Category Archives: The Crimson and the Black
Under normal circumstances this would be a marvelous Sunday afternoon for writing. It’s 78°F and sunny with a moderate breeze, I have the patio umbrella up, a filter jug of water and a glass by my side, and the only thing I really have to do until 5 PM is write (at which point I have to record a podcast).
Except that as I was lugging everything out to the patio, I noticed a puddle in front of the new massive high-sided litter box in the breakfast nook, and when I lifted it up I saw that the puddle ran under the damn box. JJ, bless his ancient heart, had decided that he didn’t like the condition of the box and watered the tiles. Again. Which I really can’t bitch too much about — it’s tile, his kidneys aren’t concentrating urine anymore and he’s pretty much just passing water these days.
But it’s still something I have to clean up before I can come out here, and in the meantime he’s complaining at me in the most vociferous terms (he has food and water, and I gave him a cuddle and my chair, so I can only assuming he’s yelling, “Staff! Clean up that damn puddle already!” in Cat). Finished that, got out here, and Ramón poked his head out saying that he’d been looking for me, then recounted his latest adventure with the American medical system (his doctor prescribed some kind of new sugar-scrubbing medication, only it’s $1400/month. Yeah, no), and now he’s heading off to the Junky Computer Store to see if there’s any electronic tat he wants to buy and should he bring home anything?
And I have just discovered that my seat cushion was lying to me and was indeed soaking wet in the center. A remote cabin is looking better and better, ideally with a minion who can clean for me and check seat cushions to guarantee that they’re dry.
Yes, I know — first world problems. Still annoying, though. But after going in the house to change my capris and underwear I made myself a toasted bagel, so hopefully that will do something to improve both my blood sugar and my mood.
In writing news, I finally figured out what was blocking me on The Crimson and the Black (note to self: just because a character is Scottish does not mean that the plot has to go racing up to the Highlands) so I expect to chunk out a good 3K this afternoon. What with The Nevers doing so well on HBO I’m hoping to get TCatB finished in the next two weeks and out while I can still ride some promotional coattails. Also, Amalia True is my new patronus, and I still think Pip Torrens is the sexiest thing since sliced bread. Apparently he voices a videogame, and I have never been so tempted to become a gamer in my life.
I had to check because for some reason it feels like Sunday to me. My time sense is all screwed up due to the pandemic, and while I usually have the date right I tend to double check on the actual day because Fridays feel like Thursdays and Saturdays feel like Sundays.
In writing news, I’m still working on The Crimson and the Black, finishing up Shifter Woods: Growl, and working on the first chapter of High Tide (Olympic Cove Book 5) because I want to include it as a teaser in the print version of Cross Current. It’s interesting because High Tide is the first and only book in the series where the main protagonist is a woman (Book Six will have Chiron as the main protag), so I’m approaching the story from a different mindset than any of the other books in the series.
Now, don’t worry––there’s still lots of hot guy-on-guy action (I mean, she walks in on her merman and satyr agapetos fooling around in the rental cottage she’s supposed to be getting ready for a renter. I ask you. And yes, she works for the mysterious Marcia Kuttner, which means that she’s going to be thrown into the deep end on page 1). But having a female lead gives me more of a chance to look at Olympic Cove and the events going on there from a woman’s point of view. It’s kind of cool, to be honest. In any case High Tide will be out at the end of April, so you can see then if I did a good job with it.
In personal news I have done my wifely duty (get your mind out the gutter, it’s reserved for me) and cut Ramón’s hair. The last time I did this was in June, so it had gotten to the point where I could have put it in a Viking braid, limed it, and sent him out to sack Frisco.
Which might not have been a bad idea, come to think of it.
But he is now back to his usual high and tight style (I even trimmed his neck and ear lines with the T trimmer), and is happy that he no longer looks like a cross between Doc Brown and the Unabomber.
The J Crew, however, stared at the pile of hair on the floor very accusingly. I’m guessing the English translation is, “And you people complain about the amount of hair WE leave? You could knit a new cat out of what Dad just shed.”
The other new thing in the house is the king-sized Purple mattress which replaced our 8-year-old mattress. Despite being delivered on Thursday, it’s currently sitting in the dining room in a tightly rolled package because neither of us wanted people in the house and assumed we could get it up the stairs ourselves.
Yeah, no. The mattress weighs 206 pounds. We gave it the old college try, but when I was on the verge of blowing out ShitKnee and he started to tear a ab muscle I called it off. A moving company is sending out three husky young men with shoulder straps on Monday to haul it up to the bedroom, and I’m more than happy to pay for the service.
