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Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Monthly Update: March 2018

March was a month just for me. After finally recognizing my burnout in February, I set aside all “non-essential” activities and focused on de-stressing and enjoying life. Between a trip home to visit family and friends in Kansas, my birthday, and lots of support from Daniel, it was easier than I expected to relax and recharge.

bullet journalWhile I’m recommitting to some goals in April, there are others that I will cut loose. As part of this, I’ve started a bullet journal, where I can combine my calendar and objectives in a custom layout that perfectly fits my needs. Going forward, I want to maintain a better balance and keep the perspective I gained this month. There’s very little that I have to do to survive, so everything I choose to do should add value and joy to my life. It’s something we all know but often forget. I hope it’s a good reminder for you too.

Writing

It seems I’m the tortoise in 2018 — slow and steady writing, which will eventually accumulate into a complete book. Right now, my focus is consistency as opposed to output, so as long as I keep plodding along, that’s good enough for me. In addition to working on Desertera #4, I’ve been dabbling with an unrelated short story… which I may or may not share, as it’s not sci-fi or fantasy, and I don’t plan to publish it (it’s more a private learning exercise).

Other Projects

recording set upAsk Me Anything Videos I recorded the March AMA, and you can watch it here. You’ll learn how I invented Desertera’s setting, how to find an editor for your own books, and more.

Parallel Magic Podcast If you haven’t tuned into the podcast I host with Jonas Lee yet, you’re missing out. In this month’s most popular episode, we debated Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Listen in for one of my rare negative rants.

Reading

After reading six books in February, I chose not to ready any in March. I did, however, read and review several short stories for a writer group to which I belong. Daniel and I also watched several new movies: highlights for me included Thoroughbreds, Tomb Raider, and Ready Player One.

Personal Life

flying homePhysical health Okay, so the whole “eating healthy” thing kind of went off the rails. But can you blame me when I had a birthday (hello, Dairy Queen ice cream cake!) and my mom’s home cooking? I didn’t think so. Exercise suffered a bit during my vacation as well, but I kept on top of it at the beginning and end of the month. I’m actually surprised how much I’m enjoying it!

Mental health After recognizing the extent of my burnout at the end of last month, I gave myself a break from self-imposed stress in March. I focused on enjoying my time with family, indulging in TV/movies, and spending quality time with Daniel and Thomas. Heading into April, I’m finally feeling recharged! I’m getting back to my goals, but still focusing on not overextending myself.

April Goal

Win Camp NaNoWriMo! For April’s Camp session, I’m tracking my progress in hours instead of word count. As I wade back into the deeper waters of creativity, I know my biggest challenge is putting in the time and staying positive. So, rather than beat myself up over hitting a particular number of words, all I have to do is show up and try my best. It’s taken a lot of the pressure off and already made me more productive!


What did you accomplish in March? What are your April or Camp NaNoWriMo goals? Share in the comments!

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Fiction Blog

Ask Me Anything: March 2018

Welcome to my March 2018 Ask Me Anything video!

Earlier this month, I asked readers from my Reader List and social media whether they had any questions about my books, writing and publishing, or anything else. As a reader, I love it when authors share more about their books and themselves, so I want to do the same for you!

You can watch the video right here. Or if you prefer to read my answers, I’ve summarized them below.

What are you working on for Camp NaNoWriMo?

Camp NaNoWriMo is a twice-yearly challenge in which writers set a custom goal and meet in virtual cabins (chat rooms) to support each other. It’s a spin off of National Novel Writing Month, the November challenge in which writers attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. For this Camp session, my goal is to spend 60 hours working on Desertera #4 (though I might cheat and play with some other ideas too). I’ve made my goal in hours instead of word count because I need to focus on putting in the time and establishing a better routine.

How did you come up with the steampunk desert setting for the Desertera novels?

When considering a setting for Desertera, I went through a few different ideas. As I said in a previous AMA video, my original inspiration for the story itself was The Arabian Nights, and I liked how the desert setting created a feeling of desire and isolation. I also considered a historical fantasy based on King Henry VIII, but I knew the research would overwhelm me. My husband suggested steampunk, which had that Victorian “royal” flair, but again, I didn’t want to set the story in England or a real place. Therefore, I combined desert and steampunk to create Desertera — a place of desperation and isolation with people clinging onto antiquity, religion, and a romantic vision of a past that may or may not have ever existed.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Honestly, I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved reading stories with my mom, and I soon started to write my own. I completed my first story, that I can remember, when I was eight years old. My teacher encouraged me to keep writing, so I did. When I was around 11, another teacher informed me that I could major in Creative Writing in college and write for a career. That pretty much sealed the deal.

How did you find your editing company?

Great question! Finding editors, cover designers, literary agents, and other professionals can be intimidating when you’re starting out as a writer. My best advice, and how I found the editing company I use, Red Adept Editing, is to ask published authors you know for referrals. Most will be happy to share their contacts, especially as it might give them a referral discount. Another great tip is to check the copyright and acknowledgments pages of books that impress you — most writers will include their editors, designers, etc. and you can look them up from there. And of course, there are marketplace websites like Reedsy or lists on industry sites like the Alliance of Independent Authors that link to reputable professionals.

