Category Archives: King of Blades
Hoo boy. So I’ve spent the last two weeks working on the front and back yards in a last ditch attempt to stop our place from looking like the “After” pic of Coachella. I’m not joking — the front left yard is badly eroded due to the tree that was there until January, the flower beds are weedy disasters, and I have an overgrown rose bush that someone decided to plant underneath the kitchen bay window so it has to reach out into the sunlight to get any Vitamin D. What can I say — yard work is not my favorite thing.
But it needed to be done, so a few weeks ago I hied my way to Calloways and Home Depot. One wheelbarrow, ten bags of mulch, seven bags of compost, one bag of bermudagrass seed, and a bunch of bacon and eggs lantana and varigated verbena later, and … well, it’s not done.
So what has been done, you ask. I’m happy to answer:
- The enclosure around the now-gone tree was filled with mulch and planted with lantana and verbena. In hindsight I should have layered topsoil in it before adding the mulch, but the plants seem to be doing okay. if they start failing, I’ll transplant them into one of the other full sun flower beds and we’ll have the whole damn thing ground out in the fall.
- The badly eroded front left yard has been reseeded and covered with compost (why compost? Because I read an article where a rancher had brought back all the grass on his almost dead land by spreading compost. Not only does it fertilize everything and encourage grass growth, but it locks higher amounts of CO2 into the grass than if you just use regular grass fertilizer or topsoil. Works for me).
- The right front shrub beds have been mulched.
- The little breakfast nook window bed has been mulched, and begonias and orange celosia have been planted.
Still to do:
- Mulch the left front shrub beds (five bags)
- Reseed gaps in the back yard grass along the pool and cover with compost.
- Mulch the garage flower bed (two bags) and plant more lantana and Mexican heather (the lantana has already been purchased and is sitting on the bed ready to go).
- After a thorough weeding, fill the side flower bed with two bags of topsoil and three bags of mulch, then plant salvia and yarrow or perennial wallflower.
- Trim back the rosebush. In February, prepare the shady corner of the yard and transplant it there.
- Add three bags topsoil and three bags of mulch to the shrub bed that hides the pool pump equipment. This will also require reseating six stepping stones.
- Trim back the decorative grass plant next to the pool heater, which will require digging into the roots to pull the damn thing out
- Add a rotating composter to the front corner of the yard. The ground there is rocky and won’t grow anything, so I may as well stick the composter there.
- Install a butterfly garden in the opposite corner next to the pool pump. It’s a weird little triangle of meh grass — I’m sure I can do something more creative with it.
So, yeah, kind of busy. But I’ve been writing along with all the yard work so I’ve got that going for me. As you may have noticed, Grading the Curve was finally finished and re-released, and I’m currently working on Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2) and King of Blades (Two Throne 2). And er, I may be writing a wee GoT fanfic because, well, I want to.
And I didn’t expect it to, if I’m being bluntly honest. But I did get a call from Houston this morning and my heart leapt into my throat until I saw the words SCAM LIKELY on the screen. Damn you for getting my hopes up, scammers. Congratulations to all the RITA and Golden Heart finalists, and best of luck!
Anyway, I’ve been quiet here lately and I’m sorry about that. It’s been a combination of problematic health due to allergies, trying to get various projects done and out the door, trying to get my office set up so that I can write up there (long story short — I prefer to write on my laptop, but there’s no comfortable place to do that in my office. After ten years of living in this house I have finally rectified that by consolidating all the printers and computer equipment onto one shelving unit and moving my wing recliner into my office), and general ennui. Oh, also, the climate is going to hell, US politics are a dumpster fire, UK politics aren’t much better, and I wish my ovaries would just die already.
So there’s that. But spring is officially here, I’m close to finishing the massive rewrite of Grading the Curve (oh, man, that needed work and way more backstory) and getting that re-released, and then I can get back to work on King of Blades, Uncertainty Principle, and the still untitled romcom (I’m trying to come up with an amusing marriage-related pun, but nothing has worked so far). If that wasn’t enoigh to keep me busy, I’ll also be signing books at the Home Run Author Event this Saturday in the Jack Daniels Club in Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. VIP tickets are already sold out, but tickets will still be available at the door for $20 and parking is free.
Also, I’ve been busy creating graphics for the various book series, which I’m making available on mugs, t-shirts, and stickers because 1) it’s cool and 2) everyone needs a Trickster Tech t-shirt. So in addition to the Olympic Cove merch I now have the Trickster Technologies company logo/tag line, the Mayhew Plants and Nursery company logo/tag line, and I have an idea for a very cool graphic for the ship/AI from Two to Tango (which will be renamed Stealing Dmitri when I get the rights back this summer). What can I say — it’s fun for me to come up with logos for imaginary companies.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work, tra la…
Woohoo, I’m kicking off 2019 with a double re-release! My first publications in January will be two novelettes I originally wrote for Evernight Publishing back in 2013; the rights reverted back to me in 2018, and I’m currently in the process of re-editing them and putting them together for release with Belaurient Press.
