Category Archives: Shadow of the Swan
Sorry about not posting anything entertaining and/or useful yesterday, but I have been one very, very busy writer for the last day and a half. Unfortunately, my busyness has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with paying bills, filing all my receipts and paid bills (I know how anal that sounds, but it helps when I have to prep the tax paperwork for the accountant), packaging stuff up and mailing it out to people, doing a big food stock-up for humans and J Crew which requires hitting three different stores, attending my writers’ group meeting over Zoom last night and critiquing some chapters from a member, plus all of the usual cooking/cleaning/household chores on top of that.
Phoo. I’m tired just reading that.
And yes, I know, minions would help. One time someone very kindly offered to act as my PA and I had to pass on it because I simply couldn’t afford them. Well, also because the actual writing business doesn’t take up a huge chunk of my time just yet — it’s everything else that has me running around and swearing under my breath. I swear, if the cats had opposable thumbs they would be VERY surprised at the chores they’d be assigned (I already know damn well that they understand English to a certain degree).
Speaking of the little darlings, Ramón and I have agreed that it’s time to address the weight problem that Jessie (above) and Jemma (at left) (and to a lesser degree Jeremy) are having. The two ladies are now 9 and 8 years old, respectively, and they’re putting weight on to the point where Jessie lumbers down the stairs (although she was still able to jump up to the stove top, then to the top of the refrigerator, and onto the top of the cabinets a couple of days ago) and Jemma, bless her heart, looks like a brown bowling ball. Our problem is our 18-year-old gentleman who wants to nibble constantly (and needs to, to be honest) and yowls at a genuinely shocking volume if he can see the bottom of a food bowl. We need to keep him fed and his weight up, but that turns into a buffet for the other cats and isn’t good for them. So we’re addressing this with weight management kibble and additional playtime for the younger cats (I wish I could get Jemma and Jasmine to eat wet food, but they simply won’t do it. Jems will sometimes eat tuna, but Jaz won’t touch anything but kibble). I’ll keep feeding JJ extra food and treats as necessary, but I’ll have to do it where the other cats can’t see.
And with that, it’s now time to get back to work on Shadow of the Swan, tra la.
FB just reminded me of what I was doing on this day in 2014, so I thought I’d share it with you:
“Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tonight’s contestant is Nicola Cameron from Plano, Texas — let’s give her a big hand!
“Now, Ms. Cameron has spent the last two days removing old cement, mastic, and epoxy from her hot tub rim in preparation for re-cementing and mortaring the missing coping stones back into place, and a bunch of the debris has fallen into her pool as a result. Let’s see how she’s going to get it out.
“Ooh, she’s starting by trying to scoop up the biggest chunks with her skimmer. It’s not quite working as she’d hoped, I’m afraid — too bad, it was a good idea. She’s changing out the skimmer head for a brush head and brushing it all into a large pile — smart move! Now she’s getting out her vortex vacuum head and attaching it and the garden hose to suck that debris right up.
“Oh, no! The vortex caused by the hose isn’t quite enough to pick up the larger pieces. I haven’t heard cursing like that since I was in the Marines!
“On to Round Two — she’s brushing all the pieces into the shallow end and — wow, she’s getting her wet-dry shop vac out and sucking them up! Great move, Ms. Cameron!
“Wait a minute — the shop vac move worked with the small pieces, but the vac is too efficient and is filling almost immediately and there are still large shards at the bottom of her pool. Is she going to throw herself on the mercy of her pool cleaning service for help?
“NO! I cannot believe this, people — she is taking off her glasses, and — YES, yes, she is jumping fully clothed into the pool in her best impersonation of a pearl diver and collecting the shards manually. This woman is determined! Wait, I’m hearing her mutter something about shark week, prehensile toes and ‘See, Mom, I TOLD you they’d come in handy.’ And she’s gotten all of the debris out of the pool! Well done, Ms. Cameron!
