Category Archives: Personal

Making bank off your neuroses

The nice thing about being a writer? You can monetize your anxiety.

A few nights ago I saw a post by Jimmi Simpson on Twitter about his first day on Westworld S2, which promptly gave me a collywobble attack (some background — those of you who read Degree of Resistance may have noticed to whom the book is dedicated. Because I thought it might give him some nice egoboo, I contacted the gentleman and asked if he wanted a print copy. He graciously agreed. He recently pinged me to tell me that he received it and planned on reading it. My thought process upon hearing this went something like: “Wait, what? He’s not going to just stick it on a shelf somewhere? I didn’t want him to feel obligated to read it — oh, God. The sex scenes. I’m an idiot. WHY DID I SEND HIM THE BOOK? Oh, God, oh, God, he’s going to think I’m an illiterate perv…” Hence the collywobbles). As I know where my dedicatee is, I idly wondered if it would be too extreme to fly out to the set, find out where he’s staying, bribe a hotel maid to let me into his room, and steal back the book before he can read it.

(Yes, I know I’m nuts, but at least I’m productively nuts. Moving on…)

And then I thought, “Oh, hey, wait. That would make a freaking hilarious romcom plot.” Which resulted in my drunken Muse swanning into town and burping out a story about a tech writer in LA who sidelines as a romance novelist. After her wannabe screenwriter boyfriend breaks up with her, she gets totally loaded with her BFF and inadvertently sends a smoking hot romance inspired by her current actor crush to said actor. When he DMs her a few days later to tell her he’s received the book and plans on reading it, she’s horrified (because unlike me, she had inebriation as an excuse and hadn’t realized until the DM what she’d done) and decides to get the book back no matter what. “No matter what” includes drafting her BFF for a panicked trip to New Mexico, a long-suffering hotel maid, a sarcastic director, a man-eating actress who’s determined to get the actor in bed, and a hastily thrown together cover story BY THE ACTOR where the writer has to pretend to be the actor’s girlfriend in order to dissuade M-EA from her goal. Oh, and there may be a weekend trip to Vail and an inebriated swordfight somewhere in there. And hijinks ensue!

I told it to Ramón this morning. He said, “You realize that’s not a book, petal. It’s a movie.” Now he’s muttering about Kickstarter and Con Man, and I’ve got Karen Gillan, Tom Mison, Kat Dennings, Nathan Fillion, and Martin Freeman in my head running lines. Whee!

I have been cleaning ALL THE THINGS

Which is why I haven’t posted since last Friday, sorry about that. The Sister arrived yesterday and I’ve spent the last week digging out this house and making it look like grown-ups live here (because deadlines + five cats = FUR EVERYWHERE). I still have to clean out my office in preparation for the mutual HS friend who will arrive tomorrow for a girl’s weekend, but after that I am DONE, people.

And oh, I am full to overflowing with the need to write. I completely overhauled the first few chapters of Cross Current in my head, worked out a great subplot for Lady of Thorns, rearranged some plot points in Uncertainty Principle, and even roughed out the outline for Shifter Woods: Snarl. Y’all are going to be inundated with new Nicola stories over the next few months, I promise.

Speaking of that, both Degree of Resistance and Shifter Woods: Howl are now off KU and available at all online retailers, so if you prefer .epub files you are good to go.

I’m doing all of the medical adulting

So, since I’m now 50 and my body will start breaking down at any moment, I need to get various preventative care tests done so that my doctor has a baseline of what I looked like when I was still semi-functional (I laugh. That moment passed decades ago).

To this end, in the past week I have had a physical, a Tdap shot, a breast and pelvic exam with Pap smear, a mammogram, and blood/urine workup. The physical/Pap smear came back nominal with a suggestion that I start taking a low-dosage BP med, and I’ll find out about the boob smooshing next week (although I’m not worried — the doc didn’t feel anything during the manual exam and I don’t have a history of breast cancer in my family so I’m probably okay).

As for the blood pull, that was a bit of an adventure since the lab said they didn’t have paperwork for it. Went home because I was fasting and hangry as hell and called the doc’s office: “What? But we sent them the request!” Went back to the lab today: “Nope, we don’t have paperwork for this.” Finally went BACK to the doctor’s office, got them to print out the orders, then hand-carried them over to the lab to get everything kicked off. Oh, and once again I was a phlebotomist’s nightmare. Here are attempts #1 and #2, after 48 oz of water, and with the poor tech muttering, “Man, this vein just does NOT want to cooperate…” I told her the story of the time when I tried to donate blood and how they told me, “Please don’t.”

