As you know, Bob, I had one more book to finish and release in 2020. This was the very much anticipated Cross Current, which is the fourth book in my Olympic Cove menage fantasy romance series (or as I like to think of it, “Gods and mermen and selkies, oh my!”). People have been waiting patiently for this book for about five years, but I couldn’t continue the series until I’d gotten the rights back for the first three book. That happened this year, which meant that Cross Current was a go.
After I finished King of Blades and released it at the end of November, I got to work on Cross Current. Now, I had about 20K of the book done so I figured, meh, maybe two weeks to finish, two weeks to edit, polish, and format, and I could get it out at the end of December. Being an eternal optimist, I decided to put it out for pre-order on December 1st because I would have more than enough time to get everything done, right?
Put a pin in this because we will be returning to this point later.
So, I started working on Cross Current, and promptly ran into two rather large problems. One, I was hurting. For reasons I didn’t understand every joint in my body was screaming at me, and sitting for any length of time (which you kinda have to do if you’re a writer) was problematic. And no, it wasn’t COVID for reasons I will explain later on. But writing when your joints are on fire is not fun.
Secondly, I was having one hell of a time getting the story out. I knew how it started, knew how it finished, but the the middle part was like pulling teeth. I was lucky if I could get 300 words out a day, in between trying to get my brain to get creative and trying to get my joints to stop screaming at me.
On December 7th, I’m starting to get mildly worried because I haven’t made sufficient progress on the book and the upload deadline would be 6:00 PM CST Christmas Day. And then my muse, drunken ho that she is, strolled in with a margarita in one hand and said, “You’re having problems with this because your story is angsty. Nobody wants to read angsty in 2020. Liven it up, make it fun.”
She had a point. I was kinda putting my main character Matt through hell, and I wasn’t really paying much attention to all of the members in his menage, all five of them. Remember this graphic?
So I scrap my original story and decide to go with a fun Ocean’s 8 style caper story, where Matt has to steal some nanotech with the help of a mer and three selkies, and hijinks ensue.
And I’ll be damned, but that worked. Suddenly the floodgates opened and I could see the story in my head, which is what tells me I’m on the right track.
One eensy problem–those 20,000 words I’d already written didn’t fit this new story. I was able to salvage the opening chapter, but 15K had to go in the cut file, which really put me behind the eight ball.
But that’s when my second Festivus miracle occurred. I ran out of a supplement that I take to keep my nasal mucus thinned out (remember, I live with five cats to whom I am mildly allergic), and a day later I realized I felt fucking great. My pain levels were way down, and I was only having the usual issues with ShitKnee. I looked up the side effects for the supplement and saw, “can cause joint and muscle pain” (unsurprising because it breaks up biofilm and scavenges fibrin in the blood system).
By this time it’s December 9, and I have to put pedal to the metal because I now have to completely rewrite my first four chapters and actually finish the rest of the book. I keep plugging away, but it’s December, which means the J Crew have to be taken into the vet for their shots, I have a dental cleaning, and a myriad of other holiday-related things all eat up my time until December 17th rolls around and I only have 25,000 words out of a projected 80,000. if you do the math, you’ll discover that this left me with 55,000 words still to be written, and I also had to get the book edited, proofed, polished, formatted, and uploaded to Amazon in eight days.
Sometimes, you have to realize that you can’t do everything yourself and ask for help. First, I took a deep breath and talked to Ramón, explaining that I couldn’t do the usual Christmas prep that I do every year and get the book done. Would he mind helping out, or if certain things get pushed back a bit?
I am blessed to be married to the world’s best writer’s spouse. He blinked and said, “Petal, 2020 blows chunks anyway. We can live with a meh Christmas. Don’t worry about anything, just focus on the book.”
Okay, that was out of the way. I then talked to my editor, throwing myself on her mercy. She agreed to edit the book in chunks — I would finish a handful of chapters, clean them up, and shove them at her for editing (she is a goddess, by the way).
Finally, I sat down with my brain and had a come-to-Jesus chat. In order to finish this book, I was about to have a very unpleasant week where I would have to write faster on a daily basis than I ever had just to finish the first draft, and then I would have to turn around immediately and edit/polish/format. If I could do this, at 6:01 PM CST Christmas Day I would get completely loaded in celebration, spend the rest of the night watching Wonder Woman 84 and Bridgerton, and the period from Boxing Day to January 4th would be devoted to rest and relaxation.
