Category Archives: Writing

Kinda Hard to Write When You’re a Popsicle

Winter Storm Mara has well and truly hit our neck of the woods, and unfortunately my office window has the insulation qualities of a piece of Kleenex so it’s fricking freezing in here if I close the office door. And yes, I know I supposedly have heat in here, but for reasons we don’t understand because the baffles were supposedly reset to fix this, the bulk of the heat upstairs winds up in the craft room, which is great for Ramón when he’s resuscitating an ancient computer but not so great for me, or his office or our bedroom to be honest.

On the other hand if I open the office door to get some heat in here, at least two cats decide to join me, and at least one of them wants to be petted. Or sit on the back of my chair. Or stretch out on my desktop and rest his head on my hand while I’m trying to write. So I’m kinda screwed no matter what I do, unless I decided to pop for a space heater which I may well do (looking at Walmart’s website and apparently I can get the kind we have in our bedroom for $56. I know what I’m picking up come payday).

So I haven’t exactly gotten a lot done today, but to be honest it’s 25°F out there and I’m just glad that our power and heat are still on. I may put everything on my laptop and write in bed at this point, I don’t know.

Son of a…

There I was, innocently moving some music that I’d burned from CDs years ago onto my desktop and adding covers when I accidentally clicked on “Smooth Operator” by Sade.

By now everyone should know what this song is about, but years ago it prompted an idea for a contemporary romance where a newly elected female CEO of an up-and-coming tech company gets talked into attending a high-class kinky auction and wins the services of a handsome older gigolo, only to find out to her shock that she already knows him (and had a crush on him in her teenage years). She doesn’t want to be CEO—she’s on the spectrum and served as the company’s CTO while her older brother was the CEO until his suspicious death. She hires the gigolo to act as her platonic companion and social interface while she sets out to find who killed her brother, which boggles him but he’s aging out of the job and is happy to have one last gig to finish off his nest egg. And then hijinks occur, as they do.

It was a cool plot and I had a lot of it worked out in my head, but it was a contemporary romance and I didn’t really have time to do a Natasha M. Stark story so into the mental story trunk it went.  And then I played “Smooth Operator” a few minutes ago and the story came roaring back, only this time it’s a near-future SF romance. Goddamnit.

Thing is, the MMC isn’t a cyborg or an alien. He comes from a rich family that owns mines out in the asteroid belt but loses all his money when his father dies and it turns out dear old Dad was broke, which is why the MMC chose to go into high-class prostitution (and has some enhancements that allow him to act as deadly bodyguard as well as lover). And SF romance these days needs the MMC to be some big, hulking male who is somehow “other,” otherwise it doesn’t sell. And I don’t have time to do another book right now.

Grah. Why you do this to me, brain?

Music vs. Silence

I was reading a post in FB today where someone who is sound sensitive was raving about the noise-canceling Bose headphones they got and how much writing they were able to get done with them on as opposed to dealing with all the noise around them. Which I find interesting because I’m also sound sensitive and have misophonia (poor Ramón has problems chewing with his mouth closed due to a broken nose and I have to leave the room if he’s eating by himself because any sort of wet/mushy noise like that kicks in my fight or flight reflex), and yet I cannot listen to silence when I’m writing. I need something to listen to, preferably a soundtrack for the story that gets me into the mood for a specific scene (remember, frustrated screenwriter here).

Granted, when I’m listening to music I usually prefer instrumental stuff because I can’t listen to lyrics and write at the same time (I have actually been writing dialogue where the main character suddenly broke into the chorus of “Celebrity Skin”). I do have book soundtracks that include sung music, but when I listen to those I have the volume cranked down so low that I can barely hear the lyrics.

When pedal has to hit metal and I need to crank out serious wordage, however, I usually resort to instrumental soundtracks. Some of my favorites are the soundtracks for Salt (there is nothing better for writing fight scenes, I swear), Stage Beauty, Sherlock Holmes (the RDJ movie), The Crown, Interstellar, the Cirque du Soleil show O, and Naqoyqatsi, with a little bit of Westworld, Game of Thrones, and Iron Man thrown in there (I do love Ramin Djawadi’s work). I suppose I can always try Ramón’s noise-cancelling headphones and see what they’re like, but I’m pretty sure they’re not going to work for me when it comes to writing.

Phew

As many of you who read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog or attended 20Booksto50K™ 2022 may know, there’s been a lot of talk between indie authors about Kindle Unlimited, how it may be going away at some point (hence the creation of Kindle Vella which is 100% supported by readers purchasing tokens), and how that will impact authors who have been exclusive to Amazon.

Now, I’m not all that worried about this because I have Smashwords/D2D and Google Play accounts and can shift back to wide in a couple of days if I need to. Hell, I was wide until last July when I decided to try putting the bulk of my titles in KU and my income jumped five-fold.

