Category Archives: Books

Day Drinking Is Starting To Look More Attractive

So, I reached the mid-point in Shadow of the Swan. Huzzah, I’m happy, it’s all down hill from here, right?

And then I sat down to write the sales copy for the book, with a goal of releasing it on September 8. In doing so, I realized I had screwed up oh so majorly by adding a character who wasn’t necessary at all. In fact, this character actively annoyed me, which explained why my output had slowed down over June and July. Really, I should have been zipping along in the story, but knowing that I had to deal with this character was like a sea anchor that just draaaaaaaaaaaagged everything down.

(The character? The nice but slightly dim nobleman that Louisa is supposed to marry by order of Queen Victoria. I really didn’t like him, poor soul.)

And that’s when it dawned on me — Louisa is in mortal danger of being grabbed and taken off to Faerie by a deadly Fae king. Her uncle knows damn well that his niece isn’t interesting in marrying and popping out ANYONE’S kids, much less a deadly Fae king’s, but the only way to save her from this fate, ironically, is to marry her off to someone else first. The logical solution to this problem would be for her to marry someone 1) who also works for the Ministry and understands the situation, 2) is a powerful entity himself, 3) doesn’t want children, and 4) will disappear from public view fairly soon, leaving Louisa a respectable “widow” who can marry again should she choose to do so.

1+2+3+4 = Henry Carstairs, gentleman vampire. Which means I am now going through the chapters in Act I and retrofitting them to this new storyline. It also allows me to introduce another, very necessary, character earlier, which is good for the plot. All of this rewriting will result in a much better story, but this is also the third time I’ve frogged Act I of this book and restarted it. Here’s hoping the damn thing runs on rails now.

Wait, where did July go?

Man, this month flew by. I don’t know if it’s the quarantine messing with my time sense or what, but in some ways this year is going faster than usual, and in others it’s dragging.

I didn’t work on Swan for the last three days because, well, Tuesday was my birthday, I spent most of Wednesday having a health televisit and working on a massive triple lemon layer cake as a belated birthday cake for Ramón and myself (and oh, it was lush — homemade lemon curd filling, lemon Genoise sponge, and lemon buttercream icing. My sponges rose! Since this is the first time I ever made a Genoise sponge, I lay all thanks at the feet of GBBO for teaching me the secrets of how to make one properly), and yesterday … hell, I don’t know what happened yesterday. I had to go out and hit multiple stores, and by the time I got back and disinfected everything I was tired and still had to make dinner.

But today, I have visited the vampires for my mid-year oil change, and as soon as Ramón finishes his lunch and heads back upstairs (he’s watching anime right now, which means I have my headphones on with Florence + the Machine) I’m opening the WIP and getting down to work. Knowing that I’m halfway through the book is a great feeling because everything’s pretty much downhill from here. Once that’s done, I return to King of Blades and get THAT puppy done, tra la.

Another Snippet from SHADOW OF THE SWAN

Phoo. Hit 3,000 words today and celebrated with a lovely swim. In celebration of both events, I thought I’d post this bit from Shadow of the Swan.


The evening air was warm on Louisa’s skin as she stepped barefoot through the garden, masses of jasmine and roses giving their perfume to a gentle breeze. Underneath her feet, the paving stones retained enough of the heat of the day to feel pleasant against her soles, the slight roughness of the ancient stones giving her a sense of security. She walked between two vine-entwined stelae and into a large courtyard with a similarly-sized pool at its center. The water was dark, reflecting the first stars that had already come out, and enticed her with its promise of cool relief.
She walked to the edge of the pool and stepped in. It was only ankle-deep at that part, but quickly grew deeper as the bottom descended away from her in a steep decline. Soon she was floating, her nightgown slowly rising around her like a cotton halo.

