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.

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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.

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Updates

Ask Me Anything: January 2018

Welcome to my January 2018 Ask Me Anything video!

Earlier this month, I asked readers from my email list and Facebook page whether they had any questions about the Desertera series, my writing process, or anything else. As a reader, I love it when authors open up and share behind-the-scenes info, so I wanted 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.

1. How did you come up with the idea for the Desertera series?

While I was working for the Baker University English Department as a student assistant, one of the professors had her class complete projects about One Thousand and One Nights (aka The Arabian Nights). The basic concept, as far as the student papers summarized, was that the king executed each new bride after their wedding night because he believed she would inevitably be unfaithful to him.

This got me thinking: why wouldn’t the king just make adultery illegal? Surely, that would deter many women from cheating, and he would appear fairer in doling out his executions. Thus, King Archon and Desertera’s horrible adultery law was born.

2. Did you come up with the beginning, middle, or end of Aya’s story first?

I had to think about this answer for a while because I honestly couldn’t remember! Aya’s story rose rather organically out of that initial adultery law concept, but I believe the beginning came first.

As I considered how one would overthrow this king, it occurred to me that a prostitute would be a smart choice to seduce the king. This gave me the idea of a nobleman approaching a prostitute in a brothel with his treasonous plans. As for Aya herself, I wanted the prostitute to be terrible at her job, so I kept asking myself questions about this woman and her life, and eventually, Aya’s backstory fleshed out.

3. If you could change anything about the Desertera series, would you? And what would you change?

In the video, I give two answers to this question. First, I’d either do a better job of concealing Willem’s identity in The Cogsmith’s Daughter, or I’d approach the love story from a different angle. I thought there were less obvious (and more interesting) twists, but readers really seem to focus on the Willem one. However, I do not plan to change the story, as it would take significant editing, and I’d rather focus on writing new books for you!

Second, I AM still considering taking out the love scene in The Cogsmith’s Daughter. While I believe the scene is important for Aya’s character growth (after all, she’d never known consensual physical intimacy before that moment), I know it isolates some readers and prevents younger people from reading my books. Plus, as I am considering pursuing audiobook creation, I know some readers won’t want that kind of scene in their ears! If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear it. 🙂

4. Who is your favorite Desertera character?

I’m cheating and giving two answers. Lord Varick is my favorite to write, due to his manipulative nature and clever dialog. I love that he’s always one step ahead of everyone else. However, Dellwyn Rutt is my favorite character as an individual. I admire her commitment to justice and how she’s unashamed of her sensuality, as well as her occasional vulnerability and her willingness to admit when she’s in over her head.

5. What is it like to start a new series?

Really damn difficult! Writing a new series means creating new characters, a new world, and an entire magic system. However, I’m loving the challenge and thrilled with my idea. Plus, I’m a bit insecure about writing something outside of Desertera and whether my readers will like it!

vvIn case you haven’t heard my rough concept yet: the atrocities committed during the Salem Witch Trials scarred the land with an evil energy… and now a real witch has decided to avenge the innocents killed. She’s out to destroy everyone profiting from Salem’s tourism industry, and my protagonist (a psychic shop owner) must discover that witches are real, find the evil witch, and stop her to save Salem.


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

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series

The Tyrant’s Heir (Desertera #3) Cover Reveal & Pre-Order Info

The Tyrant's Heir coverShould a king elicit love or fear? Lionel inspires neither… and it could cost him everything.

Lionel Monashe believes he’s a terrible king. After ordering his father’s execution and taking the throne, he struggles to reconcile his royal duties with his innate compassion. His insecurity and inconsistent ruling lead prominent subjects to challenge his authority.

Chief among his adversaries is a self-proclaimed prophet, whose religious zealotry launches the kingdom into economic crisis and civil unrest. When Lionel attempts to make peace, he sparks even more discord and ignites the greatest tragedy in Desertera’s history.

Blame for the disaster falls on the king, sending Lionel in a desperate pursuit to find answers before he loses his crown… and possibly his life.

The third book in the Desertera series, The Tyrant’s Heir portrays a desperate power struggle in an equally desperate, steampunk dystopian world. This political thriller will keep readers guessing until the end.

Will Lionel save his crown? Pre-order The Tyrant’s Heir today and find out on August 8, 2017!


Answers to your questions …

When does The Tyrant’s Heir come out?
August 8, 2017

Why isn’t my favorite retailer shown when I click the link?
I just listed the pre-order last week, so your store might not have posted the book yet. Check back soon or contact me for assistance.

