Category Archives: Uncategorized

And here comes the heat…

Up until 2015, North Texas was pretty arid, and was in fact in drought conditions for years. Then May 2015 rolled around and it rained for pretty much every day of the month. Ever since then, we get what I can only call monsoon season for May and part of June — we can expect rain every week, often for days at a time. While this is great for the land, it does drive the humidity up to sauna levels, and don’t get me started on the mosquitos.

Well, bluebonnets are pretty.

That being said, it’s weird to read weather predictions for the summer and find out that most of Texas is supposed to be at average or slightly cooler temps than normal, while these massive heat domes squat over the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest and flash-steam everyone there. I’m not making fun of those folks, either — they’re not used to those kind of temps, their homes and businesses aren’t set up to handle heat, and suddenly getting slammed with 107°F temps when your A/C consists of opening windows to get a cross breeze is no bueno indeed. We ran into the very same problems with Winter Storm Uri, after all.

So right now we’re dealing with a shaky energy grid (thanks, Greg), but temps that seem to be staying in the high eighties to mid-nineties, with a fair amount of rain in next week’s forecast. When I first moved here, I probably would have complained about the heat. I know better, now.

When I started writing Degree of Resistance I posited a future where a wannabe totalitarian president, climate change, and Big Tech-backed political rights grabs had wreaked havoc on North America. I mean, it was supposed to be a theoretical dystopian background for my romance. I never thought that I would get it right.

Resetting the Clock

(For those of you who are uncomfortable with discussion of menstruation or other uterus-enhanced people’s issues, you might want to skip this. *mwah*)

So, I’m in my mid-fifties, and one of the lovely things about my age is that my reproductive system is on the verge of hanging it up and shutting down shop. Which is fine and dandy with me — I ain’t having kids, monthly periods are both a huge pain AND my fertile periods also make me retain water so I feel like a camel most of the time. Menopause? Bring it on.

My last period was on January 6 (thank you, Cheeto-supporting yahoos, for making it easy to remember), and before that I had a period in September. When nothing happened in February, March, and April, I was starting to hope that this was it, I was done. but you have to go a full year without a period before you’re considered fully in menopause, so I had another eight months to go.

Until last night. The last couple of days I have been irrationally irritable. I knew it was hormonal, PMS without the actual menstruation, so I took a black cohosh each day to calm down and regain some balance. Yeah, except that black cohosh is chemically similar to estrogen, and apparently my body thought, “Oh, wait, there’s some spare estrogen floating around here! Welp, time to shed lining.”

Now, all of my life I’ve had heavy periods, to the point where I normally use Super tampons because my uterus laughs heartily at Regular (and once I discovered Ultra, those became my go-to tampon for overnight use). Which made the September and January periods absolute delights because they were minor. I mean, a little bit of blood over three days, and then I was done.

This time? Right back to the Supers/Ultras, and I went through a Super in less than four hours this morning. I’m really hoping that this is my uterus throwing its “Going Out of Business” party, possibly combined with me getting my COVID vaxes in March and April. But man, it’s annoying as hell right now.

An Unexpected Benefit of Getting Older

As you may know, Bob, I am one of those invisible ladies in the throes of perimenopause who is very much looking forward to the complete cessation of menstrual periods. However, peri means that I’m pretty much going through a second puberty with all of the accompanying hormonal fluctuations. This, combined with my two autoimmune disorders, means that I take an amusing amount of meds and supplements every day in order to remain functional.

My daily intake is split up into my morning meds, my afternoon supplements, and my evening meds (yes, I rattle when I walk, moving on). Morning is a simple matter of two pills, as is evening, but the afternoon supplement train was always a pain in the butt because I’d have to open 6-7 bottles to get everything I needed. A lot of the time I would blow this off because I was busy doing something else, and I would then pay the price later.

Anyway, we went to NOLA the weekend before last and I decided to pick up some pill organizers for Ramón and myself so that I wouldn’t have to pack fifteen million pill bottles in my suitcase. The organizer is very much like this one, with slots for AM and PM meds (yes, I know I take them three times a day, but I just brought the two bottles for the nighttime meds).

My unexpected lifesaver.

It worked nicely during our stay, and when we came home I unpacked everything and realized that I’d accidentally loaded the Thursday PM section even though I’d already taken those meds at home. Since it was already loaded, I figured what the hell, let’s reload the entire thing with the morning/afternoon meds, and that way I won’t have to fuss with bottles every day for a week.

Oh. My. GOD. You wouldn’t think that something this prosaic would be a gamechanger, but I can tell you that it truly is. Not only have I been remembering to take my morning meds when I’m supposed to take them (usually not a problem but sometimes I’d slip), but I’ve been taking my afternoon meds every afternoon on time. It’s so much easier to pull out the organizer, shake out the supplements and pop them instead of having to open multiple bottles and pull out what I need.

