Month-End Update: November 2017

Living in California has been interesting for several reasons … but the weather here has me downright disoriented. As I write this on a “chilly” December day, it’s 53 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday reached 61. I’ve been sweating in my favorite “fall” clothes, and I can’t help but laugh at my neighbor’s blow-up snowman. I feel like it’s been September for three months, and I can barely believe it’s December … I have to be in some dystopian novel, right?

Kate and husbandWell, whether I believe it or not, November is over. And it was a much better month than October. My husband and I had two house guests and attended a lovely Thanksgiving wedding (yes, they served turkey!). While I didn’t “really” commit to NaNoWriMo, I finished my short story draft, outlined (most) of Desertera #4, and had a little affair with my upcoming Salem book. Friendly reminder: if you want to catch up on the Desertera series before book four launches, check out my Desertera Holiday Sale.

Though 2017 isn’t over yet, I’m already in goal-setting mode. I’m thinking a lot about where I want to take my writing and business in 2018 (and beyond), and I’m excited about my plans. After two years as an independent author, I’ve learned a lot (some from my own mistakes) and I feel like I’m finally finding my true voice. Thank you all for sticking with me so far — I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us.

Writing & Publishing

dark fantasy researchMain goals:
Create five days a week – a little behind
Start Desertera #4 – on its way …

Between house guests and a Thanksgiving wedding, I didn’t devote as much time to my writing as I would have liked. That being said, I’ve laid some important groundwork for December (and 2018).

The fourth Desertera novel is mostly outlined (at least with what I’m confident won’t change during drafting), and I’ve completed most of my research for my upcoming dark fantasy series. Now, it’s time to finish the year strong!

Business

chai teaMain goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – almost there!
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog twice per month – on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

While I’m not sure whether I’ll make my sales goal for the year (partly my own fault for not advertising as much as I should have), I’m close! Likewise, the short story for my Reader List is in the editing phase, so it’s nearly finished. Blogging is going well again, but I’m not sure if I’ll reach my reading goal … perhaps time to break out the graphic novels for some quick reads!

Books Read:
Angel & Faith: Season 10, Vol. 4 by Victor Gischler
Angel & Faith: Season 10, Vol. 5 by Victor Gischler
The Missing by Chris Mooney
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Book in Progress:
The Black Arts: A Concise History of Witchcraft, Demonology, Astrology, and Other Mystical Practices Throughout the Ages by Richard Cavendish
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Kate and the Justice LeagueMain Goals:
Work on positivity – still going well
Break a bad habit – dare I count this as done?!
Exercise 3x week – still doing it!

I have a weird relationship with my personal goals. While I know they are most important for my longterm health and happiness, they feel less urgent than my writing and business goals.

That being said, I’m really proud of myself. I’ve maintained positivity through a difficult year, broken my bad habit, and have finally made exercise a priority in my life. Now, if I could just yank out that sweet tooth …

DECEMBER GOALS
Finalize 2018 goals
Continue Desertera #4
Continue Desertera short story
Finish Dark Fantasy pre-production


How did your November go? If you participated in NaNoWriMo, how much did you accomplish? Share your successes, failures, and goals in the comments!

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Desertera Holiday Sale

Desertera Holiday Sale

As the holiday season approaches, our minds turn to two things: gratitude and shopping. To say thank you for your support AND help with your holiday list, I’ve put the entire Desertera series on sale for a limited time in signed paperback (available through my website only) and ebook format (available at all major online retailers). Whether you’re curious about the series, have fallen a book or two behind, or are eager to introduce a friend, now is the time!


Signed Paperbacks: $10 Each + FREE U.S. Shipping

U.S. readers: Click the title(s) below to select an individual book or the complete Desertera series (as published so far). They’re JUST $10 each and shipping is FREE. Sale ends December 31.

Buy The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1)

Get The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2)

Order The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3)

Enjoy The Complete Desertera Series (Books #1-3)

International (non-U.S.) readers: you’ll pay just $10 per book, plus receive an extra $3 OFF (the equivalent of U.S. shipping) your shipping cost. Contact me for your special deal.

Want a custom message or a different name in your signed copy?
Make a note in your order or shoot me a message!


Ebooks: 3-for-1

Pick up a digital copy of any Desertera book for JUST $0.99 USD (or the equivalent in your country’s currency). That makes the full series JUST $2.97!

Use the links below to choose your favorite online retailer. And don’t delay — prices return to normal ($2.99 each) on December 31.

Buy The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1)

Get The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2)

Order The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3)


Thank you again for supporting my writing, sharing the series with your friends, and hanging out on the blog and social media. Here’s to finishing the Desertera series strong in 2018 and to entirely new novels to come!

Which Books Are You Grateful For?

Despite all the negativity surrounding Thanksgiving, the holiday endears itself to me more each year. Why? At its essence, the American tradition of Thanksgiving is about coming together with family, sharing a special meal, and taking just one day to express gratitude. 

