Sunday, April 5, 2015


It is with a heavy heart that I have come here to announce that SPE will be going into hiatus for an undetermined about of time. Mia and I started this blog and journey together back in June 2012 and I am  heart broken to see it come to a possibly temporary end. Sadly though, it is a choice that needed to happen because of other obligations. Mia and I both have our own personal reasons as to why the blog slowed down and will now be on hiatus.

I want to thank everyone who supported us in this project that lasted just shy of three years. We all must grow as authors and readers and some times that means moving on or stepping away.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The SWOT plan

Yep, those of you who have worked in corporate America have just rolled your eyes. You think this is BS that they just put on paper. The others of you are wondering wtf SWOT is. Well, make sure you have your four P's out for this. Now this may not be the way every one does it, or exactly how it is used, but this is how I did it. First let's cover SWOT.

SWOT is normally done in a two by two chart. Each square is labeled: Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Pretty simple yes? Okay so take your four P's first one should be Product, yes?

Now look at your SWOT.

What Strengths do your products have? Pricing? Amazing Cover? Unique twist? A good schedule for releases?

What Weakness do you have? Marketing? Exposure? Little fish in big pond syndrome? Be honest with yourself, it's the only way you're going to make progress with this. Are your covers horrible? Do they match?

Opportunities: Unlike the other two, this one isn't quite as self explanatory. This is where you know you can make improvements and can go hand in hand with weaknesses, or they could be different. Could you, realistically, write and publish more? Produce more product? Increase exposure?

Threats: These are things you MAY have no control over. Over saturation is a huge one. Lack of funds? Things that could change as you further your career.

Now, rinse and repeat for the other 3 p's.

When you're done with that, look at each of your squares, and start writing down what you can do to either keep it that way (in terms of Strengths) or improve. How can you over come your weaknesses and start maximizing on your opportunities?  What can you do about your threats, if anything?

You maybe surprised as to what comes up. It's a bit like brain storming. Like I said, the key here is to be honest. Through this I've found a plan for Black and White I didn't expect, as well as a plan for my series.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Four P's and where to start for Marketing

So now that you figured out what you want from you writing life, how do you get it? You’ve done your research, your story is up for sale or you’re getting ready to hit that point. You don’t have a lot of huge connections, really it’s you and a few friends and a finished, polished book that you’re ready to show the world. Your hopes are high, you dream of USA Today best sellers and NY Times best sellers and top Amazon spots. You put your book up and it’s either not selling, not selling as well as you like, or you’re an overnight success.

What’s the next step? Well, look at your marketing plan. Don’t have one? Think that you need a degree for one of those? You have no idea where to start? Yeah, that’s how I felt too, ironically I am working towards my degree in marketing. So let me share a little bit of what I learned from my first class in marketing. Now I’m sure you’ve read a ton of books that tell you what to do and how to do it, but part of you is wondering why. This post is going to cover the very basics, called the Four P’s. I encourage you to sit down and write down, physically write down, thoughts in each of these sections.

Product: This is where to spot. Why? Because you have to know what you’re selling. Apply this to your writing, what genre are you selling? Is it better classified as something else? Are you selling great pieces of what you hope will be classic lit? Or are you selling Urban Fantasy? Do your customers know this? Does your brand reflect this? You may think this is easy and be tempted to put ‘books’ down as your answer. But is that it? Are those books a series? Do you do short stories? Do you have multiple series?

Price: This one is tough in the Indie world, we want to make money, but we don’t want to price our books too high. We often get frustrated with those who hit lists by selling their books at a low price. The Indie Romance Convention did a pricing guide, but sometimes people just aren’t willing to pay the prices for the longer books. Sit down and really look. Is your novella over priced? Is your novel priced appropriately? I encourage you to look at the top sellers and see what they are priced at, other than the .99 authors. You’ll see it is possible to sell a book at $2.99 and up. Are you part of KDP select and can run a promotion? If not, are you willing to do the work to run a promotion through all channels? (This requires to manually change the price) Are you at that point where you can do a loss lead (first book free)?

