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…

Adventures in Orthopedic Medicine

Since I’ve been bitching about this stupid right knee of mine for decades, it seems, I finally made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist to have it evaluated. I’ll be honest with you — I assumed I was looking at a complete knee replacement after having it x-rayed nine years ago and being told, “You know that knee ain’t right.” Even socked away one paycheck to cover the deductible for our insurance and everything.

Well. After a somewhat fraught night (my biggest fear was that they’d take a look at me and say, “Yeah, we can’t operate on you. Come back when you’ve lost fifty pounds”) and an even more fraught morning where I found out that they wanted to move my appointment up an hour and fifteen minutes, I headed off to meet my new doctor. Everyone at the front desk was seriously friendly — point one in their favor. I got shown into an exam room super quickly (point two) while the nurse took a couple of details, then the X-ray tech escorted me off to the X Ray room to take 4 different shots of my knees — front, rear, bent from the side, bent from overhead. The one in this post is from the front, I believe, and my right knee, aka ShitKnee, is on the left side of the image. A layman can tell that there’s something wrong with it.

Then the doctor came in. He was super nice and cheerful, and immediately put me at my ease about everything. We reviewed each of the x-rays, and he told me that I had the normal amount of wear in my left knee for a 54-year-old woman (go me). Then we discussed ShitKnee.

It turns out that the official name for my problem is chondromalacia of the right patella. I have very shallow tracks in both knees for my patellae (“It’s morphological, you got it from your parents,” he said. I replied that my dad had bad knees all his life. “There you go — blame your dad”), and ShitKnee’s patella is way out of alignment with its track. The strain that’s putting on the muscles is causing inflammation and pulling the joint inwards towards my other knee, which also causes mucho pain as I hobble around. To demonstrate what was going on, he was able to gently straighten out my knee with his hands. Mind you, that was not fun by any means, but it proved it could be done.

And then he shocked the poo out of me. He said that replacement surgery was always a last resort, and that a patella problem like mine is the easiest to fix with PT. “I prefer to try a biological solution first,” he said. I agreed that yeah, that would be my preferred method as well. We settled on 6-8 weeks of PT, 2-3 times a week (well, hell, I have the money socked away for the surgery–I can use it for the PT), with a return visit in six weeks to re-evaluate the knee and see what’s going on with it. I cannot adequately describe the intense relief I felt after he told me that. I had resigned myself to getting a knee replacement and learning to live with it, and to hear, “Yeah, no, this can be fixed with PT” was astounding.

One other thing that I really liked about this doctor — he said, “This is not your fault. You could go climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow, if you wanted. It would hurt like heck, but you wouldn’t do any additional damage to the knee.” Translation: my knee problems aren’t due to me being fat. I just have shallow patellar tracks — it’s how they developed in utero. Which makes sense because Dad was always a gym rat and very fit for much of his life, but that didn’t stop him from having shitty knees. I thought was exceptionally kind of the doctor to mention that.

I’ve already picked a place from the list of rehab centers he gave me and made an appointment for next week, and after watching a YouTube video I now have ShitKnee wrapped with a cradle support of KT tape. I have to say, doing that made me a believer — the knee still hurts, but the tape is providing enough support for my patella that I can put my right foot flat on the floor instead of walking on the outer edge towards the ball of my foot (you would not believe the callus I have there). Even better, I was able to make dinner without breaking out into a rolling sweat and having to sit down from the pain, and I may well clean the downstairs bathroom today. Small steps, but they’re moving me in the right direction.

The Business of Writing

Well, Shadow of the Swan officially goes to its full price of $3.99 today. It’s had an absolutely excellent sale run — I’ve sold 224 ebooks and two print books, gotten 19 reviews/ratings on Amazon, and it’s gotten enough buzz that I’m using it to start a new series, God help me.

A bit of a breakdown: 59 of those sales were via pre-order, and 10 sales were courtesy of the brilliant and incisive writer Jim Wright (aka Stonekettle on Twitter and FB) being kind enough to retweet my buy links (in addition to being an amazing writer he’s also a photographer and fellow crafter so so go check out his gorgeous nature photography and handmade wooden items on Etsy). Which means I’ve sold 155 ebooks by advertising and word of mouth, which bodes well for future books. Now it’s time to bump it up to its full price and see what that does.

