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So I’m writing…

Happy holidays, and enjoy this unedited snippet from my current WIP, Victorian paranormal romance Shadow of the Swan. Yeah, yeah, I know, but at least I’m writing something.


“Tell me that I’m imagining things. Tell me that there’s nothing between us, that everything I feel is some sort of foolish dream kindled by my own imagination.”

He opened his mouth, intending to assure her that what she felt was one-sided and fleeting. What came out was, “No, you’re not imagining things.”

She nodded. “Good. I’d hate to think that I was that self-deluded.”

If you are, my treasure, then I’m equally deluded. “But we can’t act on it,” he added heavily.

“I know. The queen has decreed that I marry Richard Bolton, and you—” She gave him a sidelong glance. “Can you marry? Legally, I mean?”

“You mean, will I burst into flame if I set foot inside a church?” He squinted up at the weak December sunlight. “Another myth. I can go into a church, hold a crucifix, be splashed by holy water without harm.”

“You’re not answering my question.”

Damn her perspicacity. “I can marry, yes. Many vampires wed, for various reasons. But it carries certain complications when we marry a human.”

“An immortal being marrying a mortal one. It must seem like a human marrying a butterfly.”

“Not quite that unequal, I assure you. But it’s painful to know that you’re guaranteed to outlive the one you love.” Memories of Anne crept forward, sweetly harrowing. “At least humans know that they will both age and die at some point, ideally to be reunited in the afterlife. Vampires cannot indulge in that comfort.”

“Do vampires usually marry each other, then?”

He wondered if she truly wanted to know, or whether it was a ploy to delay their return. “Sometimes, or other creatures with extended lifelines. But those unions can also be problematic. The married couples I know often spend large periods of time apart.”

Louisa was silent for a moment. Then, to his surprise she said, “Yes, I can see how an eternity together might begin to pall after some time. Still, they do reunite eventually, don’t they?”

“The ones I know do, yes.”

“Well, then.” They continued around the curve of the pond, the December breeze chilly as it riffled the water’s surface. “Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Another of her solemn glances. “Although that doesn’t bode well for us, does it?”

Once again, she cut to the heart of the matter. “I’m afraid not.”

She let out a soft sigh. “At least we’ve had these few days together. That’s something.”

Relief that she hadn’t asked to be turned warred with an urge to snarl. Moments walking side by side or talking weren’t nearly enough; all they did was whet his appetite for her. “It is nothing,” he ground out. “I have spent nearly five hundred years working to protect the monarchy. I have witnessed momentous events, seen fools and wise men ascend the throne, and have done whatever was required of me to make sure that this green land and its people remained safe. And in all that time I have never been tempted to shirk my duties, until now.”

She stopped and stared at him, eyes huge with wonderment. “I don’t know what to say to that,” she whispered.

“You needn’t say anything. You shall marry and, with Bolton’s help, produce the next generation of Britain’s leaders. Meanwhile, I shall continue in my position at the Ministry. My consolation is that my duties will now include protecting you and your children.”

One hand rose, fluttering to a rest at the base of her throat. “I—I wish—”

He stepped closer, acutely aware of her scent on the crisp air, the warmth that emanated from her body. “As do I. But it’s not to be, my lady.”

He would never forget how she looked in the swiftly fading daylight, how he would have given up his immortality without a second thought, if he could only take her in his arms and kiss her. Finally, she nodded in resignation. “We’d best get back. Pandora will be wondering where we are.”

So I’m making honey and rosemary ice cream

I know this doesn’t look like much to you because we don’t have Tastagram yet (Chrissy Teigen, could you get started on that, please?) but this is rosemary and honey ice cream. It is the bomb. I would send a container to you all if I could, because it’s guaranteed to clear up your blemishes, teach your kids math, and make your sex life great.

