Author Archives: nicolacameronwrites

COVID Changes: Snacks

On Day 120 of Casa Cameron being in COVID-19 “stay at home” mode, I got to thinking about some of the things that have changed around here due to the pandemic. Some, clearly, are not good (masking, disinfecting, not being able to go anywhere, deaths, long-term health problems, etc.), but some are interesting.

Because I have a medical background, I took the epidemiologists’ warnings seriously back in February (especially after I got over my horrible respiratory bug that might have been COVID after all, but more on that in another blog post). I started doing incremental stock-ups every time I went to store — getting an extra pack of toilet paper here, extra cans of beans there, etc. By the time March rolled around our pantry was in pretty good shape in case one or both of us got sick (again) and we couldn’t go out to get food. (This, BTW, extended to wet and dry cat food and litter. Gotta make sure the J Crew is taken care of, after all.)

One issue with stocking up, however, was that certain things go really fast in this household, such as snacks. Now, I was able to snag enough flour and baking materials to make all the cookies we could possibly want, but sometimes you want something savory. We tend towards sweet potato and quinoa chips in that department, but my personal favorite is white cheddar cheese popcorn. I’ve found that a bowl of it in the afternoon can keep my brain up and running for quite some time.

Unfortunately, popcorn also tended to make me retain water, mainly because of that yummy, yummy salt. Yes, there were low sodium varieties, but those kinda tasted like cardboard. What to do? Then I remembered back to my childhood (because I am Olde™), when we used to make pots of popcorn on the stove. Could I still do that? Was unpopped popcorn even available anymore?

Turns out it was. I grabbed a couple of bags of popcorn kernels and some vegetable oil on my next food run, then returned home and experimented. The end result was that our 6 quart stock pot could pop enough popcorn for days — I could make a pot of it on Monday, put it into a big airtight container, and snack on it all through the week. In addition, that six quarts of popcorn was more than I got in your average bag of popcorn, and it represented maybe a sixth of my bag of popcorn kernels.

So, quantity plus savings — booyah, right? But it gets even better. Want to know the best part of making my own popcorn? I can control what goes on it. Kroger sells various popcorn seasoning flavors and I quickly fell in love with garlic parmesan, but meh — salt.

However, I remembered  that Alton Brown recommended putting nutritional yeast on popcorn. I already knew I liked how it tasted (kind of cheesy/nutty, very much an umami flavor), so I tried it. If I sprinkled maybe two tablespoons of nutritional yeast on the popcorn first, I only needed a shake of the garlic parmesan flavoring and the whole bowl tasted like cheesy, garlicky goodness, plus I was getting additional protein, minerals, vitamins, and GI bennies from the nutritional yeast, and there was no more bloating problems. Sweet.

So making popcorn at home and eating more nutritional yeast is one of the ways the pandemic has changed life here at Casa Cameron for the better. I’ll talk about some other ways in future blog posts — let me know in the comments if you’ve been able to find any, as well!

Writing With Cats

One of the many, many ways COVID-19 has impacted my writing schedule is my inability to go out and write at a coffee shop. Yes, I know, I have an office, but the furry little darlings consider it their bedroom when our bedroom door is closed, and the ruckus they raise when I try to close the door is ridiculous so I usually give up and let them in. When I write downstairs (as I’m doing now), they work on what I can only assume is a rota whereby one of them jumps up on my lap desk and insists on being petted/cuddled/combed. And as you can see below, it’s a little difficult to get any work done when you have a huge Orange Beast on you demanding chin scritches. Once that cat is done, I get to go back to writing for a bit … until the next cat jumps up.

We have five cats. You do the math.

If I was on deadline and simply didn’t have time to cater to the J Crew, I used to go to a little coffee shop that is, ironically, right next to my vet. It has a great conference table with big comfy chairs and lots of electrical outlets, and they make some amazing Thai bubble tea. I’d go there, buy some bubble tea, water, and snacks, and sit there for a productive afternoon tapping away.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option at the moment so I’m trying to find a happy medium with the cats where they can sit on me for a defined period of time (five minutes), after which they have to go down and let me work. A spray bottle full of water has come in handy for this. Granted, I have gotten a number of glowers and pathetic looks, and they’ve started sprawling in various pathways around the house so that I have to pay attention to them (even if it’s only stepping over them very carefully).

