Category Archives: Cross Current
Surfacing, Yet Again
As you know, Bob, I had one more book to finish and release in 2020. This was the very much anticipated Cross Current, which is the fourth book in my Olympic Cove menage fantasy romance series (or as I like to think of it, “Gods and mermen and selkies, oh my!”). People have been waiting patiently for this book for about five years, but I couldn’t continue the series until I’d gotten the rights back for the first three book. That happened this year, which meant that Cross Current was a go.
After I finished King of Blades and released it at the end of November, I got to work on Cross Current. Now, I had about 20K of the book done so I figured, meh, maybe two weeks to finish, two weeks to edit, polish, and format, and I could get it out at the end of December. Being an eternal optimist, I decided to put it out for pre-order on December 1st because I would have more than enough time to get everything done, right?
Put a pin in this because we will be returning to this point later.
So, I started working on Cross Current, and promptly ran into two rather large problems. One, I was hurting. For reasons I didn’t understand every joint in my body was screaming at me, and sitting for any length of time (which you kinda have to do if you’re a writer) was problematic. And no, it wasn’t COVID for reasons I will explain later on. But writing when your joints are on fire is not fun.
Secondly, I was having one hell of a time getting the story out. I knew how it started, knew how it finished, but the the middle part was like pulling teeth. I was lucky if I could get 300 words out a day, in between trying to get my brain to get creative and trying to get my joints to stop screaming at me.
On December 7th, I’m starting to get mildly worried because I haven’t made sufficient progress on the book and the upload deadline would be 6:00 PM CST Christmas Day. And then my muse, drunken ho that she is, strolled in with a margarita in one hand and said, “You’re having problems with this because your story is angsty. Nobody wants to read angsty in 2020. Liven it up, make it fun.”
She had a point. I was kinda putting my main character Matt through hell, and I wasn’t really paying much attention to all of the members in his menage, all five of them. Remember this graphic?
So I scrap my original story and decide to go with a fun Ocean’s 8 style caper story, where Matt has to steal some nanotech with the help of a mer and three selkies, and hijinks ensue.
And I’ll be damned, but that worked. Suddenly the floodgates opened and I could see the story in my head, which is what tells me I’m on the right track.
One eensy problem–those 20,000 words I’d already written didn’t fit this new story. I was able to salvage the opening chapter, but 15K had to go in the cut file, which really put me behind the eight ball.
But that’s when my second Festivus miracle occurred. I ran out of a supplement that I take to keep my nasal mucus thinned out (remember, I live with five cats to whom I am mildly allergic), and a day later I realized I felt fucking great. My pain levels were way down, and I was only having the usual issues with ShitKnee. I looked up the side effects for the supplement and saw, “can cause joint and muscle pain” (unsurprising because it breaks up biofilm and scavenges fibrin in the blood system).
By this time it’s December 9, and I have to put pedal to the metal because I now have to completely rewrite my first four chapters and actually finish the rest of the book. I keep plugging away, but it’s December, which means the J Crew have to be taken into the vet for their shots, I have a dental cleaning, and a myriad of other holiday-related things all eat up my time until December 17th rolls around and I only have 25,000 words out of a projected 80,000. if you do the math, you’ll discover that this left me with 55,000 words still to be written, and I also had to get the book edited, proofed, polished, formatted, and uploaded to Amazon in eight days.
Sometimes, you have to realize that you can’t do everything yourself and ask for help. First, I took a deep breath and talked to Ramón, explaining that I couldn’t do the usual Christmas prep that I do every year and get the book done. Would he mind helping out, or if certain things get pushed back a bit?
I am blessed to be married to the world’s best writer’s spouse. He blinked and said, “Petal, 2020 blows chunks anyway. We can live with a meh Christmas. Don’t worry about anything, just focus on the book.”
Okay, that was out of the way. I then talked to my editor, throwing myself on her mercy. She agreed to edit the book in chunks — I would finish a handful of chapters, clean them up, and shove them at her for editing (she is a goddess, by the way).
Finally, I sat down with my brain and had a come-to-Jesus chat. In order to finish this book, I was about to have a very unpleasant week where I would have to write faster on a daily basis than I ever had just to finish the first draft, and then I would have to turn around immediately and edit/polish/format. If I could do this, at 6:01 PM CST Christmas Day I would get completely loaded in celebration, spend the rest of the night watching Wonder Woman 84 and Bridgerton, and the period from Boxing Day to January 4th would be devoted to rest and relaxation.
My brain reluctantly agreed. And so I sat down, wrote out a detailed outline, broke it down into chapters so that I knew exactly what I had to do in each chapter, and set out to write 10,000 words a day for the next five and a half days.
