Category Archives: To My Muse
After pretty much a solid week of glueing my butt to my chair (which is apparently the secret to literary success according to Stephen King, and he would know) I finished the first draft of Behind the Iron Cross today. It topped out at slightly over 107K, making it my longest book to date (and seeing as I thought it was going to finish at 90K, there may have been some tormented screams in Casa Cameron). Then again, it’s also a historical MMF moderately kinky romance set in Weimar Republic-era Berlin (think Cabaret period and you’ve got the right idea), so there was a LOT of territory to cover with my decommissioned Germany army colonel, my kinky American heiress, and her gay best friend/fiancé who’s marrying her to stay in his father’s will and help her get ahead in her uncle’s company.
Yeah, it’s complicated.
But the funny thing is, I went back on a whim today and checked creation dates. According to the original Word file I first started Iron Cross in April 2012, which was a good five months before I sold my short story “Tied With a Bow” to Evernight for their Vanilla-Free Christmas: Manlove Edition antho and got my romance writing career underway. Which means that Iron Cross is actually my first romance novel, but will be the tenth one I’ve published.
That’s actually good because I had a lot to learn about plot, pacing, and characterization when it came to writing romance in long form. I’m honest enough to admit that I simply didn’t have the required skills in 2012 to do this story justice. As it is, there’s going to be a metric buttload of editing required to get this puppy into shape, mainly because I’ve spent the last six years picking at it before deciding to nail my butt to a chair and get it done. I’m kinda excited about editing it into readable shape (and lord, my editor has been chomping at the bit to read this for years so she’s one happy gal), but I also need to take a couple of days off and let my brain cool down from a week of 4-6K days straight. Yow.
The other nice thing about finishing Iron Cross is that I can now get started on King of Blades, Book Four in the Two Thrones series. As much fun as it was to be mentally living in 1925 Berlin, I’m also kinda looking forward to getting out of there and back to Ypres and Hellas. After that, I really want to do another romcom–yes, somehow To My Muse has turned itself into my fifth series and I have three books planned for it, all set around Lily and Tom’s friends in LA.
And yes, Theresa gets her own romance. With a Swiss Guard, no less. That’s gonna be fun.
Or as I like to put it, SQUEE!
USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog has me on today with an interview talking about To My Muse, where I get my ideas from (everywhere), what distracts me (five cats), and what I looked like back in the 1980s (there’s a picture. I warn you). So if you want to know what makes me, me, go on over and check it out!
In other writing news, the rights to Storm Season have reverted to me and I’m bringing out a re-edited edition of it next Tuesday, including a spandy new cover! I’m also distributing ARCs for reviews tomorrow, so if you’re a blogger/reviewer and you’re interested, DM me with your preferred ebook format/email or fill out the form here.
And finally, I’m putting the finishing touches on Shifter Woods: Snarl. The plan was to have it out by 6/12 but it got bumped by Storm Season, so you can expect to see it on 7/4. I’m experimenting with the common wisdom that Amazon promotes you more widely if you bring out a title every 30 days, so that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of the year. Right now, the schedule is:
- June: Storm Season (Olympic Cove 1)
- July: Shifter Woods: Snarl (Esposito County Shifters 3)
- August: Behind the Iron Cross (historical MMF)
- September: Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2)
- October: Shifter Woods: Scream (Esposito County Shifters 4)
- November: King of Blades (Two Thrones 4)
- December: Two Thrones holiday novella
It’s not as insane as it sounds — Storm Season is already done, SW:S is a novella and almost done, Behind the Iron Cross is 80% done, and I have the plots for all the other books and novellas already worked out. Let’s see if I can pull this off!
Between the promo for To My Muse, getting ready to head down to Houston for Comicpalooza (I’m on the writer’s track), filling out a very exciting Author Q&A (more on this when I get it), and being on Coffee Time Romance & More to talk about my debut novel Storm Season, yeah, I’ve been kinda swamped.