But that’s all done, which is good. Next up on the “Nic is Old” medical schedule is Baby’s First Colonoscopy (or as I like to call it, the Magical Mystery Tour). As my sister is arriving for a week next Wednesday (read: I have to clean my entire house) and my birthday will be happening soon afterwards, I’ve decided to schedule the Tour after all of that because of, well, the Cleaning Out Procedure. You know what I mean.

Luckily my friend Stretch has had a Tour at the place my doc recommended and she said it was a breeze, so hopefully it will be a matter of the COP, getting into a weird position, dozing thanks to some IV tranqs, and then walking out of there funny. I can live with that.

James Comey: Making Integrity Sexy Since 2017

Comey-FBI-Portrait(With apologies to Mrs. Comey, whom I’m sure is a wonderful woman.)

I’ve noticed a certain phenomenon cropping up in my social media feeds since Thursday. For you on the west side of the Atlantic (those of you on the east were a tad busy with election matters), you’ll remember that Thursday was the day former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee about the circumstances that led to his firing by President Trump. I won’t recap what was said or the potential impacts of Mr. Comey’s statements, but a very unexpected result of his testimony is a growing number of social media posts, primarily by women, that can be boiled down to, “Is it just me, or does anyone else find Comey oddly sexy?”

If you find yourself thinking this while watching the testimony or interviews with the man, no, it’s not just you. While he may not be cover model gorgeous, he does have even features, nice eyes, and a pleasant voice, his bearing and height are impressive (“He’s so TALL!” one woman enthused), and his forthright determination and patriotism harks back to James Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” (Disclaimer: my politics don’t align with his and I’m not thrilled with some of his actions, but I can’t fault the man’s probity.)

But I wonder how much of his appeal also has to do with the fact that he, a straight white male, found himself in the same position that so many women have — namely, isolated and forced into a uncomfortable situation where his employer used pressure via insinuation to get him to perform a service. Every woman who’s had to put up with a boss’s inappropriate but not quite actionable suggestions knows how that feels. We watched Comey being grilled by the Senate committee, and we sympathized when he said, “Maybe if I were stronger, I would have” in response to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s question of why he didn’t tell the president to stop.

Basically, Comey is an Alpha male with a very human center, and that’s appealing to a lot of women. He’s a decent man who respects truth, law, and duty, has had his reputation unfairly impugned, and is now fighting to defend not only his own sense of honor but the honor of his country as well. Speaking as a romance writer, if that doesn’t have “hero” written all over it I’ll eat my laptop. Integrity’s a good look on anyone who can legitimately claim it, but on Comey it’s sexy as hell.

I spoke too soon

As of yesterday I now have a small but itchy rash on the numb part of my stomach with a couple of outlying bumps, all of them along the affected nerve trunk. But it’s contained and I still don’t have the agonizing pain that other shingles sufferers have reported, so go Acyclovir!

That being said, I’m noticing two weird side effects, and I don’t know if it’s the shingles, the Acyclovir, or a combination thereof. Side effect #1: while I’m still tired and feeling unwell, my ability to focus has gone way up. As in, I am writing like a house on fire. I finished a chapter of Shifter Woods: Roar yesterday and worked on Cross Current, and I also want to go back to work on Do No Harm. This is weird but good.

Side effect #2: no appetite whatsoever. I keep forgetting to eat, and then fifteen hours later my stomach starts hurting and I think, “Oh, yeah, I need to eat. Okay, I’ll have some yogurt.” I sent Ramón out to do a food shop, and he’s bringing back almonds. Those, grapes, and yogurt will do me right now.

And now, I think I’ll go take a nap.

So I’m sick

Shingles, to be precise. I developed an odd numb band of skin on my stomach running from my midline to my left side early Monday morning. The area underneath the skin started itching and aching like hell and made sleep Monday night quite unpleasant, so I called the doc’s yesterday morning for an appointment.

Diagnosis: shingles, classic presentation (right along a nerve trunk wrapping around my body from spine to midline). But I caught it early before the rash appeared so with Acyclovir I may not develop the rash at all. And Cecilia Tan clued me in to the use of Salonpas methyl salicylate pads, which knocked out the pain nicely. The biggest bummer is that I have to stay out of the gym until I’m sure I’m no longer shedding virus (people with shingles can give unvaccinated people chickenpox). Guess I can work out at home for a week.

