Want to read some AWESOME holiday books and win an Amazon gift card?

Calling all holiday-themed readers! We’re celebrating Christmas and the holidays all month long at N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s Christmas and Holiday Book Festival. 48 holiday-themed books featured plus a chance to win one of the following:

  • Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
  • Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, One Sweet Christmas, will be featured on December 31st, 2020. Each author shares a family holiday tradition, including me. You won’t want to miss it.

Bookmark this event and come back every day:

https://www.nnlightsbookheaven.com/christmas-holiday-festival

It’s the little things in life

Like when the ‘Zon actually reads your email instead of sending you a boilerplate response and unblocks one of your series so that you can edit it.

Lemme ‘splain. KDP changed things about a month ago so that authors could edit their own series pages, instead of having to ask the KDP customer assistance team do it. Problem was, I misunderstood the email instructions when we were informed of this and tried to create a new Olympic Cove series page. KDP promptly blocked the series and sent me an email that said I would have to ask them to make any future changes.

Fair enough, it was my screw-up. But when I sent them an email last week informing them of the block on the OC series page and asking them to please add Cross Current, I got a response saying, “Oh, you can do all that yourself now — good luck!” I replied with the info that, er, no, I couldn’t, the series page was blocked.

The response? Crickets.

But I am resolute. Yesterday, I sent them a new email, politely reiterating that I needed to have the book added, and attached the original “You screwed up so you need to have us make any changes” email. This morning, I got a reply saying that the series was reviewed and successfully passed, and the updates would soon be available on Amazon. Translation: “Oh, we see. Okay, yeah, we’ll unlock your series.”

In other news, Cross Current is now officially listed on Amazon as book 4 in the Olympic Cove series, which is nice because that’s currently the only place I can put it up for pre-order (Smashwords requires too long of a prep period for me to do it on B&N, Kobo, or iTunes).

So that’s all to the good. Unfortunately, there are some new functionality changes on the otherwise superlative KDP Reports Beta page that removed the ability to see at a glance which titles you’d sold on a particular day (they used to have a bar graph with colors for each title — now the graph is one color and you have to drill down through a calendar function to find out which titles you sold on X day). But I also have Book Report running, so I guess I can keep that running in a tab and check there for daily sales.

As for Cross Current, I’m chugging along and should have the second draft off to the editor and betas by next week, which will give me a week to clean up and do any final tweaks before uploading it to Amazon on Christmas Day (probably before then, but that’s my upload deadline). The plot has changed significantly, but it’s also a LOT more fun (more of a caper romance than an angsty romance) now, so that’s all good.

And then I get to relax between Christmas and January 2nd. Ah, that will be swell…

Writing a book in December might have been a mistake…

It was such a good goal — finish Cross Current and get it out in 2020. It would almost completely clear my backlog of WIPs (still have to finish Shifter Woods: Growl and Uncertainty Principle), it would cheer all the patient Olympic Cove fans who have been waiting for the next book in the series, and it would be great to mentally spend some time on a COVID-free Florida beach and write about a group I’ve privately started calling the Scooby Gang.

Except. I forgot about December. December, the month where I like to give the whole house a thorough cleaning before putting up the Christmas tree and decorations. Where I like to bake fruitcakes, mince pies and tarts. Where I need to close the books on my assorted income streams in preparation for January and the paperwork that needs to be prepped for the accountant. Not to mention five cats who are very jealous of my attention and a husband whose non-work personal interaction has come down to me and a weekly call to England.

All of that should have warned me off of trying to finish Cross Current this month. But then the Muse, my drunken bitch, decided to step in when I was having problems plotting and gave me a WHOLE NEW THEME AND PLOT for the book. Which meant I had to tear back the first four chapters and rewrite them, and yeah, they’re better this way but man I just lost a big chunk of time that I honestly do not have.

That being said, the book is on pre-order and I have a hard deadline that I simply cannot miss. So I am going to channel the beloved and much-missed Rachel Caine and hoist her signal that she was writing on deadline. Let’s get ‘er done.

O.M.G.