Have you ever had cats (or any pets) that did that? If so, leave a comment and tell me how you managed it … or didn’t, as the case may be.

And it’s *checks calendar* Friday

Yeah, I know. COVID cabin fever is hitting a lot of people at the moment, and Casa Cameron is among those households. Let’s see, what can I tell you?

Needless to say, I didn’t finish Shadow of the Swan or Shifter Woods: Growl in May, as I had hoped. I wound up getting called back to the contract job for a week to wrap up the project I’d been working on, and then I spent about a week cleaning out our garage so that I could refinish that bookcase the cats had peed on, then I got stuck into the actual refinishing, and it turned out so well that I decided to refinish the other bookcase that Ramón’s been hauling around for over thirty years, and the world is on fire due to COVID and the current US administration and climate change and a lot of other things so, yeah.

On the plus side, I’m still working on both books, as well as Uncertainty Principle and King of Blades, depending on how I’m feeling when I get up, so there is progress? It’s just kind of slow. But I’m currently at 32K of a projected 80K on Swan, which pleases me.

I also ran an A/B test on Twitter to get input on two potential covers for Swan:

Cover A turned out to be the more popular one, so I’m probably going to go with it or a very similar variant.

I’m also taking an online class in Indie Publishing 101 from Dean Wesley Smith — yes, I know, I’ve been indie publishing since 2015. But I’m not making nearly the number of sales I should be, so I’m hoping to pick up some tips and tricks from a powerhouse in the indie publishing field because I would really like to sell more books and maybe not have to go back to contract work if I can manage it?

Speaking of the contract job, I’m still on furlough and I don’t see that restarting anytime soon, since a lot of the work I did was for industries that were slammed by COVID and the assorted closings (another reason why I’d really like to make more sales). Ramón is still employed, knock wood, but his job is a contract one and he’s concerned that he may be out of work at a time when a whole bunch of other telecoms people are looking for jobs. If the book sales don’t pick up, I’ll probably start looking for more contract work in August, assuming I can find a place that will let me work remotely.

Health-wise, we’re still good. Because our governor is, well, an idiot, Texas is one of the new COVID hot spots in the nation, so we mask up every time we go out to the store, anything that comes into the house is disinfected, and we change clothes and shower afterwards. Our trips out are limited to store runs and fast food, with the occasional treat such as running the tax prep paperwork to the accountant or hitting the post office after hours (sometimes I have to mail Etsy sales or other stuff, and they have an automated postage machine). Luckily our Kroger is requiring mask usage to enter the store, and 99% of the people I see in there are masked, although there was one maskless woman today who, I shit you not, had the classic Karen hairstyle. Everyone was giving her dirty looks, so hopefully peer pressure will have an effect.

Oh, I learned how to trim Ramón’s hair, thanks to the angel who made this YouTube video. As his hair was getting to Doc Brown stage and it was driving him crazy, he was happy for me to take a crack at it with the clippers. I managed to give him a nice, short, but stylish do (made a couple of mistakes in back, but as he pointed out he didn’t care because nobody but me would be looking at his neck), and I may well keep trimming his hair from here on out. I mean, I already have the clippers, barber’s scissors, and T-outliner, so why not?

That pretty much brings us up to date. I’m going to try and blog more frequently, basically to keep both of us entertained (and up to date on the progress of all the WIPs). One amusing thing that happened today — someone had responded to this tweet:

with the comment, “Alexa, play S&M.” Which reminded me that I really did like that song and should buy it. Which then prompted … let us say … a mental vignette that one could entitle, “My Own Pet Duke.”

I really don’t need to be writing a BDSM Regency right now. I don’t even have an pseudonym for that subgenre (hur hur, see what I did there). Back into the inspiration hutch with you, little plot bunny.

Unexpected benefits of cleaning

With five cats in the J Crew, this place gets haired up very easily so I kinda have to clean every day whether I want to or not, just to stay ahead of the furry apocalypse. In the process of cleaning the Bachelorette Pad yesterday (it’s a large wire crate with padding and cat beds on top, and a high-sided litter box inside. We refer to it as the Bachelorette Pad because the girls like to hang out there), I discovered to my dismay that one of the more … skilled felines has managed to pee over the 14 inch high edge of the litter box, spattering the bars of the crate and the floor and wall behind it).

