Category Archives: King of Blades
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.
The contract job is currently at a halt due to lack of work (hardly surprising) for at least May and possibly longer (seeing as a significant amount of Texans completely lost their shit and started crowding into public spaces on Friday during the state’s “partial” reopening, I’m bracing myself for a large spike in new COVID cases here in two weeks). But Ramón is still working, and I’ve spent the last eight months paying off almost all of our debt, so we should be able to weather it financially. And frankly, I need a break after the non-stop pace of the last four months.
What this also means, however, is that I can — ta da — go back to being a full-time writer for the foreseeable future! I sat down and worked out the following schedule (which may have to be adjusted if the contract job restarts at any point):
- May: Finish Shadow of the Swan and Shifter Woods: Growl (Esposito County Shifters 4).
- June: Let SotS cool, finish King of Blades (Two Thrones 4), edit and publish SW:G.
- July: Let KoB cool, edit and publish SofS, finish Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2).
- August: Let UP cool, edit and publish KoB.
- September: Edit and publish UP.
That would give me three 80+K novels and one novella for 2020, which is not bad. And yes, I know my timeline seems insanely short, but all those books are partially finished (21K on SofS, 4K on KoB, and 5K on UP), so it won’t take as long as it would do to finish a brand new book. Hell, SotS is supposed to be 80K and I can finish the remaining 57K in three weeks if I push.
But wait, I have stretch goals!
- September: Edit Deep Water (Olympic Cove 3) for re-release at the end of December, finish One Sweet Christmas (novella) for holiday sales.
- October: Finish Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4), edit and publish OSC.
- November: Let CC cool, finish Windrider and the Deuce (Two Thrones Novella 2), release all four Shifter Woods novellas as a box set.
- December: Go on a fucking cruise and let my brain relax, edit CC and WatD, release DW once I get the rights back, release CC and WatD a week later.
Which would give me four new novels (SotS, KoB, UP, CC), one re-released novel (DW), three novellas (SW:G, OSC, WatD), and a box set (Shifter Woods) for 2020. Kinda challenging, but I also have to make up for the dumpster fire that was 2019 so I may as well go for it.
Hey all. I’m sorry about the radio silence these past few, well, months — I’ve been tackling a lot of contract tech writing since the end of August, and what with that and my laptop dying I’ve just been too tired to post much of anything here or elsewhere.
A writing update: I am still working on One Sweet Christmas and hope to get it out sometime in the next two weeks. I plan on using NaNoWriMo to finish King of Blades, and I should have the re-release of Breaker Zone ready to go by mid December. I suspect this will be known as the Year of Re-Releases for me, but hey, at least I’m getting them turned around and back out for purchase.
A fitness update: ha. Ha ha ha. But I did do 30 minutes on the treadmill yesterday (it helps that my sister called and distracted me for 23 of them) and I’ll try to do the same tonight. But this up-and-down weather North Texas has had for the last six weeks or so has been hitting my sinuses like a spiked baseball bat, and even with all the neti potting in the world they’re still gunked up and sore.
I promise, 2020 will be better when it comes to new stuff from me — this has been one hell of a tough, stressful year for everyone in Casa Cameron (as it has been in many households around the world), and despite rumors to the contrary difficult conditions do not make it easier for you to create good art. Kind of the opposite, in fact. But I have high hopes that things will get better very soon, and when that happens I’ll have the energy to churn out the long books again.
And THIS, people, is why I make jewelry. Because while I’m sitting there in a 92°F garage with only a box fan blowing on me for relief, dripping sweat from every pore and painstakingly twisting tiny circles into the sterling backplate of a pendant with a prong rounder to make it looks like bubbles, my mind is free to wander and BAM, I power through the problem that’s been nagging me about King of Blades (namely, that there’s no real conflict driving the plot. There is NOW, by cracky!) All I have to do is finish today’s walking (ten minutes down, twenty to go) and use that time to round off the idea’s edges, figure out how all of this is going to play out between Danaë and Matthias, and I’ll actually have a book!
Oh, the jewelry — it’s finished, shown at left, and is titled Summer Blooms. 2″ x 1″ 18 GA sterling silver backplate, golden fossilized coral and citrine cabochons, $99 with a silk neck cord or a sterling silver chain can be added for an additional $10, free shipping. It’s freaking beautiful, has some serious heft to it due to the thick back plate, and is charged with tons of positive energy because I love it so.
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.