Gentle Reader (yes, I’m totally hearing Julie Andrews’s voice in my head as I write this), I fear that I must bring you some unpleasant news. As many of you know, I have been struggling somewhat this year to get Crystal Shard, the first book in my new reverse harem paranormal romance series, out and into your hands. It seemed like every time I turned around some new life event exploded in my face and I was forced to push the release date back. I mean, this happened three times. I was starting to think that the book was cursed.
The latest life event to cause a delay was my knee surgery. While I knew that recovery would take at least a good month, I didn’t count on the sheer amount of exhaustion I would experience while my body was busily putting my knee back together. I truly thought that I’d be able to work on Shard from the bed, if necessary, and get it ready for a May 24, 2022 release.
Ho, ho, ho. As it turns out, it’s rather hard to write coherently when you’re on opioid painkillers, muscle relaxants, and the other meds necessary to keep you from wanting to cut your brand-new knee joint off. Who knew? By the time I reached the second week of May I only had about 30,000 words done out of a projected 80,000 words, and I would have to have the file ready for upload to Amazon by 6:00 PM CST on May 20th.
That’s today, by the way.
I did my best to finish the book, I swear to God I did. And when it became very clear that there was no way I’d hit 80K and be able to get it edited in time for the release date I took a good look at the plot and figured that, well, I could cut it in half around the midway point of 45,000 words, release the completed part as a Japanese-style light novel on May 24, then finish the second half and release that as a second book in July.
Yeah. Except that I finally reached that 45,000 point last night at 10 PM. Needless to say, the manuscript is bleeding ink from the margins and is in desperate need of the Editorial Machete, a good scrubbing by the beta readers, and a whole lot of polishing. So as much as I hate to do this, I’m letting the pre-order lapse so that I can give the story all the editing love and attention that it deserves (and possibly bumping it up to 60K in the process) with an eye towards releasing it in early June.
I’m sorry. I am so sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am because I loathe disappointing people and I know there were readers who really, really wanted to read this. But I’m not about to serve you crap, and right now this book … is crap. It needs to be bathed, shampooed, conditioned, blown dry, trimmed, and have its wee toesies painted before it loses the stench it currently emits, and for that I need about two more weeks.
Please forgive me. I will make the wait worth your while, I promise.
Those of you who follow me on social media will already know about this but on April 20th I received a Total Knee Replacement for ShitKnee. I kept this quiet until after the surgery because, well, I was nervous and I didn’t want to make anyone else nervous. I’m giving that way.
But it was all surprisingly … well, easy isn’t the right word, especially seeing as I threw up in recovery, then twice in my room from the opioids in the anesthesia. Let’s call it routine. Ramón got me to the hospital at 6 AM, we were shown to a pre-op room where I got gowned and bonneted up and they got my IV started. I was pleasantly surprised when my surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the internist who would be monitoring my recovery, and the charge nurse all stopped in to say hello and answer any questions I had.
I then handed my glasses over to Ramón and they wheeled me off to the OR (which was way more brightly lit than any OR on a medical TV show) and I sat up while they gave me an epidural block. The procedure now is to give a spinal block and a couple of locals in the knee in addition to the general anesthesia, all of which help greatly with pain mitigation. I laid back down, blinked, and the next thing I knew I was in a hallway and my mouth felt like the Sahara.
A nurse came along and gave me a cup of ice chips, which I slowly sucked on until my stomach decided that it was not having with that and promptly regurgitated a gush of fluid that felt way more voluminous than a handful of ice chips would have produced. One nurse said, “Oops, there she goes,” so they took me back to the pre-op room and got me cleaned up, bless them. A little while after that I was transferred to my own room.
And holy crap but hospitals have improved since my last knee surgery 38 years ago. I had a private room with a bit of a view, a nice big bathroom that was easy to hobble into, and a pair of awesome nurses named Gail and Abe who took splendid care of me. My thigh muscle felt a bit crampy from the tourniquet used during the surgery and the muscles along the back of my knee were burning from being manually straightened on the operating table, but the pain meds kept everything down to a dull roar.
