Category Archives: fantasy

King of Blades, Day 8

I’m starting out today with a word count of *checks Scrivener* 19,201. Should it be higher by now? Oh yeah. Why isn’t it?

Well, let’s take a look at the weekend, shall we? Quite apart from the hellscape that is the current US political situation, I put up King of Blades for pre-order on Amazon. Then I got some excellent advice about the free stories (“A Gentle Fall of Snow” and “Beneath Their Own Blue Sea”) I’ve been making available to newsletter subscribers, and I put them up on Amazon as well for 99¢ a pop. Why? Well, I’m working on the basis that not everyone will want to sign up for my newsletter, but they may want to read the stories anyway so I should make a legal copy available to these folks. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. And judging from the sales I made over the weekend, this was a good move.

Then I wrote 500 words of a short story I wanted to submit to a market (got the rejection today so I’m going to write it anyway and sell it myself like “Snow” and “Sea”). Then I had to update a bunch of pages on the website to reflect the new books, then put out a newsletter and let people know where they could get the free versions of “Snow” and “Sea,” as well as pre-order King of Blades. In between all this I had to adjust my Amazon ads, do laundry, go food shopping, make dinner, and yeah, work on King of Blades yesterday.

So, not quite where I wanted to be at in the book today, but I got a lot done anyway, so that’s all good. Onward!

King of Blades, Day 3

Today’s word count: 3,009
Total word count: 15,364
Approximate words to go: 64,636

So, today was surprisingly productive, despite the fact that every single member of the J Crew insisted on sitting on me at some point during the day. Which is fine, now that I can dictate, but Jasmine likes to squirm around while I stroke her ears, Jeremy insists on resting his big head on the keyboard, Jessie leaves me with one hand, and Jemma wants to be combed (and believe me, she needs it). JJ is the only one who’s content to just sit on my boobs/belly like he’s doing right now, unbothered by my hand movements as I type. If they were all like this, my writing life would be a lot easier. As it is, I’m going to go out on the patio tomorrow so that I can get a couple of solid hours in without a furry little feline trying to grab my attention or demand that I put kibble in his bowl (to be honest, that’s all JJ, but he’s an old guy who needs to keep his weight on so I’ll feed him separately if he wants it).

I also decided to be a complete loon, not learn a damn thing from Shadow of the Swan, and put King of Blades up for pre-order at Amazon. The release date is October 27, so as long as I stick to my writing schedule more or less and maybe have a couple of 5K days in there I should have the first draft finished on October 5, which will give me more than enough time to get everything through edits, polished and in publishable shape by October 23 (aka Upload Day). Once they finish chewing on it and give me a link, I’ll add it to the new King page here and make it available on social media.

And once the first draft of King is finished, I go back to Cross Current and start work on that. I said I was going to publish three more novels by the end of the year, and by God I intend to stick to my word.

Okay, that’s done

Yesterday was one hell of a day, my friends — I’m talking fourteen straight hours of work. But the Belaurient edition of Deep Water is now up at Amazon, Smashwords, and Google Play, and I’ve uploaded the print files and ordered a proof so once I get that and approve it the print version will be available. Once Smashwords approves it for Premium catalog inclusion it’ll get sent to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes, at which point it’s gone wide and I don’t have to worry about it anymore (still need to set up ads on Amazon for it, though) and can concentrate on finishing Cross Current in October.

This month’s book, however, is King of Blades. The plan for today was to get up and get cracking immediately on King, but a combination of being really tired (ironically) and the smoke from the West Coast hitting Texas blocking up my nose like it was filled with cement made for a difficult night. I wasn’t able to get to sleep until 6 AM, and only got about six hours of sleep and then had to wash a chair cover because JJ had vomited on it (I literally JUST washed this cover a couple of days ago, and shampooed all of his puke spots on the living room rug yesterday. And yes, he’s fine — he’s done this all his life).

So, everything is clean, Ramón has gone back upstairs after his late lunch, I’ve had a bowl of soup, and I’m going to open King now and get started on it. Current word count stands at 8,169, completion date is set to be October 5th, and I’ll do a daily count here just to keep myself honest and y’all entertained.

Structure is fun, yay…

Finish one project, move on to the next

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.

So, this is what the rest of 2020 looks like for me

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 it’s Thursday and TO MY MUSE didn’t make the RITA finals

And I didn’t expect it to, if I’m being bluntly honest. But I did get a call from Houston this morning and my heart leapt into my throat until I saw the words SCAM LIKELY on the screen. Damn you for getting my hopes up, scammers. Congratulations to all the RITA and Golden Heart finalists, and best of luck!

Anyway, I’ve been quiet here lately and I’m sorry about that. It’s been a combination of problematic health due to allergies, trying to get various projects done and out the door, trying to get my office set up so that I can write up there (long story short — I prefer to write on my laptop, but there’s no comfortable place to do that in my office. After ten years of living in this house I have finally rectified that by consolidating all the printers and computer equipment onto one shelving unit and moving my wing recliner into my office), and general ennui. Oh, also, the climate is going to hell, US politics are a dumpster fire, UK politics aren’t much better, and I wish my ovaries would just die already.

So there’s that. But spring is officially here, I’m close to finishing the massive rewrite of Grading the Curve (oh, man, that needed work and way more backstory) and getting that re-released, and then I can get back to work on King of Blades, Uncertainty Principle, and the still untitled romcom (I’m trying to come up with an amusing marriage-related pun, but nothing has worked so far). If that wasn’t enoigh to keep me busy, I’ll also be signing books at the Home Run Author Event this Saturday in the Jack Daniels Club in Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. VIP tickets are already sold out, but tickets will still be available at the door for $20 and parking is free.

