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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Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post: The Best Information for New Authors by Allison Conley and Annette Abernathy

Welcome back to this week’s special guest series by professional beta readers Annette Abernathy and Allison Conley of BetaWitches.com. They’re offering writing tricks and providing advice on how to sell your finished book. In the last post, the beta readers talk about their top tips for new authors.

Content Note: One of the tips shared is about writing intimate scenes between adults, so best not to read at work or around the children!

beta witches guest post

Allison Conley and Annette Abernathy share some of the most blatant, consistent problems their clients tend to have.

Annette: The story begins with the first sentence. That means the first sentence has to grab the reader. People have short attention spans these days, so give them that powerful, compelling reason to invest in your story.

Allison: The most fundamental part to writing a book is the characters! No matter who they are or what they do the reader has to empathize with them. A bad plot filled with holes can be forgiven with great characters. Characters are the glue that holds the book together.

Annette: Each action of the character’s story has to build towards character growth. Don’t have a character, especially the MC, be a vegan all through the book and then she suddenly eats meat just to try it on page 100. There has to be a compelling reason why a character does anything.

Allison: This is so important! Make sure that the character has the same personality all through the story. It doesn’t make sense to have a quiet person be an introvert halfway through the book. That makes the character come across as bipolar and shows that the writer has a terrible command of the story. How is the reader going to root for the character if they are all over the place?

Allison: Also, remember that this is a book, a medium that highlights the most exciting parts of your characters. It’s not a documentary of someone’s life. Even nonfiction books don’t tell everything that’s not essential to the characters development or plot. Use the benefits of the medium to your advantage when writing your book.

Annette: Good writing can take character inconsistencies and make them a major plot point, though. Your MC may have to eat meat on page 100 or starve. That scene could add pivotal character insight that furthers the plot and the readers renewed interest in the book.

Annette: Speaking of plot points one of the most exciting plot developments in a book is a sex scene. I’ve learned from my readers that just having sex doesn’t mean a person can write a sex scene well. I can’t go into this subject too deep here, but the basics to a sex scene are:

1. Give the couple chemistry from the start.

2. Know audience expectations. I you’re writing a traditional romance don’t have the man stalk or rape the woman and have her thinks it’s passion. That’s not sexy. It’s very sick. Also write a man that a real woman would be attracted to.

3. Write the scene like real sex. I once read an intimate scene that lasted ten pages because the characters had to discuss everything before it happened, although nothing actually happened. Real sex is breathy and in the moment and no one is going to stop for a play by play! Women release oxytocin in their brains that make them want to be close to the man more during an orgasm. Men release vasopressin that makes them feel more responsible for the woman during orgasm. Know what the body does during sex and use that to make the act more real and passionate. It takes skill to make sex boring. The word sex alone makes parts of the brain react, but there seems to be a lot of writers with this skill.

Allison: When you write really intense scenes make sure there is that perfect balance of detail (invoke the senses with mood and visualization) and succinct prose to move the action along. Make it as if the action is happening in real life for the reader.

Annette: Yes! Please take that last point to heart. If you can make a reader see the story and characters while they are reading they will continue to read your book. After they finish that book they’ll yearn for more. Good TV does this, and we are living in a time where mediums are blending. The most popular TV shows have movie qualities (high caliber writing, excellent acting, stunning visuals, and real soundtracks). Movies are now series. Books are being made into movies and series more and more each year. Write your story so it can be a movie series, a TV show, and a book series all in one.

Allison: Writing a book that can stand alone is the best way to go about what Annette said. If you have a detailed, compelling novel it’ll be easier to turn it into other mediums. Think about this from the beginning of your writing process. People always say that the book is better.

Annette: Great point. A book is like a website while movies and TV series are social media. People always want the book (and the website) to be the home base of the story. So make sure that your book is a welcoming home for the reader. That means really putting the work into making it great.

We know that this is a lot of information and probably feels like an info dump, but you can put them into practice on your work in progress bit by bit and once you intuitively get this you’ll be farther ahead than the majority of writers.

Reach out to Alison and Annette at their spellbinding home https://www.betawitches.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BetaWitches.


About Allison

Allison Conley has a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a minor in Sociology. She finished the Seeding Entrepreneurs Across the Midsouth (S.E.A.M) program in 2016 for her work as an entrepreneur and artist in the greater Memphis Tennessee Area.

About Annette

Annette Abernathy has a B.A. in psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies, and a professional certificate in photography with a background in visual storytelling.