And that doesn’t including some very sweaty hours spent in the garage trying to finish a pair of earrings that, to paraphrase Khan Noonian Singh, have been tasking me. Last week I made two sterling silver settings for a pair of mother of pearl and opal earrings and screwed them up. Made two more settings and screwed one up. Made a replacement setting and used the wrong size silver balls for decoration. I’m currently on my sixth earring setting and praying that this one will work, otherwise I may set the garage on fire.
Oh, part of that Author Q&A asked what I was currently working on, so I thought I would pass it along here, as well. Right now I’m about 3/4 of the way through Shifter Woods: Snarl, and in June I plan on starting Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2). Once that’s done, it’s on to King of Blades (Two Thrones 4), and if I have enough spare time I’ll do the last Shifter Woods novella to round out the year. Three full length novels and two novellas should be good enough for one year’s production, right?
Hello, lovelies! This week I’m featuring one last snippet from To My Muse where Tom and Lily hit the big Hollywood party thrown by Sir Nathan. God, I had such a good time writing this book. In the coming weeks, I’ll be back to posting snippets from Shifter Woods: Snarl and Uncertainty Principle.
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
We heard the hum of party noise before we reached the main foyer. It was seriously different from my family’s parties—for one thing, there was a decided lack of Bollywood hits and I-pop blasting through the air, and waiters were walking around with trays of full champagne flutes. Not a single harried teenaged girl fetching some lassi for a thirsty auntie in sight. Dadi would be so disappointed in Sir Nathan.
Tom snagged a pair of flutes for us, passing one to me. “Drink up,” he advised. “It’ll make the evening a bit more enjoyable.”
I sipped my champagne. Naturally it was delicious. “Yeah, no, I’m still nervous,” I whispered after swallowing.
“Give it a chance to circulate.” He looped his arm around my waist and guided me towards the people standing in discreet groupings of two and three. “Smile and nod, darling.”
Great. Now I had the penguins from Madagascar caroling in my head. Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave. Biting back an insane urge to call Tom “Private,” I did as he suggested.
The damnedest thing was, it worked. Complete strangers nodded back at me, with the occasional assessing glance thrown in for good measure. Only this time the assessment added up to “one of us.” I felt Matthiu’s work on my face like a mask. They had no clue.
Tom led me through a thickening crowd into the main entertainment area that I’d seen last night. All the lights were on this time, set to low, and the room was full of people chatting to each other with the occasional laugh sparkling in the air. Underneath the chatter was a soft medley of cocktail bar classics coming from the grand piano in the corner.
To my surprise, Sir Nathan was playing it. “Thought so,” Tom murmured, guiding me over. “You couldn’t resist performing, could you?” he said to our host.
Sir Nathan gave us a genial smile as his fingers moved over the keyboard. “The pianist is taking a break, so I thought I’d fill in for him. You look lovely tonight, my dear,” he added to me.
I had to stop myself from curtseying. “Thank you, Sir Nathan. You look pretty spiffy yourself.”
He chuckled at that. “It’s all Ana’s doing. I’d look like a right scruff if it wasn’t for her. And you cleaned up well, lad.”
“Also Ana’s doing,” Tom said, glancing around. “Any hotspots I should know about?”
Sir Nathan peered at the crowed without losing a beat. “Rob Valentine from the network is here—you know him, I believe—and some of the European producers are drifting around as well. I haven’t seen the lovely Claudine yet, but I’m sure we’ll hear the trumpets once she arrives.”
I knew I liked him. “Where’s Ana?” I asked.
“Giving the caterers their final instructions, then she planned on holding court in the Tuscan Room. You should be able to find it,” he said to Tom.
“I may need a GPS, but I’ll find it,” Tom said acerbically. “We’ll let you get back to tinkling the ivories.”
Sir Nathan swung into a jazzy version of “Piano Man” as we wandered off. “Okay, so what’s the plan?” I asked as quietly as I could.
“We circulate, chat with the people I know, and casually strike up conversations with various producers and studio execs,” Tom explained. “I’ll mention that we have a package we’re putting together with Nathan and feed them the elevator pitch. Hopefully that’ll be enough to get me some meetings, and then we build from that.”
