The joys of December, she said darkly

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.

BOY, it’s been a busy two months

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.

The Greak TikTok Experiment, Day 6

As you may remember, Bob, I signed up for TikTok last week. As per the webinar’s instructions, I’ve been posting 2-3 videos a day, most of them on the subject of my books or writing but some of them just goofy little filips.

So far I have 324 followers, one of my posts from Sunday has crossed the thousand views mark (unsurprising as it stars J.J.), and I know for sure that I’ve sold six books from my posts. I’m also having a whale of a good time making these vids and learning a lot about the different filters, effects, and other visual goodies that come with TikTok. I’d also like to get some apps to help me with captioning, but I need a phone that can handle iOS13 first (come to me, iPhone 12).

I have to admit that this surprises me, but after a week of participating I have to say that joining TikTok was a good idea. I might change my mind in a month or two, but so far it’s been both a ball and surprisingly lucrative.

And if you want to see me in action, you can find me here.

So, TikTok…

I’m going to be posting this exact same blog entry at The Other Website, so if you subscribe to both my apologies.

@nicandmelatbelaurientThis one was inspired by Westworld, and I got to chat with one of the actors! ##booktok ##romance ##kindle ##spicybooks ##indieauthor ##romancebooks♬ original sound – NicolaCameron/MelanieFletcher

https://www.tiktok.com/embed.js

This week I attended a webinar led by Jayne Rylon and Lila Dubois about how authors can use TikTok to promote their work. Normally I’m a little meh about webinars, but this one was funny, effective, and reinforced a lot of stuff I’ve been hearing from authors about how being on TikTok can boost your sales. It also demonstrated some best practices, things not to do, and suggested a couple of tips that surprised me (like wearing crowns in videos. I mean, who would have guessed?).

Anyhoo, on Thursday I took the leap and signed up for a TikTok account. On the recommendation of Jayne and Lila, who said that TikTok readers are voracious and aren’t bound to genre, I decided to use my TikTok account for both my Melanie and Nicola books and came up with the username nicandmelatbelaurient. A little clumsy, yes, but the screen name can be changed as much as you like and I settled on Melanie Fletcher/Nicola Cameron for that, which seems to work. My first video was a cute little pan of all the proof copies I have on a bookshelf, with a voiceover that muses how I really should order real copies of all those books. Did a bit of editing, added on-screen text and a sticker, and uploaded it.

I then joined Authors of TikTok and TikTok for Beginners on Facebook. Right now the Authors group has been more useful because it gave me the opportunity to join in on a daily cross-promotion post where people post their latest TikTok. You can then go and like/follow/comment them, and they’ll do the same for your post and account. Not very organic, true, but TikTok is gamified where you get certain privileges when you get certain numbers of followers, and right now I’m in a growth phase in order to get some of those privileges.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, over the last two days I’ve posted four videos — the panning one of the proof copy shelf, one where I feature Behind the Iron Cross, one where I’m actually on camera saying hello (link at the beginning of this post), and one featuring the Two Thrones series. As of right now I have 85 followers, 73 likes, and I’ve gotten 567 views on the proof vid, 336 views on the BtIC vid, 494 views on the “Hello, it’s me” vid, and 12 views on the Two Thrones post (but that was only uploaded an hour ago). I’ve also gotten two people reading BtIC on KU, which I can only attribute to my TT post. I’m hoping that as I establish more of a presence on the platform I’ll be able to boost my sales even more.

Plus, I LOVE making videos. I’m already a frustrated screenwriter and videographer so to me TikTok is an absolute ball, especially if I can make my videos funny. I already have a series planned where Melanie and Nicola will both be in the videos bickering with each other about stuff (which will require costume changes and a lot of editing, but that’s okay).

And, erm, I may have purchased a ring light with automatic start button for my camera. Hey, it’s a tax write-off.

Well, this blows

I’m trying to get the house in some kind of order before my sister gets here at the end of the month. Since it needs a LOT of in-depth cleaning and ShitKnee prevents me from doing a lot of that before I’m forced to sit down, I’ve got an every-other-day schedule where I focus on a room and get it clean (writing during rest breaks), then take the next day off and dedicate it purely to writing (and yes, Ramón is helping — he cleaned the library over the weekend — but he also has a day job calling on his time whereas my boss is a bitch but also lets me have time off to clean).

