Yep, Definitely Sick

I almost put my head down and took a nap on my desk. That’s a clue for Nic to close everything down and go to bed. In the meantime I’ll leave you with an unedited sneak peek at Shifter Woods: Claw.

Angela was back in the tumbled hillside near Sandia Crest, but this time she wasn’t running from anything. She wanted to be here, in a place that called to her heart. The air was deliciously warm and full of scents, an olfactory bouquet that fascinated her. She took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as her wolf broke the scents down for her. All kinds of plants, different soils, a trace of baking from a distant home, an even more distant creek, and the animal scents; raccoon, ringtail, deer, skunk, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, all the yummy little animals that were so much fun to chase.

And then there were the predators; bear, cougar, bobcat, fox, coyote. Her hackles rose at the threat.

No. They’re our neighbors. We share this territory.

With an effort she calmed herself. More deep breaths of the inviting summery air, so soft against her skin. And then a set of hands that were even warmer than the air came to rest on her shoulders.

You’re home, little wolf. You can run here.

She shook her head. Mom had told her never to shift, that it was dangerous, someone would catch her and she’d wind up in some government lab—or worse, dead.

That’s back at the human world. This is shifter territory. Let your wolf out.

Her wolf howled in her soul in agreement, a belling sound that was full of eagerness. She wanted to shift, to feel the fur on her skin and the wildness in her heart, run until no one could ever find her.

Run with me.

The words were laced with a sweetness that she couldn’t resist. Her wolf surged forward and the world changed, becoming flatter and sharper at the same time. She glanced behind her and saw a handsome white wolf. His tongue lolled out of his mouth in canine amusement.

Like what you see, little wolf?

She let her ears cant forward in appreciation, then dug her claws into the sandy dirt and darted off in a silent challenge.

The white wolf ran behind her, protecting her from anything that might come up behind them. She stretched her legs, increasing her speed until she was flying over the broken ground. He kept up with her easily, not tiring at all.

Slowly the ground began to slope upwards, climbing towards the peak of the mountain. She slowed down, judging the best places to jump from boulder to boulder, sprinting through the occasional clearings. Even the skitter of small mammals and lizards in the underbrush weren’t enough to make her stop. She hadn’t known that running could be so joyful, making her blood surge while at the same time her soul felt calm and joyous.

She reached a small natural amphitheater and paused there, panting softly. Jagged rocks interspersed with stands of spruce and fir formed the walls of the space, and the center was carpeted with soft grasses in shades of sage and gold. She trotted to the grassy spread and dropped to her haunches, relishing the feel of the grass under her paws. There was a power here, something old and protective that welcomed her.

The white wolf joined her, his musk enticing on the warm wind. He raised his muzzle, studying the natural walls around them. You’re a good runner.

Thank you. It felt natural to hear his words in her mind and to respond in the same way. So are you.

Alphas have to be fast. His profile was a handsome one, with a strong muzzle and sharp white teeth.

And then it shimmered for a moment, before disappearing. In its place was Matt’s profile, equally as handsome as he knelt next to her and studied the crest. She felt free to study his strong shoulders and chest, the slight round of his stomach with just a hint of softness blunting the outlines of the muscles, and the sprinkling of curly brown hair that formed a thick pelt across his pecs before dropping down his belly and into his groin. Don’t the kids call that dad bod? Whatever it was, it looked damned good on him. His skin was just tan enough to suggest that he spent a fair amount of time outside without clothes. And what she could see of his cock suggested that he was thick enough to show her a very good time.

Suddenly she changed as well, rolling onto her hip to sit more comfortably on the grasses. The fact that they were both naked seemed perfectly natural. The temperature was comfortable and the sun felt good on her shoulders. In fact, what she really wanted to do was lie on her back and let the fresh air wash away the memory of Bryce.

Matt chuckled. “So do it. You can do anything you like here, angel.”

She did, letting the grasses rub pleasantly against her shoulder blades. “Oh, this is so nice. I missed this place so much.”

“I bet. But you’re back now, and that’s all that matters.” He gazed down at her, dark blue eyes flickering a bit. “God, you’re beautiful.”

She let out a little snort. “Maybe twenty years ago. Now I’m old. I have to dye my hair to hide the grey and I’m getting wrinkles.”

He said a word that made her giggle. “You’re beautiful, angel. And you’ll still be beautiful when you’re a hundred.”

“Do shifters live that long?”