The first story, A Boon by Moonlight, is my “boy meets Sidhe/boy asks Sidhe for boon/Sidhe asks for night in boy’s bed” piece. This one has a special place in my heart because I dearly want to go out drinking with these two (Zach could be our designated driver, and Jerrek would throw back vodka like it was water and provide running snarky commentary on everyone else in the bar. It would be great). The re-release will also include the unpublished short story “Snow Day” featuring Zach and Jerrek housebound antics during a polar vortex, so there’s some added value there. It should be out on 1/15 so if you’ve never read this one before you can pick it up then.
And may I just say that I’m freaking in love with this new cover? It screams M/M fantasy romance to me (I still can’t believe I’m writing fantasy romance, but my God it’s fun). Finding the stock image of the model in fantasy garb was a real gift, and the other model works with him extremely well. I may do a couple more tweaks to the image before release day, but what you see here is primarily the finished product.
Oh, funny but true story about the cover — I sent it to a couple of writer friends for feedback. One of them writes SF/fantasy and said, “This is for a fantasy romance story? Because the woman on the right looks like a Vulcan.” I had to explain about Jerrek, after which she said, “Ohhh. In that case, it looks great.” *grin*
The other re-release is Grading the Curve, my “hot for teacher” novelette. Whereas I can get Boon out next week, Curve won’t be out for another two weeks because 1) hoo boy, I learned a lot about characterization and backstory in the last five years, which means 2) this 13K novelette is about to become a 30K novella as I gleefully apply both the Editorial Machete and the Storytelling Spackling Knife with a freaking vengeance (seriously, I re-read the original MSS and was deeply grateful that it sank without a trace. It’s not horrible, mind you, but it was clear I had no idea how to write a good, solid MF romance at that time).
The eagle-eyed among you may have noted the extra name on this cover and want to know who the heck Natasha Stark is. Well, she’s me — as of 2019 I’m using that nom de plume for all of my contemporary romances (and yes, there will be more of them — I’ve got at least four romcoms in mind), and this is my way of introducing her. It’s mainly for marketing purposes, since there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of overlap between contemporary romance readers and SF/fantasy/PN romance readers. I want to make it easy for people to find (and ideally buy) what they want to read, so SF, fantasy, or paranormal romance readers can stick with Nicola’s books, and contemporary romance readers can focus on Natasha’s books.
Oh, God. I’m going to have to set up a totally separate website/social media presence at some point for Natasha, aren’t I? I need a drink…
Meanwhile I’m also working on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) and Natasha’s next romcom, tentatively titled Screen Kiss, so those should be out in March or so. So many books to write, so little time…
Yesterday my MMF historical romance Behind the Iron Cross released on Amazon and Smashwords, with Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes to follow soon. While it’s my tenth full-length novel to be released, it’s also the first romance novel I ever started, back in April 2012. I quickly realized that 1) I would have to do a buttload of research on the period, and 2) I really didn’t have the novel writing chops necessary to do the story justice. While working on my assorted series over the next six years I wound up picking at Iron Cross on and off, doing research when I could and picking up information that would add to the background and worldbuilding of the story.
And then this September something clicked and I decided, “Okay, time to finish it.” Which threw my schedule completely out of whack, forcing me to drop Uncertainty Principle until next year, but I felt like it was time to get Iron Cross done and out. The weird thing is, I wasn’t consciously aware that this year was the centenary of the end of World War I, which plays a big role in the story. All I can say is, the subconscious is an amazing thing.
This is also my longest and darkest romance to date. I don’t know if that’s because it’s a historical romance set in between-the-wars Berlin or what, but 105,000 words still amazes me when I think about it. As for the dark themes, well, 1923 Berlin was not exactly Disneyworld, although God knows there was a buttload of partying going on at the various clubs and restaurants if you had money. As for the concept of a German army officer turning to prostitution to support his family, that was actually pulled from real life reports. The economy was absolute crap, hyperinflation was rampant, lots of soldiers were decommissioned and unable to find even menial jobs, prostitution had been normalized in Berlin, and if you didn’t want to join the criminal gangs and the right-wing militias called Freikorps wouldn’t take you, you didn’t have much of a choice.
Like I said, not the happiest of places. That being said, I very deliberately toned down the harsher historical aspects because this is a romance, after all, and I needed these three very different people to fall in love with each other. According to my editor and betas I succeeded, but time will tell with reviews.