Your husband tags you in a lot of movies on Twitter (@KateMColby). What’s your favorite movie you’ve seen this month?

Haha, yes he does! We’re big movie buffs, Daniel especially. The best movie we saw this month was Thoroughbreds, which is about two teenage girls who plot to kill one girl’s stepdad. It had a dark sense of humor, complex characters, and great suspense. However, my favorite movie was probably Tomb Raider. Growing up, I would “backseat game” the PlayStation games with my dad, so I had a lot of fun watching the new Lara Croft on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong — the movie had its problems, but it also had good action, surprising emotional depth, and a strong lead actress.


That’s all for this video! Thanks to everyone who asked a question. I’ll be back in April with another round of Ask Me Anything, so feel free to submit your questions in the comments or through my contact page.

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Monthly Update: February 2018

Like a lot of people — entrepreneurial and Type A people, in particular — I’ve fallen victim to the romanticism of DOING ALL THE THINGS. Yes, I can absolutely work a full-time job, manage a household, be a good wife/daughter/friend, grow my author business, exercise four times a week, and pursue other personal goals all at once. And yes, that does make me something of a super-human. Yay me!

Under StoneImagine my surprise when I finally figured out what’s been bothering me since December… I’ve burnt out. Hard. Bad. And I didn’t even realize it until February.

In spite of all logic, I’m still allured by the “do-it-all” mentality. I believe that it genuinely works for some people (all the indie publishing podcasts are full of brilliant examples of that), and it has worked for me at certain points in my life. But it doesn’t work anymore… at least it doesn’t right now.

At this point, I feel like I’m only able to do a select few things well. Ironically, these are aspects of my life I’ve struggled with for… well, my whole life. They’re also areas of personal improvement, which act as the foundation for my intellectual and creative goals. Exercising? Doing it and loving it! Meeting my daily step goal? Yes, sir, Mr. FitBit overlord! Reading a book a week? Easy peasy!

As for my other goals, they’re not going quite as well. I’ve come to two options about this. 1) I can accept this and focus on making even more progress where I’m currently rocking it OR 2) I can re-evaluate my goals and routine to achieve a better balance. I have a lot of thinking to do about what these goals mean and the larger implications for my present situation and potential future. In another twist of irony, I think I’ve reached my “quarter-life crisis” a year late!

Kansas KateEven though this year is off to an unexpected, weirdly existential beginning, I’m excited for March. It’s my birthday month, and I’m spending a week of it at home in Kansas. I’m hoping a little “vacation” and surrounding myself with loved ones will help me sort through some of these lingering issues. If nothing else, it will be wonderful to see my family and celebrate year 26.

Before I ramble anymore and turn this into a full-on journal entry, here’s a look back at my February.

Writing

Due to focusing on personal goals, I didn’t make as much writing progress as I’d hoped. I did write a new short story, though I’m not at a place to explain why or share it with you all yet. However, Camp NaNoWriMo is on the horizon, and I plan to participate this April. It’s been a good way to jumpstart my writing in the past, so hopefully it helps this year too!

Other Projects

Parallel Magic PodcastAsk Me Anything Videos I recorded the February AMA, and you can watch it here. The video reveals the main character of Desertera #4, as well as some of my top writing tips and book recommendations.

Parallel Magic Podcast The podcast is still going strong! Jonas and I released two episodes this month, discussing Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Check it out here.

Reading

The Making of Salem by Robin Derosa 3/5 stars — An interesting examination of how the events of the Salem Witchcraft Trials have been portrayed in historical texts, literature, film, and the tourism industry.

Under Stone by Helen Jones 5/5 stars — The fourth book in the Ambeth Chronicles. Alma’s journey is nearing its end, but the palace intrigue and scheming has reached an all-time high!

Ready Player OneA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle 4/5 stars — Finally reach the children’s classic, but wish I would have done so as a child. Charming and imaginative, but Meg drove me nuts!

The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges 5/5 stars — A cool “coffee table book” with short entries on monsters and creatures from around the world. Fun and quick read.

A History of Vampires in New England by Thomas D’Agostino 4/5 stars — Explains how myths of vampires started with tuberculosis and dives into several historical accounts of vampire exorcisms. So interesting!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 5/5 stars — A fun race for the ultimate prize through an awesome virtual reality world. Lots of spunk, a little bit of danger, and more 80s references than you’ll ever want or need.

Personal Life

Video GamesPhysical health Crushing it! My FitBit keeps me accountable for my daily step goals, and I’ve found these great YouTube videos with exercises I can do anywhere.

Mental health I’ve been under a lot of stress at work, as well as self-imposed stress from my goals and the feeling that I’m “not doing enough.” But keeping with my daily meditation breaks, as well as treating myself to a little video game escapism, has helped me recharge and de-stress.

March Goals

Honestly, I don’t want to add anymore pressure to myself for March. My mission is to enjoy my birthday and spend good quality time with my family, friends, and pets while I’m in Kansas. There’s nothing so pressing that I have to do it now, and I need to focus on recharging and getting over this burn out.