For those of you who have never heard of this, shingles are basically the Son of Chickenpox — the herpes zoster virus remains dormant in your system once you’ve had chickenpox. After you turn 50 certain things can reactivate it — stress, immune system issues, various diseases — and it attacks the nerve roots, creating a belt-like rash along the nerve trunk. The abdomen is one of the most common places for it to appear, but it can show up all over your body (including your eyes), and knock-on effects can include nerve damage, photosensitivity, and a host of other unpleasant ailments. Recognizing it early and getting the antiviral Acyclovir (the treatment dose only cost me $19.50) can greatly reduce the length and severity of the attack, so if this ever happens to you hie yourself into the doctor right smart, if at all possible.

An interesting side effect is that either the shingles or the Acyclovir is making me feel … well, mellow. I’m tired and Ramón says I’m warm, but I’m not itching or in pain and I’m feeling a general sense of Zen calm. Which is kinda nice, considering the current political climate.

My cat has turned into Grandpa Simpson

So JJ, the 16-year-old black cat with kidney insufficiency, has gotten more and more cranky over the past year, to the point where he yells at me if his food bowl isn’t filled to the brim, yells at me if the other cats’ food bowls aren’t likewise filled, yells at me, when he wants to be petted, yells at me when he wants to be let down, and generally yells at me.

But since I know his kidneys are slowly failing I don’t want to ignore his yelling because I don’t know if it’s because he’s in pain or he’s just being grumpy. So, yeah, I’ve pretty much become his body servant. Cut to a few minutes ago, when he was yelling loudly from the living room. Like the good servant I am, I dropped what I was doing and went in there to see what was up.

Some background: JJ likes sleeping on the futon in the living room. I will occasionally bring him his wet food or water there so that he can have dinner in bed, so to speak. I’d left the spare water bowl on the end table, and because our orange tabby Jeremy is a huge resource hog who will shoulder JJ out of the way to get at any food or water I’d put another bowl of water next to it so that Jer-bear could drink out of that one while JJ drank out of the other bowl.

I go into the living room and see JJ staring at the now-empty water bowls. He then gives me an accusing look as if to say, “How dare you let these run dry?” Please note that we have two bowls of water with the regular food bowls and a big bowl of water on the breakfast nook table, all of which are washed and refreshed multiple times a day. But no, Grandpa wanted his water bowl on the end table, and he wanted it now.

I sighed and refilled them both. After a few minutes he yelled for cuddles, and has just now demanded to be let down. Once I did that he strolled off to the living room again, most likely to snooze until he decides to start yelling about something yet again.

My life, you know you want it.

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1973

Apparently at RT last week people were being told that writers were best served if they remained apolitical, that they should be Switzerland among all the sturm und drang on social media.

Yeah. That’s not going to fly here in Casa Cameron (I mean, come ON. You people KNOW me). And right now it is damn hard for me to pick my jaw off my chest from where it dropped when I saw the news that 45 had fired FBI Director James Comey, allegedly for the way he handled the situation with Secretary Clinton’s emails (I swear to God, I go to the gym for one hour and all hell breaks loose in D.C.).

Which is bullshit, and we all know it’s bullshit. But once again it’s very clear that 45 does not know his history, and has never heard of the Saturday Night Massacre, where then-President Nixon fired independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox and Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned in protest, triggering the series of events that led to Nixon’s impeachment. Now clearly that particular parade is not going to happen this time, since Smilin’ Jeff Sesssions is AG and is perfectly happy to go along with whatever 45 wants. But with any luck and a good tail wind this is the beginning of the end for the current administration, especially as Comey was supposed to testify on Thursday at the same hearings where Sally Yates became a verb for “handing an overbearing idiot his ass.”

I don’t think 45 quite gets that Comey can still testify as a civilian. This should be fascinating to watch.

Trying to write while Rome burns

Warning: I’m getting political here. If you want to believe that romance writers should be Switzerland, you may want to go somewhere else for the moment.

So I’m trying to work on Cross Current while watching the run-up to the vote in the House of Representatives over the new iteration of the AHCA, and taking breaks to comfort friends who are having panic attacks because this bill passing means that they or their loved ones will lose their health insurance, and wondering how badly this is going to make our own health care costs go up (I have two autoimmune disorders which will be considered pre-existing conditions), and generally being pissed off at the attempts of some very rich people to turn us all into out and out serfs. Because let’s be honest, this country is already an oligarchy.

And man, I really wish there was something powerful and mind-changing that I could say about this, especially since I’m a writer and words are my tools. But I can’t. The Backfire Effect means that people won’t listen to reason and fact if it contradicts their core beliefs, and apparently the core beliefs of those who want to vote YES on this bill can be condensed to, “Screw you, Jack, I got mine.” So instead, I’m gonna tell you a story.