Its weight was distracting, so she slipped the garment over her head and threw it to one side. Unencumbered, she moved into the center of the pool, letting the water buoy her as she swam slowly. Oh, how she’d dreamed of doing just this, going out to the pool in the night when everything was peaceful and swimming back and forth, letting the water wash away the cares of the day. And now she could do it, because…

…because…

Of course. She was promised to someone, the hero she had always yearned for, who would fulfill all of her dreams, even the ones she couldn’t admit to herself. And now she was waiting for him to come and claim her as he’d promised.

No.

Yes, it was so simple. He would come to the pool’s edge and hold out his arms, and she would rise from the water’s embrace to one even more wonderful. She could see him standing between the stelae now, a dark shape against the darker greenery of the garden. My king, my promised one. Take me.

No, Louisa.

She shook her head against the whisper, different from the waiting form but just as attractive, as luring. “I have to. He’s waiting for me.”

As am I. Another form appeared, shadowed against the deep violet of the sky as it stood at the end of the pool where she had entered. A pale shirt flashed like a ghost as it was stripped off and tossed to the side, just as she had discarded her nightgown. The form bent, and she knew he was removing his boots and trousers, depositing them next to the shirt.

She couldn’t see details, much to her disappointment, but knew he was now nude as he stepped into the pool, swimming towards her once he was deep enough with a steady stroke. When he was close enough to touch, a hand cupped her cheek, shockingly cool against the soft heat of the water and the air.

“Louisa.” It was half whisper, half prayer. The hair at the nape of her neck rose up, and her breasts began to ache in the strangest way, even as muscles lower down tightened of their own accord. She sank slightly in the water, her breath trickling out in a shuddered sigh.

When those cool arms slid around her, she raised her face for his kiss. His lips were a balm against the warm air, softening under the bristle of a short mustache as they settled on her own. She had kissed a few young men before, Jayan among them, but none of those brief, messy encounters were like this. It was a new language, a sweet, hungry poetry that spoke to her heart as their lips met, clung, and danced with each other.

He pulled away before she was ready, allowing her to take in a necessary breath, then returned to claim what was already his. This time the very tip of his tongue teased along the seam of her mouth, tickling a bit but also causing those lower muscles to contract again.

It seemed only right to open her mouth. With exquisite delicacy he licked the inside flesh of her upper lip. It was as if a firework had gone off inside her, the feeling was so shockingly good. She pressed against him, searching for more of it. He indulged her, his tongue playing against hers in a kind of dance that made her yearn for more of something she couldn’t name.

His arms were reassuringly strong, and pressed her closely against him now. She could feel the lazy kicking of his legs as he kept both of their heads above water, and the flat, muscular pads of his chest boasted a now-damp fur that tickled her skin deliciously. One of his hands dropped lower, coming to rest on her bottom. He squeezed.

She gasped and giggled at the same time, forcing their lips to part. “What are you doing?”

“Fondling you.” Another squeeze, not hard but as if he appreciated the roundness of her bottom. “What luscious curves you have, my dear.” He let go, his hand reversing course and easing up between their bodies until the curve of his thumb and forefinger came to rest against the underside of her breast. “A beautiful woman in every way.”

The words sent a small, secret thrill through her. She had grown so used to thinking of herself as a spinster academic, valued more for her brain and her neat hand than her looks, that being called beautiful was intoxicating.

“Kiss me again.”

“With pleasure.”

Why I Wrote It: Lady of Thorns

This is the third blog post where I do a deep dive into the backstory of each of my books. Why, you may ask? Well, because the beautiful and talented Liana Brooks made the following brilliant comment: “Being an author is being in a fandom of one. The whole point of writing the book and publishing is getting more people in your fandom.” I want to get you all excited about my imaginary friends and interested in plating with them, so I’m going to explain how exactly they wound up on the page.

