Category Archives: Writing

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!

King of Blades, Day 3

Today’s word count: 3,009
Total word count: 15,364
Approximate words to go: 64,636

So, today was surprisingly productive, despite the fact that every single member of the J Crew insisted on sitting on me at some point during the day. Which is fine, now that I can dictate, but Jasmine likes to squirm around while I stroke her ears, Jeremy insists on resting his big head on the keyboard, Jessie leaves me with one hand, and Jemma wants to be combed (and believe me, she needs it). JJ is the only one who’s content to just sit on my boobs/belly like he’s doing right now, unbothered by my hand movements as I type. If they were all like this, my writing life would be a lot easier. As it is, I’m going to go out on the patio tomorrow so that I can get a couple of solid hours in without a furry little feline trying to grab my attention or demand that I put kibble in his bowl (to be honest, that’s all JJ, but he’s an old guy who needs to keep his weight on so I’ll feed him separately if he wants it).

I also decided to be a complete loon, not learn a damn thing from Shadow of the Swan, and put King of Blades up for pre-order at Amazon. The release date is October 27, so as long as I stick to my writing schedule more or less and maybe have a couple of 5K days in there I should have the first draft finished on October 5, which will give me more than enough time to get everything through edits, polished and in publishable shape by October 23 (aka Upload Day). Once they finish chewing on it and give me a link, I’ll add it to the new King page here and make it available on social media.

And once the first draft of King is finished, I go back to Cross Current and start work on that. I said I was going to publish three more novels by the end of the year, and by God I intend to stick to my word.

Why I Wrote It: Lady of Thorns

This is the third blog post where I do a deep dive into the backstory of each of my books. Why, you may ask? Well, because the beautiful and talented Liana Brooks made the following brilliant comment: “Being an author is being in a fandom of one. The whole point of writing the book and publishing is getting more people in your fandom.” I want to get you all excited about my imaginary friends and interested in plating with them, so I’m going to explain how exactly they wound up on the page.

Lady of Thorns — moving away from my royal couple

Once I accepted the fact that my Two Thrones series was 1) established and 2) popular, I had to come up with a third book in the series. I could have thrown yet more drama at Danaë and Matthias, of course, but I couldn’t stop thinking of Lady Amelie de Clerq, the brave, stubborn Terra mage who stopped her sister Sibeal from being married to a boorish nobleman in Palace of Scoundrels. I figured I’d give her a book and see what she did with it.

This is where I get to illustrate that what you initially plot out doesn’t necessarily turn out to be what you write. I had originally decided to have Lady Amelie’s romantic partner be Prince Marcus of Illium, since they’d flirted in Palace. He was going to show up at her estate and ask for sanctuary, which would have caused all kinds of problems with both the king, the rulers of Illium, and her mother.

And then I remembered that interesting lawyer character Alain LaPorte, who was already familiar with the situation in Lierdhe. In my head, I’d already mentally cast Michelle Dockery in full Lady Mary mode as Amelie, so I was going to need an equally strong character to be her match.

When it hit me,  I started laughing so hard I knew I had to make this happen. And so Amelie wound up being wooed and won by this universe’s equivalent of Alan Shore (I mean, come on — picture Michelle Dockery and James Spader circling each other in full predator mode, sarcastic banter turned up to 11. It was brilliant). Once I had my main characters down, the story started flowing. This was also the book where I decided to begin an arc for the series where a threat is growing offscreen and four mages will need to come together and fight it. Danaë and Amelie will be two of those mages, and I’m toying with stories for the other two.

I also decided to take a closer look at Amelie’s life and motivations. At this point she’s tired of being used as a pawn in her mother’s machinations, and she’s very tired of men wanting to marry her only for her money and position. That being said, she also realizes that she does have to get married and provide heirs for the province. In her heart of hearts she wants someone who loves her for herself, and she also needs to learn how to love herself. Because Lierdhe is open-minded when it comes to sex, she decides to find someone to teach her how to be a dynamo in bed, and get in a few orgasms along the way. Alain strikes her as a good choice for the role of bedroom tutor, but neither of them expect their emotions to get in the way, muwahahahaha. In the midst of all this, Amelie also has to keep her province functioning after a drought (which brings in a whole new conflict from Maman’ past), fend off Maman’s renewed attempts to get her married off, and save her estate and the land around it from a wildfire. I am nothing if not a pain in the ass when it comes to throwing the kitchen sink at my characters.