Unfortunately I threw up two more times, but this time they had emesis bags nearby and I was able to hurl into those (Gail said that she was impressed I was able to hold it in until she could get me a bag. After I stopped throwing up I explained that I didn’t like making unnecessary work for people). After they gave me Zofran in my IV and my stomach calmed down I got a nice chicken sandwich for dinner and all the water, ginger ale, and jello I fancied, along with a PT session and an OT session. The PT walked in during my second hurling and he told me later that he felt so sorry for me because I looked like I was throwing up my toenails.
The next day was spent having a bagel for breakfast, walking the length of a hallway and back to my room, and learning how to use the ice machine I would be taking home with me. This is a genius little dingus that is essentially a modified cooler with a pump in the lid that pumps ice water (or in my case water that has been chilled by the addition of frozen water bottles) through a hose to a bubbled pad that you can velcro around your knee or other joints. This kind of cold compression therapy reduces blood flow, nerve activity, swelling, and inflammation in the joint, and helps a lot with pain. I had the pad wrapped around my surgical dressing and ACE bandage while I was in my hospital bed, and the nurses would disconnect me when I needed to pee.
By that afternoon my early morning bloodwork had come back all clear, I’d dressed myself and gotten ready to go, and my surgeon blessed my departure. Ramón drove me home and poured me into the guest room bed, where I was supposed to spend two weeks recovering. That being said, I was well ahead on the curve due to my pre-hab exercises (the hospital therapist was surprised that I could lift my leg without assistance and shocked that I’d walked the length of the hallway the day after surgery). When I couldn’t get comfortable Saturday night I decided to very carefully climb the stairs to our bedroom, where I’ve been sleeping every since. I now set up a routine where I sleep up there and spend the day downstairs so I’m only going up and down stairs once a day. I use the guest room for resting, napping, doing my home PT exercises, and reading when Ramón wants to watch anime.
As for the last ten days, I’ve spent them relaxing and letting my knee heal but getting in enough activity to encourage said healing and stop the joint from developing any adhesions or other issues. My surgical dressing is now off and the incision looks extremely good and should heal beautifully as long as I keep it clean and tend to it. I still have a fair amount of bruising around the knee and down the leg, but that’s to be expected, what with the ends of two bones being carefully cut off and replaced with titanium bits.
More importantly, I’ve had two outpatient PT sessions so far at the therapy place connected to my surgeon’s offices and they’ve been extremely pleased with my progress so far. My surgeon was a little concerned about me straightening out the knee and keeping it straight, but I have this hard foam cushion with a U cut out of it that I insert my heel into when I’m lying down and let gravity pull my knee straight. Yes, it’s unpleasant as it sounds, but it works.
I was even kind of naughty this morning. Technically I’m not supposed to drive for at least two weeks and preferably six weeks, but that’s mainly to make sure that 1) you’re not driving with opioid painkillers in your system (I haven’t had any since 4/24) and 2) you can bend your knee adequately and put enough pressure on the brake and gas pedal to operate the car. Well, Ramón was still asleep and we were out of wet cat food for the J Crew, so I went out to the car to see if I could get in and work the pedals without pain. When I found out that I could, I drove to the pet food store and brought back a week’s worth of food. Ramón just grinned and shook his head when I told him about it later on. Mind you, that one little trip wiped me out for the day so I’m not going to be doing the food shopping any time soon, but it’s nice to know that if I do have to drive, I can.
So that’s where I’ve been for the last two weeks. I have to say, I am so happy I got this done. I can already feel the difference in the knee, and once it’s fully rehabilitated I’m going to be more mobile than I’ve been for 38 years. After that, look out.
So I decided to stripe my bangs last night with Overtone semi-permanent colors for brown hair because I’m Gen X, I no longer care about people’s opinions, and I’ve always wanted to try a multicolored striped look.
Yes, I know it’s kind of hard to see but you can’t get really obvious tints with brown hair unless you bleach it first. I suppose I could go into the dining room where the light is super bright and take another pic there but every joint in my body is complaining about the oncoming bad weather tomorrow so I’m not in the mood.
I used purple, blue, red, and green, and basically just slathered the color onto various sections before letting them sit for about two hours. You can see the purple on the left and the red on the right in this pic, with hints of the green and blue at the top. It’s subtle, but I like it. I may hit the sideburns up with a bit of purple tomorrow night because my wisdom sprinkles are becoming really obvious there and I’d like to see how they look if they’re covered with purple.