Author Business & Publishing, Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles

Guest Post: How to Sell Books by Allison Conley

Welcome back to this week’s special guest series by professional beta readers Annette Abernathy and Allison Conley of BetaWitches.com. They’re offering writing tricks, providing advice on how to sell your finished book, and sharing their must-know items for new authors. Here are Allison’s book marketing tips!

beta witches guest post

Hello indie authors, this is your customer speaking. As an avid reader, beta tester, communications writer and copyeditor, I have literally read some of the best books out there and some of the worst books that I wish never made it out there. Every genre has been equal opportunity. I will buy your book as long as you tell me a good story period. However, you may have to work a little bit harder to reach the other bookworms who have not necessarily been in your shoes. Here are some tips for turning those black and white pages into green and white paper!

Sales equal sales. Through my journey as a sales and marketing manager I have figured out through practical application that discounted price points are the key. This can make or break your sales tremendously. When you are coming up with the price points for your book, make sure you incorporate some budgets for deep discount sales at he very beginning. Every customer loves to feel like they are getting something good for cheap. Many times me and my cohorts have bought a book online or in the bookstores because of the “today only .99” or the shiny neon starburst with 20% off. As a new and or independent author, you may not be able to afford to do this with out giving your product away and that is not the goal here. So set some good price point in the beginning and have some sales to draw attention to your books and get your customers buying.

Have a strong web presence for your books/brand. We live in an age where social media is king, queen and the entire royal court, so you must have a web site for your book at a minimum. If you have social media for your book, that equals more sales. Every digital community is a direct place to meet customers. If you put you product out there, someone will buy it. Use the site to give snippets of the book and where you will be promoting your book even if it is at the local library. (F.Y.I. most libraries have rooms you can reserve for such said occasions.)

This is a good place to segway into my next point. Use clever marketing tools. And yes, social media is one of them. Go live on Facebook about your new book and tell us that you just found an antique chest just like the one your heroine keeps her weapons in at a yard sale or that you have a Christmas cookie recopies inspired the frosty villain in your book and you will show us how to make it on You Tube. You don’t have to tell us your book verbatim but give us just enough to keep your book on our minds and keep it out there.

Make sure you make it easy for customers to pay you. Provide links to your website or other places where people can directly purchase your book.

Make sure you elevator story is on point. Yes this is your summary. You should be able to articulate this as fluently in person as it is on your cover or in the Amazon summary. As a communications specialist, I know the importance of getting your point across effectively and quickly. You only have mere seconds to get your reader/customers attention so you should be able to do this on paper and in person. Test it out on your family and friends who will not blow smoke up your behind and them hit the road with your act. Try it out in bookstores and literary conventions and any place you feel like you can get your point across. If you can grab you customers’ attention quickly you can turn it into a sale.

With these tips and trick you should be able to make some progress selling your books.


About Allison

Allison Conley has a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a minor in Sociology. She finished the Seeding Entrepreneurs Across the Midsouth (S.E.A.M) program in 2016 for her work as an entrepreneur and artist in the greater Memphis Tennessee Area.

Genres Allison Beta Reads: Fantasy, Young Adult, Regency Romance, Romance, Erotica, New Adult, Contemporary, Christian Fiction, Historical, Historical Romance, Steampunk, Science Fiction, Thrillers/Mysteries, Horror

Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post: Six Things to Know About Writing a Book by Annette Abernathy

This week, I’m excited to bring you a series of three posts by professional beta readers Annette Abernathy and Allison Conley of BetaWitches.com. They’ll be offering writing tips, providing advice on how to sell your finished book, and sharing their must-know items for new authors. Annette is up first!

beta witches guest post

I’m a writer and a beta reader, so I understand both sides of the process. I’ve run my blog and have been writing novels and screenplays for years, but it was the editing process that really showed me the art of writing and storytelling.

I’d used critique partners, but they hadn’t stopped the 200 rejections. Eventually, I buckled down and hired an editor. With each edit I rewrote my book. That was a grueling process, but my editor opened my eyes to the possibilities of my characters. With each draft I learned more about myself and the world I’d built.

Once the edits were finished I began sending the book out to beta readers. As a beta reader I find that many don’t understand the difference between editors and beta readers. An editor helps compose the story and fixes grammar. A beta reader gives an opinion on the overall feel of the story, and the two shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Indies authors may think that they can get around spending money on editing by using free betas, but it’s better that an author use a real editor to get them past that first awful draft. That first draft is always awful and any professional will attest to this. No matter how good an author is at storytelling they should not try to edit their own book.

The truth is that all this is generic information that any article on beta reading will tell you. The truth is that you, the author, will find many people who will be sweet about your story. My book began to thrive when I faced the harsh truth that the first draft was truly terrible. Here’s a few tips I’ve learned.