In the meantime we’re sleeping on an air mattress because the delivery guys hauled away our old mattress (that, we carried down ourselves on Thursday) and the difference in sleep quality is notable. I don’t feel like I’ve been beaten all night, and Ramón’s sinuses have cleared up remarkably and he’s waking up feeling much more refreshed. That being said, this is one of those extra thick air mattresses with a built-in pump that are meant to sit on the floor and act as a guest bed. The fact that it’s sitting on our box spring makes getting into bed an adventure (translation: I kinda have to vault up to get onto it), and I find myself sleeping very carefully because if I roll off the edge at that height I will be breaking a hip.
Nevertheless, I’m sleeping well, my pain levels are going down, energy levels are going up, and I’m feeling a lot more compos mentis during the day. If the Purple turns out to be as comfortable as I think it’ll be, I may well wind up getting a lot more done this year.
Being an indie author isn’t all snacking on bon-bons and writing your heart out on your preferred choice of writing tech. You also have to do things like track your income, monitor your Amazon ads (I was doing absolutely splendidly up until yesterday, and then today––bubkes. I don’t know if it was because of the impeachment proceedings or not), write up and send out newsletters, study courses on how to promote your work more effectively, and a bunch of other paperwork things. Many years ago, Terry Pratchett once told me that only half of his day was actually taken up with writing––the other half was paperwork. Now I understand what he meant.
But at least the long-delayed newsletter with the links for Cross Current went out, plus I added info about King of Blades being up for a Swoon Award––
*sigh* I didn’t mention that here, did I? Yeah, KoB made it to the semi-finals in the Fantasy Romance category in the Swoonies, and if you’d like to vote for it you can do that here: bit.ly/3n6cYeh
I need a PA. Or the ability to go somewhere where five cats aren’t bugging me for attention.
Anyhoo, I also added a link to a survey in the newsletter so that people could tell me if they’re interested in my MM titles, my MF titles, or are willing to read it all. I’m trying to be more professional this year and target my newsletters more accurately so that people only get the info on titles that they want to read.
As for TCatB I haven’t hit word count yet for the day, but I’m hoping to get that done after dinner. I must say, it’s always nice when your Muse graces you with an infodump about your hero’s back story as she did this morning at 4:00 AM. So now it appears that I’m writing a book about a cheerfully pan Victorian vampiress who finds out she’s the mate of a big, hunky, virginal dragon shifter with amnesia.
I mean, yeah, there’s OTHER stuff in there, as well––the whole bit about finding a group of missing selkie girls who are being married against their will to wealthy merchants, for one. But Fee just can’t get over her craving for big, grumpy Callum Brown, professor of literature and dragon shifter who can’t remember anything from before the year 900 (when he was hit by lightning during a North Sea storm and a pod of selkies nursed him back to health. He’s been their protector ever since). Callum has waited almost a thousand years to find his mate, and now she’s finally walked into his life––except that Fyodora doesn’t DO lifelong commitments and refuses to be tied down.
I do like to complicate things. Now I just have to figure out how this is all going to work for them.
As of today, I should have had 27,000 words done on The Crimson and the Black, well past the 1/4 mark and close to the 1/3 mark of the book. Instead, I currently have *checks Scrivener* 10,209 words.
But I have Reasons.
January 4th: made my word count early in the day, then turned off Scrivener and started cleaning up after my cat JJ who had been leaving little piles of foamy pink mucus all over the living room floor. As he is 19, this was understandably concerning. He refused to eat for the rest of the day, leaving one last pile near the kitchen before curling up in a spot next to the fireplace and behind a table where it’s quiet and peaceful. It’s where he goes when he’s sick, which wasn’t a good sign. I decided to take him to the emergency vet in the morning.
January 5th: Loaded a complaining JJ into the crate and hauled him into the emergency vet. They’d seen him way back in 2006 when he’d had a bladder blockage so they had records on him, and I waited in the parking lot for about two hours while they ran bloods and checked him over.
Their diagnosis: “He has an upset stomach. Everything looks normal except for his BUN, which is slightly elevated due to the vomiting. We’ve given him anti-nausea meds and B-12 to stimulate his appetite––bring him back in if he gets worse.” What really surprised me was the news that his kidneys were fine––his own vet had diagnosed him as a kidney deficient kitty about four years ago. Since he’s outlived the life expectancy for those cats by a year, clearly his kidneys did not agree with this. They also told me that he was a very, very good cat––the vet tech who brought him back out to the car adored him, which is his just due.
