Friday, December 27, 2013

Mia's Year In Review

2013… Oh how you fickle and frustrating you've been. Now that we are facing 2014 I thought I'd do some reflections, because as stressful at 2013 was it was also equally exciting. So let's get down to the milestones of this past year for me:

-          The SPE blog has been a success as an outlet for me on my self-publishing journey.
-          The Twisted Tales blog turned out better than I had imagined.
-          I signed a publishing contract with Ellora's Cave (which was completely unexpected)
-          I self-published my first book: Waking Up In Bedlam
-          I have managed to keep my author page free of any drama, which keeps my brand professional.
-          NaNo wasn't a complete loss. It helped me get a good start on Waking Up In Chains.
-          I submitted a short story for an Anthology. The deadline was Dec. 31st, I got it in Dec. 26th. I feel very accomplished to have hit that before the deadline, not much before it, but still… It's progress.
-          I have my schedule laid out for the next six months with new releases coming near summer.

What have I learned:

-          I have learned that marketing is definitely my weak spot. Which is good to know, it will be an area I really work hard on in this next year.
-          Word of mouth can only get you so far, the rest is up to you.
-          Haters gonna hate, that doesn't mean you have to let them drag you down to their level.
-          Nothing beats the support of friends, family and fans.
-          Love what you do and do what you love.

So that is my year in a nut shell. Next year will be happy, exciting, and prosperous. <3

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: Special Assignment by Niki Becker

Special Assignment
By Niki Becker

Synopsis: Jake left Justice, Kansas shortly after the wreck. His life had been forever changed and he didn't know how he could stay in the one place that was a constant reminder of both women. Now on a quest to prove himself he taps into the one thing better left alone.
Charlie knew that eventually she’d have to run again. Resolution, California wouldn't be safe forever, someone would learn about her past. She just never imagined it would be the one person she’s spent a decade trying to forget.

Charlie and her brother Justin have made a new life in their beach side house on the banks of California. Justin stripping and Charlie hooking - neither wanted these jobs but they both paid the bills. Life was calm until trouble happened inside one seemingly friendly hotel.
Jake and Charlie, face to face with each other and their past.
Will they both overcome their shadows that haunt each of them?
Is there ever a way to forgive and forget when death is involved?
Special Assignment - The only thing special about this assignment are the two people involved.

Review: What can I say but wow? I'm a bit new to the world of Erotic Suspense, but I really feel like I hit the nail on the head with what I like to read in this genre and holy cow does Ms. Becker just steal me away with this book. I have to say that I think my favorite thing is that the characters aren't perfect. At all. A lot of times you find that either the guys is perfect (with a dash of a tortured past) or the woman has no real past and one of them ends up falling flat. That is not the case with Charlie and Jake! The two have a past together that they can't get rid of and it creates amazing chemistry between them. It gives a realistic aspect to the story. 
The plot had me hooked right away. It's not often that you have someone killed within the first fifty words of a book. The twists and turns weren't predictable which I liked. I found myself reading a page here and there where I could and often forgetting that I was reading on my phone instead of my e-reader. I just got sucked in. The sex was amazing, there was a nice verity of it, which helped from keeping it repetitive. I highly recommend that if you like erotica and suspense, pick this book up!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
5 out of 5 Stars

Heat Rating: Scorching
(mild, medium, hot, spicy, scorching) 

Buy It!

Add it on GoodReads

About the Author: Niki Becker is the pen name for Ashley Nemer.

Ashley is married and lives in Houston with her husband Tony. They have two dogs named Toto and Doogie. They have been together for almost 8 years and he brings her more joy than she could ever imagine as a child. She loves to read and has been hooked on the romance genre ever since her lifelong best friend Laura gave her "Ashes to Ashes' by Tami Hoag to read when they were younger.

