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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.

Running around like the proverbial decapitated avian

Sorry about not posting anything entertaining and/or useful yesterday, but I have been one very, very busy writer for the last day and a half. Unfortunately, my busyness has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with paying bills, filing all my receipts and paid bills (I know how anal that sounds, but it helps when I have to prep the tax paperwork for the accountant), packaging stuff up and mailing it out to people, doing a big food stock-up for humans and J Crew which requires hitting three different stores, attending my writers’ group meeting over Zoom last night and critiquing some chapters from a member, plus all of the usual cooking/cleaning/household chores on top of that.

Phoo. I’m tired just reading that.

And yes, I know, minions would help. One time someone very kindly offered to act as my PA and I had to pass on it because I simply couldn’t afford them. Well, also because the actual writing business doesn’t take up a huge chunk of my time just yet — it’s everything else that has me running around and swearing under my breath. I swear, if the cats had opposable thumbs they would be VERY surprised at the chores they’d be assigned (I already know damn well that they understand English to a certain degree).

Speaking of the little darlings, Ramón and I have agreed that it’s time to address the weight problem that Jessie (above) and Jemma (at left) (and to a lesser degree Jeremy) are having. The two ladies are now 9 and 8 years old, respectively, and they’re putting weight on to the point where Jessie lumbers down the stairs (although she was still able to jump up to the stove top, then to the top of the refrigerator, and onto the top of the cabinets a couple of days ago) and Jemma, bless her heart, looks like a brown bowling ball. Our problem is our 18-year-old gentleman who wants to nibble constantly (and needs to, to be honest) and yowls at a genuinely shocking volume if he can see the bottom of a food bowl. We need to keep him fed and his weight up, but that turns into a buffet for the other cats and isn’t good for them. So we’re addressing this with weight management kibble and additional playtime for the younger cats (I wish I could get Jemma and Jasmine to eat wet food, but they simply won’t do it. Jems will sometimes eat tuna, but Jaz won’t touch anything but kibble). I’ll keep feeding JJ extra food and treats as necessary, but I’ll have to do it where the other cats can’t see.

And with that, it’s now time to get back to work on Shadow of the Swan, tra la.

And it’s *checks calendar* Friday

Yeah, I know. COVID cabin fever is hitting a lot of people at the moment, and Casa Cameron is among those households. Let’s see, what can I tell you?

Needless to say, I didn’t finish Shadow of the Swan or Shifter Woods: Growl in May, as I had hoped. I wound up getting called back to the contract job for a week to wrap up the project I’d been working on, and then I spent about a week cleaning out our garage so that I could refinish that bookcase the cats had peed on, then I got stuck into the actual refinishing, and it turned out so well that I decided to refinish the other bookcase that Ramón’s been hauling around for over thirty years, and the world is on fire due to COVID and the current US administration and climate change and a lot of other things so, yeah.

On the plus side, I’m still working on both books, as well as Uncertainty Principle and King of Blades, depending on how I’m feeling when I get up, so there is progress? It’s just kind of slow. But I’m currently at 32K of a projected 80K on Swan, which pleases me.

I also ran an A/B test on Twitter to get input on two potential covers for Swan:

Cover A turned out to be the more popular one, so I’m probably going to go with it or a very similar variant.

I’m also taking an online class in Indie Publishing 101 from Dean Wesley Smith — yes, I know, I’ve been indie publishing since 2015. But I’m not making nearly the number of sales I should be, so I’m hoping to pick up some tips and tricks from a powerhouse in the indie publishing field because I would really like to sell more books and maybe not have to go back to contract work if I can manage it?

Speaking of the contract job, I’m still on furlough and I don’t see that restarting anytime soon, since a lot of the work I did was for industries that were slammed by COVID and the assorted closings (another reason why I’d really like to make more sales). Ramón is still employed, knock wood, but his job is a contract one and he’s concerned that he may be out of work at a time when a whole bunch of other telecoms people are looking for jobs. If the book sales don’t pick up, I’ll probably start looking for more contract work in August, assuming I can find a place that will let me work remotely.

Health-wise, we’re still good. Because our governor is, well, an idiot, Texas is one of the new COVID hot spots in the nation, so we mask up every time we go out to the store, anything that comes into the house is disinfected, and we change clothes and shower afterwards. Our trips out are limited to store runs and fast food, with the occasional treat such as running the tax prep paperwork to the accountant or hitting the post office after hours (sometimes I have to mail Etsy sales or other stuff, and they have an automated postage machine). Luckily our Kroger is requiring mask usage to enter the store, and 99% of the people I see in there are masked, although there was one maskless woman today who, I shit you not, had the classic Karen hairstyle. Everyone was giving her dirty looks, so hopefully peer pressure will have an effect.