As you may know, dear reader, I’m deep in the weeds of what is now known as perimenopause, that hilarious period of a woman’s life where she essentially goes through a second round of puberty, only this time various systems shut down instead of turn on. The amount of hormonal hijinks, however, are the same, and the effects of being on a hormonal rollercoaster can include brain fog, tiredness, bloating, hot flashes, night sweats, and a whole other passel of fascinating experiences (and yes, I am being as sarcastic as I can at the moment).

Now, I started getting hot flashes a couple of years ago, and they got to the point where I was getting them three times an hour or so. Imagine walking from a cool house into an absolutely sweltering day, plus you’ve just eaten ghost pepper chili. That is a fairly close description of what a hot flash is like. They also made me nauseous as hell, and since I hate throwing up I did some research and found out that OTC progesterone cream would help.

Lo, it did, and for the last two years I haven’t been bothered with hot flashes. But 2020 had an extra little rotten cherry to put on the shitpile of this year, and it was the return of the hot flashes. The progesterone cream wasn’t stopping them anymore, so I did some more research and came up with black cohosh. It is a herb native to North America that behaves much like estrogen in some women’s bodies and can help reduce or eliminate hot flashes (DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical doctor and am not dispensing medical advice, I’m simply relaying what I’ve learned and what works for me. Do your own research if you want to consider taking this, and speak with your physician before you start a new supplement).

Seeing as I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in about two weeks due to waking up at least twice a night feeling like I was on fire, I got up today and figured what the hell, I’d try the damned stuff and see if it worked.

But first, I had to take the Great Orange Lump in for his shots, then take him home, then go to the store and actually buy some black cohosh along with some other stuff (pro tip–you can usually find black cohosh in the vitamin aisle near the women’s vitamins and supplements), then stagger home, eat a belated breakfast, and take my new best friend (my life, you know you want it).

Then I went back to bed because, yeah, I needed it. Ramón pretty much patted me on the head as I staggered towards the bedroom and told me to have a nice nap, and 3/5ths of the J Crew joined me in bed.

People, I had the loveliest four-hour nap with NO HOT FLASHES. I even dreamed, and woke not wanting to kill people for the first time in two weeks. Once again, I refer you to the disclaimer above, but for me this stuff works.

Don’t worry, I’m better

I know the last blog post was a bit of a downer, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been having a serious problem with knee/hip pain related to an old mattress and the recurrence of hot flashes and night sweats, and the combination has made sleep a little hard to get these days, which makes Nicola a lot cranky.

But I’m trying black cohosh, and that seems to be improving the hot flashes. As for the mattress problem, I’m hoping we can swing a new one in early February, and in the meantime I’ll just continue to pile up bedding in order to overcome the large dips and peaks in our current one.

In short, there are worse problems to have, and a lot of people out there have them right now, so I’m gonna count my blessings and just keep moving forward. At the moment, forward momentum is taking place on Cross Current, and I don’t anticipate a problem getting it out on the 29th this month, at which point I’m taking a whole week off from writing between Christmas and New Year’s. I still need to do bookwork and promotion, but I ain’t gonna write — I’m gonna binge every show I’ve wanted to see, knit, quilt, and bake up a storm, and generally give my brain some well-deserved time off. I’ve very proud of the fact that I’ve managed to put out three full-length novels and a novella in five months, but it’s also taken up a LARGE amount of processing time and I really need to let the creative side recharge for awhile before I start up again in 2021.

Speaking of that, I’m having a huge amount of fun plotting out what I’m going to do for The Crimson and the Black. The Hidden Empire series seems to be where I’m writing character types I’ve never done before — vampires in Shadow of the Swan, dragon shifters in TCatB. Lord knows what I’ll tackle in the third book — maybe Henry and Louisa inadvertently bring back a cursed Ancient Egyptian royal to London in mummy form, then have to deal with the aftermath.

Ooh. OOH. That could be kind of fun, come to think of it, and it could utilize elements from an unfinished novel I already have kicking around here. Gotta cogitate on that some more.

And as I’ve already said in other posts, I plan on finishing off the Olympic Cove series next year to reward everyone who’s been waiting so patiently for the next books, plus I need to do a Two Thrones book and a Pacifica Rising book. There will be reader magnets released for all of those, as well, and I’ve got a handful of novellas that I’d like to tackle as well (for one thing, I have stories for Ewan and Hamish, the younger brothers of the hero of Red Robin and the Huntsman, as well as another entry in the Esposito County Shifters novella series). Plus there are the Hollywood romcoms I want to write under Natasha’s aegis.

