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.

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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.

Author Business & Publishing, Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

2017 Year-End Update

Kate on Golden GateLooking back on 2017, the year hasn’t been as much of a dumpster fire as I originally thought. Author-wise, I published my third Desertera novel, The Tyrant’s Heir, re-evaluated my writing and business goals, and strengthened connections with my amazing readers and author friends. On the personal side, I lost two beloved family members to chronic illnesses, moved from Connecticut to California (with a brief vacation at home in Kansas), and traveled to new places in the United States.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I accomplished far more than I did in 2016! My husband and I have a tradition of making one resolution per year we’ve been alive, so I made 24 goals for 2017. I never expect to achieve them all — but if I shoot for the moon, I still hit the stars. And I hit quite a few stars this year.

Writing & Publishing

Desertera books1. Create (write, edit, outline, or research) 5 days a week
My average ended up being four days per week, as I allowed myself extended breaks for my cross-country move and two bereavement periods.
2. Write Desertera #3
3. Edit Desertera #3 (C)
4. Publish Desertera #3 (C)
5. Write a second novel
While I didn’t start drafting, the world is built and ready to write for 2018!
6. Edit a second novel
7. Start Desertera #4
8. Make 2018 production schedule

Business

9. Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press
Just a little short!
10. Create freebie for Writing Newsletter subscribers 
11. Create freebie for Reader List subscribers
12. Blog 2x per month
13. Maintain social media schedule
14. Diversify existing products (audiobooks, box sets, etc.)
I’ll be focusing on this in 2018 instead!
15. Do one marketing/promotion task per month
Choosing to forgo marketing until I have a larger catalog is why I didn’t hit my income goal. While I’m disappointed with myself, I know playing the long game will pay off eventually.
16. Read 52 books
I read 40 books. Now that I don’t ride the train every morning, I need to find a new reading time!

Personal

Tommy travels17. Work on positivity
18. Exercise 3x per week
19. Break a bad habit
20. Recoup savings account post-Yale
21. Make post-Yale plan
22. Visit final NYC sites
23. Visit new state
24. Visit new country
I achieved ALL of my personal goals! Here’s to leaving 2017 a happier, healthier, and better-traveled human!

Overall, I’m pleased with how much I accomplished in 2017. I’ll be finalizing my 2018 New Year’s resolutions today, and I can’t wait to dive into them. Here’s to a fantastic year!

What did you accomplish in 2017? What goals are you setting for 2018? Share them in the comments!

Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.


Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

Book Reviews, Fiction Blog

Indie Book Review: The Sons of Brabant by Michael Bolan

sons-of-brabantThe Sons of Brabant (Book I of the Devil’s Bible Series) by Michael Bolan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sons of Brabant is the first novel in the Devil’s Bible Series by Michael Bolan (it’s also FREE on Amazon at the time of writing). After the Duke of Brabant dies, his family falls apart. The eldest son, Reinald, inherits the Duchy after manipulating the Duke on his death bed. The younger sons, Willem and Leo, and their sister, Isabella, leave the Duchy in a rage. They establish a mercenary band and vow to one day return to Brabant and liberate the people from Reinald’s tyrannical rule. Meanwhile, Duke Reinald has teamed up with some of the most powerful people in Europe in an attempt to bring about the biblical End of Days and Second Coming of Christ.

The Sons of Brabant takes place in 17th-century Europe, during the Thirty Years War. I should preface this review by saying that, while I enjoy history, I’m not well-versed in this particular time period. The novel seemed well-researched and historically accurate but, to be honest, I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t. However, from the little nods throughout the text, I get the feeling that there are a lot of historical “cameos” and references that history buffs will appreciate.

Where The Sons of Brabant deviates from history is in the fantasy elements — and as a fantasy author, these were my favorite parts of the book. I loved the mythology behind Conor’s Irish homeland, and I hope to see more it in the later novels. Also, it’s no secret that I adore apocalypses, and I found myself enraptured (pun intended) with the plot to bring about the Rapture. The “Four Horsemen” have woven an intricate plan, and the political, economic, scientific, and militaristic scheming were fascinating.

From a writing standpoint, The Sons of Brabant is solid. The characters are developed and have clear motivations, and while this novel didn’t provide enough time for them to grow too much, I can see how they might evolve over the course of the series. The narrative style fits with the formality of the time period, and the plot, though complex, is clearly explained. In fact, it may have been too explained. At times, the action would stall when the exposition or the characters (in dialog) would repeat a detail already given or summarize action that had already been shown. For the most part, though, the story moves along at a steady pace.

The Sons of Brabant strikes a nice balance between history and fantasy, battle and political intrigue. It serves as an intriguing introduction to the characters and the larger plot to bring about the Rapture, while also providing hints at the action to come. Recommended for those who like historical military fiction, mythology, and religious thrillers.

 View all my reviews

You can find out more about Michael Bolan on his website. He also discusses the theme of fear and his favorite literary villains (including Duke Reinald) in this guest post.


sons-of-brabantIf you are interested in reading The Sons of Brabant and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it at my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.