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.


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.


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!

Fiction Blog, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Geeky Things

Introducing Parallel Magic: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Show

If you read my January update or follow me on social media, you’ve probably caught the unofficial announcements… but now, I’m pleased to officially introduce Parallel Magic: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Show.

Parallel Magic PodcastIn this podcast, Jonas Lee (my friend and fellow author) and I discuss science fiction and fantasy novels over a drink. We started the show to create a virtual book club, where sci-fi/fantasy readers from around the world could chat about the books we love while enjoying the simple camaraderie of a drink (alcohol optional, of course!).

Thus far, we’ve aired two episodes. The first dives into Scythe by Neal Shusterman, along with all the existential crises a book about (im)mortality can bring. The second episode, which aired today, covers Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, as well as my first embarrassing Champagne pop, epic space battles, and the book’s brain-blowing (and not-so-brain-blowing twists).

Interested? Subscribe to Parallel Magic on iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite listening app.

You can also connect with Parallel Magic on our website and social media:

Goodreads Group:

Thanks for listening and joining in the fun!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Monthly Update: January 2018

Whether I’m living in windy Kansas, snow-packed Connecticut, or sunny California, January always seems to be a strange month for me. While I’m filled with excitement and optimism for the year ahead, I also struggle with the mid-winter sluggishness that plagues so many of us. Yes, even in California’s freakishly warm weather, I can’t shake that winter feeling.

I think what made this January extra-strange is that it took so long for my routine to normalize. The month began in Kansas, as I wrapped up my holiday vacation and kicked the last of a very nasty cold. Back in California, I had a brief return to the house (filled with fence-painting and other fun chores), then jetted off for a few days at the office in Connecticut. Finally, during the fourth week of the month, I managed to stay put and ease back into my everyday routine.

Despite all the obligations and distractions, I’m pleased with what I accomplished in January. I’ve broken it down by category below, then I’ll share my top goals for February at the end.


Salem researchThe Kingdom’s Cogsmith (A Desertera Short Story) I’m happy to report that I finally finished the FREE Desertera short story for my Reader List subscribers. After all the support they’ve given me, I was thrilled to give something back to them.

Desertera #4 While I’m not as far into the fourth Desertera novel as I’d hoped to be, I have the entire book outlined and have begun drafting. Thanks to the help of a close writer friend, I figured out what was “wrong” with my initial outline, and I think the story will be much stronger now.

Salem Idea As I shared in my Ask Me Anything Video, I’m currently outlining my new series idea. I’m not sure what to call it yet — it straddles the line between dark fantasy, paranormal suspense, and supernatural thriller — but I’m loving the concept. It’s in the vein of Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’m stoked to dig into the world.

New Projects

Parallel Magic PodcastAsk Me Anything Videos This year, I’ll be recording a monthly Ask Me Anything video, where you can submit questions about the Desertera series, my other writing, or literally anything else you like. Watch the January AMA here, and start planning your February questions!

Parallel Magic Podcast You can read the official announcement in this post, but you’re hearing it here first. I’ve started a podcast with my friend Jonas Lee, where we discuss science fiction and fantasy novels over a drink. If you’re a sci-fi/fantasy fan, check us out on our website.


Scythe by Neal Shusterman 4Scythe/5 stars — Humans have conquered death, but an elite force of grim reapers still kill them. Great concept, but predictable plot and forced love story.

The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn & Dr. Euan Lawson 5/5 stars — Practical and actionable tips on balancing writing with healthy lifestyle choices.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 4.5/5 stars — Space battles, a potentially evil AI system, zombies, and a dash of romance, wrapped up in a brilliant dossier-style package.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris 4/5 stars — A thriller classic. Dr. Lecter steals the show, and I’m totally fine with that.

Personal Life

Physical health Other than the weeks I was sick, I managed to meet my daily step goal and fit in strength or cardio training too. I’m feeling great!

Mental health I’ve started doing freewriting as meditation, and it’s helped me sort through a few tough issues. I also implemented a monthly #treatyoself mandate.

Generosity Another goal is to be more generous with my thoughts and actions. In this effort, I’ve discovered a new rule worth sharing: “If it won’t matter in five years, don’t be mad about it for more than five minutes.” If nothing else, it’s helped my road rage!

Goal Tracking For my daily or almost-daily goals, I’ve created a new layout on my phone that creates a satsifying rainbow when I have a “perfect” day. For weekly, monthly, and one-time 2018 goals, I’ve started a new spreadsheet. Doing weekly check-ins keeps me accountable and focused on what matters most to me.

February Goals

Beyond my ongoing daily/weekly/monthly goals, here’s what I’m focusing on in February.

Primary Goal Finish outlining and start drafting the Salem novel.

Secondary Goal Continue writing Desertera #4.

Tertiary Goal Plan a fantastic Valentine’s Day for Daniel and me!

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