Lenny Kravitz’s Mama Said album is one of my favorites of all time. I played the hell out of that sucker when it came out and for years afterward. It’s been awhile since I broke it out so maybe today it’s time. Let’s start with this:

When I first thought of this post it wasn’t supposed to be about Lenny Kravitz, but before I get to the meat and potatoes of it, I’d like to tell you a story from my archives.

Circa 1995 I lived in West Hollywood and worked in Mar Vista. My commute consisted of three streets: Right on Santa Monica Boulevard, left on La Brea Avenue, right on Venice Boulevard, reversed on the trip home. Easy, but traffic laden, so I generally spent about 30-45 minutes in the car each way.

Back then I had a fantasy that one day I would meet Lenny Kravitz, we’d hit it off, and fall in love. Okay, so I didn’t believe it would ever really happen (though at 25 I was nothing if not idealistic) but since I lived in LA and often had random celebrity sightings, it wasn’t such a far-fetched idea that I might actually see him one day. It was, as the title of the post indicates, “thinking positivity.”

So one day on the way home I was sitting in traffic on La Brea Avenue when I noticed a guy with long dreadlocks entering a furniture store on the right. It’s called Little Paris Antiques now but I’m fairly certain it was called something different back in the day.

There was no doubt in my mind it was Lenny Kravitz and it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. Fortunately I was in the far right lane so I quickly pulled over and parked in front of the store.

It’s worth noting at this point that I’d skipped lunch that day and had stopped by the 7-11 on Venice and Sepulveda to buy a snack for the ride home. I don’t remember exactly what it was but it was crunchy and oniony, and left a powdery residue everywhere. I’d placed the open bag on the passenger seat and had been digging into it the whole ride home, so I’ll let you do the math on how I must’ve smelled. Still, I wasn’t about to let a little onion breath stand between me and my destiny. I ran into the store and it wasn’t long before I spied the man I’d seen enter.

Now, if this was a work of fiction, this is where I’d add the twist: the man turned around and it wasn’t Lenny Kravitz at all–it was just some poser. Cue the womp womp music.

But this was real life y’all! I found myself face to face with the man who was numero uno in my book. My Lenny radar had not failed me. It was the man himself.

I remember two things vividly about that meeting. 1) He was about as tall as I am, 5 ft. 4. 2) He had the most beautiful flaring nostrils I’d ever seen. Seriously, I could not stop looking at his nose.

He looked a bit panicked when I approached him. I quickly allayed his fears by telling him what a big fan I was and how much I respected him for being vocal about his commitment to Christianity. I loved me some Jesus big time back then. He just nodded politely while I spoke and then thanked me graciously, told me how sweet I was.

Did you hear that? He told me I was sweet. Unsurprisingly, that was the extent of our romance.

Okay, so this post wasn’t supposed to be about Lenny Kravitz. It was supposed to be about positivity.

Recently I started writing at a coffee shop on Sunday mornings with a couple of fellow writers. I noticed that we seem to spend a good deal of our time (when not writing of course) berating ourselves for not writing more. For not being more dedicated. For being slackers.

And yes, by some writers’ example, perhaps we are. But spending so much time talking about how we fail keeps us from being proud of how much we’ve achieved. With that in mind, I started reflecting on what I’ve accomplished since 2012 began:

1) Finished a major revision of DIARY OF BEDLAM, thereby greatly improving the manuscript
2) Started querying agents again
3) Had a flash fiction story published online
4) Contributed one short story to an upcoming anthology (a story, by the way, that I’m very proud of)
5) Been asked to contribute a second short story to a charity anthology
6) Hired a professional editor to edit DIARY OF BEDLAM
7) Begun implementing the suggestions of said editor
8) Started a new WIP
9) Started working with a critique group

Not too shabby!

This isn’t to say I can’t improve my work ethic, but sometimes it’s good for me to step back and look at what I have accomplished instead of dwelling on all the ways I don’t live up to my own expectations.

Lenny Kravitz would be proud.

