Category Archives: Crystal Shard

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!

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.

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.

Varia

I have a subfolder folder on my email inbox that’s called Varia. It’s where I put the email that I want to keep for some reason but doesn’t fit anywhere else. It’s why I’m titling this blog post Varia, because it contains stuff that’s important to me but doesn’t really fit anywhere else. So without further ado:

I have to do the taxes today. And by do the taxes, I mean collate all the numbers that we then submit to our accountant (yes, we have an accountant. What with Ramón’s former 1099 contractor status and me with my multiple streams of income, I’d much rather pay a professional to find any tax breaks we may be eligible for than swear my way through TurboTax, plus their fee is a write-off on next year’s taxes). It’s a task I never look forward to and always feel immensely relieved about once it’s done. Writing this blog post is a way of putting it off for another couple of minutes, but once I hit Publish it’s time to take the laptop upstairs and do battle with the paperwork.

WRT The Slap: it’s a complicated situation that contains many layers to parse, some of which I am not qualified to do so because I am not Black. So I’ll leave that to people better suited to do so. Nonetheless, I’m happy that Will Smith won his Oscar.

I’m struggling to find joy in writing. I don’t know if this is due to the pandemic, the fact that I’m still having problems with Crystal Shard (I really wish I could jump to Crystal Blade, but that’s simply not an option), various hormonal problems that are still plaguing me, or what. But when I think about my schedule for the rest of the year it’s not bringing any pleasure. Rather, I can’t help but think that I’m rushing through time without stopping to enjoy anything and I’m going to regret it at the end. I need to find some way to pause and find some happy moments.

To that end, I’ve just learned that Florence + The Machine will be touring North America this summer and one appearance will be in Irving. Seeing as I use a lot of F+TM tracks in my writing soundtracks I think I’m going to get tickets for Ramón and myself, especially since I’ve already pre-ordered Dance Fever and I’m loving the three tracks that have been released (“My Love” is especially delicious).

I just finished bingeing Bridgerton S2, and while I may catch flack for this I think it was better than the book (the MacGuffin that led to the marriage was period-appropriate, yes, but still awfully contrived. Plus there had already been a hasty marriage to avoid scandal in Book 1 so something different would have been nice).

I need to vacuum the living room, but JJ is asleep and I don’t want to disturb him because he’s twenty years old and has earned his rest. Maybe later when he’s up and eating.

Okay, that’s it for me. Time to head off and wrassle with the taxes. Think good thoughts for me, please.

Crystal Shard has been delayed to April 26, 2022

So I’ve made an executive decision. I’ve moved the release date for Crystal Shard out to April 26th. An explanation:

The initial plan was to have finished the book in February so that I could get it edited and up in time for March 15th, the original release date (which meant that I would have to upload it to Amazon by 6 PM my time on Friday, March 11th).

This fell by the wayside for a complicated set of Reasons, some of which were beyond my control. So I pushed the release date two weeks out to March 29th. Which was, in retrospect, stupid. It still didn’t give me a lot of time to finish the book, and every time I sat down at the keyboard all I could feel was pressure and the looming knowledge that I would have to knock out multiple 10K days.

I can do a 10K day when necessary. Multiples in a row, however, would not have a good effect on my health. For me, a deadline is usually good, but this time it was more suffocating than inspiring. Plus I’ve only just found the RH groups on Facebook and it’s nice to establish yourself as a reasonable individual before you start posting ads for your book.

TL;dr—last night, I decided enough was enough and pushed the deadline back a second time to a full month (and I apologize to my twelve pre-orders, but trust me, you’ll be much happier with the book you’ll get in April). The immediate sense of relief I felt was astounding, and I sat down at the keyboard and knocked out 1K of a smoking hot love scene.

So, yeah, clearly this was the right choice. The rapid release schedule will now be adjusted to April through August, which means that RH fans will have a new series to look forward to over the summer, and I’ll have enough time to write a really spicy reader magnet before Shard gets out there.

Who knows, I may even have time to finish the final novella in my Esposito County Shifters series, whee!

The joys of December, she said darkly

For other people, normal people who don’t have other people in their heads forcing them to write down their stories, December can be fraught. There are holidays to prepare for, gifts to buy, houses to clean, families to deal with, and all the other joys that come with a massive communally celebrated event.

For writers, we get all that plus deadlines. For instance, as of tonight I have officially pulled the trigger on the pre-orders for The Crimson and the Black (Hidden Empire Book 2), with a release date of January 25, 2022, and Crystal Shard (Paladins of Crystal Book 1) with a release date of March 15, 2022). Are the books finished? Ho ho ho—you must be jesting.