Lady of Thorns — moving away from my royal couple

Once I accepted the fact that my Two Thrones series was 1) established and 2) popular, I had to come up with a third book in the series. I could have thrown yet more drama at Danaë and Matthias, of course, but I couldn’t stop thinking of Lady Amelie de Clerq, the brave, stubborn Terra mage who stopped her sister Sibeal from being married to a boorish nobleman in Palace of Scoundrels. I figured I’d give her a book and see what she did with it.

This is where I get to illustrate that what you initially plot out doesn’t necessarily turn out to be what you write. I had originally decided to have Lady Amelie’s romantic partner be Prince Marcus of Illium, since they’d flirted in Palace. He was going to show up at her estate and ask for sanctuary, which would have caused all kinds of problems with both the king, the rulers of Illium, and her mother.

And then I remembered that interesting lawyer character Alain LaPorte, who was already familiar with the situation in Lierdhe. In my head, I’d already mentally cast Michelle Dockery in full Lady Mary mode as Amelie, so I was going to need an equally strong character to be her match.

When it hit me,  I started laughing so hard I knew I had to make this happen. And so Amelie wound up being wooed and won by this universe’s equivalent of Alan Shore (I mean, come on — picture Michelle Dockery and James Spader circling each other in full predator mode, sarcastic banter turned up to 11. It was brilliant). Once I had my main characters down, the story started flowing. This was also the book where I decided to begin an arc for the series where a threat is growing offscreen and four mages will need to come together and fight it. Danaë and Amelie will be two of those mages, and I’m toying with stories for the other two.

I also decided to take a closer look at Amelie’s life and motivations. At this point she’s tired of being used as a pawn in her mother’s machinations, and she’s very tired of men wanting to marry her only for her money and position. That being said, she also realizes that she does have to get married and provide heirs for the province. In her heart of hearts she wants someone who loves her for herself, and she also needs to learn how to love herself. Because Lierdhe is open-minded when it comes to sex, she decides to find someone to teach her how to be a dynamo in bed, and get in a few orgasms along the way. Alain strikes her as a good choice for the role of bedroom tutor, but neither of them expect their emotions to get in the way, muwahahahaha. In the midst of all this, Amelie also has to keep her province functioning after a drought (which brings in a whole new conflict from Maman’ past), fend off Maman’s renewed attempts to get her married off, and save her estate and the land around it from a wildfire. I am nothing if not a pain in the ass when it comes to throwing the kitchen sink at my characters.

On a personal level, writing Lady of Thorns was not only a lot of fun, it was also cathartic in a number of ways. Much like Amelie, I was the gawky older sister who didn’t feel like she was attractive or fit in anywhere, so there may have been a little bit of wish fulfillment in not only giving her a hell of a good romance, but an opportunity to really show off her Terra mage chops. As for the big wildfire scene, when I was writing Lady California was going through that really bad batch of wildfires, so I took a lot of inspiration from the amazing men and women who fought those blazes.

So that’s how Lady of Thorns came to be. Next time, I’ll talk about my venture into dystopian SF romance Degree of Resistance and the numerous enablers who came together to make that book a reality.

Friday in the Life of a Writer

Just in case you think my life is all eating bon-bons while I lounge around on my chaise, tapping out deliciously hot romances while Ramón massages my feet…

Yeah, no.

I didn’t get to bed until 2 AM last night so I woke up at 10 AM. After taking a bio-break, I scrubbed the upstairs toilet, scooped the litter box in there and swept up stray litter, took my supplements, and did other grooming things to make myself presentable.

Came downstairs to make sure that Cheetolini didn’t try to sell Florida or hawk drinkable bleach while I was asleep, then got started on Week Three of a Indie Publishing 101 course I’m taking to improve my publishing game. This required watching about 20 minutes of video, then completing an assignment (taking pictures of a title page, chapter header, and body page) that I liked, inserting them into a Word document, and sending it off to the instructor.

