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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.

And that’s a novella done

Yay, just finished Shifter Woods: Howl and sent it off to the betas to read. It’s only 23,000 words so I should be able to polish it this week, get the cover finalized over the weekend (I am SO happy to be using this one male model that I’ve been lusting after since Empress of Storms), put everything together and have it up on Amazon by next Tuesday.

And since I don’t remember if I explained the concept behind this one, Howl is the MF coyote shifter story, to be followed by its MM bear shifter companion piece Shifter Woods: Roar. There will be two more novellas set in the same world (Claw and Scream, respectively), after which I’ll compile them all into an ebook box set and a print version.

In the meantime, back to work on Uncertainty Principle I go!

Thoughts From a Writer’s Brain, #46

Subconscious: Heya.

Me: Hi.

SC: Sooooo … you’ve been getting kinda whiny on social media about your book sales. You know, nobody likes to be guilted into buying stuff.

Me: *sigh* Yes, I know. I won’t do that anymore. And I wasn’t trying to guilt people. I was just trying to get some word of mouth going.

SC: Really?

Me: Oh, bite me. I already feel bad about it. I’m just going to shut up and write more books. If I can.

SC: Melodramatic cliffhanger much?

Me: God, you’re a bitch.

SC: You should know. Okay, fine, why “if I can?”

Me: Because my damn laptop is over eight years old and my desktop is over nine years old. Both of them are failing, and I really need to buy new ones before they completely die on me.

SC: Tell me you’re backing up.

Me: Religiously and onto multiple devices. But backups aren’t going to be of any use if I don’t have hardware to run them on.

SC: So why didn’t you just say that your computers are crapping out and you need to buy new ones?

Me: Well, hell, Chuck Wendig just did something like that for his vet bills and people jumped all over his ass. And I’m no Chuck Wendig.

SC: Verily, that is true.

Me: Also, it didn’t occur to me.

SC: Jesus. You’re telling me that saying, “Hey, folks, my antique computers are on the verge of joining the choir eternal so please buy my books so that I can get new ones and keep writing” didn’t occur to you, but “Oh, jeez, my books aren’t selling, woe is me” did?

Me: Fuck you.

SC: Not anatomically possible but an amusing suggestion nonetheless. Why are you in such a bad mood, anyway?

Me: Because I’m cleaning. I hate cleaning. I always wind up drenched in sweat and covered in cat hair. But it has to be done.

SC: You could be writing–

Me: YES I KNOW THAT BUT WE LIVE WITH FIVE CATS AND RANDY TREES OUTSIDE AND I HAVE TO VACUUM IF I WANT TO CONTINUE BREATHING, OKAY?

SC: Yeesh. Okay. But you’re going to be taking breaks, right?

Me: Duh.

SC: Okay, then. You can work on one of your WIPs during your breaks. See? That was easy.

Me: I–you– *incoherent with rage*

SC: Do you want a new laptop and desktop?

Me: *grinds teeth and goes back to dusting*

Wednesday musings on writing

It occurred to me earlier today that I’ve been working professionally in the writing dodge (and by professionally I mean people have given me money in exchange for my words) for about twenty-two years, now. My writing career can legally drink, if not rent a car. Which is probably for the best, if you think about it.

So while I may bitch and moan about sales at times, in retrospect I’m actually pretty happy with where I’ve gotten to at this point. Between my SF and romance names (by the way, you all DO know that I write science fiction and urban fantasy as Melanie Fletcher, right?) I have seven full-length novels, three novellas, two novelettes, and twenty-six short stories to my credit. That’s not bad at all, especially since I’ll be bringing out at least another three novels this year as well as more novellas and short stories.

And not only have I been publishing, but I’ve been gifted with a fiercely devoted band of readers (you know who you are, and you are all in the will), plus I’ve been getting critical attention for my work. Night Owl Reviews just did an interview with me, and the lovely and talented Cynthia Sax will also have an interview on Degree of Resistance up on her website soon. So, yeah, I’ve actually done pretty well in my career so far (take that, Imposter Syndrome!).

Fabulous, I hear you say, but why are you babbling at us about this? Well, 1) because I can, and 2) it helps to work out what I’m going to do next. This year I’ve decided to concentrate on leveling up to the next professional step; namely, increasing my readership, shooting for a USA Today bestseller list slot, and maybe even winning an award or two (although I’m reminded of the fact that Sir Terry Pratchett, he of the insanely successful and brilliant Discworld series, never won anything until late in his career. People rarely take humor with the seriousness it deserves. But I digress). And the best way to do all that is to keep writing, keep publishing, and keep entertaining folks, which, yeah, just twist my arm already.

Did I mention that you’re all cruel but beautiful, and I love you oodles for reading my stuff? Because I do.

Lord, it’s Sunday night already

NotEnoughCaffeineI honestly don’t know where this weekend went to. Well, no, I do — it went into sending out copies of Degree of Resistance to my beta readers, finalizing the cover for DoR, setting up pre-sales at Amazon (available here if you’re of a mind to pick it up for 99¢ before it goes up to $3.99 on release day), cleaning my utter sty of an office (whereupon I discovered that one of my furry darlings peed in my office closet, which required me to move everything off the floor so that I could attend the stain with the portable rug cleaner and some Nature’s Miracle, whee…), doing laundry, attending a meeting at the local Democrats office, having coffee with one of my beta readers who reassured me that she was enjoying the story so far (and she will tell me if I’m screwing up), adding DoR here to the Bookshelf, creating ads and doing promo on social media, and formatting the DoR ebook. I’m going to hold off on doing the print version until I have all of the other edits done, but in the meantime I can get the print version of Palace of Scoundrels finally done and published, which would be nice seeing as it was released in, oh, late October.

Yeah, well, we were kind of busy around that time.

Anyhoo, yeah, the weekend kinda got away from me and I still need to put all the laundry away, pay bills, and finish cleaning the office (aren’t you envious of my glamorous life?). But by God I’m going to hit the ground running tomorrow, especially since I don’t have to start Round Three of edits on DoR until Wednesday (I swear to God I actually have a schedule this time), and that means I can continue to edit the alternate history mystery starring Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll that’s been languishing on my hard drive for the last three years and get it ready for release on 2/28.

Two books released in one month. Yeah, I like the sound of that.