Category Archives: Palace of Scoundrels

The multiple stages of editing

Editing is a very different beast from writing. It’s when you have to ditch your drunken slut of a muse and put on the green celluloid visor to become a cross between a dominatrix, an old-school English teacher and the bitchiest, most persnickety of proofreaders. And because I’m waiting on the last beta edit, I’m going to entertain you with an explanation of Nic’s Personal Editing Process.

With a self-pubbed book like Palace of Scoundrels, it all starts the first draft (which shouldn’t be shown to anyone because Jesus, Allah, and Zoroaster, it’s SOOOOO bad. We’re talking word vomit on the page, all kinds of weasel words, and not nearly enough physical description because my subconscious thinks I’m a screenwriter). Then I laboriously hack and slash my way through the worst of the wordy underbrush and carve out a draft that is tolerable for my beta readers.

That gets sent off, and I go back and do what I call the mechanical edit, which means turning on every grammar and spelling option in Scrivener and going line by line to make sure all spelling/grammar/punctuation is correct, all tenses agree with each other, and I don’t have doubled words (I do that a lot, I don’t know why).

After the mechanical edit comes the weasel word edit. Basically, I use the Find function to locate these 43 words you should never use in your writing and evaluate each case to see if I can get rid of the word entirely, modify the sentence so that it has the same meaning without using the word, or occasionally leave the word in because it’s needed. This is OMG tedious (POS took half of yesterday and all of today to get this done, with much cursing on my part) but it’s also an absolutely necessary and vital part of editing a book, and it always, ALWAYS makes the book better.

By this point I usually start getting beta comments back and can add in their corrections and suggestions. I use at least three beta readers per book, as well as a kick-ass editor who has the sharpest eye I have ever been blessed to have my work under. Once all those edits have been added, I’ll do a final once-over as a polish, then it’s ready to be uploaded to Amazon, Smashwords, and All Romance eBooks. It’s long, tedious process that requires a hella amount of attention, but if you do it right you wind up with a killer book.

My current status on, well, everything

pos91516So, yeah, it has been brought to my attention that I’ve been maintaining radio silence while working on Palace of Scoundrels, so sorry about that. I’ve been focusing on finishing the damn book so much that I kinda forgot, “Uh, you have a blog? And people might like to know how things are going?”

So yeah, we are now officially into the home stretch, as seen at left. I strongly doubt this will be the final word count — I have at least two major scenes to insert while doing the rewrite, and I’m guessing it’ll top out more around 73K. But that’s still a chunky little piece of high fantasy erotic romance, so for all of you who are looking for fixes to your GOT jones just hang on for another week.

(I am still absolutely boggled that I’m writing high fantasy erotic romance. But damn it, this world is just so much fun.)

Also, while we’re on the topic of GOT, if you’re a fellow fan of that delightfully tall drink of Scottish water Rory McCann (Sandor “The Hound” Clegane), might I suggest that you track down a British comedy TV series called The Book Group on Hulu? It’s from 2002 and stars Anne Dudek, who played House fellow applicant/Wilson’s girlfriend Amber on House, and is the story of a rather neurotic American named Clare who moves to Glasgow and starts a book group to meet people. The other members of the group include three footballers’ wives (one of whom is played by the goddess Michelle Gomez, also known as Missy/The Master on Doctor Who), a rather sweetly clueless guy named Rab who is secretly having an affair with Michelle’s footballer husband, an obnoxious hipster played by James Lance, and McCann’s character Kenny, who is a kindly lifeguard at a local leisure center. Kenny’s also in a wheelchair after what we presume is a climbing accident, and the writers do a great job of not turning him into the Magical Paraplegic or giving him Very Special Episode moments. He’s got a couple of issues, not to mention crap taste in girlfriends, but he’s still one of the better-adjusted people in the group along with Rab, and his low level flirtation with Clare goes everywhere from exasperation to genuine friendship.

Also, it’s really nice to hear McCann using his own accent–he’s got this amazing young Sean Connery thing going on. Pity he was depilating his chest at the time, but one can’t have everything, I suppose.

Interview with Daniel Riding and Update on Palace of Scoundrels

melwritingThe lovely and perspicacious Daniel Riding recently interviewed me  on his blog about writing MM erotic romance, the Olympic Cove series, and just where do I get all those marvelous ideas from, anyway? I forgot to mention my writing tiara (shown at left), but the interview is here — thanks again, Daniel!

In writing news, I’m firing away on all cylinders on Palace of Scoundrels, with a plan to have it released on (checks calendar) September 20. Less than two weeks, in other words. Whee! Sleep’s overrated! After that I plan on sleeping even less and finishing edits on Do No Harm so that I can get it out a few days after Palace, because not only am I going to the Evernight Publishing writer’s retreat in October, I’m also schlepping my sister on a 3-day cruise a few weeks after that (mainly so that she can see if she can tolerate a cruise — she gets terribly motion sick, poor lamb), and I have to pay for all this travel without actually selling an organ or a cat.