As this is not the first time said skilled feline has managed this, I decided to take action. With a certain amount of effort I folded up the crate and dragged it outside to hose it down along with the crate tray, then located a piece of plexiglass that we’ll drill holes into and wire onto the back wall as a pee shield.

Then it was time to tackle the pee. To my increasing dismay, I discovered that the pee had run along the back of the cage and wicked into the base of a small wooden bookcase next to the Pad. This is one of two used bookcases that Ramón had picked up when he was in college, and I had always meant to refinish them when I had the chance. It seems that Fate intends that time to be now, so I unloaded the bookcase in order to move it into the garage, hit the affected area with Nature’s Miracle, then strip and refinish it.

(The floor? Eh, we want to replace the Pergo in there with hardwood anyway, so I’ll just Nature’s Miracle the crap out of it.)

In the process of moving the books, however, I found — well, I can’t really call it hidden treasure since it was out in clear view. Forgotten treasure, perhaps, in the form of a bunch of crime writer reference books (from back when I thought I would take a crack at writing mysteries and cop thrillers), plus a tome that is going to come in handy right now, Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England. I bought this back in 2009 when I was working on Most Malicious Murder, and it was incredibly helpful in supplying accurate background details for Eddy and Charles’s adventure in 1850. Now that I need to do research on 1894 for Shadow of the Swan, this book is once again going to come in handy.

The moral of this story is, if you’re a writer you can Marie Kondo the rest of your house to your heart’s content, but don’t touch your library because you never know when a specific reference books is going to come in handy.

So, this is what the rest of 2020 looks like for me

The contract job is currently at a halt due to lack of work (hardly surprising) for at least May and possibly longer (seeing as a significant amount of Texans completely lost their shit and started crowding into public spaces on Friday during the state’s “partial” reopening, I’m bracing myself for a large spike in new COVID cases here in two weeks). But Ramón is still working, and I’ve spent the last eight months paying off almost all of our debt, so we should be able to weather it financially. And frankly, I need a break after the non-stop pace of the last four months.

What this also means, however, is that I can — ta da — go back to being a full-time writer for the foreseeable future! I sat down and worked out the following schedule (which may have to be adjusted if the contract job restarts at any point):

  • May: Finish Shadow of the Swan and Shifter Woods: Growl (Esposito County Shifters 4).
  • June: Let SotS cool, finish King of Blades (Two Thrones 4), edit and publish SW:G.
  • July: Let KoB cool, edit and publish SofS, finish Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2).
  • August: Let UP cool, edit and publish KoB.
  • September: Edit and publish UP.

That would give me three 80+K novels and one novella for 2020, which is not bad. And yes, I know my timeline seems insanely short, but all those books are partially finished (21K on SofS, 4K on KoB, and 5K on UP), so it won’t take as long as it would do to finish a brand new book. Hell, SotS is supposed to be 80K and I can finish the remaining 57K in three weeks if I push.

But wait, I have stretch goals!

  • September: Edit Deep Water (Olympic Cove 3) for re-release at the end of December, finish One Sweet Christmas (novella) for holiday sales.
  • October: Finish Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4), edit and publish OSC.
  • November: Let CC cool, finish Windrider and the Deuce (Two Thrones Novella 2), release all four Shifter Woods novellas as a box set.
  • December: Go on a fucking cruise and let my brain relax, edit CC and WatD, release DW once I get the rights back, release CC and WatD a week later.

Which would give me four new novels (SotS, KoB, UP, CC), one re-released novel (DW), three novellas (SW:G, OSC, WatD), and a box set (Shifter Woods) for 2020. Kinda challenging, but I also have to make up for the dumpster fire that was 2019 so I may as well go for it.

I’m tired

I am speaking from a place of immense privilege right now, and I’m well aware of it. Both of us are still working, we have money, we have food, we both still feel okay, and the relative who was ill with COVID-19 is now home and recovering. So lots of blessings there, and I’m grateful for each and every one of them.