After taking him home, I headed back out to the store to get various delicacies with the hopes of tempting him to eat something, anything. Nothing worked––he wouldn’t even lick at anything, but he was drinking water and peeing so at least he was getting some fluids. By this point it was evening, I still had to come up with something for dinner, I was tired and worried about JJ, and I figured I would just write off the day and make up the word count the next day. Ho ho ho.
January 6th: As everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows by now, the U.S. Capitol was attacked and overrun on this day by a bunch of cosplaying MAGA idiots and a smaller group of far more competent seditionists after Pobrecheeto, along with some help from Rep. Mo Brooks and Junior, whipped them into a frenzy down at the Ellipse, then sent them off to the Capitol to stop the vote count. JJ was still not eating, and my attention for the day was torn between the news and my ailing cat. Writing? Surely you jest.
I finally got JJ to lick at a little bit of Gerber chicken baby food (his favorite snack) in the evening, but that was all he would eat. He curled up in his Sick Spot and went to sleep, while I stayed up to watch Congress confirm the electors’ votes in the middle of the night and give Joe Biden the win.
January 7th: Needless to say, I woke up late. Still torn between the news and JJ, I now had to run out to the pet food store to get some adult cat formula and see if I could get JJ to eat some of that. He wasn’t thrilled with it but I got him to lick some off his muzzle when I smeared it there. No other food would pass his lips, however, and I was really starting to get scared. I decided to get up at 8 AM, call his vet, and beg them to let me bring him in.
By now, I was frazzled, scared that I was about to lose my black velvet purrmonster to an upset stomach, of all things, and increasingly infuriated with what was happening in D.C. No, I didn’t write.
January 8th: After an absolutely horrible night of sleep, I got up and called the vet, leaving a message detailing the situation with JJ. I then waited up until they called back at 10 AM and said, “Bring him in––we’ll work him up between appointments.” (It helps that they love him, too.) So back into the crate JJ went and off we drove to the vet’s office. I dropped him off, came home, and crawled back into bed for a four hour nap.
After I woke up, I poked at the WIP for a bit in between checking the news. At 3:30 PM the vet called––they couldn’t find anything wrong with him, either, but they’d given him different anti-nausea meds, as well as an appetite stimulant and some Pepcid to reduce stomach acidity, and offered to send a banana bag (lactated Ringer’s solution that can be injected into a cat via subcutaneous IV) home with him as well. I knew how to give a cat sub-Q fluids so I took them up on it, and fetched JJ home. He walked into the house, went straight to the food bowl and began nomming down. He continued to eat periodically for the rest of the night, in between snoozes on his usual spot on the couch, and I got 1,676 words done on CatB.
January 9 – 10th: I’d really hoped to play catch-up over the weekend, but I also badly needed sleep after the events of the week, plus I still had to do the food shopping, laundry, and other household tasks, and JJ really wanted to spend a lot of time resting on my chest while I petted him. As a result I only got 733 words on Saturday and 773 words on Sunday, but at least I got something down.
January 11th: First day properly back at work, and I managed to tear myself away from the increasingly horrendous news coming out of D.C. long enough to get 3,055 words done, which gave me word count for the day but didn’t do bubkes about my deficit. This wasn’t helped by the fact that all of the other cats had noticed me giving JJ extra cuddles and deserved equal time. I still don’t know if they have a quota worked out among themselves or what, but I had a cat on my lap desk or in my arms for a total of three hours today. I timed it.
January 12th: I should make word count tonight, and I’m hoping to get to bed early and get a decent night’s sleep (not that easy with our utterly crappy mattress) so that I can get up early tomorrow and knock out 6K, which will start whittling down my deficit. The story is starting to pick up steam (I can hear the characters talking in my head when I’m writing dialogue, which is always a good sign), and I’m learning a lot more about Fyodora’s dragon shifter beau Callum Brown (I had no idea he was a professor of literature at the University of Edinburgh, for example), as well as Victorian casinos, the relationship between dragons and selkies, and what happens when a footloose and fancy free vampire finds herself unexpectedly mated to a gruff dragon shifter who prefers to be alone.
So anyway, that’s me. How are you all doing so far?
I know the last blog post was a bit of a downer, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been having a serious problem with knee/hip pain related to an old mattress and the recurrence of hot flashes and night sweats, and the combination has made sleep a little hard to get these days, which makes Nicola a lot cranky.