What did you accomplish in February? What are your March goals? Share in the comments!

Author Interviews, Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Ask Me Anything: February 2018

Welcome to my February 2018 Ask Me Anything video!

Earlier this month, I asked readers from my Reader List and social media whether they had any questions about my books, writing and publishing, or anything else. As a reader, I love it when authors share more about their books and themselves, so I want to do the same for you!

You can watch the video right here. Or if you prefer to read my answers, I’ve summarized them below.

Will the fourth Desertera novel have a new main character? And if so, will you say who?

Yes! Sybil Tanner, who readers will remember as Dellwyn’s roommate and Zedara’s new maid, will be our leading lady. Originally, I planned for the fourth book to be written from Zedara’s point of view, but you’ll see why that wouldn’t work when you read it. I’m really enjoying Sybil’s perspective – she’s got a contagious vibrancy and energy, but she still struggles with trauma from her childhood and The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2). I hope you’ll find her as complex and charming as I do!

If you could only pay for editing or cover design, which would you choose?

As an independent author, you should always pay for BOTH editing and cover design whenever possible. When it comes to fiction novels, if I couldn’t afford one of those services, I would save money and wait to publish rather than put out an unfinished or unprofessional product. Even if you are a professional editor or cover designer, I would still recommend outsourcing that work to save time and get a second, unbiased opinion on your book.

That being said, I have skipped editing or cover design for other projects. The Desertera short story that I give to my Reader List subscribers is professionally edited, but since I don’t sell it at online retailers, I didn’t commission a cover. Instead, I made a simple cover in Canva (a free online design tool) to put on the landing page and give my readers an image for their e-readers.

For my nonfiction creative writing prompts booklets, I edited myself using online software and had the covers made by a friend, who is a professional graphic designer. Because I’m not publishing these booklets in print and they are just $0.99 each, I’m okay with them being slightly less professional and providing “pure” profit. However, I do intend to update them with professional editing and cover designs when my business allows.

What advice do you have for young or aspiring writers?

My best advice for young or aspiring writers is to read critically. I know that sounds like annoying school terminology, but it’s one of the most effective ways to learn about story and writing craft. As you read, ask yourself questions about the story. Does it flow well? Do the characters’ actions make sense? How would you change the plot to make it more powerful? This practice will help you think like a writer and nurture your creative instincts.

Another tip is to take advantage of any and all resources you have at your disposal. Borrow novels or writing craft books from your school or public library. Read writing blogs and listen to writing podcasts on the internet. If your school offers a creative writing elective, fit the class in your schedule. Ask your English teacher and/or librarians about local authors, writing groups, and other community resources. YOU are the best advocate for your writing, so do everything you can to learn and grow that passion.

What is your favorite wine?

My passion for wine began with Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, and even though I’ve tasted hundreds of different wines through the wine marketing company I work for, Aussie Cab is still my favorite style. It’s rich and full-bodied, with delicious, chocolatey, black-fruit flavors and just a hint of mint. It doesn’t get much yummier than mint chocolate in a glass.

What other books would you recommend if I like the Desertera series?

If you’re a fan of Desertera’s steampunk stylings, I strongly suggest Kara Jorgensen’s Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. The first book is The Earl of Brass. Her series is more classic steampunk, in that it takes place in Victorian-era London with a stronger emphasis on mechanical devices. However, it also has lots of fun fantasy and dark magic elements too and offers great character diversity in gender and sexuality.

I’d also recommend the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. The first book is A Great and Terrible Beauty. After her parents’ deaths, Gemma is sent to a boarding school in London, where she discovers that she has the power to transport her and her friends to a magical dimension. It’s full of strong, complex young women and social drama, with a swoon-worthy love story and a gorgeous Victorian-inspired backdrop. I picked it up in high school purely for the covers, and it’s still one of my favorite series.


That’s all for this video! Thanks to everyone who asked a question. I’ll be back in March with another round of Ask Me Anything, so feel free to submit your questions in the comments or through my contact page.

Author Interviews, Fiction Blog

New Interview + Send Me YOUR Questions

rayaan writer

A few months ago, new author Rayaan reached out to me on Instagram to say that he’d enjoyed my creative writing prompts booklets and ask for an interview. Obviously, I said yes!

He asked some fantastic questions about my thoughts on writer’s block, advice for aspiring authors, and who I would cast if Desertera became a movie. It’s one of most fun interviews I’ve had in a while, and I hope my responses are helpful to anyone looking to write.

Click here to read the interview on Rayaan’s website.

And while we’re on the topic of interviews…

ask me anything

If YOU have ever wanted to ask me anything (literally), your chance has arrived! Each month in 2018, I’m recording Ask Me Anything videos, in which I’ll answer your questions on Desertera, writing, the Parallel Magic Podcast, and (almost) anything else you like.

To see how it works, check out my January Ask Me Anything video.

I’ll be recording the February video this coming weekend, so submit your questions in the comments below, via the Contact page, or on your favorite social media site.

As always, thanks for reading, and I look forward to chatting with you soon!