A few days ago I got an update from GoodReads telling me what my “friends” had reviewed that week. I don’t generally read them in depth, I just give them a cursory look to see if there’s any reviews by my actual friends or of books I want to read.

In this particular update, I noticed an author had rated his own book and gave it a 5-star rating, natch. In the actual review he indicated he was the author, so full disclosure, no problem, right?

I don’t know, I kind of have a problem with it. It seems like cheating, you know? I posted this question on Twitter and one of my author friends said the 5-star rating he gave his own book gives it a negligible boost in the overall rating. Said author friend further justified the practice by saying it kind of evens out the unfair, 1-star ratings a book gets, you know, the kind that say “I haven’t even read this book but I’m giving it 1-star because the cover is ugly.”

I’m not convinced. Still feels like cheating to me.

I’m not published yet so perhaps I will feel different when I am. But right now, as a reader, I don’t like it.

What say you?

Awhile back, the super-terrific Steve Weddle invited me to do a guest post on the Do Some Damage blog, wherein I wrote:

Joining Twitter was the best thing I’ve done for my writing career.

About this, I do not joke. Virtually every opportunity I’ve had with regard to writing has come about due to Twitter, or more accurately, people I’ve met on Twitter.

For example, I’ve had four agents contact me via Twitter asking me to submit my manuscript after seeing my profile (which is essentially just a link to my query letter).

At first, my only goal was to learn about the publishing industry and I followed every writer/publisher/agent/editor I could find. I did a lot of listening and a little interacting. It didn’t take long to become a part of the community, but the key here is creating relationships—not just promoting your latest book.

The whole subject of promotion on social media has been on my mind for awhile. Obviously, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with promoting oneself on Twitter or elsewhere online–I promote myself, my own work, and the work of others regularly. I’m tempted to say I’ve earned the right to this since I’ve taken the time to create relationships, as I mention above. But that’s ridiculous. There’s nothing to earn or not earn (well, there is, but I’ll cover that later).

So what the hell is the problem?

Well, I’m not 100% sure there is one. I only know that Twitter is a lot less interesting/valuable for me than it used to be. Let me explain.

There is a certain type of book promotion going on that I find really annoying. It goes something like this:

Pls RT- NEW #REVIEW of THE DIARY OF A FRUSTRATED WRITER by H.M.F. West http://xxxxx #books#reading#readers#Prime#kindle


Great #vacationreading ROUND ‘EM ALL UP: A Larry Miller Hog-Tying Mystery: http://xxxxxx #books#reading#readers#Prime#kindle


What happens when chocolate cake just isn’t enough? GET IN MY BELLY by Tessie McMahon http://xxxxx #Kindle#Books#AmReading#GoodReads

And on and on. Sometimes nearly every other tweet in my feed looks like this. I pretty much follow every writer type who follows me, but it’s led to an influx of these type of tweets and it makes me sad. Then it makes me feel like unfollowing a crap load of tweeters.

It seems to be a result of the self-publishing revolution, which I am, in general, a big fan of. I might very well become a self-published author myself soon. This means I’m paying close attention to what other self-published authors do to promote themselves. Could somebody please tell me what marketing/PR book everyone read that led to the spred of the kind of promotion I’ve indicated above? I want to stay as far away from it as possible.

As judgmental as this all sounds, I am in no way disparaging how people choose to market themselves. I’m only questioning if these particular techniques are effective, because honestly, I can’t see how they could be. The multiple hashtag approach leaves me cold. The cutsie blurbs followed by a link and yes, more hashtags that tempt me to unfollow you, not read your book.

Tell me, people, am I missing something here? Is it that I’m just not the right audience and therefore this type of promotion rankles instead of enticing me to buy?