But I’m trying black cohosh, and that seems to be improving the hot flashes. As for the mattress problem, I’m hoping we can swing a new one in early February, and in the meantime I’ll just continue to pile up bedding in order to overcome the large dips and peaks in our current one.
In short, there are worse problems to have, and a lot of people out there have them right now, so I’m gonna count my blessings and just keep moving forward. At the moment, forward momentum is taking place on Cross Current, and I don’t anticipate a problem getting it out on the 29th this month, at which point I’m taking a whole week off from writing between Christmas and New Year’s. I still need to do bookwork and promotion, but I ain’t gonna write — I’m gonna binge every show I’ve wanted to see, knit, quilt, and bake up a storm, and generally give my brain some well-deserved time off. I’ve very proud of the fact that I’ve managed to put out three full-length novels and a novella in five months, but it’s also taken up a LARGE amount of processing time and I really need to let the creative side recharge for awhile before I start up again in 2021.
Speaking of that, I’m having a huge amount of fun plotting out what I’m going to do for The Crimson and the Black. The Hidden Empire series seems to be where I’m writing character types I’ve never done before — vampires in Shadow of the Swan, dragon shifters in TCatB. Lord knows what I’ll tackle in the third book — maybe Henry and Louisa inadvertently bring back a cursed Ancient Egyptian royal to London in mummy form, then have to deal with the aftermath.
Ooh. OOH. That could be kind of fun, come to think of it, and it could utilize elements from an unfinished novel I already have kicking around here. Gotta cogitate on that some more.
And as I’ve already said in other posts, I plan on finishing off the Olympic Cove series next year to reward everyone who’s been waiting so patiently for the next books, plus I need to do a Two Thrones book and a Pacifica Rising book. There will be reader magnets released for all of those, as well, and I’ve got a handful of novellas that I’d like to tackle as well (for one thing, I have stories for Ewan and Hamish, the younger brothers of the hero of Red Robin and the Huntsman, as well as another entry in the Esposito County Shifters novella series). Plus there are the Hollywood romcoms I want to write under Natasha’s aegis.
*rubs face* Yep, got a lot ahead of me. But that’s all good, because 2021 is going to be a fantastic year for writing, I can feel it.
And it’s selling briskly, so I’m pleased with that. I’m also amused that a writer friend of mine commented on FB, “So how did you get Don Draper to pose for the cover art?” Hey, I would not object to Jon Hamm posing for one of my covers, but I suspect his rates would be expensive as hell.
However, that did remind me of something that I kinda wanted to head off at the pass. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the model on the cover of King of Blades is the same one I used on the cover of Shifter Woods: Howl. Why would I do something like this, you ask?
Well, because I think he’s hot, whoever he is, and he worked as both my world-weary coyote shifter sheriff and my determined king about to become the father of twins. That’s the beauty of indie publishing — you have full control over the covers. And if I want to use this austere, muscled stunner twice, by God I will.
Speaking of publishing, I just got word a little over an hour ago that Blades was accepted into the Premium catalog at Smashwords, so it should be available at B&N by tomorrow morning and at Kobo and iTunes within a day or so. I’m working on the print version and that should be available by the weekend, and I also need to put it up at Eden Books tomorrow.
While all that’s in play, I’m also back at work on the fourth book in the Olympic Cove series, Cross Current (and isn’t that a lovely cover at right?), with a goal of getting that out on *checks calendar* 11/24/20. I’ll be setting that up for pre-order sometime this weekend, so if you’ve been patiently waiting for the next book in the series, mark your calendars and pre-order it. Here’s the (unedited) blurb:
Fresh from a divorce, high school history teacher Matt Taber retreats to a cottage on Olympic Cove to lick his wounds before school starts up in the fall. But the Fates have other plans for him in the form of a merman running from a deadly family history, three selkies who have to satisfy a royal demand, and a new career as the Oracle of the Waters. Can Matt adjust to his new life before the Mad Nereid comes calling?