Yes, you read that correctly. And that wasn’t all; I would also be constantly shuttling completed chapters back and forth to the editor and incorporating her edits after I hit word quota for the day. But it was necessary because there was no way in hell I was missing this deadline and getting banned from Amazon pre-orders for a year.
So I did it. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I fell into bed exhausted ever night, my dreams were pretty much related to the books, I gained five pounds despite my determination to get at least fifteen minutes on the treadmill every day, the only cleaning I did was sweeping and laundry, and the meals were pretty much reduced to, “What can I throw together in ten minutes?”
But I did it. And somehow, I produced a pretty damned good book. Part of my mind kept noticing how things just fell into place, the three act structure chugging along like it was on rails. Each member of my fivesome now had an identity and screen time, and I cheered for them all the way through the book. And I wrote the most physically challenging love scene of my writing career to date. I’m still damn proud of it.
The last edits went in at 5:30 AM this morning, and I spent two hours fixing a formatting problem before uploading the file to Amazon (I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep until it was done, and I had this irrational fear that I’d die in my sleep and nobody would ever see the book that had killed me) and crawling into bed at 7:30 AM. After one of the best sleeps of my life, I got up, got dressed, played with the kitties, and just … breathed.
It was nice. Then I decided to give the file one last read-through, polish, and spell/grammar/punctuation check because I am an anal-retentive masochist, formatted THAT, and uploaded it to Amazon at 4:15 PM CST, an hour and forty-five minutes before the cutoff time. It’s now churning through the ‘Zon, and the seven lovely people who pre-ordered it will get it at 12:01 AM on Tuesday, December 29th.
And then I decided to wash the bedding so that we’d have crisp clean sheets for Christmas night and clean the library so that I could put up the tree. Get loaded and watch movies? Ho ho ho. Remember, anal-retentive masochist here. But I’m singing Christmas songs as I’m working, and I’m so very proud of myself for finishing Cross Current and getting it out into the world.
Anyway, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and may 2021 be a huge frigging improvement on this dumpster fire of a year.
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.
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.
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).
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…
So KING OF BLADES is live
And it’s selling briskly, so I’m pleased with that. I’m also amused that a writer friend of mine commented on FB, “So how did you get Don Draper to pose for the cover art?” Hey, I would not object to Jon Hamm posing for one of my covers, but I suspect his rates would be expensive as hell.
However, that did remind me of something that I kinda wanted to head off at the pass. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the model on the cover of King of Blades is the same one I used on the cover of Shifter Woods: Howl. Why would I do something like this, you ask?
Well, because I think he’s hot, whoever he is, and he worked as both my world-weary coyote shifter sheriff and my determined king about to become the father of twins. That’s the beauty of indie publishing — you have full control over the covers. And if I want to use this austere, muscled stunner twice, by God I will.
Speaking of publishing, I just got word a little over an hour ago that Blades was accepted into the Premium catalog at Smashwords, so it should be available at B&N by tomorrow morning and at Kobo and iTunes within a day or so. I’m working on the print version and that should be available by the weekend, and I also need to put it up at Eden Books tomorrow.
While all that’s in play, I’m also back at work on the fourth book in the Olympic Cove series, Cross Current (and isn’t that a lovely cover at right?), with a goal of getting that out on *checks calendar* 11/24/20. I’ll be setting that up for pre-order sometime this weekend, so if you’ve been patiently waiting for the next book in the series, mark your calendars and pre-order it. Here’s the (unedited) blurb:
Fresh from a divorce, high school history teacher Matt Taber retreats to a cottage on Olympic Cove to lick his wounds before school starts up in the fall. But the Fates have other plans for him in the form of a merman running from a deadly family history, three selkies who have to satisfy a royal demand, and a new career as the Oracle of the Waters. Can Matt adjust to his new life before the Mad Nereid comes calling?
And there’s more good Olympic Cove news — I’m completing the series next year. Books Five and Six (tentatively titled Riptide Bay and Hurricane Eye) will be completed right after the first book of 2021, Hidden Empire’s The Crimson and the Black. So for everyone who prefers their series to be completed, you’ll be able to buy the Olympic Cove box set sometime in July. But if you hate the idea of the series ending, don’t worry — there will be additional novellas set on the cove, as well as related books (I have this image in my head of a grumpy and very reluctant Hephaestus being dragged to Earth by Hermes to help him get the Olympic Wi-Fi working, and falling in love with a female blacksmith). So many books to write, so little time…
King of Blades, Day 3
Today’s word count: 3,009
Total word count: 15,364
Approximate words to go: 64,636
So, today was surprisingly productive, despite the fact that every single member of the J Crew insisted on sitting on me at some point during the day. Which is fine, now that I can dictate, but Jasmine likes to squirm around while I stroke her ears, Jeremy insists on resting his big head on the keyboard, Jessie leaves me with one hand, and Jemma wants to be combed (and believe me, she needs it). JJ is the only one who’s content to just sit on my boobs/belly like he’s doing right now, unbothered by my hand movements as I type. If they were all like this, my writing life would be a lot easier. As it is, I’m going to go out on the patio tomorrow so that I can get a couple of solid hours in without a furry little feline trying to grab my attention or demand that I put kibble in his bowl (to be honest, that’s all JJ, but he’s an old guy who needs to keep his weight on so I’ll feed him separately if he wants it).
