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, Writing Updates

My 2018 Goals and Resolutions

Welcome, new readers! And welcome back, longtime readers! I hope you enjoyed your holidays and New Year festivities, and are ready to tackle 2018 with me.

Happy New Year

If you read the blog last year, you know that I’m a major goal junkie. Whether that’s New Year’s resolutions or just my daily to-do list, I’m always gunning to tick off those pesky must-do tasks and thinking forward to my larger goals. So, late December / early January is one of my favorite “seasons.” It’s a time to reflect on my accomplishments, consider where I want my writing and life in general to go, and plan out the next year.

Over the last few years, I’ve adopted my husband’s tradition of making one resolution per year of my age. That means I’m making 25 for 2018. (Before you comment about how you’re 48 and could never do this … the whole mentality is that you find more reasons to live and make the most of your time as you age … there’s no rule against making small, simple goals!).

As I sat down to write my New Year’s resolutions, I realized that most of them don’t have the typical “resolution” quality. Sure, some of them speak to personal habits or lifestyle improvements, but the majority are simply goals or tasks that I aim to accomplish. As usual, with 25 goals, I’m biting off more than I can chew.  In 2017, I “only” hit 17 of 24 goals … but if I hadn’t set so many objectives, I wouldn’t have done even that much.

I know I won’t accomplish every goal I set. But if I shoot for the moon, I can still hit several stars along the way.

Usually, I list out all my goals and resolutions to share with you. This year, I’m going to share a few of them, but mostly focus on the larger reasons and themes that connect my goals. (Some are rather personal in nature, and others details exciting projects I’m not yet at liberty to discuss!)

Writing Goals

createSame as last year, my primary writing goal is to create (either writing, editing, or outlining) at least five days per week. Like many writers, I still struggle with consistency. I’ll write a whole book in 90 days or less … then go for a month without putting a single word on the page. I know consistency is the key to a sustainable, long-term writing career (as well as my specific production goals), so it remains top of my list.

As for my specific production goals, I’d like to finish the Desertera series this year. This means writing and publishing the final two books in the series, and hopefully putting out a complete boxed set and starting audiobook versions. I’d also like to kick off my dark fantasy / paranormal thriller series … and I have a few other ideas in the works too.

Business Goals

Most of these are pretty boring for non-entrepreneurs (okay, even for some entrepreneurs too), so I won’t go into too much detail. Mainly, I want to refine my author brand. With three novels, a nonfiction series, and several other endeavors under my belt, I think I finally have a strong grasp on who I am as a writer and who my readers are. Everything I do with my business in 2018 will focus on creating value for my readers, sharing more of myself, and building assets/revenue so I can do even more in the future. So, yes. MY business is really all about YOU.

Personal Goals

Kate cookieIn the second half of 2017, I finally made exercise a regular part of my life. I also started meditating. These are habits on which I hope to expand in 2018. I’m lucky to be young and in good health … so I want to keep it that way as long as possible! (Though, I’ll still have the occasional cookie — especially if it’s that cute!)

Another major theme of my personal goals is being more present and intentional with my actions. Like many people, I feel the need to be superhuman and do ALL THE THINGS. This societal-/self-imposed pressure has led to stress and even migraines (which resurfaced with some negative events at the end of 2017). So, one of my big goals is to stop multi-tasking and focus on one task at a time. I’m hoping that this will reduce how often I feel “spread too thin,” as well as increase my efficiency and the quality of my work, whatever the task may be.

How I’m Tracking My Goals

For daily tasks that apply to my goals (such as meditating, exercising, writing, reading, etc.), I use a habit tracker on my phone. This allows me to check off each task as it is accomplished, as well as see my progress for the week, month, or year. Sometimes, I’m surprised by how much I completed … and other days, it’s the harsh wakeup call I need!

For weekly, monthly, and one-time 2018 goals, I’ve created my own tracker in Google Sheets. Each category of goals has its own sheet, and once a week, I will go into the spreadsheet and report my progress. Instead of simply checking off a goal or leaving it blank, I’m marking it off with a color (green for accomplished, red for failed, and yellow for partially accomplished) for an easy and immediate visual representation of my progress. At the end of 2018, I hope my spreadsheet will have lots of green!