In other news, I’ve also decided to up the price on all of my series starters to $1.99. I kept them at 99¢ because I was following the common wisdom of “price your series starters cheaply so that people will get hooked and then buy the rest of the series.” Which worked occasionally, I guess, but but nearly enough to make it worthwhile — I sold far more copies of the series starters than I did of the rest of the series books, mainly because of the psychology that readers will see a book priced at 99¢, buy it because it’s cheap, then leave it on their TBR pile for whenever they have time. Whereas if you pay $1.99 or more for a book, you’re more likely to read it ASAP, and that leads to people wanting to read the rest of the series and going back to Amazon to buy them. My goal is to get more people to buy my series starters and then buy the rest of the series. Ironically, the best way to do this seems to be by setting the price on the series starter at a respectable rate. Who knew?

In other publishing news, between sales and pre-orders for King of Blades I am at the 2/5 mark of what I made in September, and it’s only October 7th. The goal this month is to hit $200 in sales, then keep increasing that in the following months. Seeing as I’ll be releasing three more books this year, all of them part of existing series, I think it’s doable.

And finally, I have an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow to be evaluated for a knee replacement. I know I need a replacement, and once he sees this wreck of a knee I think he’ll agree — the only potential sticking point is my weight. I’m hoping I don’t hear, “Lose 25 pounds and come back then,” but we’ll see.

King of Blades, Day *counts* 22

Yeah, I know, I suck. In my defense, have you SEEN what’s been going on out there?

Anyway, King of Blades. I’m at 45K words, past the midpoint, and I was supposed to be finished today but everything pretty much exploded out there in the last ten days so I’ll be doing 5K a day (again) until I hit the end. At least this time I know the world really well, and there shouldn’t be any surprise extra chapters popping up.

I just jinxed myself, didn’t I? DAMMIT.

In better news, last month was the first time I’d done three figures’ worth of sales on Amazon since June 2019 ($155.19, for total transparency). Not only is that five times what I made the previous month, it’s pretty much equal to what I made between January and August 2020, so that’s a definite improvement. The sales for Shadow of the Swan were a big help and provided $70 of that take, plus the two reader magnets (“A Gentle Fall of Snow” and “Beneath Their Own Blue Sea”) brought in more money and additional eyes on my other titles. My goal for this month is to do $200 worth of sales on Amazon, and between the pre-orders for King of Blades and what I’ve made so far I’m a quarter of the way there as of–

–checks calendar–

October 5th. So I’ve got that going for me. My goal for the rest of the year is to keep bumping up that monthly intake until I get to the point where I’m actually making a living wage at this job (or better yet, enough to support us both so that Ramón can retire and go find a narrow gauge railway where he can volunteer his services). But the only way I can do that is to keep releasing titles and hone my advertising game, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Speaking of releasing titles, if you follow me on Twitter or FB you probably noticed that I would up getting the rights back for my short story “Fine Dining” and my novelette “In His Name” from Evernight Publishing (one of the other authors in two of EP’s anthologies wanted their rights back, so EP pulled the anthos and sent the contributors rights reversion letters).

Because titles don’t do you any good if they’re not published, I spent most of last Thursday getting both shorts re-edited, re-covered, and re-released last week. If you’d like to pick up some 99¢ M/M contemporary romance short stories by me, here’s your chance (and if I may say so, “In His Name” is one hell of a good story). Plus L.D. Blakeley will be re-releasing her short story “Mile High Rebound” and I got a sneak peek at the awesome cover today, so keep an eye out for it!

Okay, still need to make word count tonight so I’m going back to work. Talk to y’all tomorrow!

King of Blades, Day 8

I’m starting out today with a word count of *checks Scrivener* 19,201. Should it be higher by now? Oh yeah. Why isn’t it?

Well, let’s take a look at the weekend, shall we? Quite apart from the hellscape that is the current US political situation, I put up King of Blades for pre-order on Amazon. Then I got some excellent advice about the free stories (“A Gentle Fall of Snow” and “Beneath Their Own Blue Sea”) I’ve been making available to newsletter subscribers, and I put them up on Amazon as well for 99¢ a pop. Why? Well, I’m working on the basis that not everyone will want to sign up for my newsletter, but they may want to read the stories anyway so I should make a legal copy available to these folks. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. And judging from the sales I made over the weekend, this was a good move.