Ashley finds her strength through her family, especially her parents. They always support her in life, they push her to strive for greatness. There once was a motto that Ashley heard in her youth through her Taekwondo life 'Reach for the Stars' and that is what Ashley has always done. It was through her upbringing that the values Ashley has and display's came from. With her Parents always cheering her on in life she was able to grow up having faith in herself and her ability to conquer the world.
Author Website Niki / Ashley Twitter Facebook Blog

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pulling Through

So I went out and got a day job and let me tell you how much it's kicking my ass. Between my other personality and my edits for Black and White Desires I'm exhausted. Here's the deal though, no matter what I have to hit deadlines, self set or publisher set they are there. Yes some deadlines get moved because of shit that's uncontrollable. But that's not what's happening to me, nope, I have done this to myself. So what do I do when I'm so exhausted?

I do the unhealthy thing and down some energy drinks, work late into the night, and work whenever I can. I'm hoping some of it slows down after the first of the year, but I tell you year looks like a wild ride too.

Mia and I will start our new adventure of cowriting a series together in hopes of getting our name more out there. Were most of our stuff leans towards Erotic, this will be paranormal romance and I can't wait to share it with you guys. No matter what life throws at us, we will pull through, together. I want to take a moment to thank those of you who have taken this journey with us. We are still learning and it continues as Mia's real work starts with marketing and I work through Black and White Desires. 

Hope you all enjoy the ride. :D

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What's Next and Being Thankful

This was supposed to go up yesterday but what can I say, I've been a bit out of sorts lately. For those of us in the States it is Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful for what you have and sit around with loved ones stuffing our faces with way too much food. I am so very thankful for all of the support I've been given in the wake of some personal goings-on in my life and for my friends who took time out of their days and nights to keep my book release on schedule. I am equally thankful for everyone who has read Waking Up In Bedlam.

So this year while everyone else is nodding off in a food coma from too much turkey I am sitting on my couch reflecting on what this past year has given me and what I hope to accomplish in the coming year.

This year has been rough, I won't lie, it has been down right dirty. Between life and personal issues, to deadlines, to having a plan and having to then rearrange everything because an amazing opportunity got handed to us, to then having to cram for short deadlines, to this book release, to my first experience with a publishing house and my first round of edits back from them, to these holidays that are going to be a personal trail by fire for me. But at the end of the day I am thankful for the fact that I am still standing, not all of my deadlines got met but I didn't let the opportunity that I wasn't expecting slip out of my hands either. I busted my ass on juggling projects. Some days it was hard, other days it was easy. That's life. And I am thankful for all of it. The ups and downs, dark clouds and silver linings, good days and the bad.

And lastly I am grateful to the friends and readers who have recommended my book to others. I really am still struggling with promotion and marketing so the word of mouth from readers is great. Thank you.

What's next? Hell if I know. That's the truth. I have a project with +Alexandra Webb, we should be wrapped up near the beginning of December (I think). She'll start cracking the whip after Thanksgiving she said. I'm very excited for this project and hopefully it will be the first of many. Next on the list is finishing up a project that is called Steamworks, it was my NaNo and life derailed and took that story with it. And I am slowly plugging away at Waking Up In Chains, the sequel to Waking Up In Bedlam. I can't wait to get that story out. The main characters are just starting to get a little chatty in my brain so hopefully they will start shouting at me soon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review: Waking Up in Bedlam

Waking Up in Bedlam by Mia Bishop

SynopsisRyder is a fake- and he knows it. He spends his days pretending to be a paranormal investigator and his nights entertaining groups of believers with his claims of communicating with the dead. Life is good and business is booming until the night a beautiful woman storms out of his seminar and a mysterious man drops an unexplainable case in his lap. Ryder finds out the world he thought was fake is actually real and even worse, he has become the paranormal world's most wanted.

Jessa wants answers and the human, Ryder, is the only one who can give them to her. She has one goal, keep him alive long enough to figure our why he has been haunting her dreams. The only problem is the more time she spends with him the more she realizes the answers she seeks are ones she isn't ready to face.

Can either one of them accept what fate has laid out for them? Or will they fight their destiny at the cost of everyone they hold dear?

Review: I loved the plot of this book. It took me away and the characters were amazing. The one thing that I have to rave about though is Mia's ability to crave dialogue. It flows well, it keeps the story moving, and it's not cheesy. That's hard to find in a PNR book.  I was privileged enough to receive and ARC of this book and I'm glad I was on the list. 