Thanksgiving turkeyThanks to Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), Thanksgiving has started to be overshadowed by Christmas shopping, But, as Americans have become desensitized to the “amazing” deals, and Black Friday sales have pushed themselves into Thanksgiving night, there’s been a quiet call to reclaim the good parts of Thanksgiving. The family time, the gratitude, the restfulness. Yes, please.

For the second year in a row (and in my entire life), I’ll be spending Thanksgiving away from my family (and, almost as regrettably, my Uncle Dave’s famous smoked turkey). Now, I know you might not be an American or a meat eater, but I have a strong feeling you’re probably a reader. So, fellow bookworm, would you indulge me in a little bookish gratitude?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and our insatiable craving for book recommendations, drop the title of a book you’re thankful for in the comments. It could be a book that brought you joy, helped you through a difficult time in your life, or even one you wrote yourself!

Gone GirlWhat book am I grateful for? I’ll give you a simple answer and a serious answer. I’m thankful for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn for getting me through the bulk of a 14-hour plane flight from Australia to the U.S. No matter what I do, I cannot sleep on planes for more than a few minutes at time, so having that novel engross me to the point where I lost track of time was a huge relief.

On a more serious note, I recently found myself grateful for one of my own novels. A reader shared that reading The Courtesan’s Avenger had served as an escape from her depression and that the themes of the novel resonated with and inspired her. That is exactly why I write, and it meant so much to me that something I imagined could do that for her. I was also thankful to “pay it forward,” as several books have helped me through tough times or made me feel less alone.

Now, before you scurry off for turkey or holiday shopping (no judgments), share your own bookish gratitudes in the comments. Feel free to add non-book gratitudes too – mine include my husband and our feline son, the friends who invited us to share Thanksgiving with them this year, and the internet for connecting me with you!

Month-End Update: October 2017

If October were a chapter in a novel, I would let my eyes linger over the final word. Then, I would take a deep breath and close the book, keeping my thumb wedged between the pages to mark my place. As I cradled the tome against my chest, my eyes would sting with tears already cried, but a small smile would play at my lips. After a few moments, I would sigh and reopen the novel, ready to face whatever Chapter 11 had in store.

Golden Gate Bridge

In other words, October was bittersweet. The month began with a personal loss, but also with an outpouring of love for which I am incredibly grateful. It ended with a wonderful visit from my best friend and a few days exploring my new, long-term but still temporary, home in San Francisco (that’s us at the Golden Gate bridge). Somewhere in between, I followed my creative passions to some major world-building for my upcoming dark fantasy series … but didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped in Desertera.

All in all, October has been a bit of a mixed bag. But, sticking with my “positivity” New Year’s resolution, I’m going to focus on the good. I wrote more in October than I did in September. I’m feeling more confident in my author skin. And I’ve got two more months to work on my 2017 goals!

Now, let’s recap the details …

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – still a little behind
Write a second novel – starting for NaNoWriMo!

While my October word count is nothing to write home about, it’s exponentially better than September. Though I’ll be starting NaNoWriMo late (due to my friend’s visit), I plan to write a large chunk of a new novel. Good news for Desertera fans: given my recently revised publishing plan, this will now be Desertera #4!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog twice per month – on track
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

Things are slow but steady in the business realm. There’s a lot I want to put into practice for 2018, so I’m trying to focus more on writing for the rest of this year. Once again, good news for readers!

Books Read:
Angel & Faith: Season 10, Vol. 3 by Victor Gischler
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, Vol. 3 by Christos Gage
Selkie Cove (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #5) by Kara Jorgensen
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Angel Omnibus by Jeffrey J. Mariotte
The Sixth Gate by K.T. Munson

Book in Progress:
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – still going well
Break a bad habit – huge improvement!
Exercise 3x week – still doing it!

While being positive was difficult this month, I’m still proud of the attitude I maintained. Though I did have two stress migraine days (my first in over a year), I remembered to be kind to myself and give my body the time it needed to rest. As for my bad habit and exercising, I’m actually impressing myself with the progress I’ve made and even rewarded myself to some goal-related treats. Woot!

Goals for November
Participate in NaNoWriMo (and ideally catch up)
Send Desertera short story to my editor
Begin Desertera #4
Continue re-evaluating and planning for 2018


How was your October? What’s your project for NaNoWriMo? Share your successes, failures, and goals in the comments!

Why We Love Ghost Stories

Katherine crept down the basement stairs, cringing as each step sent a creak throughout the empty room below. While she was allowed to play in the basement, she didn’t want any of the adults to hear her go down there. She needed to escape the half-empty boxes, tearful conversations, and big decisions. Though no one had asked her to participate, she still felt compelled to solve the problems, ones she could only begin to understand.

haunted stairsAs Katherine reached the bottom of the stairs, her sneakers squished into the dingy brown carpet. Despite the warm, 1970s color palette and the bright light bulb hanging over the pool table, the room sent a shiver down her spine. Katherine had visited the house hundreds of times in her 12 years, but this was only her second visit since her great-grandmother had died.