I knew what an elevator pitch was—a brief but catchy overview of a plot meant to be delivered in thirty seconds or less: ‘She’s a rich girl engaged to an abusive capitalist, he’s a poor artist looking forward to a future in America. Against all odds they fall in love, but an iceberg crashes into their plans as well as their ship.’ That’s a crappy version of an elevator pitch for Titanic, but you get the idea. “So what’s the pitch for Right Hand?”
He spread his hands. “After World War II, a progressive pope shocks the Vatican by taking a nun as his chief advisor,” he announced.
I considered it. “Eh.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, it’s factually true but there’s no oomph to it. How about, ‘As Europe rebuilds from the ruins of World War II, a rebellious Pius XII shocks the Vatican by taking on an advisor they can’t control—a nun.”
He considered my phrasing. “But couldn’t they control her? I mean, if they talked to the head of her order.”
“Yeah, but if Pius was giving the orders he kind of outranks the head of her order. Okay, how about, ‘From the ruins of World War II, a controversial pope and a stubborn nun’s relationship will shock the Vatican—and change the world forever.’”
“I like it. Naughty enough to get people’s attention without tipping over into outright salaciousness. We can go into details about the relationship once they’re interested.” He kissed my temple. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
I felt warm all over, which was a good thing because the house AC was cranked to handle the crowd. “So am I.”
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Hello, lovelies! This week To My Muse was released, and I want to feature a rather nice scene between Tom and Lily.
Many thanks to Angelica Dawson for hosting us, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
If I’d had to spend the time before the party alone with Tom, we were not staying out of that amazing bed, and once that happened I’m not sure I’d have the strength of character to get dressed and go to the party. I wouldn’t put it past our hostess to realize that and take steps.
I followed Ana’s assistant to the other side of the house, where she showed me down a hallway to a luxurious bedroom suite done in shades of teal and cream that was easily large enough to host one of my grandparents’ parties. Nathan was nowhere in sight, but what sounded like a Bach cantata drifted out of a side room. “She’s waiting for you,” Sue said, waving at the doorway.
I poked my head in, and immediately fell in love with one of the most gorgeous old school dressing rooms I’d ever seen. The dominant tone was a warm, feminine peach that went beautifully with the immaculate white woodwork along all the walls. More white woodwork surrounded glass-fronted shelves over wide drawers and an amazing number of closet compartments. An elegant black ironwork chandelier with frosted glass lampshades rimmed in terra cotta hung from an oval cutout in the ceiling, and a huge custom vanity table had been built into another wall with more shelves on either side of a ginormous mirror in an antique square silver frame.
Ana sat at the table wearing a silk robe with her hair skimmed back behind a head wrap, calmly dabbing some cream onto her face. I wasn’t used to seeing her without makeup on; I knew she was somewhere in her late sixties, but she had that Helen Mirren gift of good skin that had held up extremely well over the years. There were wrinkles here and there, yes, but they looked tasteful and appropriate, as if a completely smooth face would have been unbearably gauche.
She smiled at me in the mirror. “Hello, Lily. Did you have a pleasant time today?”
“Yes, and thank you so much for sending us to Huffington’s,” I said. “Wait until you see the dress Tom bought.”
“Deep sapphire blue.”
Her eyes lit up. “Oh, that will look marvelous on you. And that works out well for me, too. Sue, bring the Bulgari Festa set, please.”
The PA disappeared through yet another doorway, returning with a black velvet case. She opened it and I gasped. Inside was a spectacular pendant necklace made up of what I had to assume was white gold, with sprays of diamonds and sapphires around a perfect cushion-cut sapphire that was big enough to choke a horse. The chain was constructed of white gold teardrop loops crusted with more diamonds and sapphires, each loop interspersed with a solitaire diamond.
“Oh, Ana, that is completely gorgeous,” I said, every sparkly-loving atom of my being lusting after that magnificent necklace. “Are you wearing this tonight?”
“No, my dear. You are.”