The plot has twists and turns that aren't predictable and I love the Fae lore in it. It's clear that Bishop has her own image of the Fae as well as uses elements that we are all familiar with when it comes to their world. (Light and Dark Court, back stabbing, so on so forth.) The relationship between Ryder and Jessa is clear and though Ryder isn't an instant like (don't worry, you learn to like him, that's the point!) he is a great character. Imagine this, he isn't flawless! Neither is Jessa. The sex in this book is well written and hot!  

Overall Mia did a great job at crafting her debut novel and I urge you to check it out!

5 out of 5 Stars

Heat Rating: Spicy
(mild, medium, hot, spicy, scorching) 

Buy it:
Amazon (Paper back and Kindle)
Smashwords (all e-formats)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013



  [ee-goh, eg-oh] 
noun, plural e·gos.
the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, andwilling, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others andfrom objects of its thought.
Psychoanalysis the part of the psychic apparatus thatexperiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediatesbetween the primitive drives of the id and the demands of thesocial and physical environment.
egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes moreunbearable each day.
self-esteem or self-image; feelings: Your criticism wounded hisego.
often initial capital letter Philosophy .
the enduring and conscious element that knows experience.
Scholasticism. the complete person comprising both body andsoul.

Today we are going to cover egos. Now as we see defines ego in several different ways. I'm going to focus on the third definition. Now, as indie authors, we have to have some what of an ego in order to talk about our books, suggest them to people, do interviews, and essentially brag about ourselves for a little bit. But that only takes a bit of egotism and some confidence, hell, I know authors who fake it most of the time and it works.

But there are authors out there who have too much ego. Why does it matter, you ask? I don't know about you, but when I was an aspiring author, hell as a published author, I look up to those authors who are down to earth. Someone you can talk to as a person and someone you can relate to. I think this is important as an author, if you have too big of an ego and come off that way, eventually it'll hurt your sales, your reputation, and as an indie author you can't afford that.

Let me give you an example. Back in 2006, a friend flew me out for a book signing for a particular author. It was a pretty exclusive book signing since it was an end of a tour party. I was so excited, because it was an author that I admired, adored, and looked up to. So I get out there, and I'm nervous as hell because this is my first time meeting a big name author. But by the end of the night, there I stood at the table with her and decided, 'she's a normal person, I can talk to her as such.' I don't remember what I said, but she completely blew me off and wandered away. I was devastated. It wasn't like I expected her to remember my name, or my face, but a small conversation to take home with me. As I closely watched her, she didn't approach anyone and blew off everyone who tried to approach her. Now, we're talking about a book signing with maybe 50 people at it. She acted like she was better than everyone and above them all.

This stuck with me, and to this day, I have a hard time picking up her books to read them. I felt like persona she gave online, on social networking, on her website and interviews was not the cold shoulder person I had met. That didn't sit right with me. I haven't bought one of her books since.

So let me give you the flip side of this.

Two years ago another author that I adored came to a city near me. I was three months pregnant, and my poor husband feared for the interior of his car because I threatened to throw up every few miles. This was a huge signing so I didn't expect any personal time, I just wanted to see her and get a book signed. So my husband indulged me. We got up there and there was a massive group, as expected, I found someone I had communicated with online, and she gushed about how this author just adored her fans and were grateful for all of them. So the author did her speaking, and then came the book signing part. I got up there, and was nervous, but I didn't want to make the same 'mistake' that I had at the other book signing, so I mumbled, 'hi.'

The author caught me off guard. "Oh my gosh, I love your hair!" (it was tinted purple at the time) And despite the fact that there were at least 100 people behind me, she took a couple minutes to talk to me. She found out I was pregnant, wished me luck, and gave me a huge hug. I was in aw and on cloud nine for the rest of the night. I don't expect her to remember me next time, but I know that I will always continue to support her because I watch how she struck up a conversation with everyone. Better yet, I watched how at the end of the signing, she hung around to mingle with those who stayed after. Some of them she'd even known by name because they showed up to all her signings.

