously very bad, I’m trying to find good signs amid the bad ones.
So here’s a good one: Claire the Scottish Deerhound won the top prize at the National Dog Show! So much better than a pampered poodle. Claire is a happy, healthy, magnificent-looking animal, whose ancestors, I assume, were bred to race after deer in medieval forests. Only 600 dogs were entered in the show this time, and there were no spectators. Maybe this influenced the judges to make a more organic pick.
Another enjoyable moment this morning was getting the New York Times‘s Morning newsletter and seeing the selection of six-word gratitude memoirs they printed (in themed chunks). Here’s the top chunk:
|The crinkling eye above the mask. |
A furtive hug with a friend.
The backyard haircuts are getting better.
My choir still meets on Zoom.
Friends who give me streaming passwords.
Family reunion in January, before Covid.
Miss family, but safer for them.
Saved a lot of lipstick money.
More homemade pasta, no more jeans.
No shame in elastic-waist pants.
Braless at home? No one cares.
Mom, 87, rocking pretty, pandemic ponytail.
Teenage son still likes to snuggle.
My parents live two blocks away.
No better excuse to avoid in-laws.
This stinking year is nearly over.
I’m still getting used to WordPress’s new block editor, so forgive any stylistic eccentricities in these posts! Happy Thanksgiving! We seem to have saved democracy this year, and it was certainly a group effort. I am looking forward to the Biden/Harris administration so much.
And because Thanksgiving is always all about bargains too, here’s my contribution: You can find my LGBT medieval romance A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth for 99 cents (reg: $2.99) over at Smashwords for the next couple days, with its follow-up discounted as well.
Almost Halloween… and I plan to go get my hair cut and colored tomorrow for the first time in a year, which is even scarier! I hope everyone is hanging in there. This election is nearly over. Everyone wants it to be quick. But will it? Sadly, probably not.
Writing news: I am writing a new book! The tentative title is Once You Are Mine and the theme is an MM pandemic love story set in Northern California. I am not sure when it will be out. My original plan was November 30, but I may try to submit it to an LGBT-friendly press to see if they like it. I have loved the freedom of being indie, so I’m rather torn about this. We shall see!
Special deal: You can find A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth for 99 cents (reg: $2.99) over at Smashwords for the next month. The Smashwords home page is looking rather fun at the moment. Check it out.
What’s next on the blog? A review of an amazing biography: Douglas Botting’s towering life of eccentric, conflicted queer naturalist Gavin Maxwell, first published in 1993 but now available on Kindle. I have read nothing by Maxwell—although Ring of Bright Water was on the family bookshelves growing up—but now I want to read it all.
“Extremely dense & tall smoke plumes from numerous large wildfires, some of which have been generating nocturnal pyrocumulonimbus clouds (fire thunderstorms), are almost completely blocking out the sun across some portions of Northern California this morning.” –Climate Scientist Daniel Swain on Twitter (@Weather_West)
So, I woke up to an eerie orange glow outside at 9:30 in the morning. The room looked dark. My first impulse was to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Our toilet also chose this moment to clog up and take hours to fix, so there was the apocalypse and then there was the short-term practical crisis to attend to. I wonder what parents are saying to their kids today.
The whole Bay Area has been impacted. And yesterday I traced the line of fires on an Air Now.gov map all the way from California through Oregon and Washington up to British Columbia.
We are in deep shit, folks! It’s notable that no one knows what to do. Gavin Newsom’s response yesterday was to shoulder cheerfully on. (He changed his tune later in the week and was photographed amid the devastation, saying, “We’re in a climate damn emergency!”)
We shall see what happens. After thirty years in the States, I didn’t expect to end up a climate refugee, but in the end, we all will be, and California is always ahead of the rest. So, here we are.
The air is still breathable. It’s full of fine ash and not great, but it’s not technically unhealthy or hazardous at this point. Small mercies.
UPDATE 9/12: We are now stuck firmly in the scarlet-red of unhealthy air quality (177 as of this writing). Here’s an article from the SF Chronicle showing pics of San Francisco under the orange glow.
I met the novelist Mary Sharratt in the Bay Area in 2000, if I recall right; we were in a small writing group together which had become more of a “women’s group,” for better or worse. Skilled at adapting to wherever she lives, Mary has had quite an odyssey over the years, as this personal essay on the Feminism and Religion blog describes. I never imagined she and her husband would leave England because of Brexit—but it makes total sense. As she writes, a lesson that’s been personally hard for me: “A special grace comes from knowing when things have reached their end—some things *must* end so something new can be born.”
Ms. Boo, aka Queen Boudicca, in the heart of Pendle Witch Country.
Though I was born and raised in Minnesota, I have wandered the world as an expat writer nearly my entire adult life, living in Belgium, Austria, and Germany, before moving to Pendle Witch country in northern England in 2002. I fell in love with the beautiful, rugged moorland, haunted by its history of the Pendle Witches, who cast their everlasting spell on the land. This was the landscape that inspired my 2010 novel,Daughters of the Witching Hill, which casts the Pendle Witches in their historical context as cunning women and healers. Indeed I was inspired enough to write seven out of my eight published novels in Lancashire. The mythic name for that part of Northern England is Brigantia–simultaneously the name of the Celtic Goddess of the land, the tribe of people who made their home there…
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