Why is this a big deal? Because as I said, I need these supplements to keep my creaky failing metabolism on course. When I don’t take them, unpleasant things happen. But last week I (CW: digestive issues ahead) pooped regularly and with ease, lost four pounds, remembered to eat, and slept like a log. Writing was much easier, and I even felt like exercising more when I wasn’t fighting off whatever bug I’d picked up in NOLA.

Long story short, if you take a lot of meds/supplements and aren’t already using one of these beauties, pick one up from your local pharmacy or supermarket (and don’t worry about the old fogey connotations. Old fogeys are pretty damned smart). It’ll take you 3-4 minutes to load on Sunday, and then you’re set for the rest of the week. Your body will thank you for thinking ahead.

So We Went to New Orleans…

As you can imagine, 2020 was a hell of a year here in Casa Cameron as it was everywhere else in the world. The last time I went out for recreational purposes was March 13, 2020. By the time the one-year anniversary of that date rolled around, Ramón and I were in gradually crumbling shape. We went out to the store, to medical/dental/vet appointments, and to drop off the taxes. That was it. We hadn’t gone out for a meal, the movies, to see people, or to travel anywhere in over a year.

And then the vaccines became available, God bless the scientists who came up with them. Both of us qualified for Texas’s 1B tier so I scrambled to get both of us vaccination slots. That happened in late March and early April — my second shot was on April 3, and by April 17 we were both fully vaccinated.

That night, I booked a flight to New Orleans. We had been dreaming of going somewhere, anywhere, for months once it was safe for us to do so. Out of the country, however, was unfeasible due to COVID restrictions, so we settled on a long weekend in NOLA, which Ramón had only visited once a couple of years ago. We figured getting out of the house for a whole four days would be one hell of a tonic, and I had money from a contract project I’d done in March and April that would cover air fare, hotel costs, food/drink, and any entertainment. I didn’t mention this to anyone for security reasons, and also because NOLA is my sister’s favorite place in the world and she would set my hair on fire if she found out we were going without her.

Finally, our departure date arrived last Thursday, and I swear to God it was hilarity itself. After fourteen months of every day being like the day before we had forgotten how to get ready for a trip. We wound up running around like headless chickens trying to bring everything that we thought we’d need (and somehow I still managed to leave my melatonin behind), get the house ready for the cat sitter, print off boarding tickets and hotel registration, etc. I have to be honest, it felt like prepping for an Apollo mission.

But Thursday afternoon we got everything loaded into the car, thanked the (fully vaccinated) cat sitter profusely, reassured the J Crew that we loved them, and headed off to DFW. My paycheck had extended itself to business class seats, so the flight to NOLA was comfortable (helped by the Bailey’s on ice I had, since I wouldn’t be driving anywhere once we landed), and getting through security had been a breeze. The other end was something of a different story, as we’d landed out in Ulan Bator and getting to the baggage claim was a challenge for Nick the Gimp whose mask was now soaked with respirated moisture and had to stop twice to pull it away from my face and gasp for breath. By the time we braved the taxi queue and got one to take us to the Four Points Sheraton on Bourbon, I sortakinda wanted to pass out. I mean, I hadn’t moved that much in over a year, and it showed.

Our hotel, however, was a thing of beauty, right on Bourbon Street so we could watch the assorted party people from our balcony on Toulouse. Even better, they’d instituted a policy where housekeeping wouldn’t come into our room unless we requested it. Since we could do towel exchanges at the door and I was perfectly capable of tidying the bathroom and making a bed, this was fantastic — we could sleep in and not worry about the eventual knock on the door and the call of “Housekeeping.” After I requested extra pillows and blankets, the bed became comfortable (remember, I’ve been spoiled rotten by my Purple mattress) and we were ready for the weekend.

Now, there had been some changes to the French Quarter thanks to COVID. The hotel’s restaurant and bar were closed, so we couldn’t eat there. Servers were few and run off their feet, so getting into any restaurant usually required a wait. I made sure to be extremely kind and tip like a rock star, but it helped things in the eating department when we discovered this awesome coffee shop called Cafe Conti (in the Hotel St. Marie on the corner of Toulouse and Dauphin) that made some of the best damn chicken salad sandwiches I have ever tasted, and had a full range of bagels and other breakfast goodies. Those, bags of nuts and trail mix, and slices of pizza from various Bourbon joints pretty much fed us while we were in the Quarter (which also saved on money, so yay).

Outside Cafe Conti looking southeast towards Bourbon Street.

