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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.

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Degree of Resistance by Nicola M. Cameron – Review

Woohoo — five star review for Degree of Resistance!

Whiskey With My Book

Review by KJ Van Houten

About Degree of Resistance

A perfect society hiding a terrible secret. An innocent man condemned to cyborg slavery. A brilliant woman determined to set him free.

Freelance tech Evie Contreras belongs to the Employee class of the Pacifica Protectorate, the “perfect society” that rose from the ruins of the West Coast. But Evie knows about Pacifica’s festering core and the secrets that keep it in power. And when she discovers that Pacifica has turned her long-lost love Ben into a cyborg slave, she will risk everything to rescue him.

Saving Ben is the first step in a deadly game between Pacifica and a shadowy resistance group known as Rubicon. In return for Rubicon’s help, Evie must retrieve a hidden artificial intelligence that may hold the key to protecting Earth from a deadly new disaster.

Assuming the protectorate doesn’t find Evie first…


Review of Degree…

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I’m Back

meontheshipSo, yeah, Ramón and I were on our much delayed and badly needed vacation last week (that’s a very bleary me at right after sneaking out for an early breakfast while the ship was still stuck in the Galveston port due to fog), hence my absence from the Internet in general and a lack of posts on this blog. Although I’m not sure I can classify it as a vacation seeing as I was editing Intersection every day, but editing a book on a nice Disney cruise ship where a friendly man brings you drinks on request is without a doubt much better than doing it at home with five cats demanding your attention in shifts while the weather tries to blow the top of your head off with a migraine.

Speaking of Intersection, I believe I have renamed it. I was kind of pressed for a working title for the book and came up with Intersection because the two main characters’ lives were crossing each other after a long absence, but after much musing during the vacation I came to realize that it’s not the greatest attention-grabbing title for an SF romance with cyborgs and a post-apocalyptic society. I won’t finalize things until later this week, but I’m torn between–

Aaaand just checked one of the titles and it’s used in at least four other books, so that’s out, and I just saw the resistor graphic on a whiteboard at a local political meeting I just attended. I am not one to ignore signs. So it looks like Intersection will now become Degree of Resistance, which is actually much more apropos for the book’s theme. I love it when the universe sends me signals like this.

When a show you like goes horribly, terribly wrong

*rubs face*

As you may remember, Gentle Reader, my beloved Ramón bought me the four-pack of Longmire seasons for Christmas this year, which gladdened my heart and inspired my writing thanks to a certain snarky Louisianan. So today, since it’s cold as Ann Coulter’s heart here in the clavicle of Texas, I settled in after work to finish season 3 of the series. Up to now I’d been enjoying it greatly, mainly due to the great dialog, interesting cases, and the fact that Robert Taylor takes his shirt off at least three times a season. The whole subplot about Walt’s dead wife and who really killed her was starting to wear a bit thin, but I knew that it was going to be resolved in the last ep (thank you, IMDb).

And then I got to said last episode. Now, I know A&E cancelled the series after the third season, whereupon it got picked up unexpectedly by Netflix, so maybe this had something to do with why the plot of this episode makes no damn sense whatsoever. First, Detective Fales’s characterization went straight out of the window; instead of being the crusading cop bent on taking the supposedly crooked sheriff down, he turns into, well, an asshole. He deliberately obfuscated evidence, had the original investigating officer somehow transferred to another division (yeah, no, that’s not how it works) and was going to make sure Henry got a life sentence for the murder of the meth head who killed Walt’s wife because … he felt like it, as far as I could tell. I dunno. That made no sense to me.

Secondly, Walt and Henry have to find evidence in the corpse of said dead meth head that will prove someone else killed him and exonerate Henry. So they traipse out to the graveyard in another jurisdiction, dig it up without any official permission, fast-talk some decidedly slow deputies into letting them take the body back to Absaroka County, and … once again, I’m not sure. Enter it as evidence? And when the Denver DA and Fales show up at Henry’s bar supposedly to take a statement from Henry, they’re presented with evidence of Fales’s deliberate fuckup and the proof in the dead meth head and given an offer — drop all charges against Henry and they won’t sue Denver PD for wrongful prosecution. The DA folds, and a fuming Fales rides into the distance as far as I can tell. Except that the FIRST thing the DA should have said was, “So where’s your permit to dig up this dead meth head? You don’t have one? Wait, you STOLE it from another county? So both of you have just committed a new crime. And Longmire, you’re forbidden from escorting Henry anywhere because you’re too close to the case — that’s breach of parole regulations. Also, have any of you heard about this thing called chain of custody? The judge is going to laugh this straight out of court.” So I may have had some problems with my suspension of disbelief here.