Yesterday, I cleaned our downstairs bathroom. This included moving everything on surfaces out of the room, vacuuming and washing the walls, vacuuming every flat surface in the room (remember, we have five cats so there is hair EVERYWHERE), vacuuming the extractor fan cover and light fixture, dusting all the picture frames and washing the glass, washing the window and mirror, vacuuming the floor, washing all flat surfaces, scrubbing the sink/sink cabinet/toilet/shower enclosure, and washing the floor. With breaks, it took about five hours. I figured I’d be a little tired today, but it was a day off so that was fine.

Today, I feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck. Just getting my muscles to function at all makes me want to cry. I can’t even get my fingers to work right — I dropped the cap from my pop bottle, then had a hell of time getting it screwed back on the bottle. All I want to do is crawl back into bed, but I’ve got word quota to meet. This getting older thing is absolute bullshit, people.

As for the bathroom, there was litter on the floor this morning (because of course there was). I swept it up and dumped it back in the litter box. The rest of it looks pretty nice, though, so I’ve got that going for me.

Okay, writing — today I’m working on the outline of The Crimson and the Black so that I can start plowing through that at speed, and I’d really like to get Shifter Woods: Growl done and out by the end of the month (it’s halfway done). Also, if you’d like to read my new alternate history mystery A Most Mysterious Murder (aka Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll team up to fight crime!), it’s available on all platforms as well as print.

Marvelous Monday Reads: A Not-So-Indecent Proposal

Welcome to another edition of Marvelous Monday Reads, darlings! Today I’m featuring L.D. Blakeley and her wonderful new M/M romance A Not So Indecent Proposal, now available from Evernight Publishing and other retailers of fine romance. Take it away, L.D.!

A Not-So-Indecent Proposal is a spicy little May/December, CEO/intern, fake relationship bit of fun and I hope you’ll like it!

A-NOT-SO-INDECENT-PROPOSAL-banner1


A-Not-So-Indecent-Proposal-by-LD-Blakeley

Bram Wilson has snagged his ideal internship at an exciting new app development company. The only downside? It’s unpaid. And like any recent graduate, he’s in debt up to his eyeballs.

Spencer Kemp, CEO of AppMedica, is thrilled to have just scored his first viral sensation. Not-so-thrilling is the extra cash he needs to find to keep developing his popular game while it’s hot. Of course, there’s always the money his grandmother willed him as a wedding gift. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a boyfriend, never mind a husband.

Surely a solution can’t be that hard to find.


Story Excerpt

“Can I ask you something?” Bram asked as the waitress left to fill their order.

“Sure.”

“Am I fired?”

The question threw Spencer for a loop. “F—no. Why would you think that?”

“I kissed you.” His voice was barely above a whisper. “Remember?”

Oh, he remembered. Vividly. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had taken him so completely off guard. He’d spent more time than he’d care to admit reliving the moment. But it sure as hell wasn’t a fireable offense. Okay, technically, it could have been. But in this case it had cemented his decision to go ahead with his ridiculous plan.

“No, Bram. You’re definitely not fired.”

Bram’s posture relaxed somewhat. Then he leaned forward and asked, “So what are we doing here, then?”

“Hang on a minute. You thought you were about to be fired and you came along anyway?”

“I mean, yeah. If you were going to fire me, you could have done it anywhere. At least this way, it wouldn’t have been in front of everyone at work.”

“Well, you can rest assured. Nobody is getting fired.”

As their waitress set their drinks down, they stared at each other intently. Neither man spoke until they both thanked her without breaking eye contact.

“So?” Bram prompted. “What did you want to talk about?”

After hesitating briefly, Spencer bit the bullet and dove right in. “I need to get married.”

Bram furrowed his brow and took a hearty swallow of wine. “You’ve lost me.”

“I need to get married and want to make you a proposal,” Spencer explained. “A business proposal,” he quickly added.

“I’m sorry, what?”

Spencer removed the contract from its folder, then slid it across the table toward Bram.

“My grandmother was a hateful old woman,” he began to explain. “And in order to meet the requirements put on the money she gifted me in her will, I have to show proof of marriage to her lawyers.”

“And you want me to…” Bram trailed off as he picked up the papers.

“You need help paying off a big chunk of student debt,” Spencer continued. “And I need the money to make a sizeable and timely investment in AppMedica. So what I’m proposing is we get married. In return for you agreeing to do this, I use a portion of the money to pay off your loans.”