Oh, I learned how to trim Ramón’s hair, thanks to the angel who made this YouTube video. As his hair was getting to Doc Brown stage and it was driving him crazy, he was happy for me to take a crack at it with the clippers. I managed to give him a nice, short, but stylish do (made a couple of mistakes in back, but as he pointed out he didn’t care because nobody but me would be looking at his neck), and I may well keep trimming his hair from here on out. I mean, I already have the clippers, barber’s scissors, and T-outliner, so why not?

That pretty much brings us up to date. I’m going to try and blog more frequently, basically to keep both of us entertained (and up to date on the progress of all the WIPs). One amusing thing that happened today — someone had responded to this tweet:

with the comment, “Alexa, play S&M.” Which reminded me that I really did like that song and should buy it. Which then prompted … let us say … a mental vignette that one could entitle, “My Own Pet Duke.”

I really don’t need to be writing a BDSM Regency right now. I don’t even have an pseudonym for that subgenre (hur hur, see what I did there). Back into the inspiration hutch with you, little plot bunny.

So, we’re staying inside

I’ve read the suggestions that people keep handwritten journals during the coronavirus because future historians will want to read what regular people did while social distancing or self-quarantining themselves. Since 1) my handwriting is absolutely atrocious, and 2) I only write by hand when there’s no other choice to because of item #1, this blog will have to do.

So far, everyone at Casa Cameron seem to be okay. We didn’t hoard anything, but I did take the warnings seriously in February and started doing incremental stockups from that point onward. I’m guessing we can stay inside easily for at least two weeks and live off of what we have in the fridge, freezer, and cabinets. I’ve also taken a crack at making sugar-free bread and it turned out decidedly well, so Ramón (aka Mr. Sandwich) will continue to have his favorite meal component for quite some time.

As for social distancing and going stir-crazy inside, both of us work from home so this morning was pretty much like any other Monday. I got up, fed the J Crew, got dressed, brushed hair and teeth, and went into my office to work on the current client’s project

Yes, of course I washed my hands. Multiple times. I’ve been doing that for years, however, so once again this isn’t much of a change.

I figure if the weather’s nice I’ll go outside tomorrow and do some weeding in the back yard to get “out” for a bit. In the meantime, I’ve got the windows open for fresh air and I’ve started doing ten minute stints again on the treadmill to keep the blood flowing. Also, I may bake a bean pie tomorrow, I dunno. I’m trying not to go overboard on carbs and eat as healthily as possible, but it’s bean pie, man. That shit is delicious.

As for those outside the walls of Casa Cameron, my heart and boundless admiration goes out to two groups:

  1. All of the extroverts, parents dealing with rambunctious kids, and adult kids dealing with stubborn 70+ parents, who are social distancing and staying inside as much as possible because they’re trying to flatten the curve and keep the immunocompromised and elderly in their communities safe. You people rock.
  2. All of the folks who have to keep going out to work for various reasons — healthcare professionals, cops, firemen, grocery store employees, mail personnel, etc. You’re all big damn heroes for keeping the wheels of civilization rolling forward, even if they’re getting a little sticky at the moment.

As for all those idiots who are still crowding bars/restaurants/beaches/et al for no damn good reason other than “by God we’re ‘MURICAN and nobody’s gonna tell them us to do,” what is wrong with you?

No, seriously — what the everlasting holy fuck is wrong with you? Were you dropped on your head as a baby? Are you that much of a narcissist that you simply don’t care who you might infect as long as you get to party with your buds? Stop acting like spoiled brats and get your dumb asses away from other people before you kill Grandma or that nice guy going through chemo next door.

Ahem. And now to switch topics — Nic, the writing? What about the writing? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that I’m still hard at work on Shadow of the Swan, plus I’m also in the process of getting To My Muse set as free on Amazon (it’s already free on all other platforms) as a way of giving to folks who really need a break from the news right now.

Oh, and I finally broke down and got Disney+ so we watched the first two eps of The Mandalorian tonight. Hey, Mama needs a break now and then, too.

New Year, New Goals, New Habits

No, I’m not going to pass along any tips for making your life better in 2019. You’re perfect the way you are, and besides, those tend to be somewhat condescending. Nope, I am just kinda croggled at the way I’m starting off 2019.