Ramón hasn’t seen it yet. It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to notice. I may put this into permanent rotation, who knows, or I may try doing all of my hair in two colors (the blue is actually really flattering so I think doing half of my head red and half blue would be fun).
I also love Overtone because they use mint in their ingredients and my hair is soft and smells bloody marvelous for days afterwards. Jasmine, the mint fiend in the house, keeps following me around and trying to chew on my bangs, bless her fuzzy little heart.
Oh, and I worked on Crystal Shard today. So there’s that.
I have a subfolder folder on my email inbox that’s called Varia. It’s where I put the email that I want to keep for some reason but doesn’t fit anywhere else. It’s why I’m titling this blog post Varia, because it contains stuff that’s important to me but doesn’t really fit anywhere else. So without further ado:
I have to do the taxes today. And by do the taxes, I mean collate all the numbers that we then submit to our accountant (yes, we have an accountant. What with Ramón’s former 1099 contractor status and me with my multiple streams of income, I’d much rather pay a professional to find any tax breaks we may be eligible for than swear my way through TurboTax, plus their fee is a write-off on next year’s taxes). It’s a task I never look forward to and always feel immensely relieved about once it’s done. Writing this blog post is a way of putting it off for another couple of minutes, but once I hit Publish it’s time to take the laptop upstairs and do battle with the paperwork.
WRT The Slap: it’s a complicated situation that contains many layers to parse, some of which I am not qualified to do so because I am not Black. So I’ll leave that to people better suited to do so. Nonetheless, I’m happy that Will Smith won his Oscar.
I’m struggling to find joy in writing. I don’t know if this is due to the pandemic, the fact that I’m still having problems with Crystal Shard (I really wish I could jump to Crystal Blade, but that’s simply not an option), various hormonal problems that are still plaguing me, or what. But when I think about my schedule for the rest of the year it’s not bringing any pleasure. Rather, I can’t help but think that I’m rushing through time without stopping to enjoy anything and I’m going to regret it at the end. I need to find some way to pause and find some happy moments.
To that end, I’ve just learned that Florence + The Machine will be touring North America this summer and one appearance will be in Irving. Seeing as I use a lot of F+TM tracks in my writing soundtracks I think I’m going to get tickets for Ramón and myself, especially since I’ve already pre-ordered Dance Fever and I’m loving the three tracks that have been released (“My Love” is especially delicious).
I just finished bingeing Bridgerton S2, and while I may catch flack for this I think it was better than the book (the MacGuffin that led to the marriage was period-appropriate, yes, but still awfully contrived. Plus there had already been a hasty marriage to avoid scandal in Book 1 so something different would have been nice).
I need to vacuum the living room, but JJ is asleep and I don’t want to disturb him because he’s twenty years old and has earned his rest. Maybe later when he’s up and eating.
Okay, that’s it for me. Time to head off and wrassle with the taxes. Think good thoughts for me, please.
So I’ve made an executive decision. I’ve moved the release date for Crystal Shard out to April 26th. An explanation:
The initial plan was to have finished the book in February so that I could get it edited and up in time for March 15th, the original release date (which meant that I would have to upload it to Amazon by 6 PM my time on Friday, March 11th).
This fell by the wayside for a complicated set of Reasons, some of which were beyond my control. So I pushed the release date two weeks out to March 29th. Which was, in retrospect, stupid. It still didn’t give me a lot of time to finish the book, and every time I sat down at the keyboard all I could feel was pressure and the looming knowledge that I would have to knock out multiple 10K days.
I can do a 10K day when necessary. Multiples in a row, however, would not have a good effect on my health. For me, a deadline is usually good, but this time it was more suffocating than inspiring. Plus I’ve only just found the RH groups on Facebook and it’s nice to establish yourself as a reasonable individual before you start posting ads for your book.
TL;dr—last night, I decided enough was enough and pushed the deadline back a second time to a full month (and I apologize to my twelve pre-orders, but trust me, you’ll be much happier with the book you’ll get in April). The immediate sense of relief I felt was astounding, and I sat down at the keyboard and knocked out 1K of a smoking hot love scene.