That being said, it did occur to me that I might want to start looking at ways to sell ebooks directly without having to rely on Amazon, especially since they have a rule that if you price a title over $9.99 (as you might wish to do with, say, a box set) you can only collect 35% royalties on it. As I have hopes of publishing three box sets this year, that’s going to cause some complications which will require me to pull the titles out of KU so that I can sell the box sets wide (there’s a way around the ‘Zon’s restriction if you split the set into duologies but that’s a topic for another day).

So I checked all my titles in KU and when they were due to drop out. The bulk of these were going to drop out in late February so I unchecked the “automatically renew in KU” box to guarantee that none of them would accidentally be renewed. This was on January 13th.

On January 14th my KU reads dropped like a fucking rock.

In fact, the only sales I made were two title sales (the spike on 1/19) and KU reads from Shadow of the Swan, which happened to be the one title that I didn’t uncheck the auto-renew checkbox. Needless to say I freaked out. Clearly the ‘Zon took KU titles that weren’t signed up for automatic renewal out of whatever promotion its algorithm uses.

So I went back in and re-checked the auto renewal box for all the titles and waited. I know from experience that it can take them a week to apply changes so I tried not to punch walls and scream at the sky while my publishing income circled the drain.

And I was right to do that. Much to my relief I started seeing KU reads for other books than Swan today. I have left all of the Esposito County Shifters books out of KU, however, since that’s going to be my first box set once Shifter Woods: Claw is published and Shifter Woods: Growl ages out of KU in February. So if you were looking forward to reading Claw on KU, sorry.

That being said, I am going to prep D2D and Google Play editions of all my titles for the inevitable point where Amazon cancels KU, and as I finish the Olympic Cove and Paladins of Crystal series I’m going to take those titles out of KU so that I can publish them wide, as well. I also need to get the Shopify store up and running to sell signed print copies and find a good way to sell ebooks once they’re out of KU. Must think on that some more.

Executive Function or Spoons? You Decide

It is currently 11:41 PM and I have just finished a massive session of baking where I made 60 Italian Christmas cookies (we love them all year round) and a promised fruitcake for a friend. In between mixing, rolling, and baking I washed a lot of dishes (couldn’t put them in the dishwasher because I knew I’d need them almost immediately) while keeping an ear on the washing machine and dryer to keep the laundry trundling through.

Before that, I wrote 2200 words on Shifter Woods: Claw. Before that, I completed a motif of the quilt I’m making. Before that, I went to the store and got fried chicken and fixings for dinner as well as a couple of other things we needed.

And before that was the event that triggered all of this can do energy. I took my aunt’s fruitcake to the post office and mailed it.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make sense to normal people. But I’ve been going back and forth about making this fruitcake for a number of reasons, and apparently being stuck on the fence about making this fruitcake had royally gummed up the executive function I need to do other things.

So last night I said screw it, mixed up the fruitcake and baked it, then packaged it up this morning and sent it off to the PO. And boom—suddenly I had all the executive function I needed and powered through a day’s worth of writing, sewing, baking, and cleaning.

My brain is a weird, weird place. But at least my aunt will have her fruitcake on Thursday and I have a clean kitchen, a bunch of my favorite cookies, a chunk of wordage done on Claw, and clean bedding for the Ancient One.

I’m calling that a win.

A Quiet Sunday Night

For the last month or so I haven’t been writing on the weekends, keeping them exclusively for cleaning, any publishing-related work, and generally relaxing and enjoying myself. And for the last month or so I’ve found that I’m generally happier and not feeling like I’m on some endless treadmill with no break in sight.

This weekend, however, I’ve been working on Shifter Woods: Claw and I can notice the difference. This doesn’t feel like a weekend evening to me; it feels like just another work day. I haven’t slept all that well and I’m achy from so much time in the chair. Moreover, I’m annoyed that I haven’t had a chance to do the cleaning and yard work I wanted to do this weekend.

And goddamn it, I’m in my mid-fifties. I’m not some hotshot twentysomething anymore who can write for 24 hours straight, grab a couple hours’ sleep, and head off to do something else. I need breaks, and water, and crafting, and two days where I don’t have to think about the WIP currently waiting for me in Scrivener.

So from now on I’m not writing on the weekends anymore unless I’m on an absolutely vital deadline. I’ll have to bump up my output during the week a skosh, but I think I can do that without wrecking myself. And next weekend, I am pruning back all that damned lantana come hell or high water. *nods firmly*

I Think Melanie Wants the Keyboard

As you know, Bob, I write SF/fantasy/paranormal romance as Nicola M. Cameron and SF and urban fantasy as Melanie Fletcher. The problem is, Melanie has been nagging me lately for more writing time—apparently she really wants to finish Pharaoh of the Lone Star State (an urban fantasy set in Dallas that involves a psychokinetic engineer, an evil and long-dead Egyptian queen out to take over the world, and an Elvis convention. I ask you). I keep trying to explain to her that I have series to finish and readers to make happy, but man she whines.

