Category Archives: Writing

NaNoWriMo, Day One

Yes, I’m doing it again this year, and I’m working on King of Blades (Two Thrones Book Four), which should make the Matthiaë fans out there happy. I’m looking to finish it by November 30, with a release date around the third week of December, whee!

The plot: Matthias’s yearly visit to Hellas and the games that are celebrating Danaë’s pregnancy are complicated by family strife, old friends, and a string of accidents that may not be all that accidental. With Danaë distracted by her double pregnancy, Matthias has to sort out this new threat to his ever-growing family.

Day 1 word count: 1667

Daily snippet: The traveling party moved slowly through the shadows of the majestic Arpinnes mountains, toiling upwards towards a narrow gap in the range. In winter the gap would be all but impassable due to blizzards and the sheer amount of snow and ice deposited there, but this early in autumn the route was still clear enough for King Matthias IV of Ypres and his coterie of guards, servants, and courtiers to cross over to the other side. Once they descended and reached the small strip of land that formed the eastern border of Ypres, there would only be a short sea journey remaining before they reached the glittering island kingdom of Hellas, ruled by Matthias’s wife and co-ruler Queen Danaë.

Which couldn’t come soon enough for his riding companion. “Why is it so bloody cold up here?” Prince Ezeudo Debare of Ghobos asked, burrowing deeper inside his fur-lined cloak. “This is horrendous.”

Matthias swallowed a sigh. “I’m not really sure. All I know is that it’s always colder in the mountains that it is down on the plain. Consider yourself lucky we’re crossing now. Last time I did this trip there was snow on the ground.”

“Snow.” A disgusted sound followed the word. “I’ll take the desert, thank you very much. At least the air there doesn’t turn my lungs to ice.”

He considered his companion, one of his oldest and most trusted friends. “Ezeudo, do you ever stop complaining?”

“No. It keeps my mouth warm.” The prince grinned unexpectedly, teeth white against his dark skin. “Besides, if I stopped complaining you’d wonder what I’d done with the real Ezeudo.”

“This is true. Remind me again why your wife tolerates you?”

“Because she is the moon to my sun, the love of my life, and I venerate her as I venerate all the deities. Also, she enjoys my large penis.”

Matthias snorted. “I’ll take your word on that, my friend.”

Another flashing grin from the Ghobian. “You’re going to tell her I said that, aren’t you?”

“Probably.”

“Bastard.”

Have I mentioned that I love antibiotics?

Because I do, especially after I’ve spent the last six weeks slowly sinking into sinus infection fatigue, to the point where I would get up in the morning and five minutes later wanted to go straight back to bed for the rest of the day.

So, yeah, doc’s visit, the nice nurse practitioner said, “Ooh, yeah, your eardrums are bulging, here’s a scrip for a Z-pack, you want a steroid shot, too? Oh, yeah, this is not your first time at the rodeo.” She also confirmed that I get one of these damn things every year around this time — two years ago I came in almost to the day with the same complaint. I don’t know if it’s the weather change or something around here puts out some serious shit in late September/early October, but it’s like freaking clockwork.

So, day two on the Z-pack/steroid shot, and it’s like night and day. I woke up at 4 AM this morning, cranked out 1500 words on King of Blades (holy God, I came up with a BRILLIANT subplot for Darius and Lars, so they’re about to have quite the rollercoaster event in their relationship), went back to sleep for a bit, woke up feeling like a million bucks, went to see Colette (gorgeous movie and man, it’s inspiring if you’re a female writer), and craved real food afterwards (I may have also watched Salt Fat Acid Heat last night and it kinda lit a fire under me). So dinner tonight is rosemary and garlic pork roast, oven-roasted green beans and carrots with olive oil, seasoned sweet potato fries, and cucumber salad. You want to be eating here tonight.

Another bennie of feeling better — I’m back in the mood to make jewelry. I’m finishing up some projects that are already on the bench, and then I get to start work on these, now that all the bits have finally arrived from Rio Grande and the stone sellers. The lower stones and blue and yellow topaz and will be set in sterling silver settings that I’ll solder together, and the top stones are citrine and will have tiny handmade sterling calla lilies dangling from them. I think they’re gonna be gorgeous when they’re done.