Thing is, since I know how privileged I am, I’ve been pushing myself maybe a wee bit more than I should as a thank-you to Fate. For the last two weeks my average weekday has followed this pattern: wake up, feed the cats, do the WFH gig, do housework, make masks, make dinner, make more masks, fall into bed. My weekends have been: wake up, feed the cats, do a bunch more housework, make a bunch more masks, make dinner, maybe watch a couple of episodes of whatever on TV, fall into bed. Lots of masks made and sent off to people, lots of things cleaned around here, lots of work done for the day job … not a lot of down time for Nicola.

Today was similar — got up, fed the cats, attended the weekly company meeting then got to work, spent my lunch break making two more masks, worked through the afternoon, got the print proof of Breaker Zone and realized I needed to change something on the back cover for that and Storm Season, made the changes and uploaded them to Amazon, made an update to a client’s website, started a load of laundry, critted a friend’s poem, ate dinner that Ramón blessedly brought home, then suited up and went out to mail masks and do the weekly food stock-up (store was almost empty, got pretty much everything I needed apart from TP, nobody came within six feet of me, it was all good).

Part of my brain is saying, “Well, hey, don’t be a slacker. You still have over an hour before you need to go to bed — you can work on Shadow.” The other part of my brain is saying, “If you do anything other than make yourself a rum and coke and watch something soothing on Netflix, I swear to God I will blow an artery.” I want to write, I honestly do. But I’m so freaking exhausted that the idea of doing one more iota of work today is … no. Just no. Maybe I’ll have time tomorrow, and more energy.

Fabulous Friday Reads: To Be His

TGIF! Let’s kick off the weekend with C.R. Moss’s hot new release To Be His. Take it away, C.R.!

Thank you for having me on your blog! I’m happy to share with you and your readers my latest release.

First is some information about the series and the book…

About the Series

Nestled within the hills of central Texas is a special ranch. A place that defies the laws of physics—that of time, space, and dimensions. It’s a place where normal morphs with the paranormal and supernatural. A place that seems to know what a person’s true desires and needs are, and then allows the right circumstances to occur to fulfill those wishes.

Welcome to the Gateway Ranch.

Your gateway to all things possible…


I’m Professor Arianna Perez, and I’ve been asked if I’ll ever trust, let alone love, another man again. After dumping an abusive boyfriend, I doubted I would. At least, that’s how I felt until fate had sexy wrangler, Gavin Bishop, reappearing in my life in a way I never expected.

Against my better judgement, I fell hard for the cowboy, believing everything he said, including how he wanted to treat me like a queen and keep me safe. Little did I know, though, that the circumstances that brought us together could also tear us apart…

And possibly claim my life.

Story Excerpt

Smiling, I studied him some more. Every time I looked at his chiseled chest and the strip of hair going in a line from his belly button to a spot hidden by his jeans, my heart fluttered. Sure, I’d seen a lot of him in class, but this was just the two of us.

This was intimate.

I wanted to run my fingers along his skin. Play with the patch of hair. See where my caresses would lead to. I wanted to create with him. I’d felt this way with other boyfriends, even Chad, but never had the urge been so strong. Nor had I been able to gather the courage to do anything about it in the past. Except once. When my relationship with Chad had started imploding, a friend of mine gave me an art kit, one designed to help couples grow closer to each other. I’d shown it to Chad. He’d then called the gift, my idea, and me stupid, telling me I must be an idiot to think he’d be interested in such a “childish, preposterous activity.”

Asking him if he thought my career were those things, as well, spurred on a multi-hour argument that ended with him leaving and not returning for two nights. When he’d finally come home, he’d seemed remorseful and promised to do better by me. He had, too. For a couple of weeks. But we never had used the present.

Now would be a good time to make some new memories surrounding those art supplies.

After all, I seemed to have a very willing participant, who happened to be gorgeous in my opinion, beautifully proportioned in a trim, well-toned way, and desired little ol’ me. Gavin wanted me, had admitted to dreaming and fantasizing about me. Despite my concerns about our ages and how we used to know each other, I realized I felt the same about him.

I hungered for him.