And then we turn our attention to the dysfunctional Connolly clan, where Branch, after being tormented by the White Warrior David Ridges and suspended from duty for generally acting like a psycho with a gun, decides to join the family business (whatever that is). Except that he digs into the company records and finds out that not only did his father pay Jacob Nighthorse $100K to funnel into Branch’s campaign for sheriff, but Barlow also paid Nighthorse $50K for “consulting services.” As it turns out, these consulting services were for David Ridges to head down to Denver, find a meth head to kill Walt’s wife (I can only assume to make Branch’s campaign easier), then kill the meth head to cover up the trail.

Yeah. Slightly baroque, almost Borgia-like in its complexity. But I could kinda maybe buy it, except that when Barlow comes to Branch’s house, he brings a box of business cards listing Branch as a company VP, saying that he had them printed six years ago. Throughout the show Barlow has been portrayed as a ruthless businessman devoted to building his company as his legacy and passing it along to his family. And yet he not only let his only son run off and work as a deputy, he secretly funded Branch’s campaign for sheriff, going so far as to pay a man to kill the wife of Branch’s competitor to make it easier for his son to win.

Yeah, no. Daddy Connolly never wanted Branch to be a cop in the first place; he wanted Branch securely working in the family business, and always seemed annoyed that Branch insisted on working as a deputy. What was far more likely would be him standing back, watching Branch run for sheriff and fail, then say, “Okay, son, you had your chance. Now how about you come work for me like you were supposed to.” But this? And then, after ALL that sturm und drang, for Barlow to announce “I don’t have time to make another fortune, but I still have time to make another son” and give the impression that he just shot Branch is just utterly irrational.

So I had a wee bit of a problem with the end of Season 3. Here’s hoping 4-6 are a little more sensible. In the meantime, I’m reading the Longmire books and enjoying the hell out of them. If you like solid mysteries set in the West with some drop-dead hilarious dialog, I highly recommend this book series.

The ARe debacle and Evernight Publishing

getlitBy now I’m assuming that you’ve heard about All Romance eBooks closing and its extremely dodgy handling of Q4 royalties due to authors and publishers. I’m lucky in that I’m only out about ten bucks, but others have taken a significant financial hit and are wondering how they’ll be paying their bills in 2017. This sort of fiduciary behavior is not only sloppy but cruel to writers who depend on their royalties to survive, and I full support all writers and publishers who are currently investigating their legal options.

In the face of the ARe debacle, I also want to congratulate my publisher Evernight Publishing for demonstrating once again that they are an utterly professional company that stands by their authors. They have informed us that they plan on absorbing the royalty losses from ARe and will pay us, their authors, what we’re owed on ARe sales from Q4 despite the financial hit they’ll have to take on the deal. In this day and age of dubious financial dealing from publishers and distributors, Evernight demonstrates a standard that I really wish other publishing houses would adopt.

Support Evernight and buy books from their website direct!

Thank you, Carrie

15697622_10211329681788091_7583299573809248888_nThe first thing I saw when I checked news today was Carrie Fisher’s death, and I wound up ugly crying for an hour. I know this sounds crazy, but I feel like I’ve lost an older sister. When I was growing up, the beauty standard was blonde and blue-eyed, Farrah Fawcett clones. For us mostly eastern European brunettes, yeah, sucks to be you.

And then came this short, brunette, brown-eyed smartass with buns on the sides of her head and a blaster who blew those California Girl tropes out of the water and made all the girls I knew want to be space princesses. My sister went as Princess Leia for Halloween one year. I didn’t think I was cool (or thin) enough to pull it off, otherwise I would have totally done it. She looked like my sister and me, she sounded like my dad and sister, and she was fucking awesome.

And then I got older and into the writing biz, and found out that Carrie Fisher was far more than a princess. She was a hella killer talented writer and script doctor. She became a face and voice for mental illness, showing every day that you could deal with unbalanced neurochemistry and still live life on your terms and be a witty, unapologetic genius while doing it. She had a wonderful service dog named Gary that went everywhere with her, and was loved by her family. She started out as a princess and became a general. She was a hilarious, broken, utterly human badass, and our world is poorer for her passing but richer because she had been here, dammit, and had the kindness and generosity to give us her words.