“Get married.” Bram sounded out the phrase like it was in a foreign language. “Are you serious?”

“Quite,” Spencer answered. “Nothing as far as our respective lives go has to change. We wouldn’t have to live together or be a couple or anything like that. It would simply be a legal document we would both be signing.”

Bram was silent.

“I don’t expect you to give me an answer right away,” Spencer added.

Bram started to speak, then closed his mouth.

“Are you okay?” Spencer asked.

“I’ll be honest. I have a million things I want to say, but they all seem to want to come out as what the fuck.”

“Fair.”

“I mean. What the fuck?” Bram finished his wine in one swallow. “This is really … what the fuck.”


Where to Buy

Evernight Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple | Bookstrand | Scribd | Smashwords


About the Author

L.D. Blakeley is a multi-published, Amazon best-selling author from Canada who describes herself as a slightly neurotic, highly ambitious dreamer who enjoys dabbling in photography, and pretending she can carry a tune. Her house has been taken over by far too many crafty endeavors to list.

In another life, Lisa was a newspaper reporter, an entertainment and music industry writer, a travel magazine editor, a PR specialist, a website content developer, and a marketing shill. Now she prefers to spend her time writing hot, steamy fiction with a healthy dose of romance.

While she dreams of living some place isolated with an endless supply of wine and an infinite number of books, she currently lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and their rock star cat.

WEBSITE | BLOG | FACEBOOK |TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

And here comes the heat…

Up until 2015, North Texas was pretty arid, and was in fact in drought conditions for years. Then May 2015 rolled around and it rained for pretty much every day of the month. Ever since then, we get what I can only call monsoon season for May and part of June — we can expect rain every week, often for days at a time. While this is great for the land, it does drive the humidity up to sauna levels, and don’t get me started on the mosquitos.

Well, bluebonnets are pretty.

That being said, it’s weird to read weather predictions for the summer and find out that most of Texas is supposed to be at average or slightly cooler temps than normal, while these massive heat domes squat over the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest and flash-steam everyone there. I’m not making fun of those folks, either — they’re not used to those kind of temps, their homes and businesses aren’t set up to handle heat, and suddenly getting slammed with 107°F temps when your A/C consists of opening windows to get a cross breeze is no bueno indeed. We ran into the very same problems with Winter Storm Uri, after all.

So right now we’re dealing with a shaky energy grid (thanks, Greg), but temps that seem to be staying in the high eighties to mid-nineties, with a fair amount of rain in next week’s forecast. When I first moved here, I probably would have complained about the heat. I know better, now.

When I started writing Degree of Resistance I posited a future where a wannabe totalitarian president, climate change, and Big Tech-backed political rights grabs had wreaked havoc on North America. I mean, it was supposed to be a theoretical dystopian background for my romance. I never thought that I would get it right.

Resetting the Clock

(For those of you who are uncomfortable with discussion of menstruation or other uterus-enhanced people’s issues, you might want to skip this. *mwah*)

So, I’m in my mid-fifties, and one of the lovely things about my age is that my reproductive system is on the verge of hanging it up and shutting down shop. Which is fine and dandy with me — I ain’t having kids, monthly periods are both a huge pain AND my fertile periods also make me retain water so I feel like a camel most of the time. Menopause? Bring it on.

My last period was on January 6 (thank you, Cheeto-supporting yahoos, for making it easy to remember), and before that I had a period in September. When nothing happened in February, March, and April, I was starting to hope that this was it, I was done. but you have to go a full year without a period before you’re considered fully in menopause, so I had another eight months to go.

Until last night. The last couple of days I have been irrationally irritable. I knew it was hormonal, PMS without the actual menstruation, so I took a black cohosh each day to calm down and regain some balance. Yeah, except that black cohosh is chemically similar to estrogen, and apparently my body thought, “Oh, wait, there’s some spare estrogen floating around here! Welp, time to shed lining.”

Now, all of my life I’ve had heavy periods, to the point where I normally use Super tampons because my uterus laughs heartily at Regular (and once I discovered Ultra, those became my go-to tampon for overnight use). Which made the September and January periods absolute delights because they were minor. I mean, a little bit of blood over three days, and then I was done.

This time? Right back to the Supers/Ultras, and I went through a Super in less than four hours this morning. I’m really hoping that this is my uterus throwing its “Going Out of Business” party, possibly combined with me getting my COVID vaxes in March and April. But man, it’s annoying as hell right now.