The first had been on the night IT happened. Katherine and her parents had received the phone call during dinner, discarded their unfinished plates, and rushed into town. All the commotion had passed by the time they arrived. So, they stood around the edges of the living room with the rest of the family, each member careful not to disturb the towel in the center of the floor. Katherine almost wished they’d hadn’t covered up the blood. She worried her imagination was worse than the reality.

Alone in the basement, Katherine walked over to her great-grandmother’s pantry closet. Sliding back the door, she surveyed the shelves. They were stacked full with brownie mixes, canned vegetables, and more. Atop each container, her great-grandmother had written the expiration date in thick, black Sharpie. Katherine touched her fingertip to one of the dates, partly sad that her great-grandmother would never reach 11/05, partly comforted by her familiar scrawl.

As Katherine pulled back her hand, goosebumps rose across her arm, and she got the distinct feeling that someone was watching her. She turned around, expecting to see her mom or one of her aunts waiting on the stairs. No one was there.

Just as Katherine started to turn back around, the light bulb above the pool table flickered. Katherine froze and stared. The light bulb flickered again, and that time, the chain swung back and forth, clinking against the glass bulb.

Putting her hand over her mouth to avoid screaming, Katherine turned and bolted up the stairs. As she reached the top, she slammed the door shut and pressed her back against it. Her mom rushed in from the kitchen, her forehead wrinkled in concern. “Are you okay?”

“Mom, the basement is haunted!” Katherine gulped in a deep breath and pressed her hand to her chest, as if that would keep her heart inside her rib cage. “The light bulb over the pool table flickered. And the chain… it was moving like someone had pulled it.”

“Wow.” Mom rubbed her lips together, and her eyes narrowed in thought. After a moment, she gave a small smile. “I bet grandpa was just teasing you. I’m sure he’s happy now that grandma is with him again.”

Katherine wrinkled her nose. “You think?”

Mom nodded. “He was always a trickster. I’m sure he’s having a good laugh at your expense.” Mom’s face softened, and she rubbed Katherine’s shoulder. “But don’t worry. You know he would never hurt you.”

“Of course.” Katherine shifted from foot to foot. She knew her mom was right, but something about the house still felt wrong. Even if the ghost had just been her grandpa saying hi or playing a joke, she needed some fresh air. “I’m going to go outside and see what Daddy is doing.”

No ghosts, not even Grandpa, could bother her with Daddy there to protect her.


Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), that’s the only real-life ghost story I know. Oh, yes. I am not a Katherine. But that Katherine and her story represent me.

Despite my lifelong fascination with the paranormal and supernatural, I’ve never come closer to a ghost or monster. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve rationalized that moment from my childhood to normality (I haven’t asked my mom if she believes in what she said, but since she reads my blog, I bet she’ll tell me…). The light bulb was probably just close to burning out or a large appliance, like the furnace clicking on, caused it to blink. The jolt of electricity (or my wild imagination) could have caused the chain to move. I don’t know. I’m not an electrician. But ghosts can’t be real… right?

ghostEvery October, I remember my near-ghost experience as I bask in the glory of Halloween. This year, as I’ve suffered yet another family death, it got me thinking: why do we love ghost stories? And why, not-so-deep down, do I hope my great-grandpa really was teasing me that day?

On the surface, the answer seems obvious. If ghosts are real, then there’s something after we die. Whether its heaven or hell, purgatory or haunting our old house, we continue to exist. It’s a comforting thought — for our future and all the loved ones who have already passed away.

On the other hand, maybe ghost stories prepare us for the opposite. After all, who wants to turn into an evil specter and harm the living for eternity? Maybe nothing would be better than being a Grade A asshole until Sam and Dean come along and blow us away with rock salt.

And perhaps it’s even a little deeper than that. In a way, ghost stories allow us to “experience” death in the same way that romance stories allow us to “fall in love” through their characters. And by doing so, they also remind us to appreciate life.

We often see the tormented ghost berating the innocent protagonist, until it finally lets go of its lost life and finds peace. As we reject the ghost’s behavior, we commit ourselves to being a better dead person than it is. We will accept our fate with dignity, and as such, we will appreciate our life while we have it, “live life to the fullest,” etc. Thus by entertaining the ghost story, we end up feeling more alive.

Then again, maybe there’s nothing deep to it at all. Maybe some of you twisted souls just like to be scared.

I, for one, do not. So, Grandpa, if you’re still present in the ether and watching over me as I write this… please don’t mess with the lights. At least not until sunrise.


How do you feel about ghost stories? Have you have any encounters with the supernatural? Share your experiences in the comments!