Back in 1998, Ramón and I had just moved to Sweden for his contract job with a major telecoms company that I shall call the Three Blue Sausages. Ramón’s teenaged sister the Generalissima had come with us for various reasons, and was starting school in Stockholm while I started my own new job as a tech writer at TBS.

On the third day of my new job, I went home after work and found our apartment looking like a whirlwind had torn it apart — papers everywhere, the phone book out, just a mess. Grumbling about slob teenagers, I start cleaning the place when the phone rang.

It was the Generalissima. “Nic, I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice. “Your mum’s dead.”

It turned out that the place was a mess because she’d torn it apart trying to find a phone number for TBS so that she could call and tell me (I hadn’t gotten an office phone yet). I remember thanking her, hanging up, and calling my sister to find out what had happened.

As it turned out, my mother, who had been working as a temp secretary without health insurance, had developed a serious case of cellulitis. She couldn’t afford to see a doctor and tried to treat it herself. It went systemically septic over the course of six weeks. My brother, who lived with her, got scared when the pain grew too bad and took her into the local charity hospital for help. After a day of treatment they sent her home, telling him he could nurse her as well as they could. That night she was sitting on the couch, shocky and unable to speak, writing in notes that she could see man-like shapes hovering in the corners of the room. She sent my brother into his bedroom so that she could change out of the adult diapers the hospital had put her in; he asked if she wanted help, and she silently shooed him away. After a half hour, he came back out. He found her slumped over on the couch, her eyes still open, panties in her hand.

Not the image you want to have of your mother’s last moments on earth, by the way. Not at all.

I flew back to the States the next day, and am still grateful to the kind flight attendant who found me a row where I could stretch out and not upset the other passengers with my quiet crying. Mom wound up at the local mortuary, which was run by a former schoolmate of my aunt’s. He told her that Mom’s legs were in such bad condition they probably would have required amputation if she had lived.

Thing is, none of this happened in a war-torn place or a third-world nation. Mom lived in Whiting, Indiana, within spitting distance of Chicago. She worked all of her adult life, a great deal of it at the University of Chicago. She died because she couldn’t afford to go see a doctor and get antibiotics for a bacterial infection before it turned life-threatening. She was 58.

And I look at all of those GOP representatives in Congress preparing to vote on the AHCA, ramming it through even though it’s incomplete and CBO hasn’t even had a chance to put an accurate price tag on it. And I have to wonder — if their mothers are dead, did it happen because they couldn’t afford health insurance? Did they die while hallucinating and struggling to put on a pair of panties? Somehow, I strongly doubt it. So why are they expecting the rest of us to watch the people we love die in such a horrible way?

I say the rest of us because it’s written into the very bill that members of Congress won’t have to use the same kind of health coverage they’re expecting everyone else to live with. Congressional health coverage is great. They’ll be fine. And their owners will be fine, as well. And the super wealthy who are going to get a seriously juicy tax cut from this bill? They’re going to be the happiest of all.

An update, because I know you love those

This has been one fraught week, angels. Last week, Ramón learned that his mom had broken her thigh bone (ironically, it happened in the doctor’s office which she was visiting to determine why her leg hurt). She was taken to the hospital and received multiple scans, after which it was determined that she needed surgery to install a plate on the thigh bone to hold everything in place.

And then a consultant took a closer look at the scans to figure out what was causing the pain in the first place. He discovered a tumor. More were found, and suddenly we went into full “Get Ramón back home to see his mom NOW” mode, which was complicated by work duties and a very welcome house guest who just happened to show up at a difficult time. But the house guest is now on her way, the work duties have been fulfilled, Ramón is packed and I’ll be schlepping him to the airport in a couple of hours, and he’ll be landing in the UK tomorrow. Any good thoughts/prayers/white light/whatever you have directed to a very nice lady in Chesterfield would be quite appreciated at the moment.

In other news, I posted polls on Facebook and Twitter to ask people what series they would like me to work on next. To my surprise and gratification it turned out that Olympic Cove was the clear winner, so I’ve put the Pacifica Rising and Two Thrones books on hold and am back at work on Cross Current (Book 4). I hope to have that off to Evernight by the end of May, so for everyone who’s been waiting for the continuing adventures of the gods, mermen, disciples, and other residents of Olympic Cove and their battle against the Mad Goddess Thetis, you’ve got something good on the way!