Then I wrote 500 words of a short story I wanted to submit to a market (got the rejection today so I’m going to write it anyway and sell it myself like “Snow” and “Sea”). Then I had to update a bunch of pages on the website to reflect the new books, then put out a newsletter and let people know where they could get the free versions of “Snow” and “Sea,” as well as pre-order King of Blades. In between all this I had to adjust my Amazon ads, do laundry, go food shopping, make dinner, and yeah, work on King of Blades yesterday.

So, not quite where I wanted to be at in the book today, but I got a lot done anyway, so that’s all good. Onward!

King of Blades, Day 3

Today’s word count: 3,009
Total word count: 15,364
Approximate words to go: 64,636

So, today was surprisingly productive, despite the fact that every single member of the J Crew insisted on sitting on me at some point during the day. Which is fine, now that I can dictate, but Jasmine likes to squirm around while I stroke her ears, Jeremy insists on resting his big head on the keyboard, Jessie leaves me with one hand, and Jemma wants to be combed (and believe me, she needs it). JJ is the only one who’s content to just sit on my boobs/belly like he’s doing right now, unbothered by my hand movements as I type. If they were all like this, my writing life would be a lot easier. As it is, I’m going to go out on the patio tomorrow so that I can get a couple of solid hours in without a furry little feline trying to grab my attention or demand that I put kibble in his bowl (to be honest, that’s all JJ, but he’s an old guy who needs to keep his weight on so I’ll feed him separately if he wants it).

I also decided to be a complete loon, not learn a damn thing from Shadow of the Swan, and put King of Blades up for pre-order at Amazon. The release date is October 27, so as long as I stick to my writing schedule more or less and maybe have a couple of 5K days in there I should have the first draft finished on October 5, which will give me more than enough time to get everything through edits, polished and in publishable shape by October 23 (aka Upload Day). Once they finish chewing on it and give me a link, I’ll add it to the new King page here and make it available on social media.

And once the first draft of King is finished, I go back to Cross Current and start work on that. I said I was going to publish three more novels by the end of the year, and by God I intend to stick to my word.

King of Blades, Day 2

Okay, the word count on King yesterday was 4,186, bringing total word count up to 12,355. I’ve introduced the second of the Four Elements (the leaders of the Aqua, Aeris, Terra, and Ignis magical chapterhouses), Grand High Magister Aeris Petyr Epilonious, who has arrived in Hellas unannounced to evaluate little Luna’s Aeris skills (and flirt with everyone in earshot — think Captain Jack Harkness as a mage). Matthias has just asked Danaë if if would be okay if he skipped day two of the celebratory games and took his old university friend Princess Helene Debare to examine his son Lukas (she’s a healer and apothecary). Danaë is not thrilled about this for a number of reasons, but can’t really say no. And the first of a series of strange events involving Danaë’s twin brother Darius is about to occur.

That being said, I’m grateful for the dictation function in Scrivener because this little gray poppet has decided that she needs to sprawl on my left arm right now, and will not be dissuaded from this belief. So be it.

Okay, that’s done

Yesterday was one hell of a day, my friends — I’m talking fourteen straight hours of work. But the Belaurient edition of Deep Water is now up at Amazon, Smashwords, and Google Play, and I’ve uploaded the print files and ordered a proof so once I get that and approve it the print version will be available. Once Smashwords approves it for Premium catalog inclusion it’ll get sent to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes, at which point it’s gone wide and I don’t have to worry about it anymore (still need to set up ads on Amazon for it, though) and can concentrate on finishing Cross Current in October.

This month’s book, however, is King of Blades. The plan for today was to get up and get cracking immediately on King, but a combination of being really tired (ironically) and the smoke from the West Coast hitting Texas blocking up my nose like it was filled with cement made for a difficult night. I wasn’t able to get to sleep until 6 AM, and only got about six hours of sleep and then had to wash a chair cover because JJ had vomited on it (I literally JUST washed this cover a couple of days ago, and shampooed all of his puke spots on the living room rug yesterday. And yes, he’s fine — he’s done this all his life).

So, everything is clean, Ramón has gone back upstairs after his late lunch, I’ve had a bowl of soup, and I’m going to open King now and get started on it. Current word count stands at 8,169, completion date is set to be October 5th, and I’ll do a daily count here just to keep myself honest and y’all entertained.

Structure is fun, yay…