Let me quickly get back to what I said earlier about “earning” the right to promote. What I really meant was YOU earning the right to promote to ME, not the other way around (although it definitely goes both ways). There are people I wouldn’t unfollow if they tried to sell me swamp land in Florida multiple times every day. Why? Because they’re my homies. We’ve been tweeting back and forth for months now, sometimes years. I don’t hesitate to promote their work and they don’t (seem to) hesitate to promote mine. But I like to think we’re all engaging in “thoughtful promotion” and in between all the “buy my book” tweets there is some actual conversation going on. We support each other, not just on Twitter, but across the Internet and sometimes, even in person.

That doesn’t mean you have to be my homie to promote your stuff to me. It just means that if your tweets annoy me, the decision to unfollow is a whole lot easier to make.

That sounds mean, doesn’t it? I don’t mean it to be. I’m actually a pretty nice person. I still love Twitter. I guess all I really wanted to say is that it’s a little less fun for me than it used to be.

Note: This post was originally published on July 25, 2009

My husband and I just watched a program on PBS called Secrets of the Samarai Sword. It’s available to watch on the internet, and I recommend it.


There are several reasons why this program was interesting to me personally. First, my husband picked up a book at a library book sale awhile back about Japanese swords and was immediately taken with them. That year for his birthday, I embarked on my own research and bought one for him. Much like making a sword, it was a painstaking process; there are lots of “fakes” out there, particularly, swords made by machine during WWII, and an authentic, handmade sword is expensive. I’m not sure I’d have the confidence even now to buy one again, although I’m certain that the one I bought him is authentic. We both love that sword–it is almost as important to me as my wedding ring, if you want the truth.


The second reason I found this program engaging is because I’m a goldsmith. I make jewelry out of gold and silver and some of the processes used are similar, if not the same. I use ancient techniques to make my jewelry, and this type of craftsmanship appeals to me. I’m definitely not comparing my level of expertise to the level presented by the master swords-maker profiled, but my experience with making jewelry makes me extremely interested in the techniques used in Japanese sword-making.


The level of expertise required to make a sword can be applied to any field, whether it be sword making, jewelry making, or in my case now, writing. Young people apprentice in this work at an early age and through the years become experts themselves, thus preserving a tradition that is hundreds of years old. It is a reminder that to be good at anything, even if one possesses natural talent, takes years of practice. It is affirming and daunting at the same time–I am a novice at writing, at least as it pertains to novels, and I have a lot of work in front of me to become an “expert.”

Having been to Japan and having even visited the sword museum in Tokyo shown in the program, I was also interested in the cultural aspects of Samarais, sword fighting, and sword making. But for me, the really compelling part is the fabrication of the sword. It is fascinating, and an important reminder that hard work and persistence is an important key to success.

The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, and this year I'm participating for the first time. I'll be writing my second Isabel Wilde novel (as yet untitled).


You may be asking why I would start another novel when I haven't even finished the first? For a few reasons, actually. I'm editing the first novel now, and believe me when I say it's hard and tedious work. I miss the fancy-free process of writing a first draft. I just don't have the brain power necessary to spend eight hours a day editing, so the second novel will act as a kind of supplement to that.

I'm also hoping that the writing I do for the second will aid me in editing the first. Any opportunity I have to get to know Isabel and her cohorts is an opportunity to enhance the first book and all subsequent books.

Even though I have a first novel, which has so far been written as the first in the series, being unpublished means it might not end up being the first in the series upon publication. My goal is to get published, and whichever book is the best will be the one that gets to submitted to agents. It is quite common for authors to write several novels prior to getting their first novel published, and the initial ones never see the light of day. I'd hate to think that all the work I'm doing on Diary of Bedlam is for naught, but the fact of the matter is that right now I'm learning how to write a novel. That means lots of mistakes and lots of bad writing. If Diary of Bedlam never gets published, it's okay because it will have been the stepping stone for the book that does get published.

One thing I've learned over the last year of writing primarily fiction is that writing and constructing a full-length novel that anyone would want to read is the hardest thing I've ever done. I have so much respect for the writers, even ones I consider mediocre, who do it.

Hey, what about you? Do you have a novel inside of you? Get writing in November and share the fun (and misery).