For one thing, there’s a reason why I went dark in December. I was frigging exhausted from finishing Iron Cross and getting it out to Romancelandia, and after taking a crack at a holiday romance (which I will finish for next year) I decided, “Screw it. I’m tired, my brain hurts, and I need a break. I’m taking the rest of the year off.” So I did, and man, that was a good choice. Not only did I recharge my creative side by diving into various non-writing projects that have been hanging around for years waiting for me to get to them, but I also drank the Kool-aid and joined the Great British Baking Show cult. I absently stumbled across S2E1 on Netflix, and by the end of it I was frantically scoping out the rest of them and launching into a bingewatch of epic proportions.

By the time I watched all five seasons, the Beginnings eps, the holiday shows and all the masterclass eps, I had made jam tarts, mince pies, fruitcakes, Italian Christmas cookies (at right), spinach puffs, Cherry Blossom Kisses, Winter Kisses, Paul Hollywood’s Christmas Leftover Chelsea buns (upper left), and had bought a dizzying array of bakeware. I now own pie weights, I’ll have you know. Plus I have my eye on a rolling pin with attachments that lets you control the height of the dough you’re rolling out, and I’m probably going to make runzas/bierocks this weekend by special request of Ramón, who has pointed out that having little savory things that he can grab between meals would be a very nice change from having to grab chocolate or cookies.

Other shows I binged were The Expanse (holy God, that was good), Altered Carbon, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Forever, and various comedy shows that had been recommended to me over 2018, and while I watched them I worked on this absolutely gorgeous hue shift knitted afghan. It’s extremely cool, using mitered corner squares with alternating stripes, and seeing as I bought the kit two years ago it’s nice that I’m finally putting it together. When I wasn’t baking, watching Netflix, or working on the afghan, I read, caught up on bills, played with the kitties (Jessie and Jeremy are losing some much-needed weight thanks to the new food regime the vet suggested at their checkup in early December and Jessie’s back to being able to jump up on counters and tables), cleaned (I actually cleaned my oven and my freezer fold-out bins. Somewhere, my mother is astounded), and decorated the house for Christmas.

But what was most notable was that I pretty much stayed off social media because I wasn’t on the laptop for hours at a time. I’d check FB and Twitter a few times a day, but I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I usually did on it. And that was a good thing because I soon realized I felt much more relaxed and centered without constantly being thrown into rage cycles by the endless political idiocy making the rounds on SM. So one thing I’m going to do in 2019 is continue that habit — I’ll check in on Twitter and Instagram for business purposes, but I’m seriously going to curtail my FB time. Not only do I not like their business practices of scraping every piece of data they can get about me and selling it to companies, but I’m just happier when I’m not on FB.

One final and very major change in 2018 was me starting on CBD oil. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and PCOS, which not only screw with my metabolism and make it hard to lose weight but also encourage inflammation. At this point in my life I inflame at a harsh word, and for the last couple of years it’s been affecting my ability to walk because both of my Achilles bursae swelled up to painful proportions, making it difficult to flex my feet and balance. The tipping point was December 20 — my good knee had gotten strained while I was in bed, of all places, and hurt like hell, my bad knee was, well, my bad knee, and I was literally hobbling around like an arthritic 90-year-old. Worse, NSAIDs weren’t really working anymore and I was getting very little sleep because I was hurting all the time.

I’ve had CBD oil recommended to me by friends with similar issues who had incredibly good results with it, so I did some research and found the Cherry Apothecary in Oak Cliff. I hobbled in, had a consult with a very nice young man who listened to my pain issues and suggested that I try sublingual tinctures. After some more discussion I settled on a bottle of 250 mg CBD oil with orange flavor, headed home, took the recommended half dose (he said to start low and slow — apparently the endocannabinoid system in our bodies that is affected by CBD needs time to load the chemical to a level where it will help. You can take more, the man said, but you’ll just pee it out, which is a waste of money and oil), and prayed.

Twenty minutes later, I was able to walk without hobbling. My ankles were flexing, and the pain in both knees was reduced — still there, mind you, but manageable with an NSAID. It felt like a frigging miracle. I now take a half dose of CBD oil in the morning and a half dose at night, and not only do my legs feel better but I also feel calmer, more focused, and I’m sleeping like a top. Best of all, I can see the swelling in both Achilles bursae going down — my left heel is almost back to normal and my right heel (which was horrible) now looks like my left heel at its worst, which is a significant improvement. With walking so much easier, I’ve been able to clean, shop, and move around a lot more than I have been in the last couple of years, and man, that is fantastic. I’m now getting on the treadmill every day, and once I’m over the mild cold I caught from Ramón I’m going back to the gym and starting weightlifting again.