That done, I got up and swept the kitchen, dining room, and library (Ramón empties the litter boxes down here but litter gets everywhere), then scrubbed the downstairs toilet and swept the bathroom. At that point I remembered that I needed to send a chapter of Shadow of the Swan in to my writers group for critique as promised, so I spent about a half hour cleaning that up, popping it into a Word document and sending it off.

Immediately after that, the 18-year-old cat demanded a cuddle so I provided one, stroking his head and telling him he was a good boy (he’s now at the point where I will drop what I’m doing and cuddle him when he asks for it, since I don’t know for how much longer I’ll have him). After he got tired of being cuddled and wandered off to his spot, Ramón came down with his passport and asked me to take a picture of it so that he would have a record of it before he sends it back to England for renewal.

You may notice in all of this that the consumption of food has not been mentioned once. I realized after taking the picture that, hmm, food might be a good idea, so I put together a plate of leftover green beans and sweet potato fries, slices of smoked kielbasa and cheddar cheese, and a dollop of mayo for flavor. Scarfed that, drank a glass of Metamucil (because being regular is important), then loaded and started the dishwasher.

Which brings me to 3:10 PM, when I’m actually about to get started on writing. I’ve gotten to the first love scene of the book, FINALLY, and I can only hope that the cats leave me alone long enough to finish this with at least a dollop of sensuality and erotic tension.

Running around like the proverbial decapitated avian

Sorry about not posting anything entertaining and/or useful yesterday, but I have been one very, very busy writer for the last day and a half. Unfortunately, my busyness has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with paying bills, filing all my receipts and paid bills (I know how anal that sounds, but it helps when I have to prep the tax paperwork for the accountant), packaging stuff up and mailing it out to people, doing a big food stock-up for humans and J Crew which requires hitting three different stores, attending my writers’ group meeting over Zoom last night and critiquing some chapters from a member, plus all of the usual cooking/cleaning/household chores on top of that.

Phoo. I’m tired just reading that.

And yes, I know, minions would help. One time someone very kindly offered to act as my PA and I had to pass on it because I simply couldn’t afford them. Well, also because the actual writing business doesn’t take up a huge chunk of my time just yet — it’s everything else that has me running around and swearing under my breath. I swear, if the cats had opposable thumbs they would be VERY surprised at the chores they’d be assigned (I already know damn well that they understand English to a certain degree).

Speaking of the little darlings, Ramón and I have agreed that it’s time to address the weight problem that Jessie (above) and Jemma (at left) (and to a lesser degree Jeremy) are having. The two ladies are now 9 and 8 years old, respectively, and they’re putting weight on to the point where Jessie lumbers down the stairs (although she was still able to jump up to the stove top, then to the top of the refrigerator, and onto the top of the cabinets a couple of days ago) and Jemma, bless her heart, looks like a brown bowling ball. Our problem is our 18-year-old gentleman who wants to nibble constantly (and needs to, to be honest) and yowls at a genuinely shocking volume if he can see the bottom of a food bowl. We need to keep him fed and his weight up, but that turns into a buffet for the other cats and isn’t good for them. So we’re addressing this with weight management kibble and additional playtime for the younger cats (I wish I could get Jemma and Jasmine to eat wet food, but they simply won’t do it. Jems will sometimes eat tuna, but Jaz won’t touch anything but kibble). I’ll keep feeding JJ extra food and treats as necessary, but I’ll have to do it where the other cats can’t see.

And with that, it’s now time to get back to work on Shadow of the Swan, tra la.

Oh, boy. That was an adventure

FB just reminded me of what I was doing on this day in 2014, so I thought I’d share it with you:

“Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tonight’s contestant is Nicola Cameron from Plano, Texas — let’s give her a big hand!

“Now, Ms. Cameron has spent the last two days removing old cement, mastic, and epoxy from her hot tub rim in preparation for re-cementing and mortaring the missing coping stones back into place, and a bunch of the debris has fallen into her pool as a result. Let’s see how she’s going to get it out.