And in response to people who wanted the recipe, here you go (it’s modified from this amazing thyme and honey ice cream recipe):

Ingredients

  • the peel of one lemon (yellow part only)
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 10-12 inches of fresh rosemary (this can be in parts)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

  1. Cut off ends of lemon, use spoon to scoop out pulp down to inside of peel. Cut into eight slices.
  2. Add lemon, heavy whipping cream, milk, and rosemary pieces to medium saucepan, bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep 2 hours.
  3. Once the cream mixture has finished steeping, add honey to cream mixture. Simmer over medium heat until honey dissolves.
  4. Whisk eggs and sugar in medium bowl. Gradually whisk cream mixture into egg mixture (DO THIS SLOWLY, otherwise the hot cream mixture will cook the eggs and turn them into scrambled egg. This is called “curdling” if you’ve watched GBBO and wondered what that was).
  5. Return cream and egg mixture (aka the custard) to original pan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens enough to coat spoon. If you’re using a candy thermometer, it should read 170°F to 175°F, about 4 minutes (do not boil).
  6. Strain custard into clean bowl and whisk in vanilla.
  7. Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.
  8. Process custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze until firm. Optional: add sprig of rosemary to top of ice cream for added scent/flavor.

Hello 4:33 AM, my old friend

Seriously, being a writer is the best job. You get to work in sweats and a t-shirt while you tell stories for a living, and with any luck people like them and buy them for enough money to pay your bills.

The flipside, however, is insomnia. Pretty much every writer I know has it because we have problems shutting off our brains at night. True story — I was once given Vicodin when my back went out. It didn’t do anything for pain because hello weird metabolism, but I enjoyed it anyway because it shut my brain down. I literally heard a descending note fifteen minutes after I took a tablet and all the noise that is constantly going through my mind died away and let me drift off to sleep. Interestingly enough, it also gave me razor-sharp concentration if I decided to stay up and think — I plotted out all of Deep Water one night after taking a Vicodin.

Of course, it also gave me hellacious constipation so I never tried it again, but I did like the ability to just go to sleep without my brain yammering at me. So anyway, hello and happy Sunday, and here’s my Day 5 post for Romance Writer August.

I’m Still Here (oh, and please buy my books — I have an A/C repair to pay off)

Sorry about the radio silence — between trying to get various books formatted and out (my very first romance novel Storm Season has been re-released with a new cover and re-edited content, AND it’s on sale for 99¢ — go take a look!), the increasingly scary situation going on with our current administration, the #GetLoud crusade against bookstuffers and assorted scammers, me taking a jewelry fabrication course, and assorted other things I’ve been a little busy.

The latest event was our downstairs A/C unit going out over the weekend — as it’s been flirting with triple digits here in the clavicle of Texas, this was not a laughing matter. The repairman came today and we now have cool air again for just a shade under a grand. *sigh* So if you need something entertaining to take your mind off things, I currently have five titles on sale for 99¢:

To My Muse will be coming off sale on 7/1 and Degree of Resistance will be taking its place, so if you haven’t read my hilarious romcom yet go get a copy while it’s still ridiculously cheap.

But not all is doom and gloom around the Cameron manse. The #GetLoud campaign, spearheaded by the brilliant Suzan Tisdale, Heather C. Leigh, Bianca Sommerfield, and David Gaughran, has finally generated enough complaints and bad press that the Big River are now taking down bookstuffers. Not all of them are gone, mind you — I still counted at least three in the top 20 of Romantic Comedy a few minutes ago — but the ranks are definitely looking different now. And if Amazon sticks to their guns and doesn’t let these people create new accounts (which according to their TOS is what’s supposed to happen), we may actually have a respite where KU has real, legitimate novels in it again.

At least, until the stuffers figure out a new scam. Which they will, because they’re unethical hacks who simply want to make money. In the meantime, however, I’m going to experiment and put Red Robin and the Huntsman back into KU for three months because it’s not really selling wide, and if it attracts readers in KU that might persuade them to check out the rest of the Two Thrones series (the next book, King of Blades, should be out in November, BTW).

Also, I’m finishing up Shifter Woods: Snarl (see cover at left) and that will be out on 7/10, so mark your calendars! The final novella in the current series, Shifter Woods: Scream (which is Deputy Jane’s story — the eagle shifter finds herself mated to a hot tiger shifter AND a half-elf zoologist in a crossover with Siobhan Muir’s Cloudburst, Colorado series), will be out sometime in September, and then I have to think about a plot for a full-length Esposito County Shifters novel. One possibility is Caleb and Laurie finally getting married — that is, if she can take time out from her new big story and he can deal with a group of religious preppers who are trying to set up a compound in the county. All of the characters from the novellas will be in that one, and I can build from there.

Want to watch Nicola lose it? Give her cable problems during Westworld.

