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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.
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¢:
- Storm Season (Olympic Cove 1)
- To My Muse
- Red Robin and the Huntsman (A Two Thrones Novella)
- Empress of Storms (Two Thrones 1)
- Shifter Woods: Howl (Esposito County Shifters 1)
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.
*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!
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.
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:
- 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.
- Aliens will find it and assume that we are really, really weird spaceship engineers.
I’m good with either of those.
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!
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)…
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.
So last week I was working with my beta and editor to finish the last polish on Shifter Woods: Roar and get it uploaded to Amazon in time for release on Tuesday. Saturday I vacuumed up a weeks’ worth of dust and cat hair from various surfaces and treated myself to a showing of The Hero (seriously, go see this. No huge explosions or big payoffs, just a perfect portrayal of an aging actor’s quiet desperation by the marvelous Sam Elliott and how a surprise shot in the arm for his acting career has unintended consequences) Yesterday Ramón and I went Tech Wars on the pool pump (more of this below), and I worked on contacting potential reviewers for Roar. Today is all about paying bills, doing promo for Roar, working on Cross Current, and more cleaning because Jesus, these cats shed EVERYWHERE.
So, about the pool pump: gather round, kiddies! Auntie Nic has a tale for you of two techies faced with mechanical engineering problems and how they overcame them like a boss. I call it TECH WARS: REVENGE OF THE POOL PUMP.
Flash back to a few days ago, when our pool pump started making a very high-pitched whine indicating that a bearing was probably going. I turned it off and informed the engineer in the house of this issue, who agreed with my diagnosis. The motor is 4 years old and has been running every day, including during hellishly hot Texas summers, so this is to be expected.
But repair guys are expensive AF and the last time we had the motor replaced it cost $550. We have fifteen million tools and mucho repair know-how between us, so Ramón decided we would strip down the motor and fix it ourselves, because dammit, we’re just that good. Himself promptly hopped on Google, did all the necessary research, purchased the required bearings and gaskets (upgrading them to quality Japanese makes so that they would last longer), then in a long and sweaty process pulled the motor off the pump today.
After he brought it inside, we started to disassemble it on the breakfast nook table (good overhead lighting and easy access to the back door). This required the liberal use of WD40, a rubber mallet, and much cursing. I have seen nuclear vessels that were easier to crack than this bitch. it’s a good thing that I come equipped with Eastern European muscles and lift weights, that’s all I’m gonna say.
We finally got the housing open, pulled off both bearings (and it was clear to see why the motor was making a high-pitched noise — both of them were trashed. The pic at right, BTW, shows three sizes of gear pullers, which is what you use to pull bearing races off a driveshaft), hammered on new ones, and cleaned the housing/armature of schmutz. We were both soaked in sweat by this point, but by God we were getting it done. Got the armature/end cap put back together…and realized we’d left out a thrust washer. Crap. Pulled it apart again, put in the washer, pounded it back together.
I mentioned that this was all being done on the breakfast nook table. This, BTW, is also where the J Crew get their wet food. They were prowling around us, HIGHLY offended that we dared to steal their food space, and where IS dinner, anyway? Huh? HUH? I may have used language unbecoming a lady when instructing them to leave us alone.
Anyhoo, we finished putting the motor back together and got the long bolts screwed down and secure. The driveshaft spins MUCH more easily than it had, and Ramón replaced the capacitors while he had it out (he tried turning it on this morning and it wouldn’t even spin). Sweaty, dirty, and rightfully proud of himself, he stood over the rebuilt motor on the table and commented, “I know we’re technologically sophisticated people, petal, but sometimes it’s nice to just bash kit with a big hammer.”
To which I replied, “The Camerons: Fixing Shit Since 1841.”
“Because we’re too cheap to hire someone to do it,” he adds.
The real proof of the pudding will come tomorrow when we put the motor back in and fire it up. But I suspect it’s gonna work.
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.