“Ooh, she’s starting by trying to scoop up the biggest chunks with her skimmer. It’s not quite working as she’d hoped, I’m afraid — too bad, it was a good idea. She’s changing out the skimmer head for a brush head and brushing it all into a large pile — smart move! Now she’s getting out her vortex vacuum head and attaching it and the garden hose to suck that debris right up.

“Oh, no! The vortex caused by the hose isn’t quite enough to pick up the larger pieces. I haven’t heard cursing like that since I was in the Marines!

“On to Round Two — she’s brushing all the pieces into the shallow end and — wow, she’s getting her wet-dry shop vac out and sucking them up! Great move, Ms. Cameron!

“Wait a minute — the shop vac move worked with the small pieces, but the vac is too efficient and is filling almost immediately and there are still large shards at the bottom of her pool. Is she going to throw herself on the mercy of her pool cleaning service for help?

“NO! I cannot believe this, people — she is taking off her glasses, and — YES, yes, she is jumping fully clothed into the pool in her best impersonation of a pearl diver and collecting the shards manually. This woman is determined! Wait, I’m hearing her mutter something about shark week, prehensile toes and ‘See, Mom, I TOLD you they’d come in handy.’ And she’s gotten all of the debris out of the pool! Well done, Ms. Cameron!

“Well, this has been an amazing episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tune in tomorrow when Ms. Cameron is going to don protective gear and use dilute muriatic acid to remove the mortar haze from her flagstones. Good night, everyone!”

In even more entertaining news, here’s another snippet from Shadow of the Swan:


Henry regretted the words the moment they left his mouth. Miss Wallingford recoiled as if slapped, and even Mwanda shifted against the door as if uncomfortable. “Really, Harry,” she muttered.

He cursed his own lack of tact. He could still taste Louisa Wallingford’s blood, its complex flavor lingering on his palate like the finest of wines, and it had the same effect as wine on a human. The bottled stuff couldn’t wash it away, much as he wished it would. Drinking directly from a human was a different matter entirely than drinking stored blood. He would now be able to sense Louisa Wallingford no matter where she was, divine her moods, even anticipate her actions once he got to know her better.

He had been able to ignore the humans he had drunk from in the past, block them from his awareness. But combined with his assignment, it would be impossible to ignore this bright, beautiful, and exasperating young woman. Even now he could feel her fear, combined with a half-angry curiosity as she digested the news he had dumped so gracelessly in her lap.

With care, he replaced the half-full bottle of blood on the table and leaned forward. “Miss Wallingford, you are a sensible young woman. It is not my intention to frighten you unnecessarily, but I would be remiss if I didn’t impress upon you the gravity of your situation. Your uncle has recruited not only the entirety of the ministry but her majesty the queen in order to protect you from this Fae noble. The best solution we have found is your marriage to Robert Bainbridge, which must take place as quickly as possible. Once you are married, you are no longer bound by the terms of this Fae contract and will be safe. That is why everything is happening at such an unusual pace.”

He wasn’t surprised when the young woman drained her glass of wine at a gulp. “What’s the name of my erstwhile suitor?”

He remembered she was an academic like her uncle. Information was what she needed at this moment to stay in control. “Avery, of House Eala. He rules over his own court within Faerie, and his formal title is the Swan King. If you want to know more about him, I would suggest asking your uncle when we return. He knows far more about the contract with your family than I do.”

“Listen to him, girl.” Mwanda came forward, silk swishing with the movement. The mocking expression was gone, replaced by grim seriousness. “The Fae are far more powerful than even the ministry likes to admit, and you don’t want to be in one’s power. If marrying this Bainbridge is the only way of getting away from them, do it tomorrow. Hire a carriage and take him up to Gretna Green, then tumble him immediately afterwards.”

The thought of Louisa Wallingford in bed with another man sent a unexpected surge of rage through him, and he had to will himself to stay calm. You’re blood-struck, that’s all. It’ll fade in time. “Mwanda,” he growled.