But Bourbon itself was still the party street it’s been for decades. We had to wear masks into bars, but could take them off once we started drinking, and most people weren’t wearing them outside in any case. And Lord, it was a sheer delight seeing people enjoying themselves again.

That being said, I could tell by Friday morning that I was going to have issues walking due to ShitKnee. Ramón, bless his heart, located a Walgreen’s and brought back the niftiest folding cane, as well as bottles of water and pop. The cane allowed me to get around with a minimum of pain, so we were able to stroll up and down Bourbon, go down to Jackson Square for a carriage ride around the FQ and Marigny, and generally Be Outside With People. Which felt very weird, I’m not gonna lie. We almost undoubtedly came into contact with SARS-CoV-2 at some point, so it’ll be interesting to see if we develop any symptoms by May 23. Me, I’m betting on Pfizer and Moderna kicking its ass, but I’m taking Vitamin D and ashwagandha anyway because they can’t hurt.

But even my new cane could only do so much, so I spent some hours out on the balcony people watching. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me that was a ball (spotting not one but two men rolling down Toulouse on hoverboards with large snakes draped around their necks was notable). Ramón took those opportunities to head out for a few solo walks, do some shopping, and take pictures. When he came back, we’d go for a swim in the hotel pool or hang out on the bed napping or talking (often about socio-economic issues, because we’re wonks like that). To be honest, it was heaven.

By Sunday morning I was ready to go home to my own bed, but my heart and my spirit felt so much better. I could tell because I cranked out a K on The Crimson and the Black while we were at the MSY Lounge at the airport without breaking a sweat, and I know exactly where I’m going with the story from that point onward. Ramón also felt heaps better, and he’s got a slew of projects he wants to do over the Christmas hols. Me, I’m musing on where our next trip will take us.

One thing I noticed — if I had to spend time with someone in fairly close quarters I told them that Ramón and I were fully vaccinated. Almost 99% of the time the response was, “Oh, so am I, it’s okay.” That was from both tourists and locals, so clearly 1) NOLA attracts intelligent tourists, and 2) the city is taking vaccinations a lot more seriously than places like, oh, Texas (40.1% of Orleans Parish residents are fully vaccinated, as opposed to 30.4% of Texas residents). So if you’re vaccinated, you’ve spent the last fourteen months cooped up, and you really need to get out for a bit, I heartily recommend that you head down to NOLA and laissez les bons temps rouler. And if you stop off at Cafe Conti, tell them Miss Nicola sent you.

Trying to Hang On

I have to admit, I’m not doing that well. Which is hardly surprising, seeing as we’re now past the point where we all initially locked down and we’re only just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having idiot governors lift mask mandates and throw open business doors doesn’t help (and cases of COVID and deaths from same are going up in my county, so thanks a lot, Abbott). I know that eventually things will get better and I just have to hang on. But to be honest, all I want to do is crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and hope that I can get to sleep before one or more of my joints decides to start screaming at me.

Thing is, we’re genuinely in a good position. We have a roof over our heads, all the bills are paid, and we’re even going to New Orleans in May for a long weekend. More importantly, Ramón just got his second shot yesterday (he’s feeling pretty crappy today, but he’s not sure if it’s due to the shot or the fact that we have hella high tree and grass pollen levels today and that’s doing a number on his system). My second shot is scheduled for tomorrow, and we’ll be considered fully vaccinated on April 17th, at which point we’re going out to dinner for the first time in about 15 months.

But. I can tell that my temper is in shreds. I’m definitely showing signs of situational depression, and while I’m trying to mitigate it with exercise, fresh air, and meditation it’s still there in the back of my mind. It feels like I don’t have anything to look forward to but constant unending chores. This house is a fucking disaster area and I need to clean each and every room in it, but between the daily contract work, trying to finish the book, and ShitKnee playing up I rarely have the spoons to do that. Even the New Orleans trip feels like a chore because I have to arrange everything and find stuff for us.

It doesn’t help that the inflammatory response to the pollen is playing merry hell with my joints, so in addition to being depressed I also hurt all the time. God only knows what shape I’ll be in tomorrow after I get the second shot, so today I need to make sure that we have food and other things stocked up in the house so that I can just sleep it off if necessary.

What I really need is one of Ray Bradbury’s Electric Grandmothers who can help me cook and clean, keep an eye on the J Crew, bring me something to drink when I’m working, then tuck me in bed at the end of the day and tell me not to worry, everything will be fine. As that’s not going to happen, however, I’ll just keep muddling through.

I have a type

So I have been patiently waiting for science fiction drama The Nevers to come to HBO ever since I learned about it. Superpowered Victorian women in a quasi-steampunk setting? I am so there.