She smiled. “If you’re wearing the sapphire blue Christian Siriano that Taffy mentioned to me, then this will go perfectly with it.” She turned to Sue. “I believe the Le Magnifiche Creazioni earrings will go well with this.”
Sue beamed at me. “They’re in the bottom of the case, madam.”
“Excellent. I do appreciate your foresight, my dear.”
Aaaaand motor functions came back on line. “I can’t wear this!” I squeaked. “This is Bulgari!” I knew Bulgari jewelry, had mooned over it in Vogue and other fashion magazines, but never thought I’d be allowed within touching distance. To wear it? Holy Kali and all her hands, this one necklace had to be worth more than everything I’d ever owned put together. “What if I spill something on it? What if I drop it?”
“Well, if you spill something on it, you can always wash it off,” Ana said practically. “It’s the nice thing about metal and gemstones—they’re very hard to stain. And the latch will make sure it stays in place.”
The practical side of me recoiled from the very idea of touching that gorgeous pendant, much less hanging it around my neck. The princess side of me wanted to squeal and go show it off to Tom. “Ana, I can’t—”
“Yes, you can. In fact, I’ll be very disappointed if you don’t wear it tonight.” She gave me a faux-stern look. “And you don’t want to disappoint your hostess, do you?”
I swallowed hard. It would be rude to turn down such a generous gesture, that was true. And it wasn’t as if I’d be wearing it outside where something bad could happen. They’d have security at this party, right?
“No, I don’t,” I said in a small voice. “Thank you.”
“There, that’s settled.” She tapped her lips. “I thought you might want to get ready here, since there’s plenty of room. Sue will show you to the shower and you can freshen up, then we’ll have Celeste get to work on your hair while Matthiu does my makeup, then we’ll trade. It’ll leave Thomas with your bathroom to himself. That way, you won’t need to dance around him to get at the mirror.”
The thought of Tom getting ready in the bathroom, fresh out of the shower with a towel wrapped around that muscular waist, made my eyes cross a little and a whole lot of regret gush through me. Before I could say anything, a gorgeous black woman in a sleek black pinstriped smock and a man with a purple-tinted beard came in. Ana gave them air kisses and introduced me while Sue bustled around pulling more items out of the closets.
Celeste clicked her tongue as she studied my hair. “Oh, you’re going to be a handful, gorgeous,” she said in a cheerful East End accent. “What products do you use?”
I rattled them off with an apology for presenting her with my nightmare cloud of hair. She waved it off. “Don’t fret, pet. I’m an expert with curls. We’ll tame them into something spectacular, wait and see.”
Meanwhile, Matthiu stroked his beard as he stared at my skin. “Absolute silk,” he declared. “What are you wearing tonight?”
“Um, a dress?”
“I meant color, angel.”
“Cobalt blue,” Ana advised. “With a fairly deep V neckline, so make sure the makeup carries over onto her chest.”
That earned her an eye roll for the ages before he turned back to me. “Right, you. Off to the shower, and I want your face clean and bare. Don’t moisturize—I’ll take care of that.”
“Uh, okay.” This was starting to remind me of family weddings where various aunties would pull me into a bedroom and get me dolled up in proper Hindi maiden finery since that was out of Mom’s wheelhouse. At least tonight I didn’t have to worry about someone hovering with a giant needle and wondering if they had time to pierce my nose.
After a long shower and a relaxing orgasm assisted by a fantasy of a naked and very enthusiastic Lily, I touched up my shave and cleaned my teeth. Once that was done, there was nothing else to do but wander into the empty bedroom, a towel wrapped around my waist in case my spunky screenwriter came back early. Although I doubted that was going to happen. Ana had clearly taken her in hand and was going to work some supermodel magic tonight.
