Oh, and I have a free book out today on Amazon

My contemporary romcom To My Muse is FREE today on Amazon! If you’re in the mood for a hilarious Hollywood Cinderella story with a nosy but loving family, a ride-or-die BFF, and a hot British actor, check it out!

I’m in a fake relationship with my celebrity crush. How did I wind up in a real-life romance trope?

When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put my newest and oh-so-spicy romance novel into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, I’m horrified (because hello complete stranger, I thought of you while writing these smexy scenes, now excuse me while I spontaneously combust from embarrassment). I need to get the book back before Tom takes out a restraining order on me—or worse, reads the book out loud on social media.

Except that’s not what happens. Thanks to a strategic lie and an Oscar-winning knight I’m now pretending to be Tom’s girlfriend while we get his dream project made. Somehow, my screwball plan landed me in the middle of my very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. Even better, I have a shot at a real life HEA with a gorgeous, hilarious man who thinks I’m amazing…

…so why do I get the feeling that disaster is about to strike?

Just looked at the last post

And laughed heartily. Needless to say, Crystal Blade isn’t out yet, and neither is Shifter Woods: Growl. I shouldn’t even talk about books anymore until they’re done and off to the editor because every time I do I jinx myself and something pops up to delay everything.

In this case, it was a twofold issue — in mid-August I got some extremely bad news about a friend’s health. I had promised to make this friend a queen-sized quilt and after she told our friend group about what was going on she pinged me and said, “So, about that quilt…”

Needless to say I replied, “On it,” and spent the next week or so frantically sewing together a queen quilt top. She’d given me the fabric years ago and requested a Día de los Muertos quilt so that’s what I made. The skulls are on the backing fabric; the top features these gorgeous Virgin Mary panels offset with colorful nine patch squares bordered with a bright striped fabric and edged on the outer borders with a Frida Kahlo fabric.

So once I got that done and off to the quilt shop so that it could be quilted (I don’t have a long arm machine and can’t quilt anything larger than a twin) it was suddenly September and I remembered, oops, I have a story due to F*ck the Patriarchy: Getting Smutty for a Cause. So for the last few weeks I’ve been finishing that—it’s a novella called, “A Theory of Crystal” and it’s set in the Paladins of Crystal universe so theoretically I AM working on the right series.

Oh, and then there was the followup knee surgeon visit, the PT visit, the dental cleaning, the periodontist’s visit, trying to dig out this house from all the crap that’s collected over the summer when it was too hot to clean, yadda yadda yadda. So, yeah, I’ve been busy.

But hey, at least you got to see some pretty quilt pictures. So that’s something!

Hello, August

I like it when months begin on a Monday—it feels orderly, somehow. And this is going to be a very busy first week of August pour moi.

1) I have to get ready for Armadillocon this weekend, which means researching the panels I’m on and making sure I have something intelligent to say on panel. It also means I need to get the car tuned up before Ramón and I drive down to Austin. (Don’t worry, our regular cat sitter will be staying here to wait on the J Crew hand and foot as always). I’ll be wearing my SF Writer hat this weekend and talking about TikTok, newsletters, and religion and nationalism in SFF.

2) I have to get Crystal Blade finished this week, and I’d really like to get Shifter Woods: Growl done and published to Amazon as well, seeing as it’s 75% done and I could get it wrapped up with a couple of good days.

3) I have to call up three companies and either cancel certain services or switch to a less expensive plan, plus I have to schedule the HVAC company to come back and install a float valve in the attic. So much fun.

4) I need to keep monitoring the currently running Amazon ads and add some more for the books that I didn’t get to last month. Seriously, I am so glad I took Bryan Cohen’s Author Ad Profit Challenge. It made a huge difference in my July sales, and I can’t wait to see how I do in August.

Bye, July

Normally I’m a little wistful at the end of July for a variety of reasons. This year, however, I’m feeling a combination of relief and utter joy.

The relief is because the temps are dropping slightly around here. And I mean slightly, but they’ll going to be in the upper 90s as of 8/5/22 and I for one am grateful for temperatures that aren’t in the triple digits week after week. Supposedly we’re going to have a hot August as well here in the clavicle of Texas, but as long as I’m not seeing 108°F I’m good.

The utter joy is because I took Bryan Cohen’s free Author Ad Profit Challenge and learned some freaking important things about how to make Amazon ads work properly for me, how to write attention-grabbing ad copy, and why it’s important to update your book covers and make sure they’re appropriate for their respective market. I wrote a LOT of ad copy this month. I also recovered A Most Malicious Murder, Shifter Woods: Howl, Shifter Woods: Roar, Shifter Woods: Snarl, and Degree of Resistance, and I made some minor but important tweaks to the cover of Shadow of the Swan.

As a result, I’ve made $204.59 from Amazon sales this month, with an ad spend of $53. Granted, $90 of the sales income is from Crystal Shard, but $114 is from my existing backlist. I never, EVER see numbers like that for my backlist. And this is only after about two weeks of tweaking and improving ads. I’m really looking forward to seeing how I’m doing after a full month of having ads up and running for all of my books.

That being said, I am looking down the barrel of a dilemma. By rights, I should recover all of the Two Thrones books as well because their current covers aren’t in line with the fantasy romance market, which tend to feature royal/magical objects. But—people who buy print books like to have all of their print books from a series match, and there will be four more books in this series. If I switch covers in mid-stream, so to speak, I’m going to be pissing off OG fans and collectors. I do have the option of creating additional print editions of each book so that I can update the ebooks with the new cover, create a print version with the new cover and keep the old print version with the old cover. That being said, I’m not sure how that can all stay organized on Amazon.