Place: I know authors who swear by KDP select, and I know others who do not. I make ¼ of my sales through other channels. I’m not willing to give that up to go to kindle only. I don’t think it’s fair to my readers. But Place isn’t only about distributing, though that is a big part of it. It’s about where your exposure is as well. Website up-to-date? Facebook page? Twitter? Does it all look presentable and point readers to where they can buy? Can they buy directly from your website? Are you active where you can be? Pinterest? Instagram? You don’t have to do all of these, but really consider where you might better be able to reach your audience.

Promotions: This goes back to price a little bit. Can you run promotions to help with the price? What about promotions in your newsletter? Giveaways on guest posts? Blog tours? (which can tie back to place) It doesn’t have to be expensive (though it can get expensive) and this section will expand as you grow.

Okay, get to brainstorming and writing! We’ll discuss how to start putting these things into a functional plan my next post. Happy marketing!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jeepers Peepers: A Writer's Eye Health

Do me a favor and blink. Just blink. I promise no Weeping Angel will come and get you.

When we stare at a computer screen or any detailed, focused task we forget to blink. So while you are reading this and afterwards when you are typing away at your latest manuscript please remind yourself to blink.

Okay that is the end of the blinking PSA. And here is what prompted it, my eyes have been failing me. I get terrible migraines, I have vertigo all the time, and my medical doctor can’t figure out what is going on. She suggested I go to the eye doctor to see if maybe my poor eyesight is part of the problem. It turns out it is, in a big way.

I knew I had vision problems, what I didn’t know was how bad they were. I’ve dealt with having a condition called Nocturnal Lagophthalmos for almost a decade, so that I could handle. Nocturnal Lagophthalmos is what they call it when you sleep with your eyes open. This presents the problem of your eyes drying out. The description of feeling like you have sand in your eyes is most often heard when a person has slept with their eyes open. It’s a form of partial facial paralysis. Really not a biggie, but it does lead to dreadful pain. When I feel that sandpaper sting in my eyes I know I need to tape my eye closed at night and on top of that I have to patch it. Arrggg, me matey!

But after visiting the eye doctor I found out that is only the tip of the iceberg with my eyes.
1) Now not only do I have to patch my eye, but I have to stick this ointment in my eye before bed to help keep my eye moist (yes, I know everyone hates that word. Sorry) which renders me nearly blind, so that is always fun
 2) My eyes are uneven, meaning one is set higher than the other, so I need a prism in my glasses.
3) I most certainly need glasses.
4) I am both nearsighted and farsighted, can’t see up close at all and can barely see anything in the distance. So that means I need progressive lenses.
5) There is a natural degeneration of the eyes that takes place once people are in their 40’s, it’s called Presbyopia. The doctor found that I have Prebyopia now in my 30’s which they usually don’t see in people. Why? No idea. Is it dangerous? Well, it’s normal, eventually everyone gets it to some degree, but the fact that mine is setting in earlier than usual and at a sever rate is worrisome. Not dangerous, but worrisome.
6) My eyes don’t dilate like they should… This is a problem. I am so super sensitive to light and get so dizzy and nauseous with even the slightest light changes that this seems to be my biggest area of concern. The only way to help it for now is the literally where sunglasses everywhere, at every time of day and if it worsens then I’ll have to wear them at night too. Which I find hilarious, but my eye doctor didn’t find quite so funny. The other option he had for me was he could put me on glaucoma medicine which would make my eyes dilate, however those medicines are an extreme solution which come with a bevy of side effects. No thank you! He agreed with my decision to just say no, but did say, eventually it would have to happen. Even though I do not have glaucoma I will eventually have to be put on the medicine. Ugh.

So what is contributing to my laundry list of eye problems? A couple of things. Poor diet, which I’ve been working on. Long (and I do mean LOOOOOOONG) hours in front of the computer screen without blinking properly. The drying out of my eyes from my nocturnal lagophthalmos. Improper lighting when working. Not sitting correctly. Genetics. Stress. And the factor of the Unknown… He just doesn’t know.

As a writer, someone who wants and needs to get the stories out of her head and onto the computer screen it’s been hard when I can barely make out what I’m typing or writing. It’s been a struggle. It’s been discouraging. My list of To Be Read books is so big it’s ridiculous because I couldn’t read for more than 10 minutes at a time without getting a migraine and getting sick. Unfortunately my glasses that I paid a ton of money for aren’t helping. I’m going to go in and have them try to readjust them or something I can’t keep them on for very long and when I do I can’t move my head, the slightest movement and I’m feeling like the world is spinning. But I’ve found some things that work on my own in the mean time.

