Author Archives: nicolacameronwrites

O.M.G.

As you may know, dear reader, I’m deep in the weeds of what is now known as perimenopause, that hilarious period of a woman’s life where she essentially goes through a second round of puberty, only this time various systems shut down instead of turn on. The amount of hormonal hijinks, however, are the same, and the effects of being on a hormonal rollercoaster can include brain fog, tiredness, bloating, hot flashes, night sweats, and a whole other passel of fascinating experiences (and yes, I am being as sarcastic as I can at the moment).

Now, I started getting hot flashes a couple of years ago, and they got to the point where I was getting them three times an hour or so. Imagine walking from a cool house into an absolutely sweltering day, plus you’ve just eaten ghost pepper chili. That is a fairly close description of what a hot flash is like. They also made me nauseous as hell, and since I hate throwing up I did some research and found out that OTC progesterone cream would help.

Lo, it did, and for the last two years I haven’t been bothered with hot flashes. But 2020 had an extra little rotten cherry to put on the shitpile of this year, and it was the return of the hot flashes. The progesterone cream wasn’t stopping them anymore, so I did some more research and came up with black cohosh. It is a herb native to North America that behaves much like estrogen in some women’s bodies and can help reduce or eliminate hot flashes (DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor and am not dispensing medical advice, I’m simply relaying what I’ve learned and what works for me. Do your own research if you want to consider taking this, and speak with your physician before you start a new supplement).

Seeing as I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in about two weeks due to waking up at least twice a night feeling like I was on fire, I got up today and figured what the hell, I’d try the damned stuff and see if it worked.

But first, I had to take the Great Orange Lump in for his shots, then take him home, then go to the store and actually buy some black cohosh along with some other stuff (pro tip–you can usually find black cohosh in the vitamin aisle near the women’s vitamins and supplements), then stagger home, eat a belated breakfast, and take my new best friend (my life, you know you want it).

Then I went back to bed because, yeah, I needed it. Ramón pretty much patted me on the head as I staggered towards the bedroom and told me to have a nice nap, and 3/5ths of the J Crew joined me in bed.

People, I had the loveliest four-hour nap with NO HOT FLASHES. I even dreamed, and woke not wanting to kill people for the first time in two weeks. Once again, I refer you to the disclaimer above, but for me this stuff works.

Don’t worry, I’m better

I know the last blog post was a bit of a downer, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been having a serious problem with knee/hip pain related to an old mattress and the recurrence of hot flashes and night sweats, and the combination has made sleep a little hard to get these days, which makes Nicola a lot cranky.

But I’m trying black cohosh, and that seems to be improving the hot flashes. As for the mattress problem, I’m hoping we can swing a new one in early February, and in the meantime I’ll just continue to pile up bedding in order to overcome the large dips and peaks in our current one.

In short, there are worse problems to have, and a lot of people out there have them right now, so I’m gonna count my blessings and just keep moving forward. At the moment, forward momentum is taking place on Cross Current, and I don’t anticipate a problem getting it out on the 29th this month, at which point I’m taking a whole week off from writing between Christmas and New Year’s. I still need to do bookwork and promotion, but I ain’t gonna write — I’m gonna binge every show I’ve wanted to see, knit, quilt, and bake up a storm, and generally give my brain some well-deserved time off. I’ve very proud of the fact that I’ve managed to put out three full-length novels and a novella in five months, but it’s also taken up a LARGE amount of processing time and I really need to let the creative side recharge for awhile before I start up again in 2021.

Speaking of that, I’m having a huge amount of fun plotting out what I’m going to do for The Crimson and the Black. The Hidden Empire series seems to be where I’m writing character types I’ve never done before — vampires in Shadow of the Swan, dragon shifters in TCatB. Lord knows what I’ll tackle in the third book — maybe Henry and Louisa inadvertently bring back a cursed Ancient Egyptian royal to London in mummy form, then have to deal with the aftermath.

Ooh. OOH. That could be kind of fun, come to think of it, and it could utilize elements from an unfinished novel I already have kicking around here. Gotta cogitate on that some more.