*sucks in long, controlled breath through nose* There may have been some screaming in Casa Cameron this evening when we had problems getting the premiere of Westworld Season Two to play on the TV. I was able to watch the final 45 minutes by going upstairs and watching it on my iPad via the Spectrum app, but I’m going to have to wait for On Demand to catch the first fifteen minutes. And I will be calling Spectrum tomorrow and getting them to send a tech out because I am tired of not being able to watch HBO, BBC America, and other channels on the big screen because there’s something wonky about our splitter box/cable card.

In re: WW–no spoilers, but they’re clearly going to be playing with location as well as time this season, which will be hugely entertaining. One of the things I treasure about this show is that they always manage to surprise me, and as a veteran writer that takes some doing. And I may have squealed when they revealed yet another unexpected host. Looking forward to a functioning cable box and next Sunday!

Some thoughts on Season 8 of Game of Thrones

I’m not going to talk about Jon and Dany (although if she winds up getting pregnant and dies in childbirth so that he can temper his sword in her heart, I am going to be SO pissed), or how Jaime is almost definitely going to kill Cersei, or any of that.

No, I’m going to talk about Sansa and something that’s been niggling at me for the last few weeks. Now that she’s Lady of the North and armed with Brienne of Tarth and her own personal assassin/sister Arya, Sansa is going to get serious about ruling once everything shakes out and Jon assumes the throne (oh, of COURSE he’s going to get it. Don’t be silly). And one of the first things she’s going to have to do as Lady of the North is arrange a strategic marriage for herself.

Yes, I know, technically she’s still married to Tyrion. But seeing everything that he’s gone through in the last seven seasons, plus the fact that he’ll probably wind up as Hand of the King to Jon, I highly doubt he’ll push to resume their marriage. And Sansa will need to produce an heir (or heiress) for the Stark clan to take over the North after she’s gone.

So logically, what does Sansa need? Well, she needs to marry a nobleman, obviously. He also needs to be able to defer to her as Lady of the North (another reason why it would never work with Tyrion), and it would help if he could back her up by putting the fear of the old gods and the new into the other nobles and Sansa’s enemies. She also needs someone who will be kind to her in the bedroom, especially after everything that Ramsay Bolton put her through.

I’m not putting this out as a prediction, but it is my sincerest hope that the writers do the smart thing and have her propose to the Hound. Hear me out — he’s got an amazing redemption arc going on, and this would be a terrific ending for it. And for all his rough behaviour Sandor is still a nobleman, and quite possibly Lord Clegane once he kills the Mountain. That being said, he has no personal interest in ruling and is happy to leave that to other people. His bloodthirsty reputation will scare the crap out of everyone and would serve as a fearsome boost to Sansa’s power base. And, probably most important of all, he actually cares about her in his own weird way. Remember how he told her he’d be the only thing between her and Joffrey after their marriage, fought his way through a rabid crowd and killed three would-be rapists to rescue her, and tried to get her out of King’s Landing after the Battle of the Blackwater? She’s going to remember that.

He’s badly scarred? So what? Her luck with pretty boys (including Littlefinger) hasn’t been what you would call stellar. And once she explained what happened with Bolton, I think he’d bend over backwards to treat her gently. He already told he he would never hurt her, and he’d make good on that promise. And considering his antipathy towards his own family, I wouldn’t be surprised if he agreed to her proposal on one condition — that he be allowed to take the Stark name. After all, the children of the Lady of the North should be Starks.

Besides, can you imagine Arya’s reaction when she finds out he’s going to be her brother-in-law? If I didn’t already have it I’d get HBO just for that one episode.

So, there’s a Tesla roadster on the way to Mars…

And I mean literally, heading out into an orbit that will cross Mars’s own orbit. Because if you own a spaceship company, why not send one of your roadsters into space?

Of course, I wonder if M. Musk and his colleagues have realized that one of two things is going to happen:

  1. Assuming we survive to the point where inter-system space travel gets underway, there is going to be the treasure hunt to end all treasure hunts to find the roadster.
  2. Aliens will find it and assume that we are really, really weird spaceship engineers.

I’m good with either of those.

Chest hair for you! And you! And YOU!

When Shifter Woods: Roar came out, it received a complaint from a reviewer that the cover art used models with shaved chests. Since you’re never supposed to respond to a reviewer I bit my tongue, but I did think, “Lady, if you can find a model with chest hair in the right age range, lemme know because I’ve been looking and they’re NOT out there.”