1)      I do wear my sunglasses at all times during the day, except in my house which is fairly dark.
2)      An hour before I start up my computer I put some ointment in my eyes to help keep them lubricated. Then wipe it off so I can see when I go to start working.
Gooey eyes before writing.
3)      If I am reading or playing video games I wear my glasses and make sure not to move my head too much.
4)      Remind myself to blink. It’s such a small thing but it really makes a difference. I never noticed how tired and dry my eyes were getting because I was so focused on my task that I forgot to blink.
5)      I make sure to sleep with my eye patched and ointment in.
Arrg. No one be messin' with me eye patch.

Sticky, gooey, and uncomfortable. Welcome to my nightlife.
6)      I’ve set up my computer desk to have the screen at eye level, and sitting a proper distance from it. When I’m sitting at my desk I have no need for my glasses because it is in my vision sweet spot. Just the right distance where I can see clearly.
Proper Computer set up. Perfect for my eyes.

7)      I now remember to take breaks. Look away from my task on the computer and look at something in the distance to give my eyes a break.

It’s not a perfect system. I still get headaches, but not nearly as often. And thanks to my friend Andie who sent me an essential oil blend for headaches and tension I've been able to manage my headaches better. My vision still sucks but at least I can get some reading done, get some writing done, and not feel like I’m drowning in a sea of things left unfinished. So here’s my next little PSA, Writers- get your eyes checked regularly! Especially if you are having fuzzy vision, light sensitivity, headaches. It’s important, you can’t write if you can’t see. And that was honestly my biggest fear and the motivating factor of me getting vision insurance and getting myself to the eye doctor. I love writing, I love crafts, I love reading and I can’t do any of those things if I can’t see.

Hopefully the eye doctor can figure out what is wrong with my glasses and I will be able to give a positive update to this post soon.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Cover Reveal: A World Apart LJK Oliva


"There are things that go bump in the night, Mr. MacMillian.  It's my job to bump back."
Private investigator Jesper MacMillian was sure he'd seen it all.  After all, in a city like San Francisco, strange is what's for breakfast.  Following a long  recovery after a horrific accident, his life is finally the way he wants it- or at least, close enough.  The only monsters on his radar are the ones that keep him awake at night.
All that changes the day he meets Lena Alan.
Before MacMillian has a chance to brace for impact, Lena drags him into a world where monsters aren't just real, they're hiding in plain sight.  Suddenly, everything he knows is suspect, starting with his current case.  For Lena, a medium since childhood, it's just another day at the office.
For MacMillian, it's the beginning of the end of everything he thinks he knows.