And as I’ve already said in other posts, I plan on finishing off the Olympic Cove series next year to reward everyone who’s been waiting so patiently for the next books, plus I need to do a Two Thrones book and a Pacifica Rising book. There will be reader magnets released for all of those, as well, and I’ve got a handful of novellas that I’d like to tackle as well (for one thing, I have stories for Ewan and Hamish, the younger brothers of the hero of Red Robin and the Huntsman, as well as another entry in the Esposito County Shifters novella series). Plus there are the Hollywood romcoms I want to write under Natasha’s aegis.

*rubs face* Yep, got a lot ahead of me. But that’s all good, because 2021 is going to be a fantastic year for writing, I can feel it.

Oh, hello, 5 AM…

One of the wonderful (and yes, I’m being sarcastic) things about being perimenopausal AND an insomniac under the best of situations is that I wake up multiple times during the night. Usually because I need to turn over, but sometimes I’m having a hot flash, or I have to pee, or whatever.

Getting back to sleep is a crap shoot––sometimes I’m tired enough to konk back out when I get into bed. Those are the good nights. Other times (like this morning) I wind up desperately trying to get my brain to shut up while it merrily skips across multiple topics of sheer fucking delight (e.g. I have nothing to look forward to except a lot of cleaning in order to get all the Christmas decorations up, I have a book to get out at the end of the month which will require me to write 65K in three weeks, I don’t have a choice because I put it up for pre-order, why aren’t people pre-ordering it, I need to do the shopping and will THIS be the time I catch COVID, I haven’t been outside in over a week and will the car even start, I need to get two of the cats in to get their shots before the end of the year, etc.).

All this, by the way, is going on while in the background there is this monotonous drone of BLAH. Grey, thick, gunky seas of jellied BLAH. My get up and go has got up and gone, and it is a fucking struggle to find the motivation to brush my teeth, much less write a book. I don’t know if this is hormones, the time of year, an oncoming sinus infection, plain old depression, or some combination thereof, but it blows great big donkey dick. I don’t ask for much out of life, I truly don’t, but I do need some sense of optimism, something to work towards instead of something to endure for yet another day.

My Twitter profile contains the phrase, “SF/fantasy/PN romance author and fu*king ray of sunshine in a dystopian hellscape.” But the sunshine has gone dim, and I really wish these damn clouds would get out of the way for a bit.

Remember Olympic Cove? I’ve got some news…

As of last night I put Cross Current (Olympic Cove Book 4) on pre-order at Amazon. The release date is 12/29/20, which means you have something to look forward to between Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve.

Is the book finished yet? Ho, ho, ho — of course not, because Nicola functions best when she has an immovable deadline ahead of her. But I I already have 20K finished and only need another 65K or so, and I will be dictating the bulk of the book this week, which will hopefully give me a first draft by this time next week. Then I can dig in and get it cleaned up and pretty before shipping it off to the editor and beta readers.

The big challenge with Cross Current is that it’s not only a menage romance, it’s a menage romance with five characters. And the main character, Matt, only has a romantic relationship with two of the other characters, who themselves have prior relationships with the other two characters (who are not in a sexual relationship with Matt but become found family members). Did I mention that those other two members are married to each other due to family requirements?

Hmm. Maybe this will work better if I diagram it out.

Yeah, I know, it’s complicated. But it’ll make sense in the end, I promise (I hope, she muttered darkly to herself).

Remember that holiday romance I kept telling you about?

Yeah, well, it’s out. BUT — since it’s a contemporary romance, I’ve released it under the Natasha M. Stark name (it’s a marketing decision — people who liked To My Muse and Grading the Curve don’t necessarily want to read my SF/fantasy/paranormal romance, so I’m giving them their own pseud for my contemporary romance).

One Sweet Christmas is the tale of jaded PA Rose Shaffer who does NOT believe in Hallmark moments or small town romance, thank you very much. After her Chicago socialite employer dies, she gets an offer of a free room for a month in LA while she looks for work in the Land of Personal Assistants. On her way there, however, her car breaks down near the ski town of Crystal Mountain, CO, where she meets Eric Kaufman, Hot Baker and former contestant on Let’s Bake, America! (at least, until he wound up punching the male judge and storming off the show).