So I’m going to see if I can’t cut her a little time in February. Or March, depending on how Crystal Reflection and High Tide are doing. As long as she stops wittering on about Pharaoh or her other projects (a time travel caper romp with Lewis Carroll, a take on Frankenstein from Elizabeth Lavenza’s POV, and Jane Austen in space. Once again, I ask you), I don’t care.

The Gen X Woman’s Romance Hero

Note: the following contains generalizations about romance trends. If you do not fit these generalizations, be content with the fact that you’re a loner, Dottie, a rebel, and you want what you want. Just don’t @ me about it.

I’ve been a good indie author and taking a look at what readers want in their romance heroes, and I’m noticing a definite divide between the generations. Millennials and Gen Z seem to be very big on hot, ruthless heroes who know what they want and take it, much to the delight of their female counterparts. Dark romance, monster romance, bully romance—they adore these subgenres, and the sales of romance writers who work in those subgenres reflect that.

And that’s fine. Romance is all about fantasy, and Millennial and Gen Z readers are dealing with the fact that they don’t have the advantages and rights the generations before them had (not to mention that the world is going to shit) by wanting heroes who are big and gruff, will kill to protect them, happily rail them until they pass out from orgasms, and look damn good in a Henley and a pair of jeans while doing it. They want their stories to feature women being claimed by dangerous, implacable aliens/shifters/monsters/Russian bratva hitmen and swinging from a chandelier in flagrante delicto.

Then there’s my generation. Generation X likes the idea of big, buff romance heroes as well, don’t get me wrong. But we’re also old and tired. A lot of us are in perimenopause or menopause and are more likely to reach for a cast iron skillet than swoon if a man tries to order us around. We like our heroes gorgeous and protective, yeah, but we also want them to know when to back off and let us do shit, and how to do things like clean the house/take care of the kids/do the food shopping without us having to hold their hand through the process.

And that’s kind of a challenge for a Gen X romance writer. Do I write stories that only appeal to my generation, or do I write stories that appeal to readers in their forties and younger? If I write both, do I risk pissing off one set of readers who were expecting hot young bully wizards and got a cinnamon roll hero in his fifties? I’ve already gotten horrified reviews from someone who read my solitary contemporary romance and then read the SF romance that indirectly inspired it (they are … very different in tone and subject matter. Let’s leave it at that).

I don’t have an answer to this, nor do I think that there is one (at least, not one that I would enjoy implementing. Remember, I have problems coloring inside the lines). But it’s one of the things that’s been on my mind lately.

It’s only January 6th, so why do I feel like a slacker?

Claw is recovering from the shellacking I gave it (the complications I added to the plot would have worked wonderfully for a novel. Not so much for a novella) and should be ready for release Real Soon Now (the editor is already tapping her fingers and asking when she can expect it).

Unfortunately I made the mistake of reading other authors’ newsletters and watching the trailer for A Pale Blue Eye last night. Now my Inner Taskmistress is screaming at me, “Why aren’t you selling more books? Why isn’t anyone optioning YOUR work? Is your thumb permanently embedded in your ass or are you actually going to earn some damn money this year?”

People think that working for yourself must be great. Not so much, especially when your Inner Taskmistress can be an utter bitch. I always feel that there’s more I can be doing, should be doing, and if I don’t do that I’m a lazy slut who deserves to spend her golden years in a cardboard box under a bridge. And I know that’s a stupid mindset to have but it’s a hard one to shake.

Anyway, I’d better wrap this up and get to work. I need to write a lot of words today if I want to be able to spend the weekend taking down the Christmas decorations and cleaning, whee…

First Work Day of 2023

And I woke up with the cold realization that I was heading down … well, not necessarily the wrong road with Shifter Woods: Claw, but a road that would require it to be a full length novel instead of a novella.

Yeah, no. Which means today will be going back into the existing half and tearing it to shreds to fit the new beginning. Annoying because it’s gonna take up the bulk of today’s writing time but it’s necessary. Once I have that fixed, I’m going to switch over to Crystal Blade and knock out my daily word count for that, then spend the rest of the work day designing my Patreon (which I’m going to launch on 1/15/23) and roughing out the short story that I’ll be writing for January’s offering.

The nice thing about my plans of writing an exclusive short story that only patrons can read is that at the end of the year I’ll have twelve short stories that I can compile into a collection and publish. Of course, that means that I have to write one short story a month (two this month, really, so that I can have February’s ready to go by 2/1/23). But if I want to make a five figure year, this is the way to do it.

The J Crew won’t like being locked out of my office again, but as long as they have the bedroom in which to lounge they’ll live.