“Yup.” He stretched out next to her, propping his head on his hand. “I’m the youngest in the family at forty-seven and my pop is still going strong at a hundred and twenty-nine.”

She tried to wrap her head around the idea of living over a century. “Do we age? I mean, do our knees give out and we lose our teeth?”

He shook his head the best he could with it resting on his hand. “Nope. We get a little grey, yeah, and we develop a couple of lines here and there, but that’s about it. You’re about as old as you’re ever going to look.”

She liked that. She didn’t really mind the grey in her hair or the fine lines fanning out from her eyes. It was just the constant barrage from assorted media that made her feel like she should crawl into a hole and pull the dirt in after her. “I’m half human. Does that mean I won’t live as long?”

“I’m not sure—I don’t know a lot of halflings. But you’ll definitely live longer than the average human, and you’ll look a hell of a lot better, too.” He reached out with his free hand and traced a path from her temple around her ear. “So you don’t have to dye your hair if you don’t want to. I bet you’d look spectacular with a couple of silver streaks here and there.”

She gazed at the sparkling strands of grey at his own temples. Maybe I’d have one of those hairband streaks, or a big white blaze. “I’ll think about it.”

His fingers trailed down to her cheek, tickling a bit as it stroked, then traced the outline of her mouth. The simple movement felt so good, turning on nerves that she’d thought were dead. “I wanted to kiss you so badly when I found you.”

She wished he had, waking her like Sleeping Beauty. “You can kiss me now, if you like.”

He smiled before leaning down, brushing his mouth over hers with astounding delicacy. Even so her nerves sang again at the touch, eager for more. She let out a soft sound, not quite a whimper.

He pulled back far enough so that she could look him in the eyes. “Don’t worry, little wolf. You’ll get everything you want.”

Then he was kissing her again, mixing that same delicacy with a hunger that matched her own. When she opened her lips to him she tasted salt and orange with a hint of something sharp before his tongue slid between her lips. It was a wonder, feeling him play with her in a deliberate tease before pulling back to lick at her lips and the roof of her mouth. In her experience most men—most human men—thought the goal of French kissing was to try and lick their partner’s tonsils before getting on to the main event.

But Matt was a shifter. He toyed with her for long, lovely minutes, clearly relishing her taste as their tongues darting and danced together. The act was intimate and playful, sending more pleasure singing through her body before it grounded out in her nipples and the flesh between her thighs.

She could have spent the afternoon in his arms doing nothing but being kissed into oblivion, and she knew he would have given her exactly that. But her breasts began to ache and she couldn’t stop herself from rubbing her thighs together.

Their mouths separated and she felt the warm gust of his breath over her lips. “I want to touch you, angel. Can I do that?”

Her answer was a groaned, “God, yes.”

Writing on a Friday

Or: I don’t wanna.

I’m starting to think that I’m coming down with something because my energy levels are starting to bottom out and absolutely nothing, not even fun stuff, appeals to me. When I don’t want to watch Letterkenny, you know something’s wrong.

Which makes editing Claw just that much more of a joy, you betcha. I’ll keep plugging away today but I’m definitely taking the weekend off because I have a strong suspicion I’m going to become good friends with my bed at some point.

And no, it’s not COVID. I’m not coughing, I have no chest congestion, my eyes aren’t red, I can still smell and taste, no fever. If any of those pop up I will break out a RAT, but right now I think this is just one of those random bugs that pops up after a cold spell and people have been stuck in their houses for days on end letting their germs gestate. If I need to sleep it off, I can do it this weekend.

Closing In On the End

I’m pretty sure that I will have Shifter Woods: Claw in shape to send off to the editor and betas by next week, which is fabulous because once Shifter Woods: Growl is out of KU I can officially release my box set (sorry, Amazon—omnibus) and Esposito County Shifters can start shaking their tails and earning their money wide while I work on Crystal Blade and write the short story with which I’ll be kicking off my Patreon.

I have to admit, mentally recasting the lead made a huge difference in how I approached the sex scenes (for one, I now wanted to write them). I know other writers come up with completely imaginary heroes but I just can’t do that. I need to know what he looks like and how he sounds, and it’s easiest for me to base that on a real person. *shrug* My brain is a weird place, but I’ve learned how to make it work for me.

Oh, speaking of Patreon, the rights for my Paladins of Crystal novella that I wrote for F*ck the Patriarchy: Getting Smutty for a Cause revert back to me as of February 9th. Which means anyone who subscribes to my Patreon will get that novella in March, whee!

