Category Archives: Toolbox

Website Woes

Hi everyone,

Recently Lilac Reviews website has been down.  I’m not entirely geeky enough to explain it.  Evidently some type of hacker/malware was piggy backing off our site to somehow advertise drug companies in Mexico or something.  Anyway the site looked fine, but our processing power was being ramped up so high from what they were running in the background that the hosting company (Blue Host) was ‘throttling’ the site and not letting our legitimate data through to the web so it didn’t hang up everyone else’s speed.

I had to load some FTP software (File Transfer Protocol, I learned) to go back to a previous backup of the website from December to overwrite or clean out the bad programming. I couldn’t use the C-Panel and the backup/restore component there because it kept hanging up (the processing issue effected that too).  I didn’t know how to find it to erase just the bad code.  I found the drug references in the error code log- but didn’t have anywhere near the geekiness to figure out how they were doing it to surgically get just those bad files.

BTW, I was on the phone with Blue Host on 3 separate occasions for more than an hour.  One time I waited 36 minutes for the tech person to get on chat with me- then spent 2 hours on the chat going back and forth.  I was not impressed.  Ultimately I had to figure out what to do myself.  Because evidently what is in my files and stuff is my responsibility and not theirs.  They kept telling me I was using too much processing, but blamed my site and said I needed to ‘optimize’ it.  I insisted I didn’t have any fancy footwork going on.  Book covers and text.  I don’t have a shopping cart or any other fancy shenanigans. I only use standard widgets and plugins like Jetpack.  They wanted me to strip all the widgets and plugins and add them back one by one to see which caused the site to fail.  Isn’t that time consuming and it wasn’t even the right thing to do.  They stripped every last one off and the site was still throttling.

I tell you all this to let you know why there has been an absence of posts for the past three weeks.  I now see that the book covers are not showing on all of the posts.  Weirdly, the older ones are and not the newer ones even though they were before my backup date.  So it may take me a while to go through things and get everything 100% again.  I was almost ready to throw in the towel on this. You can guess for yourself if I’m going to renew with Blue Host when my current term expires.

So bloggers out there, and authors too if you have a self-hosted website (not a free one), DO backup your sites!!  I could have lost 300+ posts, 2 and a half years worth of work over this.  One of the other things I learned is that they are not required to back up- although I swear I read something that it was included in my package.

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Vacation to Graceland

Cover ArtAbout the Book by Phillip Cornell

A man, his mother, his sister, his granny, his niece, and his nephew make a trip to Memphis Tennessee for a family reunion. During the course of the trip, the family encounter a series of circumstances that mold the trip into an unforgettable experience. Through the arguing and internal bickering within the group, they come together and strengthen the blood bond they share with each other. Reflecting on each and every situation encountered, the man realizes the trip is an overall social, emotional, and educational journey.

Amazon  |  B & N

Enter the contest below and follow the tour for excerpts, fun stuff and interviews 

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Sharing Marketing Gold

ad-data-wantedThis is an excellent post by Author Nicholas Rossis on return on investment for paid advertising options.  Make sure you read the details.  This data was sent in by folks running discounts on their books (a sale) .  Results also vary due to how well your ad is designed! For this author to gather this info and share it is extremely generous and helpful.  Please support his work by turning in results you have had.

There is a helpful graphic and also lots of links to follow up on.  This is up-to-date, current information!  Here is the link to his great post.

Call to Arms: Year-long survey reveals which book advertiser offers best value for money

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Sizes for Images on Social Media

As authors we are utilizing social media left and right.  It is frustrating for most of us because we aren’t computer ninja’s.  Here is a handy cheat sheet that tells you what sizes (in pixels) of image work best on what type of social media.  So you don’t have to pull your hair out tinkering, resizing, re-uploading and spending half the night to get it right.

Louise Myers over at Visual Social Media gave permission for me to share this with you.  You will probably love this and want to check out some of her other posts.  So I’m going to put the link here to her home page too.    Her site is here.

Here is the cheat sheet:

Graphic is courtesy of

Social Media Cheat Sheet 2016


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Free Classes on Buffer & Social Media

Buffer Logo from Media KitA lot of authors and bloggers alike are trying to get the most out of their time and efforts utilizing social media.  I received an email yesterday about some free help. 30 minute classes – short and sweet.  Please note if you can’t make the time of the class you want- do go ahead and register anyway.  They will do a recording – but they only send that to the folks that registered (if I am reading the email correctly).