Which, if I was being honest with myself, bothered me a little. I’m sure the results would be spectacular, but I rather liked Lily in her capris and Vans, hair loose and curling around her face. If Ana did the job that I knew she could do, Lily would wind up suitably coiffed and dressed for the cover of Vogue. Worse, she could well wind up the belle of the ball tonight. Assuming that Nathan invited his usual mix of industry movers and shakers, vencap types, and a few out and out billionaires, it meant that there would be any number of rich, handsome men at the party tonight who would take one look at her and offer to sweep her off to a Vail ski lodge or Lake Como palazzo without a second thought.
Whereas I couldn’t even pay her for a script treatment. The more I thought about it, the more I regretted haggling on her points with Theresa. I must have come off as a skinflint bastard.
Well, that settled it. Even if it had to come out of my share, I was bumping up her percentage to a full two points. I’d let her know as soon as she got back. Hopefully that would be enough to stop her head from being turned by some A-lister with a private jet.
Grateful that I’d remembered to pack dress socks, I got dressed from the skin out in my new duds. Once the fancy silk tie was in place, I settled back down with La Popessa, running through the now-familiar text and mentally casting various roles. I had just hit on Liam as a good fit for one of the monsignors when the door opened and I looked up. “Finally. I thought I’d have to send the fire brigade—”
The joke died on my lips as I stared at the vision that floated into the room. Oh, Ana, you wicked, talented woman, you. I wasn’t going to have to fight off studio execs and venture capitalists. I was going to have to fight off every straight man in the place, and probably a few lesbians for good measure.
I already knew that the ridiculously expensive but gorgeous frock skimmed Lily’s curves like a McLaren performance vehicle on an Alpine road. But Ana hadn’t stopped there. A professional had taken brushes and makeup to Lily’s face and made her skin glow and her eyes sparkle. Her dark curls were now twisted and tamed in an elegant updo that let delicate little ringlets frame her face, and whatever scent she was wearing should have been marketed as “Devastating” and only sold to licensed dealers.
If that wasn’t enough to throw me for a loop, the sapphire that hung over her deliciously plump décolletage could have choked a Christmas goose. “My God,” I murmured. “You’re beautiful.”
She bit her lips gently as her blush deepened. “I feel like Cinderella.”
“Good. You should.” I stood, tugging my jacket straight and trying to will my libido down. Thank God for tight boxer-briefs is all I can say. “I take it the jewelry is Ana’s?”
Lily touched it gingerly. “She insisted I wear it. I’m freaking out just thinking about it.”
“Don’t. She was right.” I went to her, pulling her into my arms. “It makes you even more stunning.”
Close up, her eyes were captivating pools of rich brown with the tiniest flecks of gold around the iris. How had I gone for so long without looking into them? “Are you ready?” I asked.
Her arms went around my neck, holding on for dear life. “Do I have a choice?”
“I’m afraid not.”
She took a deep breath. “Then I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
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Ever do something really, really dumb?
When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar’s romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she’s determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room to do it.
With the help of a strategic lie and an Oscar-winning knight, Lily’s screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily’s shot at a real life HEA with Tom?
To My Muse is my ninth full-length novel, not counting the various novellas, novelettes, and short stories I’ve written since becoming a professional writer in 1995, and the fifth I’ve self-published. I should be used to the process by now, but I still get anxious the night before release day. Did I cross all my Ts and dot all my Is? Are there errors in the finished version (there are. There always are. I have come to accept this as part of being human)? Did I send out ARCs to all the reviewers? Am I doing enough promo? Am I doing too much promo?
Will people like it?
That’s the big thing, of course. Will people see my amusing ads and catchy blurb and think, “Yeah, I’ll splash out on this, what the heck.” And if they do that, will they like it or think, “Aw, man. I should’ve gotten a venti Frappucino instead.”
I’m hoping people like it. I’ve gotten a response already from one reviewer (which shocked the heck out of me because I didn’t think she’d be able to get to it until June) and she’s giving it five stars. The betas all liked it, the editor liked it, the sensitivity reader liked it (Lily’s half-Indian. You bet your ass this white lady used a sensitivity reader, AND I fixed the things she told me to fix). But I still worry. That’s normal. And I know there will be people who don’t like it, and that’s also normal. I can’t entertain all of the people all of the time. Mainly, I hope I won’t offend anyone with my story of Lily and her family. Indian culture and diaspora is magnificently detailed and exhaustively extensive, and I’ve very much enjoyed my research into it in order to create the Nayar family in as accurate and respectful a manner as possible. I also know, however, that there will be things I missed, and for that I apologize and ask your indulgence.