Eric’s been asked to make a wedding cake for an IG influencer on short notice. When his assistant breaks both arms in a skiing accident, Rose gets roped in to help Eric finish the cake. Needless to say, hijinks ensue after that, and a ridiculously cute niece, a crafty dad, and a somewhat plaster-covered assistant baker add to the fun. (As my editor said, “Damn you, I couldn’t put it down!”)

This, by the way, is going to be the highlight of my week since Ramón and I are doing the reasonable thing and staying home for Thanksgiving. I’ll miss making my oven-roasted Brussels sprouts for the editor and her family, but in this time of COVID-19 it’s not worth the risk. We’ve managed to make it through eight months of staying home except for store trips and medical visits, and we’re both still okay so far — I’d like to continue that run until a vaccine is available.

Still Waiting

Everyone has coping mechanisms for stress, some of them healthier than others. I happen to have one of the more neurotic ones, where I clean. I think it’s because cleaning gives me control over my immediate environment when I don’t have control elsewhere. Well, it’s either that or day drinking.

As of Monday, I have:

  • Scrubbed the toilets.
  • Gotten rid of all our recycling (including at least ten empty kitty litter boxes, buckets, and bottles) by taking them to the recycling center.
  • Vacuumed and carpet cleaned the living room.
  • Washed at least six loads of laundry, folded it all, and took it upstairs and put it away.
  • Cleared out all of the stuff that’s been piling up on the dressers in the bedroom, including the remaining tools from last November when I put up the curtains and borked my knee. Assorted stuff has been put:
    • In our closet.
    • In the garage.
    • In the linen closet downstairs.
    • In the tool drawer in the kitchen.
  • Dusted the worst of the bedroom surfaces, pending a full vacuum and polish.
  • Washed the master bath mirror and counters.
  • Sorted through all the mail, tossed junk mail, put recyclables in recycling, and batched all the (already paid) bills to be brought upstairs and filed.

I think subconsciously I’m trying to clear off all the surface mess (of which there is a lot, mainly due to the borked knee) so that I can then go room by room and give each one a good, solid deep clean before Thanksgiving, after which I can start the Christmas decorating. Ramón is watching all of this very nervously because his mom used to angry clean, and so when he sees me bustling around he subconsciously assumes I’m pissed about something (doesn’t help that I have RBF).

And yes, I’m writing as well–in fact, I’m thisclose to finishing the holiday novella and getting that off this weekend, then going back to work on Cross Current. Sorry, but I needed something light and fluffy to work on and Cross Current is going to have a fair amount of angst in it so I had to switch focus for my own mental health.

I also have my last PT visit this afternoon, and I’m going to have them measure my knee at full bend and extension so that I have an idea of how much I’ve improved since I started. I have my exercises, I have some tools to help with that and a yoga pad, and if I can get into the habit of doing them first thing in the morning after I get up and get them knocked out for the day, that would be grand.

So, what are you doing to stay calm while we wait for the election results?

So as we patiently wait for ballots to be counted

I’m trying to keep busy by tackling various cleaning projects and finishing this Christmas romance novella that I started two years ago. I’m already at 17,400 out of a projected 24K so it’ll be done by the end of the week if I get a good tail wind.

And why am I working on this and not Cross Current, you ask? It’s this little thing called the US presidential election that’s yeah, kinda cutting into my concentration. It’s easier to write about a bantering PA and baker than it is to write about a newly-divorced history teacher coming to terms with the fact that he not only has four fated mates but is the new Oracle of the Waters.

Mind you, I haven’t stopped working on Cross Current at all, and once things are settled on the whole “who’s going to be running the country for the next four years” question I’ll go back to it. But this delay means that I probably won’t be able to get it out on 11/24 unless a miracle occurs, and I really do need to get one title out this month. So One Sweet Christmas it is.

So why do I care about getting a title out this month? Because the changes I’ve been making to my approach to indie publishing are starting to show fruit. From January through August of this year I made about $30 a month on Amazon sales, which frankly is pretty crappy. I implemented my changes in September (got serious about Amazon ads, made a plan to release at least one title a month, bumped up all my series starters from 99¢ to $1.99) and made a little over $150, then made $218 in October. My sales goal this month is $300, and I just checked my Amazon royalties — I’ve already cleared $31, the amount I was making per month from January to August, and it’s only November 4th. If I can get One Sweet Christmas out over the weekend, I can take advantage of the holiday romance boom, as well as appeal to anyone who’s burnt out after this week and just needs a pleasant, funny holiday romcom.