So, that’s done

After pretty much a solid week of glueing my butt to my chair (which is apparently the secret to literary success according to Stephen King, and he would know) I finished the first draft of Behind the Iron Cross today. It topped out at slightly over 107K, making it my longest book to date (and seeing as I thought it was going to finish at 90K, there may have been some tormented screams in Casa Cameron). Then again, it’s also a historical MMF moderately kinky romance set in Weimar Republic-era Berlin (think Cabaret period and you’ve got the right idea), so there was a LOT of territory to cover with my decommissioned Germany army colonel, my kinky American heiress, and her gay best friend/fiancé who’s marrying her to stay in his father’s will and help her get ahead in her uncle’s company.

Yeah, it’s complicated.

But the funny thing is, I went back on a whim today and checked creation dates. According to the original Word file I first started Iron Cross in April 2012, which was a good five months before I sold my short story “Tied With a Bow” to Evernight for their Vanilla-Free Christmas: Manlove Edition antho and got my romance writing career underway. Which means that Iron Cross is actually my first romance novel, but will be the tenth one I’ve published.

That’s actually good because I had a lot to learn about plot, pacing, and characterization when it came to writing romance in long form. I’m honest enough to admit that I simply didn’t have the required skills in 2012 to do this story justice. As it is, there’s going to be a metric buttload of editing required to get this puppy into shape, mainly because I’ve spent the last six years picking at it before deciding to nail my butt to a chair and get it done. I’m kinda excited about editing it into readable shape (and lord, my editor has been chomping at the bit to read this for years so she’s one happy gal), but I also need to take a couple of days off and let my brain cool down from a week of 4-6K days straight. Yow.

The other nice thing about finishing Iron Cross is that I can now get started on King of Blades, Book Four in the Two Thrones series. As much fun as it was to be mentally living in 1925 Berlin, I’m also kinda looking forward to getting out of there and back to Ypres and Hellas. After that, I really want to do another romcom–yes, somehow To My Muse has turned itself into my fifth series and I have three books planned for it, all set around Lily and Tom’s friends in LA.

And yes, Theresa gets her own romance. With a Swiss Guard, no less. That’s gonna be fun.

Behind the Iron Cross update and release date

I’m currently on the home stretch with about 10K ahead of me for Behind the Iron Cross, my MMF historical romance set in between-the-wars Berlin. Which is good, because I have three betas who are threatening to camp out on my doorstep until I turn over the manuscript. It’s nice to be wanted.

That being said, this puppy is going to need a LOT of editing, partially because it’s been in progress since 2012 and partially because I need to doublecheck a lot of the historical bits. Also, I may be watching Babylon Berlin on Netflix for setting and costume inspiration (Babylon Berlin, by the way, is a FANTASTIC show and I highly recommend it if you like historically set police procedurals). With this in mind, I am formally setting the release date for BtIC as October 23, 2018. I know this may disappoint some people who were hoping to get it next week, but I’ve got to give the story the editing time it needs. Besides, you’ll be happier with the end result if I make sure it’s spandy clean and tight as a drum.

And after that, I immediately launch into King of Blades (Two Thrones 4). Because that is definitely my most popular series at the moment, and right now I really, really, REALLY want to get back to writing some fantasy. Soon, Hellas — soon.

Plus two, carry the one…

This required some math on my part because both Sam and Friedrich had to be of an age where they could have served in WWI (the book is set in 1925 Berlin). Friedrich is perhaps a touch young to have made colonel by the time he was decommissioned, but he comes from a military family and I figure he’d have had at least one battlefield promotion during the war. Sam would have joined up at the urging of his boyfriend and Katherine’s brother Bart, back when young American men thought it would have been a rousing adventure to go and fight the Hun. They had no idea the hell they were letting themselves in for.

I write fast. Or do I?