  1. Know the purpose of your book before you write it.
  2. Understand that rewriting, editing, and beta reading is part of the process.
  3. Know your characters and realize that the reader only knows what you tell them.
  4. Be aware that you are probably one of thousands who is writing a novel in your same genre.
  5. Look for all the clichés of your genre and avoid them in your book.
  6. Know when to take the advice of an editor or beta reader.

I’ve hurt many feelings with the first piece of advice. Sometimes people think if they love a type of story enough that they’ll write the next bestseller. It can happen, but will it happen to you? Really consider what your purpose is and who is your audience? I write love stories but not romance, so my books don’t fit with all romance readers. Due to the nature of my books I’ve had men enjoy them. I knew that I wanted to write books that deal with abuse, mental illness, racism, and socio-economic issues, so I’m more aware of each niche group of readers who are potential fans.

  1. I’m also more aware of when a book goes off topic. Most of the time the outline changes by the chapter, but knowing the end goal keeps me in line. Even if an author is the most methodical at staying with the outline they still need that clear objective.
  2. I’m dyslexic, so writing has never been easy for me, and it’s going on two years since I began the edits for my first book. I cried and vowed to give up every day, but by the second book I was a pro! I knew what I was doing, so it was mentally easier. Still I won’t publish any book until all the feedback is opinion on style rather than suggestions for making the book smoother.
  3. I knew my characters so well that each one had a back story, quirks, and favorite foods. The problem was that I didn’t know how to write them. Learning how to introduce the characters and endear them to the reader helped me learn more about myself. The process became a spiritual journey.
  4. My editor and beta readers made me aware of number four without actually saying it. They kept saying that my stories weren’t like other stories out there. This felt bad at first since romance readers expect a layout that I was not going to give them. Then I realized just how many books in each genre are similar, and those are the ones that make it to the finish line. Imagine how many will be published. As the author you are competing with published books and books that will be published. Look for ways to make your story standout so much it could become a classic or genre changer.
  5. Don’t try to recreate a popular book! Think up a new angle and become the next big name. Don’t be content to be in the shadows.
  6. For me number six is the hardest. I tend to write about topics that many aren’t familiar with, so a lot of times I’ve had to ignore the beta readers. My editor helps me tell an unusual and provocative story, and I tend to take all their advice. Sometimes the beta readers tend to want to be experts when they aren’t.

When I read for other people I always assume that the writer is the authority, unless it’s obvious they aren’t. Whether the beta is helpful or not with the story they will always let you know what type of critiques you’ll get once the story is published. So it’s helpful to have beta readers outside of your genre read your book to help you grow your craft. It feels better when men like my stories because I do write love stories.

I’ve been writing for years and I do a lot of research on the craft of writing, so I hope that some of these tips will help out other writers. We’re essentially a family.


About Annette

Annette Abernathy has a B.A. in psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies, and a professional certificate in photography with a background in visual storytelling.

Genres Annette Beta Reads: Romance, Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Psychological Romance, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Suspense, Erotica, Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction, Horror, New Adult, Mysteries/Thrillers, Literary Fiction

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Updates

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions

My best editing tip? Stay focused on the end rewards!
My best editing tip? Stay focused on the end rewards!

After a grueling first drafting, I’m pleased to report that the content revision for Desertera #2 went smoothly.

In case you weren’t around when I explained my content edit experience with The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), here’s the skinny: Essentially, my editor combs through the manuscript looking for plot holes, dropped story lines, character development issues, etc. When she’s done, I receive a summary document with her overarching comments and a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the book. Likewise, she returns my manuscript with her suggested revisions and textual comments. Then, I go in and make revisions based on all of her feedback.

Besides the pleasure of getting my manuscript one step closer to publication, this content revision held a special reward. I could see how much I’ve improved as a writer from book one to book two. I learned from my mistakes with The Cogsmith’s Daughter, and most of the issues my editor spotted last time never arose in the sequel. While a few of them did (and of course, I had a couple new kinks to work out), this draft was much cleaner and a hell of a lot less holey than my first novel. That, in itself, is my greatest pride with book two so far.

So…what’s next?

Because I have nearly two weeks until my deadline for line editing, I’m going to take a quick second (but really third) pass through Desertera #2. Then, the novel will be off to the next round of editing. During the line editing process, a different editor will scour my manuscript for issues with sentence structure, consistency in details and voice, and larger grammar problems. To learn more about this process, you can watch this vlog.

After that? Proofreading, cover design, formatting…and publication!

If The Cogsmith’s Daughter is any indicator, the next few phases should fly by. I’m still on track for an early September release, and I cannot wait to share my second brain child with you all. Stay tuned for future updates (though my newsletter subscribers always hear big news first), and maybe even a few sneak peaks!