On a personal level, writing Lady of Thorns was not only a lot of fun, it was also cathartic in a number of ways. Much like Amelie, I was the gawky older sister who didn’t feel like she was attractive or fit in anywhere, so there may have been a little bit of wish fulfillment in not only giving her a hell of a good romance, but an opportunity to really show off her Terra mage chops. As for the big wildfire scene, when I was writing Lady California was going through that really bad batch of wildfires, so I took a lot of inspiration from the amazing men and women who fought those blazes.

So that’s how Lady of Thorns came to be. Next time, I’ll talk about my venture into dystopian SF romance Degree of Resistance and the numerous enablers who came together to make that book a reality.

Friday in the Life of a Writer

Just in case you think my life is all eating bon-bons while I lounge around on my chaise, tapping out deliciously hot romances while Ramón massages my feet…

Yeah, no.

I didn’t get to bed until 2 AM last night so I woke up at 10 AM. After taking a bio-break, I scrubbed the upstairs toilet, scooped the litter box in there and swept up stray litter, took my supplements, and did other grooming things to make myself presentable.

Came downstairs to make sure that Cheetolini didn’t try to sell Florida or hawk drinkable bleach while I was asleep, then got started on Week Three of a Indie Publishing 101 course I’m taking to improve my publishing game. This required watching about 20 minutes of video, then completing an assignment (taking pictures of a title page, chapter header, and body page) that I liked, inserting them into a Word document, and sending it off to the instructor.

That done, I got up and swept the kitchen, dining room, and library (Ramón empties the litter boxes down here but litter gets everywhere), then scrubbed the downstairs toilet and swept the bathroom. At that point I remembered that I needed to send a chapter of Shadow of the Swan in to my writers group for critique as promised, so I spent about a half hour cleaning that up, popping it into a Word document and sending it off.

Immediately after that, the 18-year-old cat demanded a cuddle so I provided one, stroking his head and telling him he was a good boy (he’s now at the point where I will drop what I’m doing and cuddle him when he asks for it, since I don’t know for how much longer I’ll have him). After he got tired of being cuddled and wandered off to his spot, Ramón came down with his passport and asked me to take a picture of it so that he would have a record of it before he sends it back to England for renewal.

You may notice in all of this that the consumption of food has not been mentioned once. I realized after taking the picture that, hmm, food might be a good idea, so I put together a plate of leftover green beans and sweet potato fries, slices of smoked kielbasa and cheddar cheese, and a dollop of mayo for flavor. Scarfed that, drank a glass of Metamucil (because being regular is important), then loaded and started the dishwasher.

Which brings me to 3:10 PM, when I’m actually about to get started on writing. I’ve gotten to the first love scene of the book, FINALLY, and I can only hope that the cats leave me alone long enough to finish this with at least a dollop of sensuality and erotic tension.

The myriad ways of writing

I’m currently taking an indie publishing course in order to improve my publishing game, and something that the instructor said reminded me of the importance of getting words on the page, no matter how it happens.

One thing that most professional writers learn as they get more experienced with the actual process is that there is no one right way to write. Every writer who produces reliably has their own method that works for them, usually discovered after a great deal of swearing and blood shed over a damn story. And what works for Writer A may not work for Writer B — in fact, it may actually hurt their writing process.

Of course, assorted instructors (not the one I referred to in the first paragraph, by the way — this guy knows his shit) like to make money off the idea that they have discovered the One True Way, and if you just pay $500 to take their course and learn the secret, you’re guaranteed to become a bestseller in weeks, click here NOW to learn–

Yeah, no. What matters is that you get words on the page. If you only write a hundred words a day, if you write three thousand, if you write at 4 AM, if you write at midnight, if you write when your kids are down for a nap, if you write during your lunch break, all that? It’s all good, all right.

Frex, I’m one of the “vomit words onto the page and clean it up in the edit” types. Which apparently horrifies people who compose in their head and put down really clean first drafts. Mind you, I’m at the stage in my career when I can do that, too, but when you consider that I’m currently stuck in my house with five cats who all meow very loudly to get my attention and a husband who (understandably) wants to talk to his wife when he comes down for lunch or a break (he’s currently in the kitchen making lunch and listening to a muted phone meeting. I ask you), I can’t always achieve the amount of concentration necessary to put down pristine first drafts. I’ve learned that it’s okay to just slap something vaguely approximating what I want to say on the page, and I can clean it up when I go back in to edit. That works for me.

But it may not work for you. And that, my friend, is totally cool. Do whatever it takes to get the words on the page. Once you get them there, you can edit them, clean everything up, and submit or publish them. But you can’t do bubkes with with a blank page.