I think it depends on who I’m comparing myself to. Most literary writers can take years to finish a book — compared to them, I’m a jackrabbit. Writers like Rachel Caine can write at the speed of light — compared to them, I’m a tortoise.

Whatever. I write at my own speed, and it works for me.

And thus, it’s August

And while I’m running around like a headless chicken trying to get Shifter Woods: Snarl and Behind the Iron Cross done and out, I’m also participating in a rather cool Instagram event called Romance Writers August hosed by Jen Ellis where we post something about a specific topic each day in August. You already know who I am so I’m not going to bother recreating Day 1’s post, but here are all the other posts and I’ll make a point of posting each new day’s pic here as well for the rest of August. And now, back to work, whee…

Still a casting director in my own mind

So you may have noticed that Shifter Woods: Snarl isn’t out yet. There’s a good reason for that–I’ve been having the very devil of a time finishing it. For some reason (which we will get to in a moment) I haven’t been able to get the characters to talk to me and tell me why they’re doing what they’re doing. This means that I can’t write about them because I don’t know them; I’ve already trashed three chapters because they were going nowhere and doing nothing for the story.

And then it hit me last night–I didn’t cast Jack and Kate in my head. Because I think very cinematically (frustrated screenwriter here), I always mentally cast my characters because then I can set them loose the in the story, “watch” what they’re doing, and write it down. I thought that coming up with a cover for SW:S meant that I could just use the models for my mental casting, but since I’ve never seen them move, talk, or emote it simply was not working for me.

So, last night, I cast Jack and Kate (oddly enough I’d already cast Kate’s father and a lot of the supporting characters–I was being ridiculously stubborn about my leads, though). Et voila, I woke up this morning with a VERY important scene that broke my block and will lead to the rest of the storyline. Which is a freaking relief, let me tell you.

Oh, my casting? Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure Richard Armitage is either a wolf shifter or part elf in real life, judging from those points on his years, and he’s very good at playing conflicted yet dead sexy characters so he’s a great choice for my Alpha wolf without a pack. And while I know there’s been a lot of controversy around her for some of her tone-deaf role choices, Scarlett Johansson is really the best person to play Kate–she’s good at being snarky, she can handle action roles (there’s going to be a chapter where Jack and Kate team up to find a little girl lost in the mountains), and she looks enough like the cover model that I won’t have to change anything to make Kate and the cover coincide.

The new goal is to bring this out on 7/31. Let’s get ‘er done.

Surfacing

Hoo boy, this has been an insane month so far, and it’s only the 10th. In between A/C failures in both our upstairs and downstairs units (the downstairs unit was a grand to repair, so luckily the upstairs unit was still under warranty and could be fixed for free), trying to get Shifter Woods: Snarl (I typed Snark there which is appropriate — this story has been fighting me like you would not believe) finished and out the door, getting back to work on Behind the Iron Cross, and finishing up a BUTTLOAD of jewelry in a very hot garage, it’s been interesting.

Did I mention that I’m also retaining about ten pounds (seriously) of water weight due to the oncoming Shark Week and look (and feel) like I’m seven months’ pregnant? I am clearly allergic to being female. It’s supposed to start tomorrow and I can already feel the blessed hormonal shift because suddenly I have energy again and want to eat vegetables. I just vacuumed the downstairs and as soon as this rain stops and the rush hour traffic dies down I’m getting the makings for stir fry, as well as egg salad and chicken salad for the rest of the week’s lunches.

And Midol, because damn. Ten pounds, people. I’m astounded my heart is still working.

But back to writing things. I think I worked out the problem with Snarl — basically, I have a packless wolf Alpha shifter/SEAL who’s been hired by his former commanding officer to work at the family ski lodge in Esposito County. He’s also been told to stay away from the officer’s daughter. Problem is, the daughter is Wolfie’s mate, AND she lost her sense of smell so she can’t tell she’s his mate. So Wolfie is dealing with a slew of emotions — honor, duty, a sense of being unworthy due to losing his pack, AND confusion as to how to convince her that they’re meant to be together since she can’t smell it — that’s stopping him from claiming her. Then I realized I had a chance to show how shifters learn to love when they’re not being driven by the mating instinct. In Kate’s case, she’s going to think, “I don’t care what my father says, I’m an adult and I want you, PLUS I’m heir to the pack’s Alpha so Dad can learn to deal” and go after Wolfie, re-igniting his sense of self-worth and leading her to realize that they’re mates. Boom, the block evaporated.