Ego. It can hurt you if you let it get out of control. Those are two memories I will always keep with me and two great examples. As an indie author, if we turn one person off by pretending or thinking we are better than everyone else, it really hurts us. Because that person will tell someone else. Now, I'm not saying don't advertise or don't talk about yourself ever, but remember you are nothing with out your readers. When you're writing your bio, or answering questions, be weary of things that make you sound egotistical things like, "a brand new look on this genre" "as demanded by thousands of fans" "Worlds best author." when writing bios, answering interview questions, unless you're quoting a source that can be found--that's a different story.

I recently attended a convention under my other name, and one of the best things about this convention was that readers, bloggers, and authors all had time to mingle. The person who ran the convention stressed that it was the best thing we could do as authors, sit down with readers, and don't automatically start talking up your books, hell don't even mention them. There were several people who bought books after just sitting down and having a normal conversation with the authors, and they had no clue that they were talking to authors.

So check your ego, get your head out of your ass, and be a normal person who just happens to write. Be down to earth, even as an author, big name, small name, new or seasoned, you are still human and not a god or goddess. Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts below. Please feel free to comment.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Curious Case Of Blurb Writing

One of the plus sides of self-publishing is that you don't have to write a complete synopsis or a query letter. Yay for that, but you still have to write a blurb (or short synopsis) for your book. It either goes up on every digital site your sell or advertise your book listing or it goes on the back of your paperback, and in most cases it goes to both. It is vital to have one, otherwise no one will know what your book is about and you'd better make it a good one otherwise no one will want to read your hard work.

I really hate blurb writing. Hate it with a capital H. It's no fun, and I'm pretty sure I've gained some gray hair just from trying to come up with two coherent paragraphs about my book. And revision after revision and even seeing it on the back of my paperback proof I am still questioning whether it is good enough. Because let's be honest here, in self-publishing “good enough” is never, EVER, “good enough”. You can't just be good if you want to succeed, you have to be great, fantastic, amazing. And this isn't about making money, when I say “if you want to succeed” I'm talking about gaining fans, having people recommend your book, and people enjoying your vision. That is success. But you can't just be good, a lot of people are good. You have to stand out.

Years ago I wrote to one of my idols, Gary Gygax, if you don't know who the man is then Google him. He is known as the father of D&D. I had this idea, an RPG (you know, the paper and pencil kind, not a video game), it was a world I'd created from years of playing Dungeons & Dragons, Rifts, and Gamma World. Even better I'd written scores of stories based on the adventures that all of our characters had played. P.S. If you didn't know: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first novel of the Dragonlance Chronicles series, was written based on D&D sessions played by the authors, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, along with other friends (some of them went on to be Dragonlance authors as well). So my idea wasn't completely loony. Anyway, I wrote to him asking him how in the world do I go about breaking into this business. Amazingly he responded. His advice was simple, be great. He said that the downside is that RPG fans are amazingly creative, the game is made for you to think and be as creative as possible. Which mean that they all have great ideas, great worlds, maps, and therefore there are a lot of them out there trying to do the same thing as me. So if I wanted my world to stand out it had to be better than good, it had to be great. It had to be something different, because a lot of people where doing the same thing as me. He also said to not give up, keep trying. Many years later, I am still trying and not giving up.

I think this same thing applies to authors, we are all creative, otherwise we wouldn't be writing about all of these fanciful worlds and characters. This is a competitive industry because of that level of creativity. That is not to say you can't give support to your fellow authors, you should. You should promote the hell out of them, and vice versa, because as indie authors if we don't have each others backs then we all suffer. But you can't just be good, you have to be great. And the first thing a reader sees is your cover, after that it's your blurb. If you get the formula right it will hook the reader, and that is what you want obviously. So the stress of writing a great blurb can be the cause for late nights, stress breakouts, and gray hair.

There are a couple of different formula's out there for writing the “perfect” blurb. Do they work? I'm sure that they do, but the thing about a formula is that you still have to put your words down on paper and all the equations in the world sometimes don't help.