“Well, this has been an amazing episode of Cleaning Mortar Chips Out Of a Swimming Pool! Tune in tomorrow when Ms. Cameron is going to don protective gear and use dilute muriatic acid to remove the mortar haze from her flagstones. Good night, everyone!”
In even more entertaining news, here’s another snippet from Shadow of the Swan:
Henry regretted the words the moment they left his mouth. Miss Wallingford recoiled as if slapped, and even Mwanda shifted against the door as if uncomfortable. “Really, Harry,” she muttered.
He cursed his own lack of tact. He could still taste Louisa Wallingford’s blood, its complex flavor lingering on his palate like the finest of wines, and it had the same effect as wine on a human. The bottled stuff couldn’t wash it away, much as he wished it would. Drinking directly from a human was a different matter entirely than drinking stored blood. He would now be able to sense Louisa Wallingford no matter where she was, divine her moods, even anticipate her actions once he got to know her better.
He had been able to ignore the humans he had drunk from in the past, block them from his awareness. But combined with his assignment, it would be impossible to ignore this bright, beautiful, and exasperating young woman. Even now he could feel her fear, combined with a half-angry curiosity as she digested the news he had dumped so gracelessly in her lap.
With care, he replaced the half-full bottle of blood on the table and leaned forward. “Miss Wallingford, you are a sensible young woman. It is not my intention to frighten you unnecessarily, but I would be remiss if I didn’t impress upon you the gravity of your situation. Your uncle has recruited not only the entirety of the ministry but her majesty the queen in order to protect you from this Fae noble. The best solution we have found is your marriage to Robert Bainbridge, which must take place as quickly as possible. Once you are married, you are no longer bound by the terms of this Fae contract and will be safe. That is why everything is happening at such an unusual pace.”
He wasn’t surprised when the young woman drained her glass of wine at a gulp. “What’s the name of my erstwhile suitor?”
He remembered she was an academic like her uncle. Information was what she needed at this moment to stay in control. “Avery, of House Eala. He rules over his own court within Faerie, and his formal title is the Swan King. If you want to know more about him, I would suggest asking your uncle when we return. He knows far more about the contract with your family than I do.”
“Listen to him, girl.” Mwanda came forward, silk swishing with the movement. The mocking expression was gone, replaced by grim seriousness. “The Fae are far more powerful than even the ministry likes to admit, and you don’t want to be in one’s power. If marrying this Bainbridge is the only way of getting away from them, do it tomorrow. Hire a carriage and take him up to Gretna Green, then tumble him immediately afterwards.”
The thought of Louisa Wallingford in bed with another man sent a unexpected surge of rage through him, and he had to will himself to stay calm. You’re blood-struck, that’s all. It’ll fade in time. “Mwanda,” he growled.
“This isn’t the time for prudery, Harry,” she shot back. “The girl needs to protect herself, and if some words before a priest and a bedding will do it, then that’s what she needs to do.”
“Enough.” Louisa held up a hand that only showed the faintest of tremors. “Please. Mr. Carstairs, may we return home? I need to speak with my uncle.”
He glanced at Mwanda, who shrugged. “The carriage should be here soon. I’ll see if Remy has that shirt for you yet.”
So I woke up this morning after a dream that was apparently inspired by elements of “Goodbye Earl” by the Chicks (no justified killing of an abusive husband, but I observed two couple’s arguments, spent some time in a really nice kitchen that overlooked a great apartment complex after one boyfriend decided to switch apartments with his old girlfriend and go move in with his new girlfriend, and wound up in the middle of what looked like Wisconsin, judging from the rolling hills and all of the silos, as part of a mass job interview for a tech writing position. Yeah, I don’t understand that last part, either).
And then it was 5 AM, and my brain said, “Okay, you went to sleep at midnight, that’s enough, we’re going to play “Goodbye Earl” on earworm loop until you get up.” Thanks, brain. So I’m here, having fed and watered the J Crew, and I figure I’ll get in maybe four hours of writing before that stupid mass in my skull gives up and I can go back to bed at 10 AM for three more hours of sleep.