Next up on the writing table are King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) and Windrider and the Deuce, which I’m writing concurrently. Windrider should be finished in two weeks and will be released as my holiday novella following the adventures of Bardahlson son #2 Ewan and a lovely and dangerous messenger from Ghobos who find themselves joining forces to stop a blackmailer from ruining a priestess’s life during Frostfair. That should be out by mid-December and King of Blades should be out by late December, so you’ll have lots of stuff to read between Christmas and New Year.
As for 2019, my current schedule includes the to-be-named romcom about two actors who find out they were accidentally married for real during a movie and have to get a divorce, Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2), Shifter Woods: Scream, the yet-untitled Two Thrones 5, another romcom about Lily’s best friend Theresa, plus the re-release of Breaker Zone (Olympic Cove 2) and Two to Tango, which will be expanded and retitled Stealing Dmitri. So, yeah, busy year next year. But hey, it keeps me off the streets.
Yes, I’m doing it again this year, and I’m working on King of Blades (Two Thrones Book Four), which should make the Matthiaë fans out there happy. I’m looking to finish it by November 30, with a release date around the third week of December, whee!
The plot: Matthias’s yearly visit to Hellas and the games that are celebrating Danaë’s pregnancy are complicated by family strife, old friends, and a string of accidents that may not be all that accidental. With Danaë distracted by her double pregnancy, Matthias has to sort out this new threat to his ever-growing family.
Day 1 word count: 1667
Daily snippet: The traveling party moved slowly through the shadows of the majestic Arpinnes mountains, toiling upwards towards a narrow gap in the range. In winter the gap would be all but impassable due to blizzards and the sheer amount of snow and ice deposited there, but this early in autumn the route was still clear enough for King Matthias IV of Ypres and his coterie of guards, servants, and courtiers to cross over to the other side. Once they descended and reached the small strip of land that formed the eastern border of Ypres, there would only be a short sea journey remaining before they reached the glittering island kingdom of Hellas, ruled by Matthias’s wife and co-ruler Queen Danaë.
Which couldn’t come soon enough for his riding companion. “Why is it so bloody cold up here?” Prince Ezeudo Debare of Ghobos asked, burrowing deeper inside his fur-lined cloak. “This is horrendous.”
Matthias swallowed a sigh. “I’m not really sure. All I know is that it’s always colder in the mountains that it is down on the plain. Consider yourself lucky we’re crossing now. Last time I did this trip there was snow on the ground.”
“Snow.” A disgusted sound followed the word. “I’ll take the desert, thank you very much. At least the air there doesn’t turn my lungs to ice.”
He considered his companion, one of his oldest and most trusted friends. “Ezeudo, do you ever stop complaining?”
“No. It keeps my mouth warm.” The prince grinned unexpectedly, teeth white against his dark skin. “Besides, if I stopped complaining you’d wonder what I’d done with the real Ezeudo.”
“This is true. Remind me again why your wife tolerates you?”
“Because she is the moon to my sun, the love of my life, and I venerate her as I venerate all the deities. Also, she enjoys my large penis.”
Matthias snorted. “I’ll take your word on that, my friend.”
Another flashing grin from the Ghobian. “You’re going to tell her I said that, aren’t you?”
Because I do, especially after I’ve spent the last six weeks slowly sinking into sinus infection fatigue, to the point where I would get up in the morning and five minutes later wanted to go straight back to bed for the rest of the day.
So, yeah, doc’s visit, the nice nurse practitioner said, “Ooh, yeah, your eardrums are bulging, here’s a scrip for a Z-pack, you want a steroid shot, too? Oh, yeah, this is not your first time at the rodeo.” She also confirmed that I get one of these damn things every year around this time — two years ago I came in almost to the day with the same complaint. I don’t know if it’s the weather change or something around here puts out some serious shit in late September/early October, but it’s like freaking clockwork.
So, day two on the Z-pack/steroid shot, and it’s like night and day. I woke up at 4 AM this morning, cranked out 1500 words on King of Blades (holy God, I came up with a BRILLIANT subplot for Darius and Lars, so they’re about to have quite the rollercoaster event in their relationship), went back to sleep for a bit, woke up feeling like a million bucks, went to see Colette (gorgeous movie and man, it’s inspiring if you’re a female writer), and craved real food afterwards (I may have also watched Salt Fat Acid Heat last night and it kinda lit a fire under me). So dinner tonight is rosemary and garlic pork roast, oven-roasted green beans and carrots with olive oil, seasoned sweet potato fries, and cucumber salad. You want to be eating here tonight.
Another bennie of feeling better — I’m back in the mood to make jewelry. I’m finishing up some projects that are already on the bench, and then I get to start work on these, now that all the bits have finally arrived from Rio Grande and the stone sellers. The lower stones and blue and yellow topaz and will be set in sterling silver settings that I’ll solder together, and the top stones are citrine and will have tiny handmade sterling calla lilies dangling from them. I think they’re gonna be gorgeous when they’re done.