Apropos of nothing, could someone please come over here and entertain my cats for a couple of hours?

Today? Not so prolific

It happens. Sometimes you wake up and everything is firing on all cylinders. You crank out 5-6K without breaking a sweat, you bop through the cleaning and the working out, everyone in your house is getting along, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, Ryan Reynolds is bringing you a frosty martini made with Aviation Gin (Ryan, call me!), and all is right with the world.

And then there are days like this, where you wake up feeling like nothing is meshing correctly. You know you have stuff to mail, but convincing yourself to sit down, put things in packages, and haul your ass to the post office to mail them all off feels like climbing Everest. You’ve got a word quota to hit, but your characters have decided not to talk to you and putting something, anything on the page is like pulling teeth. And not only have the cats decided to be little assholes all day, but one of them has started leaving the foulest deuces in the breakfast nook litter box, which hotboxes the entire living room as a result.

It’s days like these that make day drinking so damn attractive. In fact, I think I may make myself an absinthe, take a shower, and go to bed early. Fuck it, I’m an adult, I can go to bed at 10 PM if I want.

That’s sad, isn’t it?

On the plus side, we finally got Ramón’s new passport pictures taken, so at least that’s a tick in the W column, but even that took all afternoon. The British passport office wanted digital pics taken against a light-colored wall. We do not have a single light-colored wall in this house, so we tried putting up foamboard, sheets, et al. The results were not good. Frustrated, he finally wound up going to Walgreens for a pro photo. The British passport portal rejected it because “his eyes weren’t level.” Oy. I finally hit on moving a mirror off a very narrow beigeish wall next to the front door, standing him in front of it, and taking a picture.

Well, I kissed him first, because the picture he took at Walgreens made him look like he was about to break his foot off in someone’s ass. The portal accepted the second of my pictures, and his new passport will feature him with a serious expression but a twinkle in his eye, which is a huge improvement.

And I now have a brand-new gouge in my palm because Jasmine, She of the Skittiness, was resting her chin on my arm in her patented, “Pet me, please,” pose. When I did, she immediately started grumbling, got up and stepped on the laptop keyboard, then on my hand as I tried to get her off before she hosed this post. And she does not know when to keep her claws retracted, bless her idiotic little cat heart. Yeah, it’s time for alcohol and bed.

Hello, 5 AM, My Old Friend

So I woke up this morning after a dream that was apparently inspired by elements of “Goodbye Earl” by the Chicks (no justified killing of an abusive husband, but I observed two couple’s arguments, spent some time in a really nice kitchen that overlooked a great apartment complex after one boyfriend decided to switch apartments with his old girlfriend and go move in with his new girlfriend, and wound up in the middle of what looked like Wisconsin, judging from the rolling hills and all of the silos, as part of a mass job interview for a tech writing position. Yeah, I don’t understand that last part, either).

And then it was 5 AM, and my brain said, “Okay, you went to sleep at midnight, that’s enough, we’re going to play “Goodbye Earl” on earworm loop until you get up.” Thanks, brain. So I’m here, having fed and watered the J Crew, and I figure I’ll get in maybe four hours of writing before that stupid mass in my skull gives up and I can go back to bed at 10 AM for three more hours of sleep.

And then I made the mistake of checking Twitter and found out that not only does DHS intend to take its cobbled-together SS shitshow in Portland nationwide, but John Lewis died this morning. The best way to pay tribute is to get into some good trouble.

Shadow of the Swan: Closing in on the halfway mark

This was taken a few minutes ago — I haven’t gotten much of a chance to write today because I had to mask up and go do a multiple stockup run (meds, kitty food, human food), come home and sanitize/take a shower, do laundry, make dinner, and handle a couple of other tasks. But it’s 9:14 PM at the moment (you’ll be reading this tomorrow morning), and I probably won’t be going to sleep until midnight so I very well may be able to knock out 2647 words before I turn in.

And yeah, that’s an odd and very precise number, but if I crank out that many words every day for the next seventeen days I should have the book done and dusted by July 31st. Because I’ve jumped around the book and added scenes here and there I have a fair chunk of Acts II and III done already, and right now I’m doing the wrap-up for Act I, where Louisa finds out what her uncle has actually been doing for the Ministry of Antiquaries all these years and why she’s been brought back to London for a bizarre shotgun wedding. Oh, and Henry has been shot by goblins while trying to get her out of Whitechapel in one piece (she was trying to get out of London), so she now knows he’s a vampire.