An Unexpected Benefit of Getting Older

As you may know, Bob, I am one of those invisible ladies in the throes of perimenopause who is very much looking forward to the complete cessation of menstrual periods. However, peri means that I’m pretty much going through a second puberty with all of the accompanying hormonal fluctuations. This, combined with my two autoimmune disorders, means that I take an amusing amount of meds and supplements every day in order to remain functional.

My daily intake is split up into my morning meds, my afternoon supplements, and my evening meds (yes, I rattle when I walk, moving on). Morning is a simple matter of two pills, as is evening, but the afternoon supplement train was always a pain in the butt because I’d have to open 6-7 bottles to get everything I needed. A lot of the time I would blow this off because I was busy doing something else, and I would then pay the price later.

Anyway, we went to NOLA the weekend before last and I decided to pick up some pill organizers for Ramón and myself so that I wouldn’t have to pack fifteen million pill bottles in my suitcase. The organizer is very much like this one, with slots for AM and PM meds (yes, I know I take them three times a day, but I just brought the two bottles for the nighttime meds).

My unexpected lifesaver.

It worked nicely during our stay, and when we came home I unpacked everything and realized that I’d accidentally loaded the Thursday PM section even though I’d already taken those meds at home. Since it was already loaded, I figured what the hell, let’s reload the entire thing with the morning/afternoon meds, and that way I won’t have to fuss with bottles every day for a week.

Oh. My. GOD. You wouldn’t think that something this prosaic would be a gamechanger, but I can tell you that it truly is. Not only have I been remembering to take my morning meds when I’m supposed to take them (usually not a problem but sometimes I’d slip), but I’ve been taking my afternoon meds every afternoon on time. It’s so much easier to pull out the organizer, shake out the supplements and pop them instead of having to open multiple bottles and pull out what I need.

Why is this a big deal? Because as I said, I need these supplements to keep my creaky failing metabolism on course. When I don’t take them, unpleasant things happen. But last week I (CW: digestive issues ahead) pooped regularly and with ease, lost four pounds, remembered to eat, and slept like a log. Writing was much easier, and I even felt like exercising more when I wasn’t fighting off whatever bug I’d picked up in NOLA.

Long story short, if you take a lot of meds/supplements and aren’t already using one of these beauties, pick one up from your local pharmacy or supermarket (and don’t worry about the old fogey connotations. Old fogeys are pretty damned smart). It’ll take you 3-4 minutes to load on Sunday, and then you’re set for the rest of the week. Your body will thank you for thinking ahead.

So We Went to New Orleans…

As you can imagine, 2020 was a hell of a year here in Casa Cameron as it was everywhere else in the world. The last time I went out for recreational purposes was March 13, 2020. By the time the one-year anniversary of that date rolled around, Ramón and I were in gradually crumbling shape. We went out to the store, to medical/dental/vet appointments, and to drop off the taxes. That was it. We hadn’t gone out for a meal, the movies, to see people, or to travel anywhere in over a year.

And then the vaccines became available, God bless the scientists who came up with them. Both of us qualified for Texas’s 1B tier so I scrambled to get both of us vaccination slots. That happened in late March and early April — my second shot was on April 3, and by April 17 we were both fully vaccinated.

That night, I booked a flight to New Orleans. We had been dreaming of going somewhere, anywhere, for months once it was safe for us to do so. Out of the country, however, was unfeasible due to COVID restrictions, so we settled on a long weekend in NOLA, which Ramón had only visited once a couple of years ago. We figured getting out of the house for a whole four days would be one hell of a tonic, and I had money from a contract project I’d done in March and April that would cover air fare, hotel costs, food/drink, and any entertainment. I didn’t mention this to anyone for security reasons, and also because NOLA is my sister’s favorite place in the world and she would set my hair on fire if she found out we were going without her.

Finally, our departure date arrived last Thursday, and I swear to God it was hilarity itself. After fourteen months of every day being like the day before we had forgotten how to get ready for a trip. We wound up running around like headless chickens trying to bring everything that we thought we’d need (and somehow I still managed to leave my melatonin behind), get the house ready for the cat sitter, print off boarding tickets and hotel registration, etc. I have to be honest, it felt like prepping for an Apollo mission.