“God, I want to paint you,” the awed words fell from my mouth before I could stop them.

“Thought that’s what we’re doing,” Gavin responded.

Clearing my throat, I jerked my attention from him, went to my paints, and faked looking for one. “Well, yes, but…” Spit it out, girl. Be brave. Have some fun. Gathering my resolve, I continued, “I want to get out a gift a friend of mine had given me a while back. It contains non-toxic paints. This way I can paint you. Use you as both palette and canvas. And, if you’re up for it, you can paint me.”

An impish grin stretched his face. “Sounds interesting. What do we need to do?”


Where to Buy

Universal | Amazon UK | Print


About the Author

An eccentric and eclectic writer, C.R. Moss pens stories for the mainstream and erotic romance markets, giving readers a choice of sweet, savory or spicy reads, usually within a sub-genre or two — paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, time travel, or western flare. She also has a passion for penning dark fiction. Writing as Casey Moss, she delves into the darker aspects of life in her work, sometimes basing the stories on reality, sometimes on myth. No matter the path, her stories will take you on a journey from the lighthearted paranormal to dark things unspeakable. What waits around the corner? Come explore…

Website/Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon Author Page

The Gateway Ranch Series

Wicked Wednesday Reads: Shade Addiction

Yes, darlings, I’m back, and happy Wednesday to you all! Today I’m here with Lea Bronsen and her smouldering new contemporary romance Shade Addiction, now available from all online sellers of fine erotic romance. Take it away, Lea!


Ex-boxer Mike Logan struggles to put a brutal past behind and make ends meet as a bus driver. When a young runaway settles for an all-night ride, he seizes the chance to do a good deed—get her home safely. But first, they’ll drive around and talk.

 What he doesn’t anticipate is that this broken night angel is also a sexy little minx needing a lot more … and not just the gentle kind.

 **This is an expanded edition of the story previously featured in the anthology Passion, Pleasure, Pain in 2019**


Story Excerpt

She gives me a long, languorous look. I think I know what it means: She’s interested by my wild side. Dark attracts dark. She believes she’s found the same kind of fallen angel as she is, a soul mate.

Wrong, kiddo. What you need is someone good, not broken like me.

She reaches over the table to pat my chest. “So hard. Jesus. You definitely work out.”

Her touch sends electric sparks to my groin. My cock pulses. I push her hand away. “Don’t do that.”

“Why?”

“It’s inappropriate.”

“Why?”

I sigh. “I’m thirty-two, you’re what?”

“Nineteen.”

“Nineteen, that’s very young. I could easily be accused of taking advantage of you. Did you see how the waitress treated me?”

She crosses her arms underneath her boobs. “But I’m an adult, and I have boyfriends.”

“You have boyfriends.”

“Yeah.”

“Like, many?”

“Yeah.” She holds my gaze.

I don’t know why I had to make a deal of that.

She continues, “So, it’s not like I’d let anybody touch me if I didn’t want them to.”

“Well, I don’t want you to touch me. Let’s go.”


Where to Buy

Amazon.com | Amazon.uk |Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Smashwords

Put the book on your to-read shelf on Goodreads


About the Author

Lea Bronsen likes her reads hot, fast, and edgy, and strives to give her own stories the same intensity. After a deep dive on the unforgiving world of gangsters with her debut novel Wild Hearted, she divides her writing time between romantic suspenses, dark erotic romances, and crime thrillers.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | BookBub | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

Gratitude in the time of Coronavirus

For one thing, I’m grateful that I’m not using that as the title of a book. I have nothing but compassion for the agents and publishers out there who are going to be inundated with quarantine memoirs in a year or so.

I was going to write a post about be grateful for the things we have right now, but to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if folks’ response was, “So what? I got laid off and I don’t know how I’m gonna feed my family. Fuck you.” We’re damn lucky at the moment (well, not at this precise moment as JJ has decided to drop a truly foul deuce in the litter box closest to me. Jesus, that cat’s shit is foul), and I also know that things could start heading south tomorrow. I have no idea what’s going to happen, and, yeah, that’s more than a little anxiety inducing.