“This isn’t the time for prudery, Harry,” she shot back. “The girl needs to protect herself, and if some words before a priest and a bedding will do it, then that’s what she needs to do.”

“Enough.” Louisa held up a hand that only showed the faintest of tremors. “Please. Mr. Carstairs, may we return home? I need to speak with my uncle.”

He glanced at Mwanda, who shrugged. “The carriage should be here soon. I’ll see if Remy has that shirt for you yet.”

Hello, 5 AM, My Old Friend

So I woke up this morning after a dream that was apparently inspired by elements of “Goodbye Earl” by the Chicks (no justified killing of an abusive husband, but I observed two couple’s arguments, spent some time in a really nice kitchen that overlooked a great apartment complex after one boyfriend decided to switch apartments with his old girlfriend and go move in with his new girlfriend, and wound up in the middle of what looked like Wisconsin, judging from the rolling hills and all of the silos, as part of a mass job interview for a tech writing position. Yeah, I don’t understand that last part, either).

And then it was 5 AM, and my brain said, “Okay, you went to sleep at midnight, that’s enough, we’re going to play “Goodbye Earl” on earworm loop until you get up.” Thanks, brain. So I’m here, having fed and watered the J Crew, and I figure I’ll get in maybe four hours of writing before that stupid mass in my skull gives up and I can go back to bed at 10 AM for three more hours of sleep.

And then I made the mistake of checking Twitter and found out that not only does DHS intend to take its cobbled-together SS shitshow in Portland nationwide, but John Lewis died this morning. The best way to pay tribute is to get into some good trouble.

Shadow of the Swan: Closing in on the halfway mark

This was taken a few minutes ago — I haven’t gotten much of a chance to write today because I had to mask up and go do a multiple stockup run (meds, kitty food, human food), come home and sanitize/take a shower, do laundry, make dinner, and handle a couple of other tasks. But it’s 9:14 PM at the moment (you’ll be reading this tomorrow morning), and I probably won’t be going to sleep until midnight so I very well may be able to knock out 2647 words before I turn in.

And yeah, that’s an odd and very precise number, but if I crank out that many words every day for the next seventeen days I should have the book done and dusted by July 31st. Because I’ve jumped around the book and added scenes here and there I have a fair chunk of Acts II and III done already, and right now I’m doing the wrap-up for Act I, where Louisa finds out what her uncle has actually been doing for the Ministry of Antiquaries all these years and why she’s been brought back to London for a bizarre shotgun wedding. Oh, and Henry has been shot by goblins while trying to get her out of Whitechapel in one piece (she was trying to get out of London), so she now knows he’s a vampire.

Heh. I love these two — they are bickering and snarking at each other so much, and neither of them want to acknowledge the attraction between them because that’s simply not done. By the time they actually kiss, it’s going to be pyroclastic. Here’s an unedited snippet to whet your interest:


The omnibus rolled to a clattering stop on the corner of Garrick Street and Rose Street. The only thing that could be said for that particular section of Covent Garden was that it was slightly less dangerous than Whitechapel, with its history of street violence among the working-class residents offsetting the fame of the nearby open-air market that hawked everything from carrots to flowers.

Henry escorted Miss Wallingford from the omnibus’s upper deck, ignoring the trio of humans who had been outraged at their transport being pressed into ministry service. “Your fee,” he said to the driver, handing over the requisite coins.

The driver grinned as he stuffed his payment into a coat pocket. “And thank you for choosing the Bayswater Line, sir,” he said cheerfully, flicking the reins. The omnibus set off, ostensibly to return its complaining passengers to their original destination.

Eyeing their surroundings, Henry kept his hand around his companion’s upper arm as he guided her down Rose Street. It was a narrow road, hardly more than an alley, and shadowy from the lack of street lamps. In other parts of London, the lack of illumination would guarantee at least one man loitering in the shadows armed with a short club or brass knuckles, waiting to set upon anyone walking alone. That wasn’t the case for Rose Street, primarily due to the pub situated at its bend.

