Category Archives: One Sweet Christmas
Hello, all you lovely people, and welcome to the blog! I probably should explain the discrepancy between the name in the blog title and the name on the website itself — I write speculative romance (SF/fantasy/paranormal) as Nicola Cameron, but in 2020 I started writing contemporary romance as Natasha M. Stark. My very first contemporary holiday romance, One Sweet Christmas, is the story of an unemployed personal assistant traveling to LA who gets stranded in a Colorado ski town when her car breaks down. She gets talking into helping the local hot baker make an emergency wedding cake for an influencer Bridezilla––and hijinks ensue!
One Sweet Christmas was an absolute ball to write as it combined three of my favorite things––romance, banter, and baking. I can neither confirm nor deny that this story was influenced by The Great British Bakeoff, but I do enjoy baking assorted treats like mince pies and fruitcake, which leads me to my family holiday tradition. When I was a kid, my mother used to make a Polish fried cookie called Chrusciki (angel wings) every Christmas, and watching her making them was almost as good as eating them.
This was before the advent of silicone baking sheets, so she would spread a clean sheet over the kitchen counter to get a smooth surface, scatter it with flour, then roll out paper-thin sections of dough before slicing them into rectangles and cutting a slit down the center of the long side.
One end would get pulled through the slit to form a kind of dough bow tie, before going into hot oil and puffing up into a delicious, crispy cookie. The final touch was sprinkling them with powdered sugar (this had to be done while they were still hot and slightly oily so that the sugar would stick). You couldn’t wear anything nice when you ate Chrusciki because you’d get powdered sugar over everything, but we didn’t care because they were so yummy.
If you also love baking and want to take a crack at making these delicious cookies, Jenny Can Cook has a really good recipe that produces authentic Chrusciki. Just don’t wear anything that has to be dry cleaned when you nom them.
Thanks so much for stopping by the blog, and I hope you had a good (and safe) holiday this year! Before you go, I’d like to remind you of the Rafflecopter giveaway being held by N.N. Light’s Book Heaven. Everyone who enters has a chance at winning one of the following:
- $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Direct Link: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92db775087
The giveaway is open internationally and runs December 1 – 31, and a drawing will be held on January 4, 2021. Click the link above to enter, and good luck!
Calling all holiday-themed readers! We’re celebrating Christmas and the holidays all month long at N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s Christmas and Holiday Book Festival. 48 holiday-themed books featured plus a chance to win one of the following:
- Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- Enter to win a $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
- Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, One Sweet Christmas, will be featured on December 31st, 2020. Each author shares a family holiday tradition, including me. You won’t want to miss it.
Bookmark this event and come back every day:
Yeah, well, it’s out. BUT — since it’s a contemporary romance, I’ve released it under the Natasha M. Stark name (it’s a marketing decision — people who liked To My Muse and Grading the Curve don’t necessarily want to read my SF/fantasy/paranormal romance, so I’m giving them their own pseud for my contemporary romance).
One Sweet Christmas is the tale of jaded PA Rose Shaffer who does NOT believe in Hallmark moments or small town romance, thank you very much. After her Chicago socialite employer dies, she gets an offer of a free room for a month in LA while she looks for work in the Land of Personal Assistants. On her way there, however, her car breaks down near the ski town of Crystal Mountain, CO, where she meets Eric Kaufman, Hot Baker and former contestant on Let’s Bake, America! (at least, until he wound up punching the male judge and storming off the show).
Eric’s been asked to make a wedding cake for an IG influencer on short notice. When his assistant breaks both arms in a skiing accident, Rose gets roped in to help Eric finish the cake. Needless to say, hijinks ensue after that, and a ridiculously cute niece, a crafty dad, and a somewhat plaster-covered assistant baker add to the fun. (As my editor said, “Damn you, I couldn’t put it down!”)
This, by the way, is going to be the highlight of my week since Ramón and I are doing the reasonable thing and staying home for Thanksgiving. I’ll miss making my oven-roasted Brussels sprouts for the editor and her family, but in this time of COVID-19 it’s not worth the risk. We’ve managed to make it through eight months of staying home except for store trips and medical visits, and we’re both still okay so far — I’d like to continue that run until a vaccine is available.
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?
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…
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.
A little over a month or so ago, my laptop started karking up. There were at least three different periods where it was dead to the world for a week, until Ramón worked his magic and got it started again. After the third computer death, we decided that it was time to invest in a new MacBook, as the old one’s model had graphics card problems that were indeed shutting the whole damn thing down and it was only a matter of time before it died the True Death.
Ramón went back to our source for refurbed MacBooks and found this lovely mid-2012 model with no graphics card glitches and a 14% increase in speed over my existing model. As he is currently a gentleman of leisure searching for employment and I am performing contract instructional design on a somewhat uncertain schedule, having to splash out on a replacement laptop was not fun but I figure I’ll bust my ass to sell enough jewelry to cover the cost this month (and I have some spectacular new pieces on the bench that will be coming soon).
I told him to buy it, and it arrived today. He spent the afternoon testing the new chassis to make sure everything was working properly, then transferred over the brain. I have literally spent the evening updating EVERYTHING (including a new version of Scrivener, whee!), testing the graphics capability (DOUBLE WHEE), and generally getting everything ready for some frenzied writing in order to get my adorable holiday romance novella One Sweet Christmas (blurb: Take an unemployed PA stranded in a Colorado mountain town after her car breaks down, add a widowed baker with a young daughter and a sneaky father-in-law who’s also the town mechanic, toss in an emergency wedding cake for a social media princess, and top with some Christmas magic for one sweetly sexy holiday romance! Or as my editor put it, “It’s Kristin Bell and Robert Downey Junior bantering over cake pans”) done and out by mid-October.
That also means that Let’s Get Healthy will restart as well, beginning with a post later on tonight. I may not need to get on the treadmill tomorrow if my plan works out and I can lure Ramón to the Texas State Fair for a few hours. Granted, the benefits of walking around will probably be cancelled out by a Fletcher’s Corny Dog and whatever new fried treats they’re featuring this year, but hey, it’s good to get out in the fresh air once in a while.