Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

cover136553-mediumPatti Callahan’s just-published novel (Thomas Nelson; $25.99) is a fictional take on the story of Joy Davidman (1915-1960) and CS Lewis. I had previously seen and adored the film Shadowlands, so I came to the character of Joy Davidman informed by Debra Winger’s strong performance. Winger was actually very good, with not a lot of background information to go on, but Joy Davidman comes fully to life in this novel. Patti Callahan gets inside the head, heart, and psyche of a brilliant, unfulfilled woman poet who had already transitioned in her life from young artist/Communist in the 1930s to unhappy Christian wife married to an alcoholic fellow writer in upstate New York, and mother of two boys.

The literal and emotional journey Joy takes is quite remarkable, since it involves years of increasingly warm and intimate friendship in England in the 1950s with CS Lewis, an Oxford don and author of the Narnia books, as well as books on Christianity. But Joy wants much, much more from “Jack.” The tragedy of the story is that just as she gets what she wants, Lewis’s commitment and declaration of love, she is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her ultimate fate is to be erased, albeit in a loving way. His protective shadow blurred her brilliance. Callahan sees some of the irony here, I believe, but also traces a beautiful and shatteringly real love story that changed both of these figures irrevocably. She restores something to Joy Davidman that had been lost to time.

The novel was published by a Christian press, but Joy’s edges and relatable struggles have thankfully not been softened. The snippets of her love sonnets that start the chapters (which, amazingly, were only rediscovered a few years ago!) are harrowing and beautiful windows to her soul. Callahan takes on the role of a literary daughter here, illuminating Joy Davidman Lewis as only a daughter could.

(I received an ARC from the publisher in return for an honest review.)

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Return to Carlsbad Out Now on Amazon, and an ARC Offer

And now back to book news!

Return to Carlsbad will be published October 9.

Preorder now!

The third book in my Elsie Street trilogy, Return to Carlsbad, is done! It was released today on Amazon. On Smashwords and the other stores like Apple and BN, it comes out by the end of the month. You can read/download a long sample on Smashwords or pre-order a copy now!

I have a very small ARC team, so here’s my offer: If you have read Elsie Street and Pull of Yesterday and would like to read and review Book 3, contact me here on the site by the end of October and I’ll send you an ARC in mobi or epub file format in return for your honest review on Amazon or Goodreads.

This is the first trilogy I have ever completed. It’s been satisfying to put the characters through important transitions and growth opportunities, and give Aaron’s story, in particular, a happy ending. For once, a HEA 🙂

Update: Return to Carlsbad is now available for sale on Google Play!

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A Laugh on Brett

After this highly emotional week, let’s all have a laugh, courtesy of Matt Damon and Saturday Night Live:

 

(Needless to say, I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.)

And on a personal note, it still freaks me out that these are contemporaries of mine!!

 

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Girding Up for Fall (With a Free Book!)

Fall promises to be hectic: We have less than sixty days left before the midterms. Looking at my wall calendar, election day is November 6. I expect to be working in a Bay Area Vote by Mail unit around election time, a seasonal job that I would actually enjoy and find worthwhile. Our American democracy is pretty fragile at this point, and we need to be super-vigilant about our voting systems. I hope that if there was any voting irregularity this time in an important race, it would be discovered pretty quickly… but who can be sure? I am also looking forward to Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, though because so many excerpts have been released, I feel I’ve read it already…

Two writing/publishing projects are in the works for me. I have never turned any of my books into audiobooks, but Findaway Voices makes this easy now. The book is one of my shortest, my self-help memoir Connecting the Dots. I’ve narrowed down my choice of a narrator to one very talented person and just want to hear her read a section of the book to be sure it’s a good fit. If all goes well, it’s likely that the audiobook will be out by Christmas! Since this is my first go-round, I’m going to make it available on as many outlets as possible (and there are many!), and charge $5.99. Keep an eye out for it.

Return to Carlsbad will be published October 9.

Pre-order now!

My other news is of a pre-order. Return to Carlsbad, book 3 in my MM contemporary romance Elsie Street series, is available to purchase now for $3.99 and will be released October 9! Look for it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo. (I might release it on Google Play a little early, just for fun.)

Haven’t read Book 1 yet? Just to make it a little easier for folks to try the series, the first book, Elsie Street, is now free at virtually all stores in ebook format!