And Here’s February

The ice outside is melting thanks to the rain that’s currently falling, although that’s predicted to freeze later tonight, but tomorrow will be in the 40s and we don’t need to go anywhere until Friday anyway so as long as we have heat and power I’m good.

Now that you’ve had the weather report from the clavicle of Texas, here’s my to do list for February:

  • Finish and release Shifter Woods: Claw
  • Finish Crystal Blade
  • Prep and launch my Patreon (which requires writing a short story—I think I’m going to write about Fyodora and Callum’s arrival in Egypt, much to Henry’s dismay and Louisa’s amusement)
  • Start recording the audiobook of Shadow of the Swan

I’m also toying with the idea of releasing a serial story on Vella. Remember that contemporary romance idea I had that turned into an SF romance? It would lend itself to an episodic form and I could definitely release at least one 2K episode a week. But I would have to ruthlessly outline it first to make sure that I didn’t wind up boxing myself into a corner halfway through the story and annoying the readers. I may work on the outline this week and see if I can get it into shape.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to churning out 3K for the day, whee…

Happiness is a Warm Office

As I mentioned in the last post, our upstairs heating is rather wonky where the craft room (and upstairs bathroom) gets the bulk of the heat and the rest of the rooms are left to do credible imitations of iceboxes. Ramón’s office has three computers in it which helps with heat to a degree, but this situation has required us to purchase a space heater for our bedroom which lives in front of the window and does its best to hold back the cold.

The first space heater we ever got, however, seemed to stop working after a few years. Because I am who I am, I stuck it behind our bedroom door and got another space heater for the room, always thinking, “Yeah, I really should haul that downstairs and throw it out” when I cleaned.

In other words, the space heater is still in here and it occurred to me that it wouldn’t hurt to bring it into the office, plug it in, and see if it might fire up again. So I did. Lo and behold, it’s heating up nicely (Ramón came in and sniffed suspiciously but I reminded him that the damn thing was covered with dust and I was about to clean it off) and the chill draft playing about my feet is starting to abate.

Even better, Jessica just inspected it and gave it what I can only call an approving meow. I suspect I know what her favorite nap place is going to be for the next few days.

In other news, I have written 12,790 words in January. Which is pathetic, to be honest—I should have done 40K minimum. So that is now my goal for February, which is good because I need to get Crystal Blade finished and out by the beginning of March and having a word goal will help with that.

Anyway—onward to February and the return of warmth this weekend!

Kinda Hard to Write When You’re a Popsicle

Winter Storm Mara has well and truly hit our neck of the woods, and unfortunately my office window has the insulation qualities of a piece of Kleenex so it’s fricking freezing in here if I close the office door. And yes, I know I supposedly have heat in here, but for reasons we don’t understand because the baffles were supposedly reset to fix this, the bulk of the heat upstairs winds up in the craft room, which is great for Ramón when he’s resuscitating an ancient computer but not so great for me, or his office or our bedroom to be honest.

On the other hand if I open the office door to get some heat in here, at least two cats decide to join me, and at least one of them wants to be petted. Or sit on the back of my chair. Or stretch out on my desktop and rest his head on my hand while I’m trying to write. So I’m kinda screwed no matter what I do, unless I decided to pop for a space heater which I may well do (looking at Walmart’s website and apparently I can get the kind we have in our bedroom for $56. I know what I’m picking up come payday).

So I haven’t exactly gotten a lot done today, but to be honest it’s 25°F out there and I’m just glad that our power and heat are still on. I may put everything on my laptop and write in bed at this point, I don’t know.

My GOD, I Woke Up Productive

So far today, I have:

  • Cleaned the master bathroom (swept the floor, dusted everything, cleaned the toilet/tub/shower cubicle/sinks, cleaned the mirrors, wiped down all the counters and cabinets, bleached a few places where the J Crew kinda missed with the litter box)
  • Put clean sheets on the bed
  • Washed both duvets
  • Put the Christmas decor (3 storage boxes), a drill, the kneepads, and other items back in the garage
  • Put my Workmate portable stand away so that I could park my car in the garage
  • Cleaned off and dusted the foyer table
  • Put my backpack/laptop bag away in the bedroom closet
  • Shredded the 2015 bills and receipts so that I could start filing this year’s receipts and bills
  • Tossed out two garbage bags full of shredded paper and other garbage from my office
  • Made dinner
  • Vacuumed my office and the upstairs
  • Sewed 2 motifs for the quilt
  • Did more editing on Shifter Woods: Claw
  • Made a list of everything I have to get done tomorrow morning before the freezing rain hits in the afternoon

Frankly, my dear, I’m pooped.