Heh. I love these two — they are bickering and snarking at each other so much, and neither of them want to acknowledge the attraction between them because that’s simply not done. By the time they actually kiss, it’s going to be pyroclastic. Here’s an unedited snippet to whet your interest:


The omnibus rolled to a clattering stop on the corner of Garrick Street and Rose Street. The only thing that could be said for that particular section of Covent Garden was that it was slightly less dangerous than Whitechapel, with its history of street violence among the working-class residents offsetting the fame of the nearby open-air market that hawked everything from carrots to flowers.

Henry escorted Miss Wallingford from the omnibus’s upper deck, ignoring the trio of humans who had been outraged at their transport being pressed into ministry service. “Your fee,” he said to the driver, handing over the requisite coins.

The driver grinned as he stuffed his payment into a coat pocket. “And thank you for choosing the Bayswater Line, sir,” he said cheerfully, flicking the reins. The omnibus set off, ostensibly to return its complaining passengers to their original destination.

Eyeing their surroundings, Henry kept his hand around his companion’s upper arm as he guided her down Rose Street. It was a narrow road, hardly more than an alley, and shadowy from the lack of street lamps. In other parts of London, the lack of illumination would guarantee at least one man loitering in the shadows armed with a short club or brass knuckles, waiting to set upon anyone walking alone. That wasn’t the case for Rose Street, primarily due to the pub situated at its bend.

The Crimson Ribbon had been a staple of the area since the early eighteenth century, having opened as a pub in 1772. One of its early draws had been the bare-knuckle prizefights held in one of its upper rooms. That had earned it the nickname “Bucket of Blood,” which its new owner had capitalized on when it was reopened as the Crimson Ribbon in 1888. There were still shadowy figures on the street these days, but they were far more interested in what flowed through the veins of any passing unfortunates than their wallets.

As they approached the pub door Henry sensed the other vampires’ attention focusing on Miss Wallingford. It triggered an unfortunate protective response, and his canines ached with the need to drop down. He clenched his jaw to keep the sharp teeth properly retracted. “You’re safe with me,” he said through his gritted teeth, willing that to be true. “Just don’t do anything foolish, like try to run.” If she ran, the others would chase her, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to leave them alive.

The pub’s interior was far cleaner and well-kept up than the exterior would have suggested, with polished wooden wainscoting below a rich red wallpaper and brass gaslights giving the space a warm. A human might be fooled into thinking it was a standard public house until he noticed the lack of beer pulls behind the bar, the absence of pint glasses, and the lager-less smell of the air. Of course, very few humans made it that far into the pub, and even fewer survived to carry tales.

A number of patrons sat at tiny pub tables off to the right, nursing stemmed glasses of blood or wine, while a reed-thin vampire Henry didn’t recognize stood behind the bar. He glowered at their approach, nostrils flaring wide at Miss Wallingford’s scent. “No outside refreshments, sir,” he announced.

Henry felt Louisa stiffen at the implication. “I need to speak with Madame Njata now, please.”

“She’s busy.”

He refrained from grabbing the vampire’s grubby neckcloth and yanking him over the bar. “I’m sure she is, nonetheless I need to speak with her. Tell her Harry’s here.” He pulled out his ministry warrant card and flashed it. “Ministry business.”

With a reluctant nod, the barman left his post and headed through a door near the back. Henry made sure to keep his human ward behind him as he scanned the clientele. After a few half-hearted stares, they all returned to their own conversations.

The barman returned. “Follow me.”

They did. A flight of stairs led to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the building. Lined with six doors, it terminated at a larger room at the very back. Henry knew the former site of the bare-knuckle prizefights now served as Madame Njata’s office.

Instead of being led there, however, they were shown to one of the other doors. “She said she’ll be right with you,” the barman said, opening the door and waving them inside.

Henry was tempted to argue, but the rising scent of fear from Miss Wallingford made him choose prudence. The room featured an old but still sumptuous red velvet chaise, a wooden table, and a plain wooden chair. Judging from the lingering scents, the room had been used for sleep, feeding, and intercourse, and not in that order.

He waited until the door was closed, then sat on the chaise. He knew it would seem rude to leave the wooden chair for Miss Wallingford, but doubted she would want to rest on the chaise if she knew what had taken place on it within the last day. “Will you sit?”

Reluctantly, she took the chair. “What are we doing here?”

“I need to feed.”

She went pale. “Not from you,” he added quickly. “This is one of the places in London where a vampire can feed in privacy and safety. Think of it as a very exclusive supper club.”