And there’s more good Olympic Cove news — I’m completing the series next year. Books Five and Six (tentatively titled Riptide Bay and Hurricane Eye) will be completed right after the first book of 2021, Hidden Empire’s The Crimson and the Black. So for everyone who prefers their series to be completed, you’ll be able to buy the Olympic Cove box set sometime in July. But if you hate the idea of the series ending, don’t worry — there will be additional novellas set on the cove, as well as related books (I have this image in my head of a grumpy and very reluctant Hephaestus being dragged to Earth by Hermes to help him get the Olympic Wi-Fi working, and falling in love with a female blacksmith). So many books to write, so little time…
So Shadow of the Swan is out there on all online markets, earning money and reviews, and I’m happy with that (as of this moment I’ve sold 143 copies on Amazon). I’ve even uploaded a free short story titled “A Gentle Fall of Show” about Henry and Louisa’s first Christmas at Bookfunnel (all subscribers to my newsletter got the link; if you want to subscribe, click here, enter your email address, and you can download “Snow” in MOBI, EPUB, or PDF format).
So what’s next, Nic? I’m glad you asked.
Since it looks like we’re going to be stuck in COVIDland for the foreseeable future, I am setting up some structure for myself for the rest of the year. And I know I’ve said that before, but this time I’m doing it partially for income and partially because I really need it to stay sane.
So — today, I am wrapping up the re-edit of Deep Water and uploading it to Amazon, B&N, et al. Tomorrow I go back to work on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) with a goal of finishing it by Monday, October 5. If I do 3,265 words a day, I’ll make that easily. Moreover, I KNOW I can write that many words a day easily (I knew it before, but 2019 kinda shook my faith in myself). Even better, now that I’ve been testing my lavaliere mike, Scrivener’s dictation function, and Otter.ai (oh, Holy God, dictation is a fricking godsend to anyone who needs to write fast and can handle saying stuff out loud), I should be able to crank out that amount within two hours, then spend another couple of hours editing it into shape. The rest of the work hours will be taken up with promo, cover design, et al, and outlining the rest of the books I’ll be writing this year.
On October 6, I pivot from King and let it cool for a week while I fire up Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4). People have been waiting VERY patiently for this book for about five years, so now that I have the rights back for all of the Olympic Cove books I want to reward them for their patience. The goal is to finish Current on November 2. On October 12, in parallel with my work on Cross Current, I will start editing King with a goal of getting it out to my editor and the betas by October 16. After I incorporate their changes and do the final polishing stages, I’ll publish King on Tuesday, October 27.
On November 3 I let the completed Cross Current rest for a week while I go back to work on Uncertainty Principle (and by then I’ll actually have an outline, please God — this book has been frustrating me for the better part of two years) with a goal of finishing it on December 4. Once again, I’ll edit Cross Current in parallel with writing Uncertainty, with a goal of publishing Cross Current on November 24. Uncertainty Principle will be published on December 22, and I am taking the rest of December off to let my brain cool down and get in some well-deserved relaxation by that point.
IF I HAVE TIME AND INTESTINAL FORTITUDE, I will work on The Crimson and the Black in December once Uncertainty Principle is finished. I am not going to promise anything at this point because, quite frankly, I may need to collapse at that point. Much will hinge on how well the dictation goes, how quickly I can edit, and whether or not I still have extra processor cycles available. If I decide to put it off until 2021, it will be the first book of that year.
I’m not going to post my planned schedule for 2021 yet because it’s still kind of soft and I want to get some details firmed up. But my goal is to release at least four full-length books that year (I’m telling you right off the bat, two of them will be the final books in the Olympic Cove series), along with a handful of novellas and free short stories.
And yeah, I know it looks like I’ve bitten off far more than I can chew, but King, Current, and Uncertainty are all partials so it’s not like I’m starting from square one on any of them. If I can get all of them done and out the door, I will have cleared my backlog and can start 2021 with a clean conscience. Let’s see if I can get this done.
We are 48 hours post-release for Shadow of the Swan and sales are already slacking off, boo, so I decided to post a challenge yesterday on Twitter and Facebook. I said that if I got three reviews on Amazon, I would start work on the sequel (which I already have a half-completed outline for — working title is The Crimson and the Black).
By 11:30 PM I had two reviews. Nice, but not what I asked for. I thought with an admitted sense of relief, “Okay, looks like I’m gonna work on King of Blades and Uncertainty Principle.”
Then, for reasons I don’t understand myself, I checked again at 11:45 PM. There was the third review, calling Henry a cinnamon roll lawful good vampire hero. Talk about torn.
But I am a woman of my word. So The Crimson and the Black now has a Scrivener file and I’m working on Chapter One in conjunction with King of Blades. I’m also trying a new system whereby I dictate books while I walk on a treadmill. Apparently it’s a hell of a lot faster than typing, which is good because I’m gonna need it if I want to get four more full-length novels and two novellas out by the end of the year.
And get the re-release of Deep Water out as well. Oh, well. Sleep is for the weak.