I also decided to be a complete loon, not learn a damn thing from Shadow of the Swan, and put King of Blades up for pre-order at Amazon. The release date is October 27, so as long as I stick to my writing schedule more or less and maybe have a couple of 5K days in there I should have the first draft finished on October 5, which will give me more than enough time to get everything through edits, polished and in publishable shape by October 23 (aka Upload Day). Once they finish chewing on it and give me a link, I’ll add it to the new King page here and make it available on social media.
And once the first draft of King is finished, I go back to Cross Current and start work on that. I said I was going to publish three more novels by the end of the year, and by God I intend to stick to my word.
Finish one project, move on to the next
So Shadow of the Swan is out there on all online markets, earning money and reviews, and I’m happy with that (as of this moment I’ve sold 143 copies on Amazon). I’ve even uploaded a free short story titled “A Gentle Fall of Show” about Henry and Louisa’s first Christmas at Bookfunnel (all subscribers to my newsletter got the link; if you want to subscribe, click here, enter your email address, and you can download “Snow” in MOBI, EPUB, or PDF format).
So what’s next, Nic? I’m glad you asked.
Since it looks like we’re going to be stuck in COVIDland for the foreseeable future, I am setting up some structure for myself for the rest of the year. And I know I’ve said that before, but this time I’m doing it partially for income and partially because I really need it to stay sane.
So — today, I am wrapping up the re-edit of Deep Water and uploading it to Amazon, B&N, et al. Tomorrow I go back to work on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) with a goal of finishing it by Monday, October 5. If I do 3,265 words a day, I’ll make that easily. Moreover, I KNOW I can write that many words a day easily (I knew it before, but 2019 kinda shook my faith in myself). Even better, now that I’ve been testing my lavaliere mike, Scrivener’s dictation function, and Otter.ai (oh, Holy God, dictation is a fricking godsend to anyone who needs to write fast and can handle saying stuff out loud), I should be able to crank out that amount within two hours, then spend another couple of hours editing it into shape. The rest of the work hours will be taken up with promo, cover design, et al, and outlining the rest of the books I’ll be writing this year.
On October 6, I pivot from King and let it cool for a week while I fire up Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4). People have been waiting VERY patiently for this book for about five years, so now that I have the rights back for all of the Olympic Cove books I want to reward them for their patience. The goal is to finish Current on November 2. On October 12, in parallel with my work on Cross Current, I will start editing King with a goal of getting it out to my editor and the betas by October 16. After I incorporate their changes and do the final polishing stages, I’ll publish King on Tuesday, October 27.
On November 3 I let the completed Cross Current rest for a week while I go back to work on Uncertainty Principle (and by then I’ll actually have an outline, please God — this book has been frustrating me for the better part of two years) with a goal of finishing it on December 4. Once again, I’ll edit Cross Current in parallel with writing Uncertainty, with a goal of publishing Cross Current on November 24. Uncertainty Principle will be published on December 22, and I am taking the rest of December off to let my brain cool down and get in some well-deserved relaxation by that point.
IF I HAVE TIME AND INTESTINAL FORTITUDE, I will work on The Crimson and the Black in December once Uncertainty Principle is finished. I am not going to promise anything at this point because, quite frankly, I may need to collapse at that point. Much will hinge on how well the dictation goes, how quickly I can edit, and whether or not I still have extra processor cycles available. If I decide to put it off until 2021, it will be the first book of that year.
I’m not going to post my planned schedule for 2021 yet because it’s still kind of soft and I want to get some details firmed up. But my goal is to release at least four full-length books that year (I’m telling you right off the bat, two of them will be the final books in the Olympic Cove series), along with a handful of novellas and free short stories.
And yeah, I know it looks like I’ve bitten off far more than I can chew, but King, Current, and Uncertainty are all partials so it’s not like I’m starting from square one on any of them. If I can get all of them done and out the door, I will have cleared my backlog and can start 2021 with a clean conscience. Let’s see if I can get this done.