I mean, they’re closing all casinos in Vegas and shutting down all gambling machines at midnight tonight. Has that ever happened in the history of Vegas? Disneyworld and Disneyland are closed, movie and live theaters are closed,  a bunch of malls in my area are closing, Starbucks is strictly drive-thru, most restaurants are now pick-up or delivery only, and pretty much any gathering of size has been called off. The floor around the Kaaba in Mecca is empty — as @tha_rami said on Twitter, “I honestly didn’t think I’d ever see a photo that looks like this in my life.” It’s weird, and kind of scary, and it doesn’t help to see idiots on the beaches in Florida yammering that “It’s spring break, man, and I’m gonna party, I don’t care.”

But there are pluses as well. The lack of boats and other traffic on the Venetian canals has allowed the silt to settle to the point where you can see the fish again. People are walking in the park a lot more, being careful to maintain a six foot distance from everyone. The air pollution in China is settling dramatically. There are some freaking amazing classes available online now, and highways that are usually jammed with cars are pretty much empty. People are stepping up to help those who are stuck inside or can’t go out to the stores, and while there’s still idiocy and assholery in profusion, there also seems to be a slowly growing sense of compassion and willingness to at least hear one another out.

Maybe human beings don’t suck quite as much as I thought. Wouldn’t that be a lovely thing?

So, we’re staying inside

I’ve read the suggestions that people keep handwritten journals during the coronavirus because future historians will want to read what regular people did while social distancing or self-quarantining themselves. Since 1) my handwriting is absolutely atrocious, and 2) I only write by hand when there’s no other choice to because of item #1, this blog will have to do.

So far, everyone at Casa Cameron seem to be okay. We didn’t hoard anything, but I did take the warnings seriously in February and started doing incremental stockups from that point onward. I’m guessing we can stay inside easily for at least two weeks and live off of what we have in the fridge, freezer, and cabinets. I’ve also taken a crack at making sugar-free bread and it turned out decidedly well, so Ramón (aka Mr. Sandwich) will continue to have his favorite meal component for quite some time.

As for social distancing and going stir-crazy inside, both of us work from home so this morning was pretty much like any other Monday. I got up, fed the J Crew, got dressed, brushed hair and teeth, and went into my office to work on the current client’s project

Yes, of course I washed my hands. Multiple times. I’ve been doing that for years, however, so once again this isn’t much of a change.

I figure if the weather’s nice I’ll go outside tomorrow and do some weeding in the back yard to get “out” for a bit. In the meantime, I’ve got the windows open for fresh air and I’ve started doing ten minute stints again on the treadmill to keep the blood flowing. Also, I may bake a bean pie tomorrow, I dunno. I’m trying not to go overboard on carbs and eat as healthily as possible, but it’s bean pie, man. That shit is delicious.

As for those outside the walls of Casa Cameron, my heart and boundless admiration goes out to two groups:

  1. All of the extroverts, parents dealing with rambunctious kids, and adult kids dealing with stubborn 70+ parents, who are social distancing and staying inside as much as possible because they’re trying to flatten the curve and keep the immunocompromised and elderly in their communities safe. You people rock.
  2. All of the folks who have to keep going out to work for various reasons — healthcare professionals, cops, firemen, grocery store employees, mail personnel, etc. You’re all big damn heroes for keeping the wheels of civilization rolling forward, even if they’re getting a little sticky at the moment.

As for all those idiots who are still crowding bars/restaurants/beaches/et al for no damn good reason other than “by God we’re ‘MURICAN and nobody’s gonna tell them us to do,” what is wrong with you?

No, seriously — what the everlasting holy fuck is wrong with you? Were you dropped on your head as a baby? Are you that much of a narcissist that you simply don’t care who you might infect as long as you get to party with your buds? Stop acting like spoiled brats and get your dumb asses away from other people before you kill Grandma or that nice guy going through chemo next door.

Ahem. And now to switch topics — Nic, the writing? What about the writing? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that I’m still hard at work on Shadow of the Swan, plus I’m also in the process of getting To My Muse set as free on Amazon (it’s already free on all other platforms) as a way of giving to folks who really need a break from the news right now.

Oh, and I finally broke down and got Disney+ so we watched the first two eps of The Mandalorian tonight. Hey, Mama needs a break now and then, too.