Also, I’ve been busy creating graphics for the various book series, which I’m making available on mugs, t-shirts, and stickers because 1) it’s cool and 2) everyone needs a Trickster Tech t-shirt. So in addition to the Olympic Cove merch I now have the Trickster Technologies company logo/tag line, the Mayhew Plants and Nursery company logo/tag line, and I have an idea for a very cool graphic for the ship/AI from Two to Tango (which will be renamed Stealing Dmitri when I get the rights back this summer). What can I say — it’s fun for me to come up with logos for imaginary companies.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work, tra la…

First pubs of 2019

Woohoo, I’m kicking off 2019 with a double re-release! My first publications in January will be two novelettes I originally wrote for Evernight Publishing back in 2013; the rights reverted back to me in 2018, and I’m currently in the process of re-editing them and putting them together for release with Belaurient Press.

The first story, A Boon by Moonlight, is my “boy meets Sidhe/boy asks Sidhe for boon/Sidhe asks for night in boy’s bed” piece. This one has a special place in my heart because I dearly want to go out drinking with these two (Zach could be our designated driver, and Jerrek would throw back vodka like it was water and provide running snarky commentary on everyone else in the bar. It would be great). The re-release will also include the unpublished short story “Snow Day” featuring Zach and Jerrek housebound antics during a polar vortex, so there’s some added value there. It should be out on 1/15 so if you’ve never read this one before you can pick it up then.

And may I just say that I’m freaking in love with this new cover? It screams M/M fantasy romance to me (I still can’t believe I’m writing fantasy romance, but my God it’s fun). Finding the stock image of the model in fantasy garb was a real gift, and the other model works with him extremely well. I may do a couple more tweaks to the image before release day, but what you see here is primarily the finished product.

Oh, funny but true story about the cover — I sent it to a couple of writer friends for feedback. One of them writes SF/fantasy and said, “This is for a fantasy romance story? Because the woman on the right looks like a Vulcan.” I had to explain about Jerrek, after which she said, “Ohhh. In that case, it looks great.” *grin*

The other re-release is Grading the Curve, my “hot for teacher” novelette. Whereas I can get Boon out next week, Curve won’t be out for another two weeks because 1) hoo boy, I learned a lot about characterization and backstory in the last five years, which means 2) this 13K novelette is about to become a 30K novella as I gleefully apply both the Editorial Machete and the Storytelling Spackling Knife with a freaking vengeance (seriously, I re-read the original MSS and was deeply grateful that it sank without a trace. It’s not horrible, mind you, but it was clear I had no idea how to write a good, solid MF romance at that time).

The eagle-eyed among you may have noted the extra name on this cover and want to know who the heck Natasha Stark is. Well, she’s me — as of 2019 I’m using that nom de plume for all of my contemporary romances (and yes, there will be more of them — I’ve got at least four romcoms in mind), and this is my way of introducing her. It’s mainly for marketing purposes, since there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of overlap between contemporary romance readers and SF/fantasy/PN romance readers. I want to make it easy for people to find (and ideally buy) what they want to read, so SF, fantasy, or paranormal romance readers can stick with Nicola’s books, and contemporary romance readers can focus on Natasha’s books.

Oh, God. I’m going to have to set up a totally separate website/social media presence at some point for Natasha, aren’t I? I need a drink…

Meanwhile I’m also working on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) and Natasha’s next romcom, tentatively titled Screen Kiss, so those should be out in March or so. So many books to write, so little time…

NaNoWriMo, Day One

Yes, I’m doing it again this year, and I’m working on King of Blades (Two Thrones Book Four), which should make the Matthiaë fans out there happy. I’m looking to finish it by November 30, with a release date around the third week of December, whee!

The plot: Matthias’s yearly visit to Hellas and the games that are celebrating Danaë’s pregnancy are complicated by family strife, old friends, and a string of accidents that may not be all that accidental. With Danaë distracted by her double pregnancy, Matthias has to sort out this new threat to his ever-growing family.

Day 1 word count: 1667

Daily snippet: The traveling party moved slowly through the shadows of the majestic Arpinnes mountains, toiling upwards towards a narrow gap in the range. In winter the gap would be all but impassable due to blizzards and the sheer amount of snow and ice deposited there, but this early in autumn the route was still clear enough for King Matthias IV of Ypres and his coterie of guards, servants, and courtiers to cross over to the other side. Once they descended and reached the small strip of land that formed the eastern border of Ypres, there would only be a short sea journey remaining before they reached the glittering island kingdom of Hellas, ruled by Matthias’s wife and co-ruler Queen Danaë.

Which couldn’t come soon enough for his riding companion. “Why is it so bloody cold up here?” Prince Ezeudo Debare of Ghobos asked, burrowing deeper inside his fur-lined cloak. “This is horrendous.”

Matthias swallowed a sigh. “I’m not really sure. All I know is that it’s always colder in the mountains that it is down on the plain. Consider yourself lucky we’re crossing now. Last time I did this trip there was snow on the ground.”

“Snow.” A disgusted sound followed the word. “I’ll take the desert, thank you very much. At least the air there doesn’t turn my lungs to ice.”

He considered his companion, one of his oldest and most trusted friends. “Ezeudo, do you ever stop complaining?”

“No. It keeps my mouth warm.” The prince grinned unexpectedly, teeth white against his dark skin. “Besides, if I stopped complaining you’d wonder what I’d done with the real Ezeudo.”

“This is true. Remind me again why your wife tolerates you?”

“Because she is the moon to my sun, the love of my life, and I venerate her as I venerate all the deities. Also, she enjoys my large penis.”

Matthias snorted. “I’ll take your word on that, my friend.”

Another flashing grin from the Ghobian. “You’re going to tell her I said that, aren’t you?”

“Probably.”

“Bastard.”