So, yeah, that was a decent personal end to 2018. Right now my goals in 2019 are more walking and weightlifting, completing four novels (King of Blades, Uncertainty Principle, and two romcoms) and three novellas, doing smart promo for myself, continuing to cook and bake more stuff from scratch, working on meditation techniques and yoga, reducing our debt as much as possible, and generally trying to help more people out and enjoy life. Oh, and play with the kitties, because that’s an important part of Casa Cameron.

So, yeah, let’s get started!

Milestones and future goals

Yesterday my MMF historical romance Behind the Iron Cross released on Amazon and Smashwords, with Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes to follow soon. While it’s my tenth full-length novel to be released, it’s also the first romance novel I ever started, back in April 2012. I quickly realized that 1) I would have to do a buttload of research on the period, and 2) I really didn’t have the novel writing chops necessary to do the story justice. While working on my assorted series over the next six years I wound up picking at Iron Cross on and off, doing research when I could and picking up information that would add to the background and worldbuilding of the story.

And then this September something clicked and I decided, “Okay, time to finish it.” Which threw my schedule completely out of whack, forcing me to drop Uncertainty Principle until next year, but I felt like it was time to get Iron Cross done and out. The weird thing is, I wasn’t consciously aware that this year was the centenary of the end of World War I, which plays a big role in the story. All I can say is, the subconscious is an amazing thing.

This is also my longest and darkest romance to date. I don’t know if that’s because it’s a historical romance set in between-the-wars Berlin or what, but 105,000 words still amazes me when I think about it. As for the dark themes, well, 1923 Berlin was not exactly Disneyworld, although God knows there was a buttload of partying going on at the various clubs and restaurants if you had money. As for the concept of a German army officer turning to prostitution to support his family, that was actually pulled from real life reports. The economy was absolute crap, hyperinflation was rampant, lots of soldiers were decommissioned and unable to find even menial jobs, prostitution had been normalized in Berlin, and if you didn’t want to join the criminal gangs and the right-wing militias called Freikorps wouldn’t take you, you didn’t have much of a choice.

Like I said, not the happiest of places. That being said, I very deliberately toned down the harsher historical aspects because this is a romance, after all, and I needed these three very different people to fall in love with each other. According to my editor and betas I succeeded, but time will tell with reviews.

Next up on the writing table are King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) and Windrider and the Deuce, which I’m writing concurrently. Windrider should be finished in two weeks and will be released as my holiday novella following the adventures of Bardahlson son #2 Ewan and a lovely and dangerous messenger from Ghobos who find themselves joining forces to stop a blackmailer from ruining a priestess’s life during Frostfair. That should be out by mid-December and King of Blades should be out by late December, so you’ll have lots of stuff to read between Christmas and New Year.

As for 2019, my current schedule includes the to-be-named romcom about two actors who find out they were accidentally married for real during a movie and have to get a divorce, Uncertainty Principle (Pacifica Rising 2), Shifter Woods: Scream, the yet-untitled Two Thrones 5, another romcom about Lily’s best friend Theresa, plus the re-release of Breaker Zone (Olympic Cove 2) and Two to Tango, which will be expanded and retitled Stealing Dmitri. So, yeah, busy year next year. But hey, it keeps me off the streets.

To My Muse 99¢ release SALE

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Smashwords

Ever do something really, really dumb?

When too much tequila and an enabling BFF put Lily Nayar’s romance novel Feast of Lovers into the hands of its inspiration, sexy British actor Tom Morrison, Lily is horrified. Now she’s determined to get her book back, even if that means breaking into Tom’s hotel room to do it.

With the help of a strategic lie and an Oscar-winning knight, Lily’s screwball plan catapults her into the middle of her very own Cinderella story, Hollywood style. But will a vengeful actress ruin Lily’s shot at a real life HEA with Tom?

When you have to work anyway

Mrrgh. The clavicle of Texas is currently enjoying a barometric pressure change at the moment with the promise of thunderstorms tomorrow. I’m not sure if the fact that I currently feel like hammered poo is related to this, or to the possibility that I may be sick (feeling feverish and I ache all over, but grass pollen is super high at the moment and I feel like that during a bad allergy attack as well).

Mind you, I still got 1100 words written on To My Muse and whomped up a draft cover for something, but to be honest I just kinda want to crawl back into bed and watch jewelry making videos. I’d show you the draft cover, but it really is just a draft. Better to wait until it’s all neat and pretty.

When Writers Burn Out

Not flame out — that’s a different blog post. But burnout is a real thing, especially for writers who have to hit deadline after deadline in quick succession and then wind up wanting to set their writing device on fire.