Thank you, Carrie.

So, it’s cold here in the clavicle of Texas


Yes, I know that people in the northern parts of the United States, not to mention other parts of the world that enjoy a uncomfortable closeness to the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, are laughing their asses off at me right now.

But damn, it’s cold here. 36°F/2.2°C at the moment, and dropping to 28°F/-2.2°C overnight. My cold acclimatization is gone, people. 16 years of living here has given me the ability to tolerate high temps (with proper hydration and support), but it drops below 50°F (10°C for those of you playing along everywhere else in the world) and Nic turns into a shivering popsicle in search of warm clothing and cats to sit on her feet and keep them toasty because I’m wearing socks AND slippers at the moment and they’re still chilly.

I even brought my beautiful hand-crocheted thick triangle shawl out so that I could wear it while writing. The damn cats annexed it, and now insist that it remain piled on the short bookshelf at left so that they can snooze on it while I work. Since it keeps them busy so that I can work I’m reluctant to reclaim it, but damn, I have a space heater in here with both cat beds snugged alongside it. Must they claim my shawl as well?

But there is a bright side to today, namely that the full soundtrack to Westworld was released on iTunes, which means I have all of that lovely evocative music to listen to while working on Intersection. Assuming I can feel my fingers. Did I mention it was cold here?

Okay, so, thinking about a holiday short here

should-be-writing-10Hi, I’m Nicola, and I used to write fanfic. I love good fanfic — it’s the modern version of folk tales about your favorite heroes. And yes, not all fanfic is good fanfic, but when you can find a superb writer (like the immensely talented Cincoflex), you just wallow happily in the product and thank God that they decided to write it all down.

So, yeah, fanfic. Now, the fun part about fanfic is that someone else has created the universe, so all you really have to do is write about the continuing adventures of Your Favorite Character, which takes a lot of the strain off of you as a writer. You don’t have to worry about world-building, exploring the background of various characters, or explaining what the hell your MC is doing in X location because most of that will already be known by the fans.

But. If you dust off one of your own favorite fanfics, notice that it’s already 10K words, and decide to see if you can’t file off the serial numbers and make it an original story, you wind up running into all kinds of issues like, well, who is your MC? What are their motivations? What’s their world like? How did they get into this particular pickle? How are they going to get out of it, in detail? And it’s all got to deviate from the borrowed universe so that it’s, you know, original.

Luckily, answering all these questions significantly expands the story. And this really is a fun story. So while I’m still working on Intersection, I may also have a short holiday story out in the two weeks or so. Whee!

Emerging from the rubble of Thanksgiving

Well, I say “rubble” — to be honest I ate at a friend’s house so all I had to clean up were the two pans I used to roast Brussels sprouts. But this year’s holiday did feel a little rough — for one thing Ramón had a horrendous cold and stayed home so as not to infect anyone else, and he’s been coughing and sneezing on and off since Thursday. For another, I have been feeling ridiculously irritable, and not for any obvious reason apart from the fact that my own nose is a little stuffy (but that’s normal — I live with five cats. My nose is ALWAYS stuffy). Shark Week won’t happen for another 20 days or so, Fertile Day doesn’t happen until Tuesday, so whatever is going on doesn’t seem to be hormonally driven. But man, the J Crew has been getting on my nerves at every turn. By now I’m kinda used to them following me from room to room (I am never without a cat unless I manually turf them out of the room and close the door), but the constant demands for attention feel like someone is rubbing my nerves with salt-covered barbed wire. And 2016’s sadistic pleasure in taking away yet more awesome people (Ron Glass? Seriously, 2016? What the fuck is wrong with you?) is not helping my mood at all.

viserionI dunno. Maybe I just need to get out of here for awhile or something. A drive might soothe my nerves.

Apropos of nothing apart from the fact that it’s Small Business Saturday and I need to do required promo, I’m running a Black Friday sale at my Etsy store until Wednesday, and at this point I may extend it to Friday for shits and giggles. So if you like nifty handmade OOAK jewelry (e.g. at right is Viserion, a dragonstone cabochon wrapped in antique brass and a tiger’s eye bead), go over and check it out, and make sure to use promo code BLACKFRIDAY40PERCENT at checkout to get 40% off your entire order. Such a deal!