So, yeah, clearly this was the right choice. The rapid release schedule will now be adjusted to April through August, which means that RH fans will have a new series to look forward to over the summer, and I’ll have enough time to write a really spicy reader magnet before Shard gets out there.
Who knows, I may even have time to finish the final novella in my Esposito County Shifters series, whee!
The release has been delayed due to Circumstances Beyond My Control™, and I am heartily sorry about that. But thanks to KDP’s understanding, I have been allowed to push the release back to February 15, 2022 instead of just flushing it, so if you pre-ordered the book you will receive it, just three weeks later than you expected.
Moreover, I still retain my ability to create pre-orders, so that is a huge relief.
And no, I don’t have COVID, although I’m pretty damn sure that I have a sinus infection and will be speaking to a telehealth doctor tomorrow about getting some antibiotics. I have had zero energy this week, and the green snot made an appearance last night—I know from experience that those two symptoms are the starting gun for “Yeah, you need ABX right now.”
And hopefully I will not have COVID next week either, but Ramón had two dental procedures this week and is not feeling all that great right now so who the hell knows (yes, I’ve had my booster, so don’t fret about that). I just want to get this book through the editing process and uploaded to Amazon, and I want everyone to enjoy the big, juicy melon of a romance that is going to land in your eager hands come Tuesday, February 15th, come hell or high water.
Well, of course I’m working—writers don’t get time off, just days with different chores.
But I’m kicking off 2022 by updating the covers for my Esposito County Shifters series, since the PNR market currently likes saturated jewel tones and my AMS ad for Shifter Woods: Howl kept getting great clicks in 2021 but no sales (I’ve tweaked the blurb as well). I also replaced the couple on the cover because while I thought the male model was hot, he clearly wasn’t connecting with readers (that’s fine—I like having him on the cover of King of Blades better anyway).
The fruits of today’s labor:
And for when I get Shifter Woods: Growl finished and up:
In other writing news I am THISCLOSE to finishing The Crimson and the Black, which is good because it’s out on 1/25/22 (if you like, you can pre-order it here on Amazon). It should be done by the end of the week, at which point I do a quick edit and send it out to the editor and betas. While they’re working on it I’ll focus all of my attention on finishing Crystal Shard and outlining Crystal Blade, then I’ll switch back to editing and polishing mode once the changes come in and send out ARCs. The final step will be uploading the completed book file to Amazon on 1/21/22, at which point I spin the prayer wheels and hope like hell that my marketing plan works.
Oh, an between writing and dealing with Ramón’s exploding tooth/my malfunctioning thigh over the holidays, it appears that I have developed a guilty pleasure. Yes, I have finally started watching Grey’s Anatomy, beginning with Season One. Only sixteen years late, but what the hell.
This is going to be one Christmas that I will be very glad to have over and done with.
A little over a week ago Ramón started complaining of increasing mouth pain, to the point where I was searching his gums with a flashlight and improvised tongue depressor to see if he had a canker sore. I didn’t see anything, but ran out anyway to get maximum strength Orajel because surely that would work.
It didn’t. And the pain got worse, to the point last Tuesday night where it was throbbing and he couldn’t sleep. I did the only thing I could do and promised that I would get up at Oh Dark Thirty, call the dentist, and see if I could get him an emergency appointment.
Which I did, only to find out that one dentist was on vacation and the other was home with his sick wife. But since the staff was there they said I could bring Ramón in and get him X-rayed by the hygienist, which would at least give them an idea if something was wrong.
So I woke Ramón up, poured him into the car, took him to the dentist, and waited outside while he went in for the X-rays. Around a half hour later he came out with the news that he had an abscess under his right rear molar (the films had been sent electronically to the dentist who wasn’t on vacation, and blessings be on that man for being willing to check X-rays while he was taking care of his wife) and needed a root canal by a specialist because his roots were “weird.” He also had a scrip for amoxicillin which was called in to our local Walgreens.
All this was happening on December 22, mind you. Three days before Christmas. Whee…
Luckily the dentist’s office gave us the number of a specialist, and I called as soon as we got home and scored a root canal appointment for the morning of December 27. But that meant that Ramón would have to get through five days on nothing but antibiotics and OTC painkillers because nobody is handing out opioid pain meds these days. (Not to mention that getting him to take a single ibuprofen has always been a challenge because he doesn’t like painkillers of any kind, even the OTC ones, but I digress.)