My brain reluctantly agreed. And so I sat down, wrote out a detailed outline, broke it down into chapters so that I knew exactly what I had to do in each chapter, and set out to write 10,000 words a day for the next five and a half days.
Yes, you read that correctly. And that wasn’t all; I would also be constantly shuttling completed chapters back and forth to the editor and incorporating her edits after I hit word quota for the day. But it was necessary because there was no way in hell I was missing this deadline and getting banned from Amazon pre-orders for a year.
So I did it. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I fell into bed exhausted ever night, my dreams were pretty much related to the books, I gained five pounds despite my determination to get at least fifteen minutes on the treadmill every day, the only cleaning I did was sweeping and laundry, and the meals were pretty much reduced to, “What can I throw together in ten minutes?”
But I did it. And somehow, I produced a pretty damned good book. Part of my mind kept noticing how things just fell into place, the three act structure chugging along like it was on rails. Each member of my fivesome now had an identity and screen time, and I cheered for them all the way through the book. And I wrote the most physically challenging love scene of my writing career to date. I’m still damn proud of it.
The last edits went in at 5:30 AM this morning, and I spent two hours fixing a formatting problem before uploading the file to Amazon (I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep until it was done, and I had this irrational fear that I’d die in my sleep and nobody would ever see the book that had killed me) and crawling into bed at 7:30 AM. After one of the best sleeps of my life, I got up, got dressed, played with the kitties, and just … breathed.
It was nice. Then I decided to give the file one last read-through, polish, and spell/grammar/punctuation check because I am an anal-retentive masochist, formatted THAT, and uploaded it to Amazon at 4:15 PM CST, an hour and forty-five minutes before the cutoff time. It’s now churning through the ‘Zon, and the seven lovely people who pre-ordered it will get it at 12:01 AM on Tuesday, December 29th.
And then I decided to wash the bedding so that we’d have crisp clean sheets for Christmas night and clean the library so that I could put up the tree. Get loaded and watch movies? Ho ho ho. Remember, anal-retentive masochist here. But I’m singing Christmas songs as I’m working, and I’m so very proud of myself for finishing Cross Current and getting it out into the world.
Anyway, Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, and may 2021 be a huge frigging improvement on this dumpster fire of a year.
Like when the ‘Zon actually reads your email instead of sending you a boilerplate response and unblocks one of your series so that you can edit it.
Lemme ‘splain. KDP changed things about a month ago so that authors could edit their own series pages, instead of having to ask the KDP customer assistance team do it. Problem was, I misunderstood the email instructions when we were informed of this and tried to create a new Olympic Cove series page. KDP promptly blocked the series and sent me an email that said I would have to ask them to make any future changes.
Fair enough, it was my screw-up. But when I sent them an email last week informing them of the block on the OC series page and asking them to please add Cross Current, I got a response saying, “Oh, you can do all that yourself now — good luck!” I replied with the info that, er, no, I couldn’t, the series page was blocked.
The response? Crickets.
But I am resolute. Yesterday, I sent them a new email, politely reiterating that I needed to have the book added, and attached the original “You screwed up so you need to have us make any changes” email. This morning, I got a reply saying that the series was reviewed and successfully passed, and the updates would soon be available on Amazon. Translation: “Oh, we see. Okay, yeah, we’ll unlock your series.”
In other news, Cross Current is now officially listed on Amazon as book 4 in the Olympic Cove series, which is nice because that’s currently the only place I can put it up for pre-order (Smashwords requires too long of a prep period for me to do it on B&N, Kobo, or iTunes).
So that’s all to the good. Unfortunately, there are some new functionality changes on the otherwise superlative KDP Reports Beta page that removed the ability to see at a glance which titles you’d sold on a particular day (they used to have a bar graph with colors for each title — now the graph is one color and you have to drill down through a calendar function to find out which titles you sold on X day). But I also have Book Report running, so I guess I can keep that running in a tab and check there for daily sales.
As for Cross Current, I’m chugging along and should have the second draft off to the editor and betas by next week, which will give me a week to clean up and do any final tweaks before uploading it to Amazon on Christmas Day (probably before then, but that’s my upload deadline). The plot has changed significantly, but it’s also a LOT more fun (more of a caper romance than an angsty romance) now, so that’s all good.
And then I get to relax between Christmas and January 2nd. Ah, that will be swell…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.