The Crimson Ribbon had been a staple of the area since the early eighteenth century, having opened as a pub in 1772. One of its early draws had been the bare-knuckle prizefights held in one of its upper rooms. That had earned it the nickname “Bucket of Blood,” which its new owner had capitalized on when it was reopened as the Crimson Ribbon in 1888. There were still shadowy figures on the street these days, but they were far more interested in what flowed through the veins of any passing unfortunates than their wallets.

As they approached the pub door Henry sensed the other vampires’ attention focusing on Miss Wallingford. It triggered an unfortunate protective response, and his canines ached with the need to drop down. He clenched his jaw to keep the sharp teeth properly retracted. “You’re safe with me,” he said through his gritted teeth, willing that to be true. “Just don’t do anything foolish, like try to run.” If she ran, the others would chase her, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to leave them alive.

The pub’s interior was far cleaner and well-kept up than the exterior would have suggested, with polished wooden wainscoting below a rich red wallpaper and brass gaslights giving the space a warm. A human might be fooled into thinking it was a standard public house until he noticed the lack of beer pulls behind the bar, the absence of pint glasses, and the lager-less smell of the air. Of course, very few humans made it that far into the pub, and even fewer survived to carry tales.

A number of patrons sat at tiny pub tables off to the right, nursing stemmed glasses of blood or wine, while a reed-thin vampire Henry didn’t recognize stood behind the bar. He glowered at their approach, nostrils flaring wide at Miss Wallingford’s scent. “No outside refreshments, sir,” he announced.

Henry felt Louisa stiffen at the implication. “I need to speak with Madame Njata now, please.”

“She’s busy.”

He refrained from grabbing the vampire’s grubby neckcloth and yanking him over the bar. “I’m sure she is, nonetheless I need to speak with her. Tell her Harry’s here.” He pulled out his ministry warrant card and flashed it. “Ministry business.”

With a reluctant nod, the barman left his post and headed through a door near the back. Henry made sure to keep his human ward behind him as he scanned the clientele. After a few half-hearted stares, they all returned to their own conversations.

The barman returned. “Follow me.”

They did. A flight of stairs led to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the building. Lined with six doors, it terminated at a larger room at the very back. Henry knew the former site of the bare-knuckle prizefights now served as Madame Njata’s office.

Instead of being led there, however, they were shown to one of the other doors. “She said she’ll be right with you,” the barman said, opening the door and waving them inside.

Henry was tempted to argue, but the rising scent of fear from Miss Wallingford made him choose prudence. The room featured an old but still sumptuous red velvet chaise, a wooden table, and a plain wooden chair. Judging from the lingering scents, the room had been used for sleep, feeding, and intercourse, and not in that order.

He waited until the door was closed, then sat on the chaise. He knew it would seem rude to leave the wooden chair for Miss Wallingford, but doubted she would want to rest on the chaise if she knew what had taken place on it within the last day. “Will you sit?”

Reluctantly, she took the chair. “What are we doing here?”

“I need to feed.”

She went pale. “Not from you,” he added quickly. “This is one of the places in London where a vampire can feed in privacy and safety. Think of it as a very exclusive supper club.”

The tension in her limbs didn’t fade, but she nodded in understanding. “So you feed on … people?”

“If they’re willing, yes. Live blood taken directly from a human is more nourishing than blood that’s been drawn and stored. And in my case, it’ll help speed my healing.”

The color rushed back to her face. Guilt? Good. Hopefully that will keep her from doing something so damned foolish again. Then he realized the smallness of the room was concentrating her scent, and his teeth ached again as his hunger rose. To his dismay, something else ached as well. Carrying her across the roofs of Whitechapel had been an unfortunate reminder of how long it had been since he’d touched a woman with more than feeding in mind. And she most definitely had a lush little body under that masculine disguise.