I Think I Have a Solution

As you may know, Bob, I mentally cast my characters with actors because I’m a very visual writer and I see scenes in my head when I’m writing. In fact, I usually create headshots of whoever I cast and add them in Scrivener so that I can look at them on the right side of the screen when I’m writing. And I think I may have stumbled over the problem of why finishing Shifter Woods: Claw has been so difficult.

The people I mentally cast as Matt and Angela have the perfect chemistry for the story, and I admire them both as actors. Problem is, I’m not attracted to the male actor at all. I love his work, I love his interaction with the actress I cast as Angela, I have no problem with the man whatsoever—he just doesn’t do it for me.

So picture me sitting there and scrolling through pictures of actors in their forties, trying to find the ideal Matt. Which turned out to be kind of a struggle because most of what Hollywood considers to be pretty leaves me utterly cold. I needed someone who was American, mid-forties, could pull off being the head of a Search and Rescue group and a wolf shifter, could do grumpy yet sexy, and was hot in my unique opinion.

After literally an hour of searching, I finally found someone who works. And no, I’m not going to name him because it doesn’t matter who I see in my head when I write—the reader will pick their own favorite actor, which is how it should be. But suddenly the story has taken on a much deeper appeal and editing this should be hella easier.

Well, That’s Disheartening

So I sent out a newsletter today, as you do, which was actually the first one of the year because this month has been a bit hectic. I covered a little of what’s been going on, passed along the projected release date for Shifter Woods: Claw, and did a little promo for Storm Season (because what’s the point of having a backlist if you can’t promote it to people?).

As a result, seven people unsubscribed. Don’t know if I bored them, they didn’t want to read about a MMM urban fantasy romance, or what. Maybe they were annoyed that I didn’t add my section about jewelry and jewelry making, I dunno.

But I dutifully cleaned them from my mailing list, got rid of the two hard bounces, and I’m now down to 577 subscribers, bless each and every one of their tolerant hearts. I suppose I’ll need to take a look at some of the newsletter builder promos on BookFunnel and see if I can rebuild some of those numbers. To be honest, though, if someone doesn’t want to read my newsletter then I’m totally okay with them unsubscribing. Big numbers would be awesome, but in the end I’d prefer my newsletter readers to be people who genuinely want to hear about my books and the crazy stuff that happens while I’m writing them.

Or who want little jewelry and gem tidbits, either way. In any case, if you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter you can click the link in the first paragraph and it’ll take you to the signup page (and yes, people who sign up get a free book because free books are 🎵awesome🎶).

As for me, I have to go back to work. This novella won’t edit itself, you know.

Son of a…

There I was, innocently moving some music that I’d burned from CDs years ago onto my desktop and adding covers when I accidentally clicked on “Smooth Operator” by Sade.

By now everyone should know what this song is about, but years ago it prompted an idea for a contemporary romance where a newly elected female CEO of an up-and-coming tech company gets talked into attending a high-class kinky auction and wins the services of a handsome older gigolo, only to find out to her shock that she already knows him (and had a crush on him in her teenage years). She doesn’t want to be CEO—she’s on the spectrum and served as the company’s CTO while her older brother was the CEO until his suspicious death. She hires the gigolo to act as her platonic companion and social interface while she sets out to find who killed her brother, which boggles him but he’s aging out of the job and is happy to have one last gig to finish off his nest egg. And then hijinks occur, as they do.

It was a cool plot and I had a lot of it worked out in my head, but it was a contemporary romance and I didn’t really have time to do a Natasha M. Stark story so into the mental story trunk it went.  And then I played “Smooth Operator” a few minutes ago and the story came roaring back, only this time it’s a near-future SF romance. Goddamnit.

Thing is, the MMC isn’t a cyborg or an alien. He comes from a rich family that owns mines out in the asteroid belt but loses all his money when his father dies and it turns out dear old Dad was broke, which is why the MMC chose to go into high-class prostitution (and has some enhancements that allow him to act as deadly bodyguard as well as lover). And SF romance these days needs the MMC to be some big, hulking male who is somehow “other,” otherwise it doesn’t sell. And I don’t have time to do another book right now.

Grah. Why you do this to me, brain?