Can I share the cover reveal?
Of course! Use the buttons in the footer of this post.

Can I add the book on Goodreads?
Yup! Just click this link.

Is the book available in paperback?
Not yet! I’m still waiting on the final paperback cover files, but I’ll let you know when you can order it.

Is this the last book in the Desertera series?
No way! Currently, I’m planning five books in total … hopefully to be published by the end of 2018!

What is the best way to get Desertera updates?
Sign up for my Reader List. You’ll get two emails a month with exclusive updates, writing excerpts, and more (including an upcoming FREE Desertera short story!).

Any other questions? Ask in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: June 2017

Earlier this month, I had lunch with a close friend. As we visited, she told me about her experience training a new employee at her work.

“She’s asking a lot of really great questions — ones that I never thought to ask,” my friend said. “It makes me wonder … when did I stop asking why?”

Her question made me think, have I stopped asking why with my author journey? The answer: sometimes, yes. I’ve always been an ambitious person, prone to pushing myself too hard and occasionally getting tunnel vision. Sometimes, I can fall victim to “fear of missing out” (FOMO), which convinces me to do things that don’t align with my goals. Likewise, when I set goals for myself, sometimes I feel like changing them — even if they no longer align with my larger aspirations — means failure.

This conversation with my friend occurred on the cusp of a cross-country move. It’s my second in two years (perks of having a husband in graduate school!), and they’ve both caused me to reevaluate myself. Like starting a new school year or getting a new wardrobe, this move is a chance for rebirth. I’ll be meeting new people, exploring a new city, and establishing a new routine — a totally fresh start.

The conversation also coincided with writing/editing my third novel. For some reason, Desertera #3 felt different. I felt more comfortable and confident in my writing ability, style, and system. The third book also marks a milestone for the series– at least, that’s what I’ve read from successful authors (“Three books is the first tipping point. Readers know you’re serious.”).

All this is to say that I’ve done some reevaluating about my personal self, my author self, and my goals. And you know what? I’m refreshed, realigned, and excited to get back to it!

As a first step, I redesigned my author website. While the previous template was effective, I felt like it lacked personality. This design is a little more me, but I’ve still got some work to do in the graphics department.

As a second step, I revised my New Year’s resolutions. I treat them more like short- and long-term goals than traditional resolutions, and some of them no longer reflected my aspirations for 2017.

Here’s my new list, complete with my regular updates:

Writing & Publishing

  1. Create 5 days per week — a little behind, due to bereavement leave and my move
  2. Write Desertera #3 — done!
  3. Edit Desertera #3 — in the proofreading stage!
  4. Publish Desertera #3 — planned for early August
  5. Write a second novel — totally possible, I can’t wait to start my next series idea!
  6. Edit a second novel — probably can’t publish it, but I should be able to start editing
  7. Start writing Desertera #4 — a long shot
  8. Make 2018 publishing schedule — I need to start thinking long term!

The BIG change: I’ve decided I don’t want to pursue a new nonfiction book at this time.

Business

  1. Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press — on track
  2. Create freebie for Writing Newsletter subscribers — done!
  3. Create short story for Reader List — my July Camp NaNoWriMo goal!
  4. Blog 1x per week — reduced from 2x per week
  5. Maintain content marketing schedule — restructured and reduced
  6. Diversify existing products — pending research into new audiobook distributor
  7. Do 12 marketing promotions — changed to focus on book launch
  8. Read 52 books — hoping to catch up this summer!

The BIG change: reducing my content marketing efforts to focus on writing and publishing.

Personal

  1. Work on positivity — going really well!
  2. Exercise 3x per week — hahahaha, I need to get my shit together …
  3. Break a bad habit — starting a new routine to help today!
  4. Recoup savings account post-Yale — we’re pretty much there!
  5. Make post-Yale plan — done!
  6. Visit final NYC sites — done!
  7. Visit new state — planned for August!
  8. Visit new country — done! Oh, Canada!

No changes here … but obviously I still have some work to do!

Goals for July & Camp NaNoWriMo

  • Write a Desertera short story
  • Get Desertera #3 ready to publish
  • Start outlining new series
  • Rewrite my long author biography
  • Read and review (on Goodreads/Amazon) four books

How do you handle evolving goals? When is the last time you took stock of your aspirations and routines? Are you participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo? Share it all below!