Here is a link to get you to the registration page for some FREE classes in social media!

Here’s what the email said…

All next week — Monday, September 12, through Friday, September 16 — we’re hosting a new webinar every day on a social media topic. We’d love to have you join us!

Each webinar is free to join, and you can attend as many as you’d like. Feel free to share with your friends and colleagues, too — everyone’s invited!

  • Monday at 6:00 p.m. ET — 3 Clever Ways to Discover and Share the Very Best Content on Social
  • Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. ET — Inside All the Newest Instagram Features to Boost Your Marketing
  • Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. ET — Crawling, Walking, Running Analytics: The 3 Stages of Social Media Data
  • Thursday at 11:00 a.m. ET — How to Get Your Content Seen in the Facebook News Feed
  • Friday at 4:00 p.m. ET — 5 Quick Ways to Build a Far-Reaching PR & Outreach Strategy on Social

Each webinar is 30 minutes long, and we’ve arranged the times so that hopefully at least one lands in a good spot for your timezone. Feel free to register for any that catch your eye, and we’ll share the webinar replay with all who sign up (in case you might not be able to attend live).

It’d make our day (and our week!) to see you on one of these webinars. Any questions? Feel free to reach out directly to us by replying to this email. We’ll be thrilled to hear from you. 🙂

Happy sharing,
Kevan + the Buffer team

P.S. If you’re keen to learn more about how Buffer can take your social media sharing to the next level, we’d love to invite you to an Introduction to Buffer for Business webinar, happening every Tuesday and Thursday. We run through all our best Buffer tips and favorite features; you can register for free right here. It’d be fantastic to share with you!

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Simon Cann shares with us …

About the Character Leathan Wilkey and the Setting in Clementina

I came to write the Leathan Wilkey series knowing I wanted to incorporate certain elements, but not having a clear idea of the story I wanted to tell. The first element that I knew was the protagonist: Leathan Wilkey.

Cover Art ClementinaLeathan left London in a hurry when he upset an organized crime gang—an international people smuggling gang. And this led to the second element that I knew: Leathan had made a decision to hide in plain sight. Rather than go somewhere secluded and be an obvious outsider, Leathan headed for a dense, busy city—in this case Paris—where he could be a needle in a huge stack of needles (perhaps the densest stack of needles in Europe).

However, to maintain anonymity, Leathan needs to live without anything that would make him traceable. In other words, he needs to dispense with many of those day to day things that we take for granted: credit cards and a bank account, a known phone number, and a permanent place to live.

Living without those things we take for granted means that Leathan exists through a network where he trades favors—he doesn’t work for money; he works in a system that is little more than primitive bartering. That said, cash is always useful…but then he needs places and people where he can store this cash.

The consequence of living with a system of bartering is that Leathan needs to interact with people he knows, trusts, and with whom he can barter. The need to interact with people in this way means that he needs to be far more cautious—one damaged relationship could lead to a call to the people smugglers alerting them to his location.

Knowing Leathan was in Paris, I wanted him to exist in the places where people don’t look.

The front cover of the book is a great example of a place where people don’t look. The main image is a photograph of Pont de Bir-Hakeim, a bridge over the river Seine. The bridge is a striking piece of architecture built on two levels. The main level is for vehicles and pedestrians. The second, raised level is the rail viaduct carrying the Paris Metro.

While the architecture is impressive, few people notice the bridge because they’re staring at the prominent landmark behind it: the Eiffel Tower. By the way, if you’re ever in Paris and want to see the Eiffel Tower, head to Pont de Bir-Hakeim—it’s a great place to see the Tower from and there are no crowds.

Once I had Leathan in Paris living this rather disconnected life, but needing work and with a strong support network, the stories began to flow.

Enter the contest below and follow the tour for excerpts from the book

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Flawed Characters

Michell Grey PhotoWe asked Michelle Grey to share with us her views on flawed Characters…

Hello, and thanks for letting me join you today. My name is Michelle Grey, and I write contemporary romantic suspense. I enjoyed reading several of your reviews and appreciate your honesty and insights. I was asked to talk about turning character flaws into something that adds to the story line.

Good fiction, in general, MUST incorporate character flaws into the story line. Part of the reason we read is to experience the evolution of a character, and the journey that forces his or her growth.

In Convergence, my most recent novel in the Long Shot Series, Tori Whitlock carries a lot of baggage and uses alcohol to cope. Her inability to resolve her past drives her need to chase tornadoes for a living, and her most consistent and trusted relationship is with a bottle of Wild Turkey.