Don’t be an idiot. Louisa Wallingford is young, headstrong, and far too impetuous for her own good. Not to mention she was good as married, by command of the Queen herself. And she’s human. Lush as she may be, she’s not for you.

And it’s *checks calendar* Friday

Yeah, I know. COVID cabin fever is hitting a lot of people at the moment, and Casa Cameron is among those households. Let’s see, what can I tell you?

Needless to say, I didn’t finish Shadow of the Swan or Shifter Woods: Growl in May, as I had hoped. I wound up getting called back to the contract job for a week to wrap up the project I’d been working on, and then I spent about a week cleaning out our garage so that I could refinish that bookcase the cats had peed on, then I got stuck into the actual refinishing, and it turned out so well that I decided to refinish the other bookcase that Ramón’s been hauling around for over thirty years, and the world is on fire due to COVID and the current US administration and climate change and a lot of other things so, yeah.

On the plus side, I’m still working on both books, as well as Uncertainty Principle and King of Blades, depending on how I’m feeling when I get up, so there is progress? It’s just kind of slow. But I’m currently at 32K of a projected 80K on Swan, which pleases me.

I also ran an A/B test on Twitter to get input on two potential covers for Swan:

Cover A turned out to be the more popular one, so I’m probably going to go with it or a very similar variant.

I’m also taking an online class in Indie Publishing 101 from Dean Wesley Smith — yes, I know, I’ve been indie publishing since 2015. But I’m not making nearly the number of sales I should be, so I’m hoping to pick up some tips and tricks from a powerhouse in the indie publishing field because I would really like to sell more books and maybe not have to go back to contract work if I can manage it?

Speaking of the contract job, I’m still on furlough and I don’t see that restarting anytime soon, since a lot of the work I did was for industries that were slammed by COVID and the assorted closings (another reason why I’d really like to make more sales). Ramón is still employed, knock wood, but his job is a contract one and he’s concerned that he may be out of work at a time when a whole bunch of other telecoms people are looking for jobs. If the book sales don’t pick up, I’ll probably start looking for more contract work in August, assuming I can find a place that will let me work remotely.

Health-wise, we’re still good. Because our governor is, well, an idiot, Texas is one of the new COVID hot spots in the nation, so we mask up every time we go out to the store, anything that comes into the house is disinfected, and we change clothes and shower afterwards. Our trips out are limited to store runs and fast food, with the occasional treat such as running the tax prep paperwork to the accountant or hitting the post office after hours (sometimes I have to mail Etsy sales or other stuff, and they have an automated postage machine). Luckily our Kroger is requiring mask usage to enter the store, and 99% of the people I see in there are masked, although there was one maskless woman today who, I shit you not, had the classic Karen hairstyle. Everyone was giving her dirty looks, so hopefully peer pressure will have an effect.

Oh, I learned how to trim Ramón’s hair, thanks to the angel who made this YouTube video. As his hair was getting to Doc Brown stage and it was driving him crazy, he was happy for me to take a crack at it with the clippers. I managed to give him a nice, short, but stylish do (made a couple of mistakes in back, but as he pointed out he didn’t care because nobody but me would be looking at his neck), and I may well keep trimming his hair from here on out. I mean, I already have the clippers, barber’s scissors, and T-outliner, so why not?

That pretty much brings us up to date. I’m going to try and blog more frequently, basically to keep both of us entertained (and up to date on the progress of all the WIPs). One amusing thing that happened today — someone had responded to this tweet:

with the comment, “Alexa, play S&M.” Which reminded me that I really did like that song and should buy it. Which then prompted … let us say … a mental vignette that one could entitle, “My Own Pet Duke.”

I really don’t need to be writing a BDSM Regency right now. I don’t even have an pseudonym for that subgenre (hur hur, see what I did there). Back into the inspiration hutch with you, little plot bunny.