Of course, one of the other draws for me was the fact that Pip Torrens (aka the actor who inspired Shadow of the Swan) would also be in it playing an aloof aristocrat who appears to be aligned against the superpowered women. Hey, I can live with that.

I mentioned this to Ramón, remarking that it was lovely being a romance writer because I could monetize my celebrity crushes. To which Ramón said, “Wait, who is he?”

“Ever watch Preacher?”

“No.”

“What about the first season of The Crown?”

“Yes, I saw that.”

“Okay, you remember the Queen’s first secretary, Tommy Lascelles? Pip played him.”

“Ah, okay, yes. Him.” He thought for a moment. “You do have a type, don’t you?”

Apparently I do.

Don’t worry, I’m better

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.

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!

Frogging successfully completed

The weather has cooperated with me for the last two days, allowing me to sit out on the patio and work without the J Crew demanding my attention. As a result, the first eight chapters (out of a projected total of 21) of Shadow of the Swan have now been retrofitted with the new plot.

I have to say, it flows SO much better this way, so clearly this was the right thing to do and I feel like I’m finally, finally on the right track. This revision also meant I got to add in Miss Pandora Philips, the granddaughter of a ministry official, in a place where she really needed to go and in a manner that endeared her to Louisa. I swear, this cast is growing on me SO much.

Still not turning it into a series, though, nope, no way, uh-uh … at least not until I get the Olympic Cove series finished, which should be sometime next year.

Speaking of the cove and its delightful denizens, I’m plowing ahead on the revisions for Deep Water (as I realized over last weekend that, no, my schedule was wrong, I can request the rights back next Monday instead of in December. D’oh), and I’ll get the cover done for that sometime this weekend. The graphic is left is pretty much the finished cover — I still need to do a few tweaks, make the text stand out a bit more against the background, but all in all I really like it. And since it’s the first of the OC books with an MMF (technically MFF if you include the original trio) menage, I figured I’d go with a feminine eye on the cover.

Believe it or not, I’ve also been plugging slowly away on Cross Current (OC 4), so if I can get a move on with that once Swan, King of Blades, and Uncertainty Principle are out, I should be able to have it ready by January, and the last other OC books (Landlocked and Undertow, respectively) fairly soon after that.

Then I’m done with my first series, and hopefully that will convince people who prefer to wait until a series is completely finished to buy it will do just that. Man, that sentence looks weird, but you know what I mean. After that, if Swan has enough buyers and interest, I’ll see about doing a sequel.

An unexpected benefit of ageing

So many thing start going wrong with your body as you get older that it’s nice when the aging process actually provides something useful. As you can see at right, I wear glasses — have since fifth grade or so, and up until about eight years ago my vision prescription stayed roughly the same.

In 2012 I was told by my ophthalmologist that my near vision was starting to go and I would need bifocals. Luckily modern plastics technology has gifted us with progressive lenses so I don’t have that extremely obvious half-moon at the bottom of my glasses, but still, it was an annoying reminder that my eyes were starting to crap out on me. As there was no way to avoid it, I sucked it up, got the progressives, stuck it out through the week-long adjustment period until I could wear them without getting a humongous headache, and continued on my merry way.

And then three years ago, I was having problems focusing. I went in for a checkup, expecting to hear that my near vision had gotten progressively worse and I would need a new scrip. “Oh,” said the ophthalmologist after examining me, “yeah, your prescription has changed.”

“Near vision, right?”

“Actually, no. It’s your far vision. It’s improved.”

I blinked, which is kind of difficult in one of those “which one is better, one or two” eye exam thingies. “Come again?”

Well. As it turns out, people with myopia (nearsightedness) will start developing presbyopia (farsightedness) as they get older, as do many people with normal vision. However, in a myopic’s case the presbyopia starts to offset the myopia, meaning that your far vision actually starts to improve as you get older. The ophthalmologist said that I’d probably never have 20/20 vision, but I could expect my far vision to continue to improve until I was in my 60’s.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because, dear reader, my far vision has very clearly changed again in this last year, which has resulted in me leaving my glasses off whenever possible (unless I’m driving or need to see the TV) so that I don’t get a headache. I can see my computer just fine, both the laptop and desktop, and I have  cheaters for any sort of up-close work. I was finally able to get into the optometrist’s office in June after they reopened from the pandemic shut-down, and yup, my far vision has improved to the point where I only need a bit of correction in my right eye (left eye’s improved as well, but it’s always needed more correction than my right eye).

Thing is, I got used to wandering around without glasses for the first time since fifth grade, so I’m still doing it unless I have to drive somewhere or watch TV (frankly, wearing the new glasses is weird because it’s hard to see the floor, something the optometrist warned me would happen). And I have to say — have my eyes always been this deep-set or did I just not notice because of the glasses?