Or I could update the ebooks, keep the trade paperbacks with their current covers, and create hardbacks with the updated ebook covers until I finish the series, then update all the trade paperback covers. It’s a bit complicated, but it’s doable.

Oh, well. That’s an issue for August.

Learning, learning, learning

Back in April or so I was supposed to participate in Bryan Cohen‘s 5-Day Author Ad Profit Challenge, which would give me tips on how to improve my Amazon Ads game for my books. As you may remember, Bob, that was also the month I had my knee replacement surgery so unfortunately I missed out on the challenge.

To my surprise, I received an email two days ago inviting me to the next challenge. Since I really do want to improve my ad game I signed up, and two days in I’m already learning stuff about Amazon ads that I never knew before (like, you can have an ad target an entire category instead of keywords. That’s a game-changer).

So I’ve been busily creating new ads for Shadow of the Swan to test which ad copy works the best, which category is most profitable, how auto ads might work for it, etc. The nicest thing is that a slew of people complimented the cover, and I just refurbed the blurb last month so I’m hoping I can get some more traction on that book and read-thru to The Crimson and the Black. Plus, anything I learn will be immediately applied to the Paladins of Crystal books since I’ll be running ads on Crystal Shard once Crystal Blade is out and I can de-RH Shard‘s blurb and keywords.

I saw that quizzical eyebrow go up. Amazon won’t let you run ads on anything that promotes an unusual sexual lifestyle (frex, I can’t run ads on Behind the Iron Cross because it got classified as erotica due to the BDSM content). Since the ‘Zon considers reverse harem to be an unusual sexual lifestyle, you can’t run ads on any book that is obviously RH. Which means that once Blade is out, I can de-RH Shard, run ads on it, and heap the RH references on the rest of the books in the series).

I know, you’re fascinated. Not. But earning promotion and effective advertising is just as much a part of being an indie author as writing, and since I would like Ramón to be able to retire at some point I need to step up my selling game.

In other news Crystal Blade is progressing nicely and will be out on July 31st, 2022, so mark your calendars!

Crystal Shard is live!

Yes, it finally happened! Despite unexpected family events, shingles, and a total knee replacement, Crystal Shard is finally out in the world! I’m describing it as Shadow and Bone meets The Nevers with five tall, hot, protective Big Cat shifters, a small town girl with an unexpected magical talent, and the destiny (and ditzy muse) that throws them together. It’s on sale at Amazon for $0.99 until July 7, 2022, or you can get it from KU.

Here’s the release schedule for the rest of the series:

Crystal Blade (July 31, 2022)
Crystal Reflection (August 31, 2022)
Crystal Citadel (September 30, 2022)
Crystal Empress (October 31, 2022)

There’s a sneak peek of Crystal Blade at the end of Crystal Shard. And if this series does well, I’m planning on at least two and possibly three sequel series. I am never going to sleep again at this rate…

Well, this has been a fun weekend

The plan for this weekend was to finish up the last of the second draft edits to Crystal Shard so that I could ship it off to the editor tomorrow when she gets back from NYC. Ha. Hahahaha.

Best laid plans and all that. First, we had a GFCI outlet in our garage go out on Friday. This is kinda important because it not only controls all the exterior outlets but all the outlets in the bathrooms (don’t ask me why, I didn’t build this house). Had to go get a new outlet, then reassure Ramón that I wasn’t going to fry myself replacing it, then not try to roast myself with north Texas heat in the replacing of the outlet. Whee.

Saturday morning, we noticed when we woke up that it was rather toasty in our bedroom. It quickly became apparent that the upstairs AC unit had stopped working. This was the last straw on an immense and unwieldy pile of issues I’d been dealing with for the last month or so and I promptly had a meltdown of my own. Ramón, bless him, stopped me from throwing breakable things at other breakable things and got me calmed down (and frankly, I think I needed the meltdown. I felt immensely better, albeit embarrassed as hell, afterwards) and we worked the problem.

As this unit has been known to blow capacitors, we watched videos on how to replace AC unit capacitors, looked up the capacitor rating in our house repair file, located a localish hardware store that sold replacements, made plans to pick one up Sunday morning, and slept in the downstairs guest room which was cool and comfortable. This morning we took out the unit’s capacitor and tested it, discovered that it was indeed an ex-capacitor that had joined the Choir Eternal, drove out to Celina and the ACE Hardware that carried replacements (they had literally just gotten them in this week so we lucked out big time), came home, installed it, hit the test button to make sure that the unit did indeed run…

…and discovered that while it ran if I was holding down the test button, it wasn’t accepting signals from the inside thermostat that would turn it on and cool off the upstairs. While I spent some increasingly hot time outside fiddling with the unit, Ramón did some research and found out that this model of base unit has a safety switch that shuts it off if its coolant drops below a certain level. We haven’t had it serviced since 2019 (I mean, COVID) so that could well be the issue here. Luckily I had already scheduled an A/C tech to come out tomorrow and give the system a tune-up, so I’ll call them in the morning and give them a heads-up that they may need to do some diagnostics as well (if it isn’t the coolant it may be an issue with a control board in the furnace).

Once we buttoned the unit back up I took a long cool shower and slept the sleep of the extremely hot and tired. And now at 5:07 PM I am finally sitting down to continue editing and, please God, get Shard ready to send to the editor tomorrow.

How’s your Father’s Day (or Sunday for everyone outside of the US) been?

Any hate mail I get is going to be TOTALLY justified…

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.

So, I have some news…

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.

Shaking Things Up a Bit

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.