In this final book, dramatic changes come to Aaron’s and his older sister Tessa’s lives as they both finally move on from the past, though in Aaron’s case healing comes from confronting the past and returning to his childhood home in coastal Southern California, where so many of his early experiences with loss and trauma took place. But it’s not entirely a sad book: there’s a passionate love story in there too. Marc, Aaron’s former therapist who has issues of his own, is an understanding lover who offers Aaron both sex and friendship. Aaron’s challenge, though, is to feel worthy of it.

It’s the first evening of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival here and I am going to go eat a moon cake.

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July Summer/Winter Sale Starts Tomorrow!

Phew, it’s hot! Smashwords holds its monthlong Summer/Winter ebook sale starting tomorrow and running through July 31. It’s a great opportunity to pick up new reads.

Visit my book page to see my bargains. A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth is free, and its sequel, A Knight’s Tale: Montargis, is 50 percent off. My ADHD memoir, Connecting the Dots, is a whopping 75 percent off, as is the Elsie Street follow-up, The Pull of Yesterday.

These discounts are only available on the Smashwords site. They’ve been in business for ten years, and I think that’s something to be celebrated.

Fellow writers, you can add your books to the promotion by visiting the Smashwords.com home page at any time.

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A Pride Month Update

It’s Pride Month, and I have been fairly busy on the writing and self-publishing front. First, I just put A Knight’s Tale, Books 1 & 2, my LGBT medieval historical romances, on Smashwords; they can be found here. I’ll update links for the other vendors when I have them. For readers who prefer epub files, I’m sorry it’s been such a long wait!

Update: Here is the link to A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth on Google Play.

Find the ebooks on Barnes & Noble!

And one more: a nice, pretty link to ALL my books on Apple!

GW-ReturntoCarlsbad-bk3-200x300I started thinking about and mentally drafting Book 3 of my contemporary gay romance Elsie Street series; to help me along, I got a premade cover from Fantasia Frog Designs, my go-to cover designer. I expect Return to Carlsbad will be out sometime in the fall. It’s Aaron’s story, from his POV, and probably in third person (because it’s easier to do Aaron that way, for some reason!).

Although I am continuing to work as a freelance copy editor/proofreader at Editforindies.com, and I welcome author queries, I’ve found that the self-publishing landscape has changed so much over the past five years. Perhaps many of my former clients have thrown in the towel and returned to work, or stopped writing. I have been looking for work, too, but trying to think of it as a search for something I would like to do and can commit to doing long-term. This is difficult, but hopefully not impossible.

 

 

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Memorial Day Sale

Foggy weather has started early and even the opening of the Salesforce Tower, a big deal in San Francisco, was spoiled by it! The month was made a little more fun by the Royal Wedding, which I enjoyed thoroughly. And my birthday followed shortly after, so I can always hope to be a little wiser!

Knight_Kenilworth_C

A Knight’s Tale is set in 13th-century England.

I wanted to let readers know that my gay historical novel A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth will be free on Monday, May 28 on Amazon (regularly $1.99). A recent 5-star reviewer wrote, “Laced with intrigue, love, and battles for supremacy, this book measures up.”

And for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, both Kenilworth and its sequel are free… though I am planning to take both books “wide” sometime next month. It is always a dilemma, how soon to do this, but it seems unfair to leave readers on the other platforms (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Kobo) out.

Hope everyone is having a good start to the summer.

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A May Anniversary, or Two

Hard to believe, but May 30, 2011, was when I published my first ebook, a literary novel called The Leaving. I did the cover myself and chose Smashwords as the first ebook platform to upload it to. Back then there was no KDP Select, and I felt no hurry to put the book up on Amazon KDP, though I recall I did this sometime in June 2011. Since I didn’t make the Amazon payment threshold the first month, it took three months for me to be paid!

But I was just delighted to get in the game, and in the next couple of years things improved rapidly. 2013-2015 was the golden era, where those of us who were writing erotica did quite nicely, since Amazon paid a flat payment no matter how short the story was. I published all of my backlist over the years. On Smashwords, my erotica shorts took off on Barnes & Noble under a pen name, so I experienced a surprising upswell there too.

In these seven years since I started, the self-publishing landscape has completely changed, but I’m always one for looking back, so I was interested to read CEO Mark Coker’s take on Smashwords’ 10-year-anniversary, presented in one of his characteristically long blog posts!

Here is an excerpt. I like Coker’s sentiments here:

Against the backdrop of publishing’s culture of NO, I imagined it would be really cool if an enlightened publisher or publishing service could say yes to every writer in the world, and do it at no cost to the writer.  And then I wondered, “What if that someone could be me?  What if I could take a chance on every writer in the world?”