Or is that just me? Maybe it’s just me. See, I spent the last four months of 2017 pretty much glued to my computer cranking out Lady of Thorns and Red Robin and the Huntsman, plus getting work done on Cross Current. After I uploaded Red Robin to Amazon on December 15, my brain said, “Okay, you’re done for the year. No writing until January 1. I mean it.”

And Lord, the idea appealed. So I actually enjoyed my Christmas/New Year break because I wasn’t getting up and immediately chaining myself to my writing desk. I cleaned, made cookies and fruitcake, and even dug out an old afghan project that I’d started in 2013 and worked on it while watching movies and TV shows. Bliss.

But then January rolled around and I started work on my first conteporary romcom, To My Muse … and ran into a problem. I couldn’t make myself stick to working the way I had with my other still. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was writing a romcom instead of a SF/fantasy/paranormal romance. I didn’t think so because I was enjoying what I was doing, but man, I just did not want to nail my butt to a chair anymore.

At that point I remembered that I had promised my BFF’s husband that I would make him a sterling silver and turquoise bracelet in memory of his grandmother. I headed out to the garage on a relatively warm day in February and set out the things I would need to make this piece, and promptly realized that 1) I’d never bezel set a stone before, 2) I needed some twisted wire and black guilder’s wax, and 3) I also didn’t know how to rivet leather for the wristband part.

Research time. So I went off and watched videos on bezel creation and setting (Thank you, Online Jewelry Academy and Professor John Ahr!), and wound up making these for practice:

To my surprise, a friend saw the first one and insisted on buying it. I didn’t like how I’d folded over the bezel wall or set the loops on the second one, so I reset it. A friend then bought THAT one. Wow.

Confident that I now had the hang of bezel making down, I got to work on the turquoise bracelet piece. If I do say so myself, it turned out pretty well.

But THEN I thought, “Well, hey, I have this nifty piece of Picasso marble that would make a great pendant, and I should try and set that. Ooh, and I can cut out the Stark sigil in back and call it Winterfell.” So I did.

A third friend saw it and bought it. Whoa.

At this point I realized that I was looking at a ginormous Amex bill at the beginning of March because I had paid for two website renewals and a membership to a local romance con. Since I’d already sold three pendants, I thought I would keep making more and hopefully sell them so that I could pay off said Amex bill (BTW, the blue aventurine and tiger’s eye pendants are still available at my Etsy store. The etched brass pendant was my first attempt at salt water etching, and will be going to a friend’s daughter as a “magic” amulet).

Suddenly it was March and I realized I hadn’t done any serious writing since late January. And my writing brain was starting to get itchy. So I got back to work on To My Muse and started the third novella in my Esposito County Shifters series, Shifter Woods: Snarl this week, and man, that felt good.

So, yeah, sometimes I need to take a little break from the writing, especially if I’ve been pushing myself for months at a time. But I promise you, I’ll always come back to it. And I may have some pretty sparklies to offer as well.

A most extraordinary experience


As you know (Bob), I spent Thursday and Friday writing a 13,500 word novella for an antho call. Luckily I was pretty solid on the story idea so I was able to nail my butt to the chair and crank it out in record time. Polished it and sent it in to Evernight, and all is well.

The antho call was for stories about the ultimate bad boys — criminals, killers, what have you — who completely disregard the law but are utterly loyal to their women (or men, depending on their orientation). So I wrote a story about a Southern hitman named Colton Jackson who is hired to kill a Dallas lawyer. Problem is, the lawyer’s secretary Ria Guzman walks in at the wrong moment and catches Colton red-handed. Ria and Colton had an immediate, powerful attraction to each other when he first came into the office posing as a client and he doesn’t really want to kill her, so he essentially kidnaps her, takes her to her apartment, and everything boils over. There’s passionate sex, trains going into tunnels, fireworks, etc. Colton then learns that he was set up to kill Ria (which would have seriously pissed off her powerful gang leader brother and put a price on his own head) and has to dispatch the threat, although there are loose ends that could lead to more stories about these two, I dunno. At the end of the story she has to disappear, so he takes her back to Louisiana with him.

This, however, is where it gets weird. I don’t know if it’s because I was completely immersed in the story for two days, to the point where I could very clearly see the law office, her apartment, and both Colton and Ria in my mind, but right now I have the oddest feeling that Colton and Ria are actually in Colton’s apartment in Shreveport right now making dinner and talking about what they need to get her new identity set up, and whether she really wants to go back to work as a secretary (he wants her to stay home but she’s independent and wants a job). It’s like I put so much mental energy and effort into them, I somehow made them real.

And yes, I know they’re not really real. At least, I hope not. But man, the brain is a weird, weird organ.