I've found one that I really do like, it's simple and helps you flesh out what you need to say. I found this months ago on Twitter and I figure passing it on to whoever it might help will put some pebbles in my good karma jar, so whenever I see someone stressing over a blurb (or synopsis) I always pass along this link:

As for my blurb for Waking Up In Bedlam, here it is (although I am still unsure if it is captivating enough, I suppose time will tell).

Waking Up In Bedlam

Ryder is a fake- and he knows it. He spends his days pretending to be a paranormal investigator and his nights entertaining groups of believers with his claims of communicating with the dead. Life is good and business is booming until the night a beautiful woman storms out of his seminar and a mysterious man drops an unexplainable case in his lap. Ryder finds out the world he thought was fake is actually real and even worse, he has become the paranormal world's most wanted.

Jessa wants answers and the human, Ryder, is the only one who can give them to her. She has one goal, keep him alive long enough to figure our why he has been haunting her dreams. The only problem is the more time she spends with him the more she realizes the answers she seeks are ones she isn't ready to face.

Can either one of them accept what fate has laid out for them? Or will they fight their destiny at the cost of everyone they hold dear?

 Available November 14, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The challenge of pricing your book, plus an announcement.

So several times over this last week posts have come up talking about how to price your e-book. There are a bunch of articles out there, a bunch of suggestions and you'll hurt your brain when you try to make heads or tails of it. So what do you follow? What article do you believe. Why is something working for someone else, but not you?

So many questions, and yes we're all lost in a sea of doubt when this comes up. As Mia prepares to release Waking Up in Bedlam it's something her and I discuss quite often. So here's my advice to you, from the research and reading I've done, it's a trial and error kind of deal. According to the Indie Romance Convention Blog, there's a formula that should help with pricing your book. According to Molly Greene, it's all about hitting that sweet spot, but it's still different for every person. When you talk to some authors they'll tell you they sell all e-books at $0.99 and that it works great, others will tell you that it doesn't work so well.

From what I've gathered $2.99 is the sweet spot for novels and novellas, $1.99 or FREE is great for short stories. Running a free short story as the start of a series seems to be a pretty popular choice. Many people say avoid $0.99, but why? So many authors do that, hell there are authors that offer entire collections for $0.99. Now, a $0.99 promo is different that a $0.99 continuous selling price. Here's the deal, $0.99 can still be associate with crap. Stuff people just throw up there to see if they can make a few sales. Check out the IRC blog for a great analogy about dollar store steak. (Which, for the record our dollar store here does, indeed, sell steak.)

Here's the deal, fellow authors and aspiring authors, don't sell yourself short. We all struggle with doubt, and wonder if someone would even be willing to buy a book for $2.99 from an unknown author, a new author, anything like that. But you have put your blood, sweat, and tears into your project. You are worth more than $0.99, all indie authors are. Don't let yourself get lost in that sea of $0.99, and it's never too late to change that price. So if you're floating around, go play with your prices a bit and see what happens with your sales!

Now time for the announcement. As we all know Mia's book is coming out next month (yay!!!) which probably brings to question when my book will be coming out. This was supposed to be a journey together, and it will be, but because of other unforeseen circumstances the publishing path for Black and White has changed. It will be published with Ellora's Cave, I can't really go into details as to why or how this came about, but I assure you that I have the Indie publishing experience to continue to help Mia with this blog and now I can start to offer a view point in comparison when working with a publisher. So please bare with us when things start to shift around here!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Release Date Jitters

Release day jitters. Plain and simple, my stomach is doing Olympic high-dives every time I think about it. Waking Up In Bedlam has an official release date: November 14, 2013 and to be honest I have no idea what I am doing.

Downfall of self-publishing is that it's all on you. And when you don't know what you are doing it is like swimming in fast drying cement carrying a bowling ball. But here is the game plan.

Alex offered to help me set up a Facebook Event before the launch. I need to start pimping myself out. Maybe posting some snippets, giving away some swag. I need to find some book reviews and hopefully get a couple of reviews before my release date.

All in all, it's a lot to do before the 14th but hopefully it will help me share my story and my characters with lots of readers who will hopefully enjoy what I've crafted.