Contemporary romantic comedy is a new subgenre for me, but hopefully Muse won’t be my one and only entry in it. I have other books planned, in between new entries in my existing series. I promise you, I will make the time to get them written.
And now, back to work on Shifter Woods: Snarl.
So, To My Muse is off to the betas and editor, I have the media packet put together, it’s currently churning through Amazon for pre-order, and I’ll brave the Smashwords Meat Grinder tomorrow to get the doc ready for that so that I can collect all the non-Amazon buy links, put them in my media packet, and send that off to bloggers, reviewers, and other folks who might talk up my work.
This was … a scarily easy edit. I’m not sure if that’s good or not. As I explained to Ramón, editing is normally more like wringing each page until blood drips out of it and the words reluctantly fall in a pleasing order. For TMM, it was more like, “Oh, that’s funny … and that’s funny … hee!” There were definitely things that needed to be edited, but it wasn’t nearly as soul-wracking as it usually it. I don’t know if it’s because this is a standalone, a contemporary romance, or a romcom. Getting feedback from the betas and my editor will either reassure me that I didn’t do anything wrong, or explain gently but firmly that I was fooling myself about this story and there’s lots I need to fix. We’ll see.
But in the meantime, I think I’ve pretty much done everything I can apart from the Meat Grinder for promo prep. Part of me wants to go make jewelry. The other part wants to collapse in bed and watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. Decisions, decisions…
It’s done! Yes, I finished it on Friday, and it’s currently simmering while I get pending jewelry projects done and generally play catch-up on things that fell by the wayside during my final push (like the housework, the laundry, paying bills, getting my car’s safety inspection done, making calls to various people to get things sorted with them, you know the drill). I have to say, I’m very happy with how the story turned out, and I’m really hoping that everyone likes my first stab at a contemporary romcom. I think it’s funny as hell, but I would — I wrote it. Also, it has a running Penguins of Madagascar joke in it, because I’m all about the pop culture.
Now, onto more important stuff — the release date is scheduled to be 5/15, and I’ll be putting together a Facebook launch party with giveaways and all kinds of fun and frivolity. I also need to set up advertising, put together ARCs and get those off to bloggers/reviewers, plan out the print version, and generally run around like a headless chicken for the next two weeks (hence my spending THIS weekend doing cleaning and laundry).
Although I did take a break this evening to watch Westworld. I think I may know where they’re heading with Glory and why it’s so important to Dolores and William/MiB (let me just ask you this — what would rich people who already have all the money and power in the world really, really want? And how could a place like Westworld deliver that to them? And how does Robert keep speaking through all those hosts, anyway? GREAT cameo by Giancarlo Esposito, by the way — I’m really hoping he turns out to be someone they bring back in later episodes/seasons).
But that’s the lovely thing about Westworld. There are layers within layers within layers, characters who are literally played by different actors, games with time, location, and consciousness, and it all spins like this beautifully intricate Victorian clockwork piece. It’s a freaking joy to watch, and SO much fun to tease out what I think are the narrative threads. Even if I’m wrong, hey, who cares — I got a book series out of it!
Mrrgh. The clavicle of Texas is currently enjoying a barometric pressure change at the moment with the promise of thunderstorms tomorrow. I’m not sure if the fact that I currently feel like hammered poo is related to this, or to the possibility that I may be sick (feeling feverish and I ache all over, but grass pollen is super high at the moment and I feel like that during a bad allergy attack as well).
Mind you, I still got 1100 words written on To My Muse and whomped up a draft cover for something, but to be honest I just kinda want to crawl back into bed and watch jewelry making videos. I’d show you the draft cover, but it really is just a draft. Better to wait until it’s all neat and pretty.