So, Nicola’s been making jewelry

I’m writing, too, never fear, and Palace of Scoundrels and Do No Harm will be out next month to prove it. Buuuuut my budget kinda got blown out of the water this month when 1) I forgot to budget for the cost of an out-of-town convention, 2) one of our cats had a rather expensive vet visit (turns out his kidneys are failing, but the vet said it’s VERY early stages and he could survive for another 1-3 years or even longer. As he’s already 15.5 years old, I’ll be grateful for any extra time I get with him) and 3) Shutterstock surprised me by renewing two photo packages without me expecting it, so that was a surprise hundred on the Amex.

CabsAnd since the Amazon royalties this month have already been spoken for, I’m falling back on my (ahem) awesome jewelry-making expertise to wire wrap some gorgeous semi-precious cabochons and get them out where customers can buy them. Of the cabs shown below (left to right), I’ve already wrapped and sold the tiger’s eye, I’m going to wrap the dragonstone next in antique brass, the fossilized coral is waiting for some bronze wire and sheet to come in (I’ve been inspired by a Game of Thrones character, what can I say), a friend has already claimed the azurite/malachite, and the labradorite and amethyst will be wrapped in sterling silver if I can figure out where the hell I put the SS I bought last month.

IrenaWinterfellOn the left, by the way, is Irena, the tiger’s eye cab wrapped with gold wire, gold beads and brick seed beads. When my buddy Peter heard that I’d bought the cab he said, “Mine! Just tell me when you get it done.” I love it when people do that.

On the right is a piece of picasso marble wrapped in gunmetal wire with silver, black, and base metal beads and a black crystal drop. I couldn’t resist calling it Winterfell — the streaks on the marble look like a forest in winter. Also, I may have been bingeing on Seasons 3 and 4 of GOT, I dunno. This one is still available if anyone has a hankering for it — $40 plus $3 shipping in the US.

In between the writing and the jewelry making I have to finish a quilt for a friend, get some cleaning and laundry done, and finish a long-pending video project for a buddy. But it’s a hell of a lot better than being bored, right?

In other news, I think I may have added a new actor to my favorites stable. I blame myself for avoiding GOT for so damn long, but now that I’m watching it I have to admit that I’m rather taken with Rory McCann, that tall Scottish drink of water who plays the Hound. I’m also kicking myself because he was at LoneStarCon 3 a couple of years ago making the rounds of the room parties, and I thought, “Meh. An actor. Whatever. I’m going to bed.” I swear, one of these days I’m going to stop sabotaging myself…

It’s GOOD to have writer friends


This is Jeremy, looking at me and wondering when I’m going to put this warm silver thing down and feed him. He’s one of five cats who do this to me on a regular basis. I’m amazed I ever manage to finish a book.

So I’m working on Palace of Scoundrels (Two Thrones #2) and Matthias is not having a good time. His ally Tomas Villiers, Duke of Kelles and fearsome guardian of the Ypresian North Border, has fallen in love with and kindasorta kidnapped Lady Sibeal LeClerq, daughter of Henrietta LeClerq, Countess of Lierde (also a powerful Terra magistra and owner of the most fertile farmlands in Ypres).

Un petit problem — Sibeal has already been betrothed to Lord Clement Reynard, heir of the Earl of Leuwen (a rather recently ennobled family, and filthy rich). Clement was originally betrothed to Sibeal’s older sister Amelie, but they had a dreadful argument and Amelie broke the betrothal and refuses to take him back. The countess offered the Reynards Sibeal instead, and she was accepted. But Sibeal is in love with Villiers and doesn’t want to marry Reynard. Unfortunately, her mother laid a sterility spell on her and refuses to lift it unless Sibeal marries Reynard, and both Villiers and Sibeal really want children.

So they toss this in Matthias’s lap to sort out, which gives both him and me a headache (there’s a reason why I don’t usually write political intrigue). I was complaining to the brilliant and talented Michelle Muenzler that I had no idea why the Countess was so all-fired to marry one of her daughters off to the Reynards but it had to be important. Glorious woman that she is, she promptly said, “It’s not her pushing this. The Earl has something on the Countess, something major that could ruin her reputation and endanger her lands, and he wants to marry his son into her (major noble) family or he spills the beans.”

Et voila, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and I knew the Earl of Leuwen’s motivation and how this whole mess got started. More importantly, I think I know how to resolve it entertainingly. Now I just have to add a touch more flesh to the problem in Hellas (there’s a reason why I’m calling this Palace of Scoundrels, you know), and I have a complete book. Whee!