The King was dead.
Jesper MacMillian stood over the ornate mahogany coffin, and stared down at the man inside.  Seeing him like this, it was harder to hate him than it should be.  A slip of paper with Orthodox liturgy scrawled over it rested on his forehead.  Beneath it, the man's white hair was combed painstakingly back from his leathered temples.  His eyes were closed, his mouth relaxed.  He almost looked gentle.
MacMillian peered closer.  No, sure enough, there it was: the faint remnants of a predatory smirk.  The tightness around the eyes, the hollowness in the cheeks.  Hawk-like nose and rigid brow.  This was the grandfather he remembered.
This was the man who'd ruined his life.
A strong, bony hand clasped his arm.  MacMillian swallowed his feelings and smiled down at the tiny wrinkled woman beside him.  The crowds of mourners had already filed out of the little chapel.  Now, it was just the two of them.  "How are you, Mamío?"
His grandmother shrugged and gave him a watery smile.  "Alive."  She released MacMillian's arm and leaned down, placed a shaky kiss first on the Christ icon in the man's hand, then on his cheek.  "Ah, ves'tacha." Her voice wavered.  "Now I am alone."
MacMillian shifted his weight against his cane and didn't speak.
The woman rested her forehead against the rim of the coffin, then straightened and turned.  She held out her hand.  MacMillian obediently took it and twined it around his arm.  She nodded her approval.  "It is good to see you, Pusomori.  It isn't right, you staying away from us for so long."
MacMillian didn't answer.
His grandmother glanced down.  "You don't limp at all.  Your recovery is going well."
"Yes." Though whether someone ever fully recovered from losing a limb, he didn't know.  He sure as hell hadn't.  It had been five years, and still there were days when the pain in his nonexistent leg was enough to drive him out of his mind.
Insanity wasn't an option, however.  Mostly he just drank instead.
"And how is your work?"
His lips twitched.  "Steady." He lowered his voice and leaned down conspiratorially.  "I just finished a case involving a tech magnate's missing wife.  Turns out she wasn't missing at all, just on an unannounced, week-long getaway in Aspen... with her personal trainer.  My employer was quite generous with my compensation, if not exactly pleased with my results."
His grandmother cackled, earning her a glare from the priest attending the altar.  "I bet he wasn't.  But it serves him right, shoving a handsome young man under his wife's nose."
MacMillian grinned.  "The trainer was a woman."
His grandmother gaped up at him.  A slow, answering grin spread across her face.
"What are you telling your grandmother now?" A harsh voice sounded behind him.  "More stories about the degenerate gaje you associate with?  For shame, Jesper.  She is in mourning, and this is a church."
MacMillian stiffened, and his grandmother tightened her hold on his arm.  He grimaced.  If she thought she could prevent him from running, she was mistaken.  But it was just as well he deal with this here.
If he didn't, his mother would only follow him home.
He wiped his face clean of any telling expression and turned slowly.  "Hello, mámo."
Rose MacMillian adjusted the scarf covering her head.  She had been beautiful once, with her pale caramel skin, her burnished copper hair, the exotic eyes that he'd inherited.  She still was, but it was a harsher beauty, whatever softness she'd once possessed long since whittled away.
She looked him up and down.  "You seem well."
He waited.
She fidgeted with the vibrant patchwork handbag under her arm.  "Of course you will be moving back home now.  Mamío will take your old room.  I've cleaned out the master suite, and your grandfather's office has all his files.  You can take over immediately."
MacMillian took a deep breath.  It was now or never.  "No."
His mother stilled.  "No?"  The word seemed to bewilder her.  She shook her head and tried again.  "You can keep your current job as well, I suppose.  You can move what you need to Papío's office.  It can't have been pleasant for you, working in the gaji-kanó all this time..."
"Pleasant enough." The thought of leaving his office in The Procyon Building made his stomach curdle.  MacMillian kept his expression blank.  "Anyway, it was my choice."
"Yes." His mother tried and failed to keep the look of naked distaste off her face.  "But it was a struggle, I'm sure.  It will be good for you to rejoin the tsera again."
MacMillian crossed his arms.  "No."
He rocked back on his heels and waited.  Sure enough, Rose's face reddened.  She opened her mouth, closed it.  Finally, she found her voice.  "But you must!  It was your papío's last act on this earth.  He named you king!"
MacMillian shrugged.  "And I told him I didn't want it.  I begged him to choose someone else." To choose a better Gypsy.  "He may have refused, but that isn't my concern.  The kris will just have to name someone in my stead."
"That is not the role of the kris, and you know it." Rose spoke through clenched teeth.  "There are those in the community who are in need of the king's services.  You cannot leave us without one.  You cannot abandon us.  Not again."
MacMillian pressed his lips together.  Fury rose in his chest.  Of course she would try to manipulate him with that.  He dug deep for control.  "I didn't abandon you.  I moved on with my life."
"Is that what you call it?  Where were you after the accident?" Her accusing eyes sliced at his restraint.  "Wasn't it enough I lost one son?"
"You forget I also lost a brother."  Not to mention a leg, and what little self-respect he'd ever had.  "Don't talk to me about loss.  Or family, or loyalty, for that matter.  Where were you after the accident?  How is it I never saw you when I was lying broken in that hospital bed?"
His mother looked away.  MacMillian leaned forward.  "Where were you when they were peeling the flesh off my back and piecing my bones back together, dai?  Did you only come when I was unconscious?  Maybe you just weren't there at all." He firmed his hand over his grandmother's.  "The only member of our family I ever saw was Mamío.  She's the only one of you who has the right to expect my loyalty."
Rose looked back at him, her dark eyes fierce, her lips thin and white around the corners.  "How much longer do you think you can keep ignoring our laws?  Sooner or later, your actions will have consequences." She lifted her chin.  "Besides, you have responsibilities now."
MacMillian growled low in his throat.  Before he could answer, his grandmother laid her other hand over his.  "Actually, Pusomori and I were just speaking about that.  He's agreed to look into something for me."
MacMillian's eyebrows went up.  Rose's eyes narrowed.  "Has he, now?"
"Yes, he has." His grandmother shot him a pointed look.  "Istvan and Sonya Vaspurkan.  Their eldest boy has turned up missing."
"Right." He forced the word through clenched teeth.  "The Vaspurkans."
Rose's gaze shifted back and forth between them.  "How have I not heard of this?"
The older woman lifted her shoulder, and let it drop again.  "Istvan's mother and I crossed over together from the old country.  We speak quite often."
Rose hesitated.  The obstinate expression on her face wavered.  "If that's true, it is something the king should look into."
His grandmother let out a frustrated noise.  "Of course it's true!  As if Viona would lie about such a thing.  Jesper will look into it." She firmed her hand over his.  Her eyes grew hard.  "As he said: I have the right to expect his loyalty."
MacMillian bit back a groan.  She knew she had him.  He could have tried to refuse her, but they both knew he wouldn't.
All he wanted -the only thing he'd wanted since the accident- was to live his life in peace.  Come and go as he pleased.  Leave his shoes on in his apartment.  Drink when he felt like it, and fuck when the urge struck him.  He'd almost managed it.  He'd almost escaped.
But now his grandfather was dead, and he was king.
The church bells began to toll, slow, steady intonations, and the small choir started in on the requiem.  MacMillian pinched the sore spot between his eyes.  "Fine.  Yes.  Have them stop by my office.  I'll look into it."