But it is a truth universally acknowledged that Nicola works best with deadlines, otherwise she’ll faff about and waste time reading social media or watching Netflix. And it’s not like this is totally impossible or I’m starting from zero. Crimson is about 1/3rd finished—if I light a fire under my butt I should be able to get the rest of it knocked out by New Year’s Eve, and the editor stands ready to take acceptance of it on January 7th after I do a fast edit. I will also be working on Shard (which is about 2/15ths finished by comparison) in parallel, but that doesn’t have to be ready until mid-February so I can focus on Crimson as necessary.

As I’ll be rapid releasing the Paladins of Crystal books starting in March with Crystal Shard, I’ll be starting Crystal Blade as soon as Crimson is done. The plan is to work on two books at the same time with the focus on the next one to be released in order to meet the release schedule:

  • March 2022: Crystal Shard
  • April 2022: Crystal Blade
  • May 2022: Crystal Reflection
  • June 2022: Crystal Citadel
  • July 2022: Crystal Empress

Barring death or something bad happening to my hands, I should just about be able to pull it off. And then I’m taking August off because phoo. My writing schedule for the rest of the year will depend on what’s selling best which at the moment are the Two Thrones, Hidden Empire, and Pacifica Rising series. If that’s still the case in August, I may do Mage of Fire, To Love a Wild Swan, and Uncertainty Principle to round out 2022. And yes, I can hear the shrieks of outrage from Olympic Cove fans who are waiting patiently for the last two books in the series. All I can say right now is that I have to work on what’s profitable—if sales of Cross Current pick up, I’ll do those books instead.

But—if Paladins of Crystal does as well as I think it can, I have two related series that I can start working on in September and start off with a January 2023 rapid release schedule. My goal right now is to make $50K in income by the time 20Booksto50k 2022 starts in Vegas, and this is how I’m going to do it.

*touches fingertips together* That being said, I need help from you. I’ve found some places that advertise reverse harem romances and I’m contacting them, but if you know of any reviewers, bloggers, sites, et al that specialize in RH, please please PLEASE point me towards them. I’m going to stack promos around the release of Crystal Shard, but I want the RH fandom to be aware well before then that the book is coming out and the other four in the series will follow quickly.

So, yeah, December is gonna be a busy month for me. But I feel good about this—I have solid outlines, I know my characters well, and I’m going to do my damnedest to write some amazing romances. Let’s get ‘er done.

BOY, it’s been a busy two months

When last I left you, my friends, I was prepping for my sister’s arrival (aka frantically trying to make the house not look like a heavy metal band had been camping here for the last six months) and getting started on TikTok. I’m happy to say that the house was indeed cleaned, the visit was lovely, and she’s coming back with her husband in two weeks. Which is good because I need the time to re-clean this place–granted, it’s not nearly as bad as it was in September, but I got some contract work this month and went to Vegas for a week (more on that later) so some of the housekeeping kinda slid by the wayside.

As for TikTok, that’s turned out to be an immense amount of fun — I’m coming up with skits I want to do, I made it over a thousand followers so I can now put a URL on my profile page that links to all of my books, and generally it’s a good outlet for being the goof that I am. It also gave me a good reason to buy a new tiara (there’s a Thing on BookTok where if you’re a romance writer you wear a tiara while you do your videos. Far be it from me to say no to wearing a crown).

And that extra tiara (I now have three) came in handy when I went to Vegas for 20Booksto50k® 2021, which is a faboo conference for indie authors and publishers. In the space of five days I learned SO MUCH both about the craft of writing and the business of being an indie author — marketing, ads, stacking promos, how to construct a book launch properly, bookkeeping, starting LLCs and similar companies, everything from soup to nuts. I came back thoroughly pumped, started adding A+ content to all of my Amazon books, tweaked blurbs and ads, and rewatched videos of panels to get deeper into the best way to construct Amazon and FB ads.

Oh, and I’m doing NaNoWriMo, too, because I’m a masochist who doesn’t know when to say no. Right now I’m up to 35,085 words on Crystal Shard (ooh — did I mention that I’m doing a rapid release Reverse Harem series next year? I’m doing a rapid release RH series next year) as well as finishing The Crimson and the Black (and man, did I get some insights into that book while in Vegas). Right now it looks like Crimson will be coming out mid-January, and Crystal Shard will be coming out mid-March with the next four books in the series following in April, May, June, and July. Oh, and I’m also working on Mage of Fire (Two Thrones 5), release date TBD.

Yeah, definitely a masochist. But at least I’m having fun.