Then it’s back to work on Olympic Cove. Soon, my preciouses, soon…

So KING OF BLADES is live

And it’s selling briskly, so I’m pleased with that. I’m also amused that a writer friend of mine commented on FB, “So how did you get Don Draper to pose for the cover art?” Hey, I would not object to Jon Hamm posing for one of my covers, but I suspect his rates would be expensive as hell.

However, that did remind me of something that I kinda wanted to head off at the pass. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the model on the cover of King of Blades is the same one I used on the cover of Shifter Woods: Howl. Why would I do something like this, you ask?

Well, because I think he’s hot, whoever he is, and he worked as both my world-weary coyote shifter sheriff and my determined king about to become the father of twins. That’s the beauty of indie publishing — you have full control over the covers. And if I want to use this austere, muscled stunner twice, by God I will.

Speaking of publishing, I just got word a little over an hour ago that Blades was accepted into the Premium catalog at Smashwords, so it should be available at B&N by tomorrow morning and at Kobo and iTunes within a day or so. I’m working on the print version and that should be available by the weekend, and I also need to put it up at Eden Books tomorrow.

While all that’s in play, I’m also back at work on the fourth book in the Olympic Cove series, Cross Current (and isn’t that a lovely cover at right?), with a goal of getting that out on *checks calendar* 11/24/20. I’ll be setting that up for pre-order sometime this weekend, so if you’ve been patiently waiting for the next book in the series, mark your calendars and pre-order it. Here’s the (unedited) blurb:

Fresh from a divorce, high school history teacher Matt Taber retreats to a cottage on Olympic Cove to lick his wounds before school starts up in the fall. But the Fates have other plans for him in the form of a merman running from a deadly family history, three selkies who have to satisfy a royal demand, and a new career as the Oracle of the Waters. Can Matt adjust to his new life before the Mad Nereid comes calling?

And there’s more good Olympic Cove news — I’m completing the series next year. Books Five and Six (tentatively titled Riptide Bay and Hurricane Eye) will be completed right after the first book of 2021, Hidden Empire’s The Crimson and the Black. So for everyone who prefers their series to be completed, you’ll be able to buy the Olympic Cove box set sometime in July. But if you hate the idea of the series ending, don’t worry — there will be additional novellas set on the cove, as well as related books (I have this image in my head of a grumpy and very reluctant Hephaestus being dragged to Earth by Hermes to help him get the Olympic Wi-Fi working, and falling in love with a female blacksmith). So many books to write, so little time…

I see Autumn has come to the clavicle of Texas

Today has been drizzly and hovering around 59°F, which is a huge improvement over the inches of snow other parts of the country have gotten this weekend so I am not complaining.

What it means, however, is that I get to break out the sweatpants and meals like zuppa toscana, shepherd’s pie, and other cold weather delights get put back on the menu. Soup is currently simmering on the stove and I’m waiting for Ramón to finish doing whatever it is he’s doing in his office and come collect his bowl. I have a cat (JJ) currently sitting on the Chesterfield staying warm, while another (Jasmine) is sitting on my footstool, I already finished my bowl of soup so I’m quite replete, and I’m going to watch the latest episode of GBBO once I get this uploaded.

Also, as you may already know, King of Blades comes out on Tuesday. That being said, I have made a slight booboo when it came to the file I uploaded to Amazon on Friday for those fourteen lovely people who pre-ordered it.

See, I was hurrying to get it spell-checked and formatted before the uploading deadline on Friday. At the same time, I was aware that I also had to try and get a soft fabric cone on Jasmine, who has an open wound behind one ear that she keeps re-opening by scraping it against things. So I finished the formatting, uploaded what I thought was the correct file to Amazon, then set off to try and cone the cat.