At this point I knew Christmas dinner at my editor’s house was a no-go. There was no way he’d be able to sit for long enough or eat anything that required chewing, and he’d be too miserable to enjoy it anyway. So I ran out and got a slew of sugar-free puddings, jellos, and yogurts, put the Christmas Eve dinner I had planned on hold, and we hunkered down to wait out the weekend.
Except that I had heard nothing from Walgreens about the phoned-in ABX scrip. When I headed over there to check on the status, I learned that their pharmacy was closed because there was no one available to work it. The clerk at the front register said that a pharmacist from another store would be there by 2:30 PM, but I couldn’t risk it. I called the dental office again and asked them to call in the scrip to the Walmart where Ramón gets his meds, explaining the situation. The office manager quickly agreed and we had the antibiotics by 3:30 PM.
You would think this would be quite enough disasters for one holiday, but you would be wrong. This was the point where my left hip flexor, which had been bothering me for a week or so, decided to flare up like a bitch and cause a full-fledged sciatica attack. So while Ramón was peering blearily at his work monitor in between lie-downs where he could hold an ice pack on his jaw and wait for the ibuprofen and ABX to kick in, I was hobbling around the house on my cane cursing my stupid legs, the stupid chair which had caused this problem, and the fact that we had a two-story house where the master bedroom was on the second floor. I spent Wednesday through Friday night sleeping in the guest room because there was simply no way I could make it upstairs, and let me tell you that I have been spoiled rotten by our Purple mattress.
Christmas finally arrived, but frankly I don’t remember a lot about it apart from the exchange of gifts, after which both of us staggered off to our separate beds and tried to get some sleep in between ibu doses. By Sunday, however, the antibiotics were finally starting to do their job on Ramón’s abscess, and me not climbing stairs multiple times a day and staying off the Torture Chair had caused my thigh to calm down.
By the time Monday morning rolled around, both of us were feeling at least semi-human again and after two hours at the specialist Ramón came out with a freshly root canal-ed and packed molar and instructions to return in two weeks to complete the procedure. I called our dentist to make an appointment for the crown that would be needed on that molar (all I can say is, thank God Ramón opted for an HSA and has been tossing some money into it every two weeks because that’s going to cover most of our out-of-pocket costs for all of this), then had the brilliant idea to break out the shiatsu massage pillow that I’d received for Christmas and try it on my thigh.
As I remarked later on Twitter, it felt like angels with warm hands massaging my thigh, and I still don’t care how dirty that sounds. Thanks to that wondrous little pillow I was able to walk fairly well without the cane by Tuesday, which meant I could make our delayed Christmas Eve dinner (it was that or we had to put the turkey breast in the freezer), including the miniature mince pies that Ramón had been craving. Granted, a lot of prep work was done sitting down, but I’m still impressed with myself that I put together a full holiday meal without requiring a handful of ibuprofen or a bottle of tequila.
And now it is Wednesday, I made word quota today, we have a buttload of turkey and fixings in the fridge, and I’ll be making Paul Hollywood’s Leftovers Chelsea Buns on Friday. Of all the Christmases we’ve had together, this genuinely isn’t the worst (that honor is held by Christmas 2010 when our plane to Heathrow got diverted to Paris due to a major snowstorm in the UK and we had Quite the Adventure™ getting back to England).
But I’m definitely hoping that 2022 is an improvement. Because damn, we need one.
For other people, normal people who don’t have other people in their heads forcing them to write down their stories, December can be fraught. There are holidays to prepare for, gifts to buy, houses to clean, families to deal with, and all the other joys that come with a massive communally celebrated event.
For writers, we get all that plus deadlines. For instance, as of tonight I have officially pulled the trigger on the pre-orders for The Crimson and the Black (Hidden Empire Book 2), with a release date of January 25, 2022, and Crystal Shard (Paladins of Crystal Book 1) with a release date of March 15, 2022). Are the books finished? Ho ho ho—you must be jesting.