Oh, while I’m on the topic of political intrigue and thrones, something has recently come to my attention and I need to swear on the head of Barbara Cartland that I had never seen NOR read Game of Thrones until this July. I’m saying this now because I’m currently on book three and thinking, “Fuck, they have a young queen called Dany and I have a young queen called Danaë. And the Hound calls Sansa “little bird.” And there’s a divine entity called Lys — FUCK. They’re going to think I’m ripping off GoT.” All I can say in my defense is that European history, language, and terminology are being called upon lavishly by both myself and George R.R. Martin, and sometimes there’s going to be overlap. But from this point onward I will do my utmost to stay as far away from the terms of Westeros as possible.

Welp, I passed 5000

And by 5000, I mean five thousand actual sales, not including returns (God, those annoy me because I know a good percentage of them are people who are gaming the system to read new stuff then return it and get the price of purchase back) or giveaways. And by “I” I mean Empress of Storms.

The funny thing? I honestly can’t tell if that’s good or not. Some sources say that you need to sell 10K copies, but that’s if you’re with a major publisher. Other sources say that a self-pubbed book sells 500 copies on average, so in that case I’ve done really well. I dunno, Marty. I guess all I can do is keep writing and hope people like the new stuff as much.

Lord, I just realized — I have to finish Palace of Scoundrels, Do No Harm, and Behind the Iron Cross, get those out, write The Chevalier and get that out this fall, then start researching the historical M/M romance that my BFF suggested so that I can start writing it in November. Sleep? What means this word, sleep?

80K to the Palace: Days Four Through Six

Sorry about that — I’ve been running around cooking and cleaning and critting and doing other stuff, and I completely forgot to update. My bad!

Days 4-6’s stats:

Words needed to stay on schedule: 7,998 words
Wrote: 8,337 words
Total word count: 16,532 words.

This is turning out to be even more fun than I thought it would be, which is good because fun = excellent word count. It’s nice seeing Danaë and Matthias six months on and settling in to life with each other, as well as their respective thrones. Now I just have to change the names up a bit because apparently some reviewers don’t know if I’m setting this in the real world or a made-up one because I’m using Greek and Belgian place names for Hellas and Ypres, and it’s confusing them.

Hint: magic users mean it’s a made-up world. Also, I was kind of in a hurry when I was writing the first book so I may have draped Belgium and Greece in fantasy garb and used them for settings. I’ll try to come up with more generic place names with Palace, I promise.

80K To The Palace: Days One Through Three

Remember my 83K or Bust marathon last September and October in order to get Empress of Storms done? That worked really well, didn’t it?

So I’m doing it again for Palace of Scoundrels. This one will be called 80K to the Palace, and the goal is to get the first draft done by July 4th, with publication ideally on July 19th. Technically it started on Sunday, so today (well, yesterday since I’m posting this on Wednesday) is Day 3. With a planned writing quota of 2,666 words a day, this should be relatively easy and give me room to finish other writing projects at the same time before they show up at my door with torches and pitchforks wanting to know where Cross Current and Do No Harm are.

Days 1-3’s stats:

Started With: 0 words
Words needed to stay on schedule: 7,998 words
Wrote: 8,195 words
Total word count: 8,195 words.

So I’m slightly ahead of the game, which is good. This, by the way, is going to be a bit more rom-com than Empress. There will still be magic, derring-do, and excitement, but there are also going to be some rather hilarious moments if things work out the way I want.

Nicola’s Progress Reports

NotEnoughCaffeineSince I was poked by my buddy Peter on this:

Palace of Scoundrels (Empress sequel) – 1,645 words since I spent a fair amount of time outlining the thing. Nonetheless I’m hoping to have this done by RT — I would like to have it out and available, but that may not be possible. We’ll see.

Behind the Iron Cross – 76,039 words and I’m storming into Act Three as we speak. This one is gonna take mega editing, though.

Cross Current (Olympic Cove #4) – 3,538 words, and I came up with a refinement for my main character that is extremely organic and effective AND makes the story more diverse.

“Do No Harm” (Dark Captive antho entry for Evernight) – 1,520 words. This is the one I really have to focus on since the deadline is March 15th. It’s also the most difficult of the bunch because, well, here’s the antho description:

Dark Captive will be a collection of dark erotic romance stories featuring alpha men with fierce sexual appetites. They’ll stop at nothing to get what they want. And they have their sights on one man. Possessive and bold, these heroes give their conquests exactly what they crave—to be taken … to be owned. Any resistance offered will be tested, but in the end love rules.  

So, dubcon with a romance and HEA/HFN. Kinda hard to do that effectively in less than 25K words, but I think I found a way to make it work.

I’m also trying to catch up on some desperately needed housework in my spare time, but I think I’m breaking down and paying for a professional spring cleaning of the place after I get back from RT. My blue collar South Side soul is screaming blue murder at this, but my professional writer brain is saying, “You can spend time cleaning or you can spend time writing. Which is more productive and satisfying to you? Plus if you hire a service you’re pumping money into the economy, and you can give them mega tips to shut up that screeching soul of yours.” Works for me.