And then I made the mistake of checking Twitter and found out that not only does DHS intend to take its cobbled-together SS shitshow in Portland nationwide, but John Lewis died this morning. The best way to pay tribute is to get into some good trouble.
This was taken a few minutes ago — I haven’t gotten much of a chance to write today because I had to mask up and go do a multiple stockup run (meds, kitty food, human food), come home and sanitize/take a shower, do laundry, make dinner, and handle a couple of other tasks. But it’s 9:14 PM at the moment (you’ll be reading this tomorrow morning), and I probably won’t be going to sleep until midnight so I very well may be able to knock out 2647 words before I turn in.
And yeah, that’s an odd and very precise number, but if I crank out that many words every day for the next seventeen days I should have the book done and dusted by July 31st. Because I’ve jumped around the book and added scenes here and there I have a fair chunk of Acts II and III done already, and right now I’m doing the wrap-up for Act I, where Louisa finds out what her uncle has actually been doing for the Ministry of Antiquaries all these years and why she’s been brought back to London for a bizarre shotgun wedding. Oh, and Henry has been shot by goblins while trying to get her out of Whitechapel in one piece (she was trying to get out of London), so she now knows he’s a vampire.
Heh. I love these two — they are bickering and snarking at each other so much, and neither of them want to acknowledge the attraction between them because that’s simply not done. By the time they actually kiss, it’s going to be pyroclastic. Here’s an unedited snippet to whet your interest:
The omnibus rolled to a clattering stop on the corner of Garrick Street and Rose Street. The only thing that could be said for that particular section of Covent Garden was that it was slightly less dangerous than Whitechapel, with its history of street violence among the working-class residents offsetting the fame of the nearby open-air market that hawked everything from carrots to flowers.
Henry escorted Miss Wallingford from the omnibus’s upper deck, ignoring the trio of humans who had been outraged at their transport being pressed into ministry service. “Your fee,” he said to the driver, handing over the requisite coins.
The driver grinned as he stuffed his payment into a coat pocket. “And thank you for choosing the Bayswater Line, sir,” he said cheerfully, flicking the reins. The omnibus set off, ostensibly to return its complaining passengers to their original destination.
Eyeing their surroundings, Henry kept his hand around his companion’s upper arm as he guided her down Rose Street. It was a narrow road, hardly more than an alley, and shadowy from the lack of street lamps. In other parts of London, the lack of illumination would guarantee at least one man loitering in the shadows armed with a short club or brass knuckles, waiting to set upon anyone walking alone. That wasn’t the case for Rose Street, primarily due to the pub situated at its bend.
The Crimson Ribbon had been a staple of the area since the early eighteenth century, having opened as a pub in 1772. One of its early draws had been the bare-knuckle prizefights held in one of its upper rooms. That had earned it the nickname “Bucket of Blood,” which its new owner had capitalized on when it was reopened as the Crimson Ribbon in 1888. There were still shadowy figures on the street these days, but they were far more interested in what flowed through the veins of any passing unfortunates than their wallets.
As they approached the pub door Henry sensed the other vampires’ attention focusing on Miss Wallingford. It triggered an unfortunate protective response, and his canines ached with the need to drop down. He clenched his jaw to keep the sharp teeth properly retracted. “You’re safe with me,” he said through his gritted teeth, willing that to be true. “Just don’t do anything foolish, like try to run.” If she ran, the others would chase her, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to leave them alive.
The pub’s interior was far cleaner and well-kept up than the exterior would have suggested, with polished wooden wainscoting below a rich red wallpaper and brass gaslights giving the space a warm. A human might be fooled into thinking it was a standard public house until he noticed the lack of beer pulls behind the bar, the absence of pint glasses, and the lager-less smell of the air. Of course, very few humans made it that far into the pub, and even fewer survived to carry tales.
A number of patrons sat at tiny pub tables off to the right, nursing stemmed glasses of blood or wine, while a reed-thin vampire Henry didn’t recognize stood behind the bar. He glowered at their approach, nostrils flaring wide at Miss Wallingford’s scent. “No outside refreshments, sir,” he announced.