The tension in her limbs didn’t fade, but she nodded in understanding. “So you feed on … people?”

“If they’re willing, yes. Live blood taken directly from a human is more nourishing than blood that’s been drawn and stored. And in my case, it’ll help speed my healing.”

The color rushed back to her face. Guilt? Good. Hopefully that will keep her from doing something so damned foolish again. Then he realized the smallness of the room was concentrating her scent, and his teeth ached again as his hunger rose. To his dismay, something else ached as well. Carrying her across the roofs of Whitechapel had been an unfortunate reminder of how long it had been since he’d touched a woman with more than feeding in mind. And she most definitely had a lush little body under that masculine disguise.

Don’t be an idiot. Louisa Wallingford is young, headstrong, and far too impetuous for her own good. Not to mention she was good as married, by command of the Queen herself. And she’s human. Lush as she may be, she’s not for you.

Writing With Cats

One of the many, many ways COVID-19 has impacted my writing schedule is my inability to go out and write at a coffee shop. Yes, I know, I have an office, but the furry little darlings consider it their bedroom when our bedroom door is closed, and the ruckus they raise when I try to close the door is ridiculous so I usually give up and let them in. When I write downstairs (as I’m doing now), they work on what I can only assume is a rota whereby one of them jumps up on my lap desk and insists on being petted/cuddled/combed. And as you can see below, it’s a little difficult to get any work done when you have a huge Orange Beast on you demanding chin scritches. Once that cat is done, I get to go back to writing for a bit … until the next cat jumps up.

We have five cats. You do the math.

If I was on deadline and simply didn’t have time to cater to the J Crew, I used to go to a little coffee shop that is, ironically, right next to my vet. It has a great conference table with big comfy chairs and lots of electrical outlets, and they make some amazing Thai bubble tea. I’d go there, buy some bubble tea, water, and snacks, and sit there for a productive afternoon tapping away.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option at the moment so I’m trying to find a happy medium with the cats where they can sit on me for a defined period of time (five minutes), after which they have to go down and let me work. A spray bottle full of water has come in handy for this. Granted, I have gotten a number of glowers and pathetic looks, and they’ve started sprawling in various pathways around the house so that I have to pay attention to them (even if it’s only stepping over them very carefully).

Have you ever had cats (or any pets) that did that? If so, leave a comment and tell me how you managed it … or didn’t, as the case may be.

So, this is what the rest of 2020 looks like for me

The contract job is currently at a halt due to lack of work (hardly surprising) for at least May and possibly longer (seeing as a significant amount of Texans completely lost their shit and started crowding into public spaces on Friday during the state’s “partial” reopening, I’m bracing myself for a large spike in new COVID cases here in two weeks). But Ramón is still working, and I’ve spent the last eight months paying off almost all of our debt, so we should be able to weather it financially. And frankly, I need a break after the non-stop pace of the last four months.

What this also means, however, is that I can — ta da — go back to being a full-time writer for the foreseeable future! I sat down and worked out the following schedule (which may have to be adjusted if the contract job restarts at any point):

  • May: Finish Shadow of the Swan and Shifter Woods: Growl (Esposito County Shifters 4).
  • June: Let SotS cool, finish King of Blades (Two Thrones 4), edit and publish SW:G.
  • July: Let KoB cool, edit and publish SofS, finish Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2).
  • August: Let UP cool, edit and publish KoB.
  • September: Edit and publish UP.

That would give me three 80+K novels and one novella for 2020, which is not bad. And yes, I know my timeline seems insanely short, but all those books are partially finished (21K on SofS, 4K on KoB, and 5K on UP), so it won’t take as long as it would do to finish a brand new book. Hell, SotS is supposed to be 80K and I can finish the remaining 57K in three weeks if I push.

But wait, I have stretch goals!

  • September: Edit Deep Water (Olympic Cove 3) for re-release at the end of December, finish One Sweet Christmas (novella) for holiday sales.
  • October: Finish Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4), edit and publish OSC.
  • November: Let CC cool, finish Windrider and the Deuce (Two Thrones Novella 2), release all four Shifter Woods novellas as a box set.
  • December: Go on a fucking cruise and let my brain relax, edit CC and WatD, release DW once I get the rights back, release CC and WatD a week later.

Which would give me four new novels (SotS, KoB, UP, CC), one re-released novel (DW), three novellas (SW:G, OSC, WatD), and a box set (Shifter Woods) for 2020. Kinda challenging, but I also have to make up for the dumpster fire that was 2019 so I may as well go for it.