The story, set around the premise of a serial killer targeting her, is primarily about Tori (and Jack Mathis, her hero) finding a way forward, beyond the things of their pasts that hold them both captive.

Every character has flaws. Using them in the story line is critical for emotional connection between the reader and the characters. Tori was one of my most flawed characters, but man, does that make her redemption all the sweeter. Hope you enjoy her story!

Enter the contest below and follow the tour for excerpts & other guest posts and interviews 

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Your Author Budget

I gave a presentation at the June meeting of ETCWA (East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance). Several wanted to have a chance to review the Powerpoint.

The bar that shows the player seems to be cutting off a little off the bottom of the slide, but if you click on the box on the right side (after the volume button) it will go full screen and you can see all the way to the bottom of the slide.  There is no sound, as we didn’t make an audio recording.  I have just saved the Powerpoint as a video.  Also here are the links to the two graphs if you want to see them larger and the other data that is at that website (there’s tons of other statistics there).

$10,000 a year authors statistics (May 2016)

Authors earning $10K up to 1 Mil (Feb 2014 Hugh Howey post)


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June 13, 2016 · 9:42 pm

Balancing Life and Writing

Guest post by by Mark Spivak

I was amused when asked to do a blog post on balancing life and writing. In truth, they can’t be balanced.

Mark Spivak author PhotoI’m not sure if writing is an obsessional activity, but I’m pretty certain that only obsessed people do it successfully. It is the type of endeavor that almost inevitably tends to obliterate any idea of balance in your life. I sometimes compare it to a serious disease: you may have periods of remission, you may have spans of years or decades when you pursue another form of endeavor—either to make money or to fulfill family obligations—but sooner or later you’ll relapse and start writing again.

When you do, you’ll find it to be as consuming as a bonfire. Your work will be the first thing you think of when you wake in the morning, and the last thing you think about before you doze off to sleep. It will occupy most of your waking hours. You will appear distant to family and friends until you master the art of pretending to pay attention to what they’re saying, and until you become adept at participating in life events while actually thinking about the project you’re working on. The struggle to succeed will be so difficult and consuming that it will become hard to identify with those who are no similarly obsessed.

So why do people do it? If you’re successful you can leave a legacy, and that’s no small thing. You will experience the exhilaration of feeling (as Allen Ginsberg said) like “the self-contained master of the universe.” When my first novel, Friend of the Devil, was accepted for publication, I felt linked to a chain of storytellers that went all the way back to Beowulf. Actually, it goes back further than that: to the time when cavemen went out to hunt and gather during the day, and sat in their cave at night telling the stories of their day’ adventures. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s something worth striving for.

Enter the contest below and follow the tour for more about the author and book

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Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers

Award-Winning, Amazon Top 100 Author George Bernstein shares with us…

George Bernstein Photo

First, don’t do it, if that’s how you plan on making a living. Sure, we all hear about the fabulous successes of the J.K. Rowlings and John Greshams, but what you don’t hear is how long they struggled to even get published, and that people who make real money writing fiction are about .01% of all the writers out there. That’s 1/100th of ONE PER CENT! One in 10,000.

Second, if you’re still intent on being a writer and getting published by a REAL publisher, you’d better have a thick skin and be able to accept rejection… after rejection… after rejection! You may NEVER find an agent or publisher for your work. Louis L’Amore, probably America’s most prolific writer of Westerns, was reputedly rejected 350 times before getting his first story published. Even getting an agent is no guarantee of being published. I know of agents who have shop manuscripts they love for years and never find a buyer.

So, unless you’re writing for the joy of it… that you really want to get that story down on paper, no matter what… then find some better use for your time.

But if in the face of all that, you still want to write that novel, then here’s some advice.

First, pick up a couple of books on fiction writing. Donald Maass’ “Writing the Breakout Novel,” and Albert Zuckerman’s “Writing the Blockbuster Novel,” are two of a legion of titles available. Zuckerman’s book gives you a complete roadmap, from beginning to end. You can search Amazon or (good, like-new used books, cheaper) or the library. While you’re at it, you should pick up Dave King’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” which you’ll need later. Read those first, to get you on the right track.

Now, imagine the story you want to write, think of where it’s going and the characters who are going to take it there…and how you want it to end. I usually start with the end result I’m seeking and work backwards. But be prepared for that to change as you begin writing. More about that later.

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