Henry felt Louisa stiffen at the implication. “I need to speak with Madame Njata now, please.”
He refrained from grabbing the vampire’s grubby neckcloth and yanking him over the bar. “I’m sure she is, nonetheless I need to speak with her. Tell her Harry’s here.” He pulled out his ministry warrant card and flashed it. “Ministry business.”
With a reluctant nod, the barman left his post and headed through a door near the back. Henry made sure to keep his human ward behind him as he scanned the clientele. After a few half-hearted stares, they all returned to their own conversations.
The barman returned. “Follow me.”
They did. A flight of stairs led to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the building. Lined with six doors, it terminated at a larger room at the very back. Henry knew the former site of the bare-knuckle prizefights now served as Madame Njata’s office.
Instead of being led there, however, they were shown to one of the other doors. “She said she’ll be right with you,” the barman said, opening the door and waving them inside.
Henry was tempted to argue, but the rising scent of fear from Miss Wallingford made him choose prudence. The room featured an old but still sumptuous red velvet chaise, a wooden table, and a plain wooden chair. Judging from the lingering scents, the room had been used for sleep, feeding, and intercourse, and not in that order.
He waited until the door was closed, then sat on the chaise. He knew it would seem rude to leave the wooden chair for Miss Wallingford, but doubted she would want to rest on the chaise if she knew what had taken place on it within the last day. “Will you sit?”
Reluctantly, she took the chair. “What are we doing here?”
“I need to feed.”
She went pale. “Not from you,” he added quickly. “This is one of the places in London where a vampire can feed in privacy and safety. Think of it as a very exclusive supper club.”
The tension in her limbs didn’t fade, but she nodded in understanding. “So you feed on … people?”
“If they’re willing, yes. Live blood taken directly from a human is more nourishing than blood that’s been drawn and stored. And in my case, it’ll help speed my healing.”
The color rushed back to her face. Guilt? Good. Hopefully that will keep her from doing something so damned foolish again. Then he realized the smallness of the room was concentrating her scent, and his teeth ached again as his hunger rose. To his dismay, something else ached as well. Carrying her across the roofs of Whitechapel had been an unfortunate reminder of how long it had been since he’d touched a woman with more than feeding in mind. And she most definitely had a lush little body under that masculine disguise.
Don’t be an idiot. Louisa Wallingford is young, headstrong, and far too impetuous for her own good. Not to mention she was good as married, by command of the Queen herself. And she’s human. Lush as she may be, she’s not for you.
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.
So anyway, I’m currently at *checks Scrivener* 8,737 words of a projected 80,000 on Swan, and things are going as smoothly as possible seeing that I also have a day job that cuts into my writing time. But our bills are also steadily dropping (I actually paid off my car in December! Whee!) so I’ll suck it up and shove writing time into whatever available crevices I can find.
That came out weird. Never mind.
I also have what I’m pretty sure is going to be the final cover — still need to make some tweaks here and there, but I absolutely love that Belle Epoque dress and the way the model’s turned head artfully exposes the bite marks of a certain Tudor vampire, ahem. I know it doesn’t scream paranormal romance, but I can already tell this book is going to straddle the boundary between PNR and UF so what the heck, I may as well go with a cover that flirts with both genres.
In other news, the lurgy that I came down with two days after Christmas and two days before Sister and BIL were due to arrive (which made cleaning the house SO much fun, and great accolades have been awarded to Ramón who stepped up to the plate like a champ and did all of the heavy lifting so that I could rest as much as possible) appears to be finally, FINALLY on the way out. After, I must say, producing the most amazing neon yellow mucus I have ever seen. I honestly had no idea my body could make something that color. I’m still coughing intermittently but that seems to be related more to my usual allergy-induced sinus drainage than any actual infection. Nonetheless, I’m going to monitor that bit because a lot of people seem to be getting hit by pneumonia this winter and I really want to avoid it if at all possible.