Oh. My. God. You would have thought that all the devils in hell were after her. She’s skitty under normal conditions but with the cone on she had a total and complete meltdown. After she ran in a blind panic all over the downstairs, she shot upstairs and hid under the bed. I went up to try and coax her out, but she was terrified. I finally took the cone off — I’m calling the vet tomorrow to see her (she needs her shots anyway), and I’m looking into a less stressful covering for that area so that she doesn’t actually have a heart attack while it heals.

After I took the cone off, however, a little voice in the back of my mind said, “Um … did you upload the final, corrected file to Amazon, or the uncorrected ARC (Advance Reading Copy) file? Because the ARC’s in the novel folder, but the corrected final version is in your Calibre library folder.” With a sloshing dread growing in my belly, I came downstairs to check.

Yup, I sent the wrong file. *bangs head on desk*

By that point I was past the deadline and locked out of KDP, so I’m going to have to wait until it’s just past midnight on Tuesday and upload the actual, genuine, FINAL file, then put the word out to everyone who pre-ordered it and ask them to delete the version Amazon sent and re-download it. It’s not that big of a deal, but there are a handful of spelling and grammar mistakes in the ARC (which is common as it’s compiled earlier in the editing process) and I don’t want those folks who pre-ordered KoB to think, “Whoa, she’s really slipping on the spelling.”

After that, I thought I would take this weekend off and relax. Ho ho ho. I spent yesterday updating the Other Works pages and the formatting on all the Two Thrones books so that everything was consistent across the series, then today I got stuck into Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4). That’s scheduled to come out on 11/24, so I have about 20 days to complete 72,000 words. Totally doable, especially if I crank out 3K today and cut down the remaining words to 69K.

In other news I’ve now finished three rounds of PT on ShitKnee. As of last Thursday it was able to bend to 110 degrees. My left knee can bend to 125 degrees, and 125-130 degrees is considered a normal range. As I started out on the first visit with 88 degrees of bending in ShitKnee, 110 is a significant improvement.

Now, straightening the knee is another matter. That hasn’t improved as much, but I now have a floor exercise where I lay on my back, put a prop under my right ankle, and let gravity pull ShitKnee down for ten minutes. I’m supposed to do that 2-4 times a day. The cats, unsurprisingly, have loved this.

I also spoke to the head therapist who said that my wandering kneecap wouldn’t cause stiffness in the joint itself––that’s probably due to scar tissue or adhesions (since I never had PT after the surgery back in 1984). I know damn well I broke an adhesion a couple of years ago when I was still able to jog because I felt it pop on the treadmill. Looks like I’ll be trying to break more of the damn things over the next couple of months.

But I have to say, walking is definitely easier. The pain has eased up, I’m not limping nearly as badly as I had been, and I now have a Theraband roller for rolling out tight fascia and muscles. It feels like this is actually going to work for me.

First PT Session Complete

As you know, Bob, I was diagnosed with chondromalacia of the right patella last week, and the doctor sent me off for physical therapy to shove the damn thing back into place.

Today was my first PT appointment, and apart from the sticker shock (thank God I socked away money for the knee replacement because hoo boy) it went pretty well. My therapist is named Elena and she ran me through my evaluation (turns out I can balance surprisingly well on my left leg) and the four exercises that I will be doing for the foreseeable future, and most likely the rest of my life. Turns out that yes, my patella is all the way off to the outside of my leg and needs to be returned to its proper location. I also have limited range of motion in the knee — can’t bend it or straighten it completely, which doesn’t exactly come as a big horking shock.

But I will start my exercises tomorrow, and for the next three weeks I go in for PT twice a week. Apparently next week I get to try the anti-gravity treadmill, which somehow uses air (yeah, I didn’t understand that either) to reduce my weight to 60% and will help me retrain my brain and body to use a normal gait while walking. She also said that I have decent strength in both legs — it’s just the pain from the misalignment that’s causing me problems. If I can get that fixed, I should be good to go.

The next three weeks will be interesting, especially as I put on muscle at the drop of a hat (I’ve been using KT tape on the knee for the last week, and yesterday I looked down at my legs and saw more definition in my calf muscles because I’ve been walking more). Elena also showed me another way to tape up my knee that urges the patella to come back to its normal position, so I’m going to use that pattern with the KT tape.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if I can actually run someday? Who knows…