But Thursday afternoon we got everything loaded into the car, thanked the (fully vaccinated) cat sitter profusely, reassured the J Crew that we loved them, and headed off to DFW. My paycheck had extended itself to business class seats, so the flight to NOLA was comfortable (helped by the Bailey’s on ice I had, since I wouldn’t be driving anywhere once we landed), and getting through security had been a breeze. The other end was something of a different story, as we’d landed out in Ulan Bator and getting to the baggage claim was a challenge for Nick the Gimp whose mask was now soaked with respirated moisture and had to stop twice to pull it away from my face and gasp for breath. By the time we braved the taxi queue and got one to take us to the Four Points Sheraton on Bourbon, I sortakinda wanted to pass out. I mean, I hadn’t moved that much in over a year, and it showed.

Our hotel, however, was a thing of beauty, right on Bourbon Street so we could watch the assorted party people from our balcony on Toulouse. Even better, they’d instituted a policy where housekeeping wouldn’t come into our room unless we requested it. Since we could do towel exchanges at the door and I was perfectly capable of tidying the bathroom and making a bed, this was fantastic — we could sleep in and not worry about the eventual knock on the door and the call of “Housekeeping.” After I requested extra pillows and blankets, the bed became comfortable (remember, I’ve been spoiled rotten by my Purple mattress) and we were ready for the weekend.

Now, there had been some changes to the French Quarter thanks to COVID. The hotel’s restaurant and bar were closed, so we couldn’t eat there. Servers were few and run off their feet, so getting into any restaurant usually required a wait. I made sure to be extremely kind and tip like a rock star, but it helped things in the eating department when we discovered this awesome coffee shop called Cafe Conti (in the Hotel St. Marie on the corner of Toulouse and Dauphin) that made some of the best damn chicken salad sandwiches I have ever tasted, and had a full range of bagels and other breakfast goodies. Those, bags of nuts and trail mix, and slices of pizza from various Bourbon joints pretty much fed us while we were in the Quarter (which also saved on money, so yay).

Outside Cafe Conti looking southeast towards Bourbon Street.

But Bourbon itself was still the party street it’s been for decades. We had to wear masks into bars, but could take them off once we started drinking, and most people weren’t wearing them outside in any case. And Lord, it was a sheer delight seeing people enjoying themselves again.

That being said, I could tell by Friday morning that I was going to have issues walking due to ShitKnee. Ramón, bless his heart, located a Walgreen’s and brought back the niftiest folding cane, as well as bottles of water and pop. The cane allowed me to get around with a minimum of pain, so we were able to stroll up and down Bourbon, go down to Jackson Square for a carriage ride around the FQ and Marigny, and generally Be Outside With People. Which felt very weird, I’m not gonna lie. We almost undoubtedly came into contact with SARS-CoV-2 at some point, so it’ll be interesting to see if we develop any symptoms by May 23. Me, I’m betting on Pfizer and Moderna kicking its ass, but I’m taking Vitamin D and ashwagandha anyway because they can’t hurt.

But even my new cane could only do so much, so I spent some hours out on the balcony people watching. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me that was a ball (spotting not one but two men rolling down Toulouse on hoverboards with large snakes draped around their necks was notable). Ramón took those opportunities to head out for a few solo walks, do some shopping, and take pictures. When he came back, we’d go for a swim in the hotel pool or hang out on the bed napping or talking (often about socio-economic issues, because we’re wonks like that). To be honest, it was heaven.

By Sunday morning I was ready to go home to my own bed, but my heart and my spirit felt so much better. I could tell because I cranked out a K on The Crimson and the Black while we were at the MSY Lounge at the airport without breaking a sweat, and I know exactly where I’m going with the story from that point onward. Ramón also felt heaps better, and he’s got a slew of projects he wants to do over the Christmas hols. Me, I’m musing on where our next trip will take us.

One thing I noticed — if I had to spend time with someone in fairly close quarters I told them that Ramón and I were fully vaccinated. Almost 99% of the time the response was, “Oh, so am I, it’s okay.” That was from both tourists and locals, so clearly 1) NOLA attracts intelligent tourists, and 2) the city is taking vaccinations a lot more seriously than places like, oh, Texas (40.1% of Orleans Parish residents are fully vaccinated, as opposed to 30.4% of Texas residents). So if you’re vaccinated, you’ve spent the last fourteen months cooped up, and you really need to get out for a bit, I heartily recommend that you head down to NOLA and laissez les bons temps rouler. And if you stop off at Cafe Conti, tell them Miss Nicola sent you.