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.

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Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Updates

What You Need to Know About the Third Desertera Novel

If you’re signed up for my Reader List, then you know I’m hard at work on the third Desertera novel. (Those clever readers have also previewed exclusive samples of my first draft!) To help me finish the manuscript, I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (essentially a self-driven writing challenge) during the month of April, and I’m already excited to share it with you! So, what do you need to know about the third Desertera novel?

King Lionel takes the reins

As with the other Desertera novels, this one features a new protagonist. We’ll follow King Lionel as he tries to navigate the political waters (or sand dunes, rather) of Desertera. The poor guy has a lot on his plate: learning how to govern, satisfying the demands of the council and the people, pressure to marry an appropriate queen, and trouble from our favorite farmer-prophet …

It’s time to explore Desertera

That’s right – we’re out of the brothel and the hovels! As king, Lionel can take us to places within Desertera that Aya and Dellwyn couldn’t access … at least not without trespassing. We’ll finally check out the royal library (ah, the smell of dusty old books!), venture deep into the belly of the ship, and head to the outskirts of Bowtown.

There will be more Aya (and other friends, too!)

One of the most frequent criticisms of The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2) is that Aya didn’t hang around enough. Well, don’t worry! I’ve always intended for her to feature more prominently in future books. (I mean, the woman needed time to get her shop in order. Give her a break!) All our other friends will make appearances, too.

I can’t wait for you to read it!

Although I struggled to get started with this novel, now that I’m in the thick of it, I’m having a blast. Like the other books, it continues the story from a fresh perspective and allows a new view of Desertera. I’m also finally able to give you all some answers and steer the ship (pun intended) more towards the final destination … though it’s still a few books away.

Currently, I expect to publish Desertera #3 in late July. But to do that, I’ve got to get this draft wrapped up and sent to my editor. I’ll give you another update when that happens (and more still as I choose a title, cover, and official publication date) but for now, I need to get back to writing!

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, The Desertera Series

How Books Connect the World

how-books-connect-the-world

How lucky are we as bookworms today?

At any given moment, we can jump on Amazon (or another website), buy a book, and read it seconds later. Or, if you’re a paperback purist, all you have to do is wait a couple days for shipping or take a quick trip to your local bookstore or library.

That’s all it takes. In a few seconds or a few days, you can dive into a novel’s world. You can learn about a historical event or philosophical theory. You can have a connection with an author and readers whom you may never meet, from nearly every corner of the world.

As the great Stephen King wrote: “Books are a uniquely portable form of magic.”

While perusing books on Goodreads and browsing through #bookstagram accounts, I’ve found myself in awe of these communities. Readers from all around the globe have joined together to celebrate the books they love. It’s so cool to hear other people’s thoughts on books I love, or to discover a beautiful photo of a book in an exotic location.

So, you can imagine my surprise (and delight!) when my friend sent me this photo of The Cogsmith’s Daughter. Unbeknown to me, she had taken a copy on vacation to the Cayman Islands. While reading on the beach, she found this grungy old machine and snapped a photo. Awesome, right?

It got my author brain thinking: I wonder how far the Desertera series has traveled?

A quick email to my Reader List, and I now have a decent idea. The map below shows the countries where I know readers have enjoyed The Cogsmith’s Daughter and/or The Courtesan’s Avenger. (If you don’t see your home represented, let me know in the comments – I’d love to add it!)

desertera-map

For a little-known (read: almost invisible) independent author with only two novels to my name, this map makes me really proud. My greatest joy (outside of writing, of course!) is connecting with other book lovers. To know that I’ve done exactly that on five out of seven continents stuns and humbles me.

I’ll definitely be referring back to this map as I continue writing the third book in the Desertera series. Writing is a solitary process, and sometimes I feel like I’m sending my words out into a void. But this map proves my inner critic wrong. My words are flying around the world – offering escape and entertainment to people everywhere (okay, a lot of places!).

If that isn’t a dream come true,  I don’t know what is.


Where do you call home? How have your favorite books connected you to new friends and fellow readers? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post with Author Kate M. Colby #Desertera

My best writing tip? Give all your characters (major and minor) motivations. Read more on author Helen Jones’ blog!

Journey To Ambeth

perf5.250x8.000.inddToday I’m very pleased to welcome author (and author-y friend!) Kate M. Colby to my blog. Kate has just released The Courtesan’s Avenger, the second book in her Desertera series (and if you haven’t read her first book, The Cogmsith’s Daughter, get yourselves a copy now!). Set in the steampunk world of Desertera, The Courtesan’s Avenger is a tale of murder, intrigue and justice – I can’t wait to read it 🙂

Today, Kate’s written an excellent post about character motivation, something she feels is key to good story-telling. There’s a lot of useful information here, so read through and let us know what you think in the comments. Take it away, Kate!

As an author, the question I get asked more than any other is: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” or some variation of it. With the release of my second novel, The Courtesan’s…

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Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series

Three Reasons to Pre-Order The Courtesan’s Avenger

perf5.250x8.000.inddCan you believe we’re just FIVE days away from the launch of The Courtesan’s Avenger? I can’t!

After working on this book for nearly a year (nine months, if you don’t count procrastination), it feels surreal that it’s finally going out into the world for everyone to read. On one hand, I’m really excited. As my second book, The Courtesan’s Avenger is (in my humble opinion) leaps and bounds ahead of The Cogsmith’s Daughter. I’ve grown so much as a writer, and I am thrilled to share the wonderful world of Desertera with you all once again.

On the other hand, releasing a sequel comes with a lot a pressure. Though The Cogsmith’s Daughter has only received little ripples of attention, most of it has been positive. What if no one likes the second book? What if it’s not as good? What if everyone hates that Aya isn’t the narrator this time? Well, there’s only one way to find out …

Pre-order your copy of The Courtesan’s Avenger today.

Why pre-order?

  1. The book will be downloaded straight to your reading device on next Tuesday, September 20. So it’s ready to read when you are.
  2. It gives me a little boost in the rankings on release day (aka puts one jab in the obscurity monster), but most importantly …
  3. It comes with a SPECIAL BONUS! A 20-question interview with me, revealing info you’ll won’t find anywhere else. Like …

Will the rest of the books in the series star new protagonists?

What is your favorite scene or moment from The Courtesan’s Avenger?

Often, writers know things about their worlds or characters that are never shared in the books themselves. Can you divulge any of those tidbits?

What can readers expect from the third Desertera novel?

… and so many more that I can’t share here (thanks, spoilers!).

If these questions intrigue you, be sure to pre-order your copy BEFORE next Tuesday.

And if you’re waiting on those pesky paperbacks, don’t fret. I’ve approved them through my printing company, so it’s out of my hands now. They should be available on time. Signed copies, of course, will take longer, as they must get to me to sign before shipping to you!