This was the genesis of Smashwords.

Throughout my career, I’ve always been drawn to “change the world” ventures that carry a higher purpose.  I’ve long believed that a life without higher purpose is a life squandered.   Every person with a pulse has an opportunity to take small but significant steps today that will leave the world better than we found it.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a  writer, entrepreneur, home maker, school teacher, garbage collector, artist, doctor, mechanic, baker or retired.  Pick your passion and make a difference.

Writers are some of the most passionate, inspiring world-changers I’ve met.

In late 2004 I set to work on the Smashwords business plan.

I wanted to turn the conventional publishing model upside down.  I wanted to give authors full control over their rights, pricing and publishing decisions, and I wanted to flip the compensation model so that 85% of the net proceeds went directly to the author.

It was also important to me that Smashwords’ interests be aligned with the interests of writers.  Rather than sell publishing packages or charge upfront for our services, we’d offer our service for free and we’d earn our income on commission.  If the author made money, we made money.

cbd3b17ef855312da27f11db4f0e16ba85c87a6d-thumbThere is one short, health-related nonfiction ebook title remaining that I sell at Smashwords which still has my original Photoshopped home-made cover on it. Here it is, in all of its glory!

It’s been a strange ride, but I have to hand it to Mark Coker for continuing to evolve in what must be an incredibly tough business landscape. The financial terms he offers writers have never changed for the worse, and although some of my peers complain about the visuals of the Smashwords site, I personally think there’s a lot to say for something that *doesn’t* change radically over time. Which isn’t to say that Smashwords hasn’t made improvements. I love being able to check my daily sales onsite and I enjoyed doing their interview feature, where I was able to rattle on about my own writing process and history. Has Smashwords made me a ton of money? Nope, but over time I’ve made about 20 percent of what I’ve made on the Amazon US platform, and with a lot less hassle!

 

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April Promotions

It’s April and we’re in Mercury Retrograde. Seems like a good time to have a promotion or two in the M/M romance genre.

Knight_Kenilworth_C

A Knight’s Tale is set in 13th-century England.

My latest historical novel, A Knight’s Tale: Montargis, came out on March 6, though it seems very recent. It is more introspective and intense than the first book. Here is a review that beautifully sums up what I was trying to achieve with the novel:

A Knight’s Tale: Montargis is another great read by Ms. West. It takes off where the first book in this series, A Knight’s Tale: Kenilworth, left off. This book is just as sexy and romantic and oozes with similar medieval details and context but Ms. West digs deeper into the shadow of these characters. We feel dark things at work in their relationships that shape their emotional and sexual expressions. These characters are held back and determined by history that we gradually understand. Ms. West lets this tension simmer. Redemption is not always possible, forgiveness is sometimes out of reach and yet somehow love still tries to find a way.

The good news is, Book 1 will be free on Amazon Friday, April 6 through Monday, April 9!

I published my gay/bi contemporary romance Elsie Street way back in 2015 and have decided to drop the price to .99 for the forseeable future. It is already .99 on Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Google Play. Update: it’s now also 99 cents on Amazon!

Happy National Poetry Month as well. I no longer do my taxes by mail, but I have a slightly surreal memory of delivering my tax envelope to a local post office years ago and being handed a copy of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in honor of National Poetry Month! I think Eliot would have appreciated the irony of this.

I just found the 75th anniversary edition on my shelf and will have to re-read it.

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St. Paddy’s, Green Beer, and a free ebook today

Reblogging an old but entertaining post about St. Patrick’s Day. I still haven’t tried green beer!

While the ADHD and Food Dye book mentioned below is 99 cents on Amazon, I’ve made it free on Smashwords in honor of today: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/253748

Gabriella West

I want to make a confession: I’ve never sampled green beer! You see, I grew up in Dublin, where in the 1980s, the St. Patrick’s Day parade, held in still-freezing March temperatures, was a fairly sombre, pallid march down central city streets. It was helped along by middle-aged Americans looking cheerful and wearing green or plaid trousers, looking like they had just stepped off a golf course, and marching bands from America, which were fun to watch and listen to. All I can remember besides that were floats from Irish insurance companies, the only companies that had any money in the 80s. And if we were lucky, the family got a post-parade meal of burgers and chips at an Americanized cafe called Solomon Grundy’s around the corner.

Anyway, when I came to America in my early 20s, it was a revelation to me that people got drunk and had…

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