Want to stay informed about A World Apart and the Shades Below series? Sign up for my email newsletter! No spam, and I promise never to share or sell your information. See you in your inbox!  Newsletter Signup Form

This is a blog train, and there are more excerpts to read!

7th Stop: The Darker Side
8th Stop: Write Bitches

Hit all the stops to read A World Apart up through Chapter 2!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's your back up plan? Data back up is important.

My computer crashed and I do mean crashed hard. It was working perfectly fine, I got up went to the bathroom, and came back to the mouse not working. My first thought was 'crap, I killed the top case again.' As I had done it on my previous Mac. I did the first thing my IT guy (Aka hubby) tells me to do, restart. It didn't start back up. It gave me a grey screen with a flashing I did what any sane person would do. I searched it.

Somehow my bootfiles decided to go on vacation. Great, I know how to restore my computer, not a problem. Until the computer froze part of the way through, then decided that the hard drive didn't exist and wouldn't boot to a disk for a diagnostic. Well crap. My IT guy can't look at it until this weekend, so it's currently a paperweight without an operating system.

If at any point panic seized your heart and you asked "Did you lose everything?" You might want to reconsider your back up plan. The only thing I was in danger of losing was the two hours of work that may or may not have synced up to Dropbox and OneDrive (two different projects) before the computer crash. Compared to full manuscripts and 8 hours worth of edits, that's nothing. My husband recommends the 3-2-1 backup method.

Three backups total

Two different medias

One off site.

I have my writing backed up to dropbox and/or onedrive, both of which are offsite and can be accessed from any computer. Before my computer crashed, I was supposed to back up to an external hard drive, just in case. Sadly, I kept putting it off. Take a look at your set up right now. You may have a laptop, a desk top, or both. If one was to crash tomorrow, could you continue work? Unexpected things in life happen. I can't afford to take several days off or heaven forbid, several months off, because of a computer crash. I doubt you can too.

My husband has a desk top that I'm able to use while he's at work, his tablet is a desk top replacement. (I have an ipad, but because I use a particular software to write, I can't write on the iPad). After a few moments of OMG my computer crashed, what the hell am I going to do and my loving husband setting his computer up for me to work, it was taken care of. I discovered that I didn't lose any work, not even from that day and I was able to pick up where I left off. Our next step in the plan? Saving up money for a cheap laptop that will get me through until I can save up for another Mac. Sharing in our house is a challenge...we're both in school and I'm an author. You can imagine the fun.

So....what's your back up plan?