But it is a truth universally acknowledged that Nicola works best with deadlines, otherwise she’ll faff about and waste time reading social media or watching Netflix. And it’s not like this is totally impossible or I’m starting from zero. Crimson is about 1/3rd finished—if I light a fire under my butt I should be able to get the rest of it knocked out by New Year’s Eve, and the editor stands ready to take acceptance of it on January 7th after I do a fast edit. I will also be working on Shard (which is about 2/15ths finished by comparison) in parallel, but that doesn’t have to be ready until mid-February so I can focus on Crimson as necessary.
As I’ll be rapid releasing the Paladins of Crystal books starting in March with Crystal Shard, I’ll be starting Crystal Blade as soon as Crimson is done. The plan is to work on two books at the same time with the focus on the next one to be released in order to meet the release schedule:
- March 2022: Crystal Shard
- April 2022: Crystal Blade
- May 2022: Crystal Reflection
- June 2022: Crystal Citadel
- July 2022: Crystal Empress
Barring death or something bad happening to my hands, I should just about be able to pull it off. And then I’m taking August off because phoo. My writing schedule for the rest of the year will depend on what’s selling best which at the moment are the Two Thrones, Hidden Empire, and Pacifica Rising series. If that’s still the case in August, I may do Mage of Fire, To Love a Wild Swan, and Uncertainty Principle to round out 2022. And yes, I can hear the shrieks of outrage from Olympic Cove fans who are waiting patiently for the last two books in the series. All I can say right now is that I have to work on what’s profitable—if sales of Cross Current pick up, I’ll do those books instead.
But—if Paladins of Crystal does as well as I think it can, I have two related series that I can start working on in September and start off with a January 2023 rapid release schedule. My goal right now is to make $50K in income by the time 20Booksto50k 2022 starts in Vegas, and this is how I’m going to do it.
*touches fingertips together* That being said, I need help from you. I’ve found some places that advertise reverse harem romances and I’m contacting them, but if you know of any reviewers, bloggers, sites, et al that specialize in RH, please please PLEASE point me towards them. I’m going to stack promos around the release of Crystal Shard, but I want the RH fandom to be aware well before then that the book is coming out and the other four in the series will follow quickly.
So, yeah, December is gonna be a busy month for me. But I feel good about this—I have solid outlines, I know my characters well, and I’m going to do my damnedest to write some amazing romances. Let’s get ‘er done.
When last I left you, my friends, I was prepping for my sister’s arrival (aka frantically trying to make the house not look like a heavy metal band had been camping here for the last six months) and getting started on TikTok. I’m happy to say that the house was indeed cleaned, the visit was lovely, and she’s coming back with her husband in two weeks. Which is good because I need the time to re-clean this place–granted, it’s not nearly as bad as it was in September, but I got some contract work this month and went to Vegas for a week (more on that later) so some of the housekeeping kinda slid by the wayside.
As for TikTok, that’s turned out to be an immense amount of fun — I’m coming up with skits I want to do, I made it over a thousand followers so I can now put a URL on my profile page that links to all of my books, and generally it’s a good outlet for being the goof that I am. It also gave me a good reason to buy a new tiara (there’s a Thing on BookTok where if you’re a romance writer you wear a tiara while you do your videos. Far be it from me to say no to wearing a crown).
And that extra tiara (I now have three) came in handy when I went to Vegas for 20Booksto50k® 2021, which is a faboo conference for indie authors and publishers. In the space of five days I learned SO MUCH both about the craft of writing and the business of being an indie author — marketing, ads, stacking promos, how to construct a book launch properly, bookkeeping, starting LLCs and similar companies, everything from soup to nuts. I came back thoroughly pumped, started adding A+ content to all of my Amazon books, tweaked blurbs and ads, and rewatched videos of panels to get deeper into the best way to construct Amazon and FB ads.
Oh, and I’m doing NaNoWriMo, too, because I’m a masochist who doesn’t know when to say no. Right now I’m up to 35,085 words on Crystal Shard (ooh — did I mention that I’m doing a rapid release Reverse Harem series next year? I’m doing a rapid release RH series next year) as well as finishing The Crimson and the Black (and man, did I get some insights into that book while in Vegas). Right now it looks like Crimson will be coming out mid-January, and Crystal Shard will be coming out mid-March with the next four books in the series following in April, May, June, and July. Oh, and I’m also working on Mage of Fire (Two Thrones 5), release date TBD.
Yeah, definitely a masochist. But at least I’m having fun.