So, yeah, Snarl should be finished this week, God willing and the crick don’t rise. Iron Cross is 75% finished so I’m going to get that done as soon as Snarl is out, with an aim to releasing it in mid August, and then it’s on to Shifter Woods: Scream (Deputy Jane’s story, where she finds out she’s mated to a hot tiger shifter/FBI agent AND a half-elf zookeeper. Because I like complicating things).

Bookstuffers, #IndieResistance, and #GETLOUD

Well! Looks like there’s been a lot of positive reaction to . Everyone who is supporting Suzan Tisdale, Heather C. Leigh, David Gaughran, Ivy Quinn, and the other authors on the front lines of this fight, you rock SO hard.

I’m a latecomer to this fight, BTW. Those people I mentioned above are the true leaders in this struggle. I’m just an indie author who’s trying to make an honest living slinging words. But when I see bookstuffers using loopholes to drain money out of KU, yeah, I’m pissed. And to the sock puppet accounts who are trying to debate real indie authors with some laughable tactics (logical rigor is not their strong suit) and generally stir up trouble — ain’t gonna work, pumpkins. We’re on to your tactics. So are readers. So is the media.

Although if I’m honest, I have to laugh — one sock puppet account called a debut author out for her comments on bookstuffers, saying that she knew nothing about the business. I replied that I’ve been in it for twenty-three years and the debut author was right. I got a snide response of, “Well, a lot of things have changed since 1995.” Actually, yes, they have, which is how we wound up in this current situation. But you know one thing that hasn’t changed since 1995? The drive to tell a good story. That’s what separates the writers from the packagers (if they’re so pissed off about being called bookstuffers). A writer is in this field because they want to tell stories. They want to entertain, enlighten, make people think. Whereas a bookstuffer wants to load as much ghostwritten material into a book as possible and siphon off as much money from readers as possible, often guilting them into being human click farms in the process. See the difference? Anyone who says, “Getting into the Amazon top 100 is expensive, but you can make money if you can do it” — folks, that’s not a writer. That’s an opportunist. It’s all about the money with them. They don’t care about entertaining you. They just want you to make it rain $ on them.

As I’ve said elsewhere, writers know that writing isn’t a way to get rich. It’s a way to do the thing you love, and hopefully make enough money to pay your bills. Sometimes, you get lucky and you make a bundle off your work. But believe me, that’s not common (Lord, I wish it was). Would I love to get rich off my work? Oh, hell yes. But if that ever happens (hey, Hollywood, I have a romcom that would make a GREAT movie), I can take pride in knowing that it happened because *I put in the work.* I busted my ass to become a good writer.

And that’s what every other legitimate indie author is doing right now. Suzan Tisdale is putting in the work. Heather C. Leigh is putting in the work. Ivy Quinn? Working. David Gaughran? Working. Bianca Sommerland, oh, hell yes, she’s working. Indie authors are sweating bullets to tell you a damn good story, all putting in the work. Not one of these folks are packaging up unedited ghostwritten material, slapping a sexy cover on it, and convincing/tricking/begging people to click to the end so that they get unearned page reads. A real indie author knows what it means to be a writer, a teller of tales.

So, to bring this around, bookstuffers know that their cash cow is drying up, and they’re running scared and trying to stir up trouble to hide their tracks. That’s not going to work. Too many people know about their tactics, now. The balance is shifting. But as Bianca said, it’s going to take time to put things back on a level playing field. Hang in there. Tell Amazon to do the right thing. Keep supporting legitimate indie authors. Be excellent to each other. And stay awesome.