*rubs face* Yep, got a lot ahead of me. But that’s all good, because 2021 is going to be a fantastic year for writing, I can feel it.

Oh, hello, 5 AM…

One of the wonderful (and yes, I’m being sarcastic) things about being perimenopausal AND an insomniac under the best of situations is that I wake up multiple times during the night. Usually because I need to turn over, but sometimes I’m having a hot flash, or I have to pee, or whatever.

Getting back to sleep is a crap shoot––sometimes I’m tired enough to konk back out when I get into bed. Those are the good nights. Other times (like this morning) I wind up desperately trying to get my brain to shut up while it merrily skips across multiple topics of sheer fucking delight (e.g. I have nothing to look forward to except a lot of cleaning in order to get all the Christmas decorations up, I have a book to get out at the end of the month which will require me to write 65K in three weeks, I don’t have a choice because I put it up for pre-order, why aren’t people pre-ordering it, I need to do the shopping and will THIS be the time I catch COVID, I haven’t been outside in over a week and will the car even start, I need to get two of the cats in to get their shots before the end of the year, etc.).

All this, by the way, is going on while in the background there is this monotonous drone of BLAH. Grey, thick, gunky seas of jellied BLAH. My get up and go has got up and gone, and it is a fucking struggle to find the motivation to brush my teeth, much less write a book. I don’t know if this is hormones, the time of year, an oncoming sinus infection, plain old depression, or some combination thereof, but it blows great big donkey dick. I don’t ask for much out of life, I truly don’t, but I do need some sense of optimism, something to work towards instead of something to endure for yet another day.

My Twitter profile contains the phrase, “SF/fantasy/PN romance author and fu*king ray of sunshine in a dystopian hellscape.” But the sunshine has gone dim, and I really wish these damn clouds would get out of the way for a bit.

Remember Olympic Cove? I’ve got some news…

As of last night I put Cross Current (Olympic Cove Book 4) on pre-order at Amazon. The release date is 12/29/20, which means you have something to look forward to between Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve.

Is the book finished yet? Ho, ho, ho — of course not, because Nicola functions best when she has an immovable deadline ahead of her. But I I already have 20K finished and only need another 65K or so, and I will be dictating the bulk of the book this week, which will hopefully give me a first draft by this time next week. Then I can dig in and get it cleaned up and pretty before shipping it off to the editor and beta readers.

The big challenge with Cross Current is that it’s not only a menage romance, it’s a menage romance with five characters. And the main character, Matt, only has a romantic relationship with two of the other characters, who themselves have prior relationships with the other two characters (who are not in a sexual relationship with Matt but become found family members). Did I mention that those other two members are married to each other due to family requirements?

Hmm. Maybe this will work better if I diagram it out.

Yeah, I know, it’s complicated. But it’ll make sense in the end, I promise (I hope, she muttered darkly to herself).

Remember that holiday romance I kept telling you about?

Yeah, well, it’s out. BUT — since it’s a contemporary romance, I’ve released it under the Natasha M. Stark name (it’s a marketing decision — people who liked To My Muse and Grading the Curve don’t necessarily want to read my SF/fantasy/paranormal romance, so I’m giving them their own pseud for my contemporary romance).

One Sweet Christmas is the tale of jaded PA Rose Shaffer who does NOT believe in Hallmark moments or small town romance, thank you very much. After her Chicago socialite employer dies, she gets an offer of a free room for a month in LA while she looks for work in the Land of Personal Assistants. On her way there, however, her car breaks down near the ski town of Crystal Mountain, CO, where she meets Eric Kaufman, Hot Baker and former contestant on Let’s Bake, America! (at least, until he wound up punching the male judge and storming off the show).

Eric’s been asked to make a wedding cake for an IG influencer on short notice. When his assistant breaks both arms in a skiing accident, Rose gets roped in to help Eric finish the cake. Needless to say, hijinks ensue after that, and a ridiculously cute niece, a crafty dad, and a somewhat plaster-covered assistant baker add to the fun. (As my editor said, “Damn you, I couldn’t put it down!”)