I am firmly planted in reality. I know not everyone is going to like what I put out, I know that this won't be easy, I certainly understand that (in most cases) you do not get rich going this route and I don't expect to. I want to share what I've created, I hope that I've done the characters in my head justice, and I hope people enjoy it.

So while I am experiencing some major jitters in regards to actually giving myself a release date I am keeping the date, facing it all head on, and going to do my best to get over my fears and actually promote myself.

In the next week or so I will figuring out my marketing plan, when I have that all sorted out I will share it and we will just have to wait and see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Indie Romance Convention

Post written as A.L. Kessler

So there comes a time when my head becomes so full of information that it's going to burst. The pounding headache behind my eyes hasn't seemed to dull, but of course that could be from switching altitudes.... This past weekend I was an attending author at the first ever Indie Romance Convention (IRC) and it was amazing. I gained so much information and met so many fantastic people. I plan on making a return appearance next year.

So where do I start? What information do I pass on, what tiny little gems of wisdom do I have for everyone reading this blog? My first one is, if you get a chance to go to this convention next year, do it. DO IT. I know it can be expensive, but the information and the networking makes it worth every penny.  I'm going to break down some of the things I picked up while I was out there. I'm hoping this isn't a ramble post and I also know I'm not going to be able to post everything, but I want to hit some of the highlights that'll make you think.

Let's start with marketing...I won't reveal how much some of these authors make a month, but let me put it this way...I could pay off some things and live off my writing. How did they get there? They market and well. (We're skipping past the first rule of writing a good book). Most of them have spent money on marketing, a tool that came up several times was Book Bub, which I have checked out and it looks like a pretty cool deal. You discount your book through them, they send a newsletter to subscribers containing your book on a list, and it boosts your downloads. It can be pricy depending on which news letter you need to get on, plus you have to be approved for this service. They stressed social networking a lot, be it Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. It's all about personal interaction with readers or potential readers, don't constantly try to sell yourself, but let them get to know you.

They talked about branding and eventually getting to the point where you can sell on your name alone, but not many of us are there yet. Branding and image are two very important things, what are people going to remember you for at conventions? Let me give you an example: Red Phenix, a BDSM author, is never seen without her mask, and normally in a corset. It fits her genre and people remember her for it. I'm not saying you have to have something that elaborate, but it works. Leigh Savage dresses in a more goth style to fit her vampire writing. This is something I need to work on, because many times through the weekend someone told me I looked so young that they didn't believe I was an author, or they thought I was a teenage. (For the record, I'm 26 and I'm 5'2".....) That's not really what I want to be remembered for, despite the fact that in ten years I'm going to be thankful for that.

Street teams: Oh man did these ladies talk about street teams highly! If you don't know what a street team is, it's a team of people (go figure...) that help you out with spreading the word about new releases, doing reviews, liking reviews, and a boat load of other things.

Best tip: Rule of thumb, do not post more than once a week when it comes to advertising for your book.

Where to from here? Oh yes, I attended a panel called Indie publishing 201. This covered some of the same marketing things, but it also asked use the question of Who are you as a writer? I answered this in a heart beat, but then hesitated a bit. I introduce myself as a Paranormal Romance author, with a hint of steampunk. That's who I am...but before last year, I thought I was only a PNR author, not a steampunk, then suddenly that was added to my list. Think on this, sometimes the answer might change and some times it surprises you.

We covered covers in this panel as well and how important it is, especially with stock photos, to make your cover stand out, in a good way! Don't use just standard stock, put a couple (no more than 3) images together to make a new one, use photo shop to alter it, just the smallest altercation can make it look completely different. If you can, pay for original art.

Oh and editing, man this made me feel small. I have beta readers and then I have a final editor (now two of them), one of the woman suggested having NO LESS than 5 editors look for final mistakes and typos. It's not that I don't agree with the more eyes the better, I was just taken aback on how many people she suggested. You want to put the best work out there you can. I agree 100% with that.

Best tip: Cross market with other people, both in blogs and in books.

I'm sure I have so much more information in my head, but I'm going to stop this here. Some of the stuff I learned doesn't apply to everyone, but I'm putting it specifically towards my writing life. Again, if you get a chance to go to this convention do it! I'll see you all there in 2014.