Making Your Own Resolutions

targetIf you’re looking for advice on making your own resolutions or goals, I give my strategy in this post. (And Dr. Google has millions of tips too). In the end, what it comes down to is deciding what’s really important to you (not what you “should” do, but what you genuinely want to do), dreaming as big as you can, then working toward that dream with several small, specific, and realistic goals. It might take the whole year (or several years) to accomplish your dreams, but if you don’t start taking those steps, you’ll never make it.

And if you’re one of those New Year Scrooges who hates resolutions, that’s fine too.

As for me, I’ll keep shooting for that moon one goal at a time.

What are your goals and resolutions for 2018? Why did you choose these objectives? Share your dreams (and tips for reaching them!) in the comments.

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

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.

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!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

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!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: September 2017

Have you ever had an experience that fundamentally changed your view of a subject? Maybe you read a transformative novel or attended a mind-blowing lecture or traveled to a new country. This month, I had one of these experiences, right here at my desk.

bootcamp notesDuring the last week of September, I attended the Smarter Artist Bootcamp hosted by Sterling & Stone (which I’m sure you’ve seen me mention a time or twelve). This free event featured five two-hour workshops, in which Johnny, Sean, and Dave shared their process on planning, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing a novel. I attended Bootcamp last year, and it was really helpful, so I was extremely excited for the 2017 edition.

What I didn’t expect was a major revelation. I won’t go into details here — partly to avoid boring you and partly because I still have a lot of soul-searching to do. However, the main point is that I finally realized how much I’ve grown over the last three years and how my desire to be super human (aka do ALL THE THINGS) has held me back. So, while I start my next novel and finish out 2017, I’m going to allow myself to rethink everything I’m doing and only keep the essentials that bring you the best stories I can write.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the goals, so I can get on with October!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – still a little behind
Write a second novel – hoping to start this month

While I didn’t complete as much writing as I would have liked in September, I accomplished strong pre-production work (e.g. outlines, worldbuilding, character sheets, etc.). Though I want to count this as a win, I also know I’m suffering from a little analysis-paralysis. Too many ideas! Too many characters! Too many series! In October, it’ll be back to drafting.

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Create short story for my Reader List – in progress
Blog once per week – fun plans for October
Read 52 books this year – catching up!

After attending Bootcamp, I am sorely tempted to re-evaluate my business goals. Instead, I’m going to save that for 2018 and focus on finishing 2017 as strong as I can. I’m really excited about the blog posts I have planned for October (all Halloween related!), and I’ve found more reading time, which has done wonders for my creativity and stress levels.

Books Read:
A Time to Die (The Legend of Carter Gabel #3) by Jonas Lee
Revived (Foreverers #1) by Nina del Arce
Risen Gods by J.F. Penn and J. Thorn (audiobook)
Angel & Faith: Season 10 Vol. 2 by Victor Gischler, Will Conrad, & Joss Whedon
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 10 Vol. 2 by Christos Gage & Rebekah Issacs

Book in Progress:
Selkie Cove (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #5) by Kara Jorgensen
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – still going great
Break a bad habit – a little setback
Exercise 3x week – actually doing it!

At risk of sounding like a cliché, moving from the East Coast to the West Coast has dramatically improved my quality of life. My new work-from-home schedule gives me the afternoons to focus on myself, and I’ve started a meditation practice that has done wonders for my positive outlook. Daniel and I have also recommitted ourselves to exercise, and I’ve worked out at least three times per week since we moved here. We’re eating healthier too. It’s been so refreshing!

Goals for October
Finish Desertera short story for my Reader List
Start drafting my next novel
Begin thinking ahead to NaNoWriMo
Track author/business activities to decide what should stay/go in 2018


How was your September? What goals do you have for the last quarter of 2017? Share your successes (or failures — no judgment here!) in the comments.