And then I read a comment a few days ago about the awesomely talented artist Jay Aheer and how she painstakingly painted on chest hair for another author’s cover because the character had chest hair. My first thought was, “That Jay, she always goes the distance with her work. Such a professional.”

My second thought was, “Wait, you can do that?” So I did some searching and by gum, it is possible to add chest hair onto a hairless model in Photoshop. After finding a tutorial, I decided to build my own chest hair brush and tried it out with the cover for Shifter Woods: Snarl (it’s coming, people, I promise). The result worked, but it looked like my poor wolf shifter had been manscaped within an inch of his life. So I built another brush, this one with thicker, curlier hair, and tried that.

WOO! As you can see, the result looks damned good. So, keeping that reviewer’s comments in mind, I went back and added a fair amount of curly hair to Mike’s chest for the cover of Shifter Woods: Roar. I’m going to build another thicker brush with straighter hair, just to change things up a bit, but it looks like I’m free of the shaved chest tyranny of stock photography, yay!

State of the Author

Mrgh. Does “headless chicken” count as a status report?

As of Friday Lady of Thorns became available for pre-order on Amazon, and I just got the pre-order notice from Kobo a few minutes ago. Release date is 10/31, and I’m currently plowing through edits and getting PR graphics and info lined up. As soon as I have ARCs ready I’ll be sending those out to my sweet, sweet group of volunteer readers.

The picosecond I’m done with this I have to turn around and get back to work on Cross Current because I want that done and off to Evernight before November, which is when I plan on tackling Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2) and Shifter Woods: Snarl. I’m also going into the doctor (yet again) this week because I clearly have a sinus infection now and it’s dragging me down like you would not believe and I do not have TIME for that right now, dammit.

And for some reason 4/5 of the J Crew are being complete pains in the butt right now. I see a lot of coffeeshop time in my near future at this rate.

Oh, and Evernight’s Lawless antho with my short story “Gentleman Jackson” will be out in November, and I’ll be doing promo for that as well. If you want to see a little snippet of the story, read on. In the meantime, back to work for me, tra la (weekend? What means this word, weekend)…

Harvey, Irma, and Jose (don’t forget Katia)

People in our current government can deny climate change as much as they like. Climate change damn well believes in us.

The rains from Harvey are still draining out of Houston and the surrounding areas. Quite apart from the problems of determining what, if anything, in your waterlogged home can be saved, it seems that the flooding has also released an absolutely enormous amount of industrial pollutants from the various petrochemical facilities. The eastern section of the Texan Gulf coast is going to be toxic as hell for quite some time as a result. Sorry, Louisiana.

As of this moment, Irma has pretty much leveled 90% of the structures on the island of Barbuda and rendered 60% of its inhabitants homeless. The pictures from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are horrific. And while there’s still time for Irma to make an abrupt right turn, the various projected tracks are starting to agree that south Florida is about to be bitchslapped hard. I know someone who lives on Palm Beach Island, and I’m hoping like hell that he and his family obeyed the mandatory evac order. The bulk of my Floridian friends tend to live either on the Gulf side or around Orlando, but I’m still worried about them because Irma looks to ratfuck Florida’s infrastructure on a major scale.

Jose is still out in the south Atlantic but is now a Cat 3 hurricane and seems to be following in Irma’s wake. Hopefully the high pressure system over the upper east coast will come down in time to push that back out to sea. And Katia has now organized in the Gulf into a Cat 1 hurricane–it probably doesn’t have enough run-up space to get much bigger so Mexico’s about to get some rain but hopefully nothing more than that. What with pretty much all of the West Coast on fire right now, however, we’re literally between hell and high water.

So why is a romance writer talking about weather disasters? Well, apart from the fact that my Olympic Cove series is pretty much based on climate change (and yeah, I have a really hellacious sinus headache at the moment and it’s making me cranky), it’s pretty freaking obvious by now that the increase in both the strength of hurricanes and the number of deadly hurricanes is tied to warmer ocean waters, which is caused by—say it with me—global warming. And while writers are often told not to be political on their social media platforms because God forbid you should drive away potential readers, at this point I think it’s far more important to drag the topic of climate change into the spotlight again and again. Hopefully with enough repetition from enough sources, enough people may start to accept that 1) climate change is real, and 2) it affects all of us on this big blue marble. We still have time to get our shit together and salvage something for the next generation, who don’t deserve this mess. But Lord, we have got to start now.