This, by the way, is going to be the highlight of my week since Ramón and I are doing the reasonable thing and staying home for Thanksgiving. I’ll miss making my oven-roasted Brussels sprouts for the editor and her family, but in this time of COVID-19 it’s not worth the risk. We’ve managed to make it through eight months of staying home except for store trips and medical visits, and we’re both still okay so far — I’d like to continue that run until a vaccine is available.

Still Waiting

Everyone has coping mechanisms for stress, some of them healthier than others. I happen to have one of the more neurotic ones, where I clean. I think it’s because cleaning gives me control over my immediate environment when I don’t have control elsewhere. Well, it’s either that or day drinking.

As of Monday, I have:

  • Scrubbed the toilets.
  • Gotten rid of all our recycling (including at least ten empty kitty litter boxes, buckets, and bottles) by taking them to the recycling center.
  • Vacuumed and carpet cleaned the living room.
  • Washed at least six loads of laundry, folded it all, and took it upstairs and put it away.
  • Cleared out all of the stuff that’s been piling up on the dressers in the bedroom, including the remaining tools from last November when I put up the curtains and borked my knee. Assorted stuff has been put:
    • In our closet.
    • In the garage.
    • In the linen closet downstairs.
    • In the tool drawer in the kitchen.
  • Dusted the worst of the bedroom surfaces, pending a full vacuum and polish.
  • Washed the master bath mirror and counters.
  • Sorted through all the mail, tossed junk mail, put recyclables in recycling, and batched all the (already paid) bills to be brought upstairs and filed.

I think subconsciously I’m trying to clear off all the surface mess (of which there is a lot, mainly due to the borked knee) so that I can then go room by room and give each one a good, solid deep clean before Thanksgiving, after which I can start the Christmas decorating. Ramón is watching all of this very nervously because his mom used to angry clean, and so when he sees me bustling around he subconsciously assumes I’m pissed about something (doesn’t help that I have RBF).

And yes, I’m writing as well–in fact, I’m thisclose to finishing the holiday novella and getting that off this weekend, then going back to work on Cross Current. Sorry, but I needed something light and fluffy to work on and Cross Current is going to have a fair amount of angst in it so I had to switch focus for my own mental health.

I also have my last PT visit this afternoon, and I’m going to have them measure my knee at full bend and extension so that I have an idea of how much I’ve improved since I started. I have my exercises, I have some tools to help with that and a yoga pad, and if I can get into the habit of doing them first thing in the morning after I get up and get them knocked out for the day, that would be grand.

So, what are you doing to stay calm while we wait for the election results?

So as we patiently wait for ballots to be counted

I’m trying to keep busy by tackling various cleaning projects and finishing this Christmas romance novella that I started two years ago. I’m already at 17,400 out of a projected 24K so it’ll be done by the end of the week if I get a good tail wind.

And why am I working on this and not Cross Current, you ask? It’s this little thing called the US presidential election that’s yeah, kinda cutting into my concentration. It’s easier to write about a bantering PA and baker than it is to write about a newly-divorced history teacher coming to terms with the fact that he not only has four fated mates but is the new Oracle of the Waters.

Mind you, I haven’t stopped working on Cross Current at all, and once things are settled on the whole “who’s going to be running the country for the next four years” question I’ll go back to it. But this delay means that I probably won’t be able to get it out on 11/24 unless a miracle occurs, and I really do need to get one title out this month. So One Sweet Christmas it is.

So why do I care about getting a title out this month? Because the changes I’ve been making to my approach to indie publishing are starting to show fruit. From January through August of this year I made about $30 a month on Amazon sales, which frankly is pretty crappy. I implemented my changes in September (got serious about Amazon ads, made a plan to release at least one title a month, bumped up all my series starters from 99¢ to $1.99) and made a little over $150, then made $218 in October. My sales goal this month is $300, and I just checked my Amazon royalties — I’ve already cleared $31, the amount I was making per month from January to August, and it’s only November 4th. If I can get One Sweet Christmas out over the weekend, I can take advantage of the holiday romance boom, as well as appeal to anyone who’s burnt out after this week and just needs a pleasant, funny holiday romcom.

Then it’s back to work on Olympic Cove. Soon, my preciouses, soon…