“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.
He stepped into the hallway, then froze. Clustered outside the door to the office was a horde of people, the widest slice of humanity he’d ever seen crammed into one place. There were cowboys, businessmen, soldiers. Native Americans, what looked to be early Chinese, and more than a few women resembling the one from the side street.
The woman stepped out of the elevator behind him. She hissed. “Jesus. Is it always like this here?”
MacMillian stared down at her. “What are you- you can see them?”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, obviously. I’m a medium, remember?” She started down the hallway, paused, and glanced over her shoulder. “Are you coming?”
MacMillian hung back. She shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
She walked up to the edge of the crowd and cleared her throat. “Okay, someone want to tell me what you’re all doing here?”
Multiple heads swung towards her. An elderly man in a suit that would have been the height of fashion in the late eighteen-hundreds stepped forward. MacMillian strained his ears, but he couldn’t hear what the man said. The woman listened closely, made a curious sound in the back of her throat and turned back to him. “He says there’s a medium here. Are you sure you’re not sensitive?”
He was feeling rather sensitive, but he shook his head. “I don’t even know what that means.”
The woman humphed. “That’s what I thought.” She turned back to the man. “So you’re all here to be moved on?”
The man nodded.
Her shoulders relaxed. She reached out and took the man’s hand in hers. His eyes widened, then a peaceful look came over his face. His lips turned up. White light appeared in the center of his chest, expanded outward until his entire body glowed. With what looked like a sigh of relief, he evaporated.
MacMillian’s jaw dropped.
The woman moved slowly through the crowd. Hand after hand reached out for her. She took each one, held on until its owner flashed white and disappeared. By the time she reached the office door, the hallway was empty. She leaned back hard against the wall and closed her eyes.
MacMillian didn’t remember moving, but somehow he was standing in front of her. He closed his free hand around her arm and towed her inside, not stopping until they reached his office.
He slammed the door. “What the… what was…” He dragged a sleeve across his brow. It was drenched in sweat, but his skin felt freezing.
The woman watched him, her eyes sympathetic. “Rough day, Magnum?”
She sighed and rubbed her forehead. “That, my dear detective, was the other San Francisco. You’ve probably seen it before, just out of the corner of your eye. You’ve probably dismissed it all your life. Maybe you always told yourself you’d just had too much to drink.” She paused, her gaze heavy on his face. MacMillian squirmed. “But I’m guessing you always knew better.”
His head was throbbing. He shook it once, twice, but it didn’t clear. “I don’t get it, Miss…”
“Alan,” she supplied.
He nodded. “Ms. Alan. Why are you here?”
Her eyes darkened. “Because there are things that go bump in the night, Mr. MacMillian. It’s my job to bump back.”
1. If you were to describe your e-book/book in only one word, what would it be?
One word? Exciting.
Exciting because it’s the opening salvo of a much larger project.
Exciting because it’s my first book as L.J.K. Oliva.
Exciting because, GHOSTS! If ghosts aren’t exciting, I’m in the wrong business.
2. What would you say inspired you to write it?
Jesper MacMillian is definitely to blame. He pretty much jumped into my head, elbowed all my other story ideas out of the way, pulled a gun, and threatened me unless I let him out. True story.
3. Was there ever a time, during your work on the e-book/book, when you felt like giving up? What made you change your mind?
Absolutely, but it didn’t have anything to do with this book, per se. I think every author has a low point when they start doubting themselves and their career. My low point just happened to strike while I was editing A World Apart. I had a real crisis of confidence in myself, in my work, in my ability to actually make this writing thing happen.
I think we all struggle with that at some point—sometimes at multiple points. From talking to other people, though, that low point usually occurs just before the magic happens. I think when the doldrums hit, you have two choices: you either give up, or you shut up, nut up, and put up.
I’ve always been stubborn, so I chose Option B.
4. How do you deal with bad reviews or acid criticism? What would you advise other authors to that effect?
The way I see it, it all comes down to freedom.
I am free to write the books I want to write, the way I want to write them. On the flip side, other people are free to hate them. Passionately.
Mostly, I try to be objective (I know, easier said than done). I’ve learned valuable things from reviewers who had bones to pick with my work. Sometimes people see things you don’t. That’s just a fact. Embrace it and let it make you stronger.
“Acid criticism” (love that term, btw) is another beast. Some people just love to hate, and the result is blistering. Move on. Seriously. Every time I’ve seen an author try to defend themselves against such criticism—even if the author was technically in the right—guess who came out looking like the a-hole? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t Rhonda Reviewer.
Walk away. Just walk away.
5. Is this title part of a series? Without giving us spoilers, of course, what can we expect from the next e-books/books in the series?
Yes! A World Apart is Book One of my new urban fantasy series, Shades Below. The series follows psychic medium Lena Alan and private detective Jesper MacMillian as they bust ghosts, investigate crime, and save the world (or at least, San Francisco).
As part of the series, I am also writing standalone “companion novels” about some of the louder minor characters in the Shades Below universe. These will be released in-between the Lena/Jesper books. The first of these standalones is currently in production.
6. What do you have stored for us in the future? What are you working on/planning on next, aside this title/series?
The thing is, this series has been percolating for a long time. So long, in fact, that the Shades Below world grew too big for just one book… or even one series. Once the Shades Below series concludes, the Shades Below world will go on.
I’m not ready to spill the beans just yet, but I will tell you one thing: you may never think of Hell the same way again…
7. What made you decide to go the self-pub way?
Initially, it was a financial decision. When my son was born, I needed a job that would allow me to work from home. I also needed a job that I could make real money at (sorry, trad publishers). Self-publishing as an industry was finally gaining some respect, so I decided to jump in.
Fast-forward three years. I’m still in the infancy of my career as an indie. Any illusions I may have had of instantaneous fame and fortune have more or less fallen away, but I’ve grown addicted to the creative control. I’ve made some amazing friends. I’m working for myself.
Never say never, of course, but it’s safe to say I’ve drunk the self-pub Kool-Aid.
8. What would you say was the toughest part?
Committing to the long game. Everyone always talks about it, but it’s different when it’s been three months and you’ve sold literally two books. BUT… you can’t quit just because success is hard. Most of the good things in life are hard, and they are reserved for the people who don’t give up.
9. Where is your work being distributed, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, AllRomanceEbooks/Omnilit, some other distributor? How did you decide which one(s) to go with?
I initially started with Amazon and Smashwords, then made the decision to go exclusive with Amazon. It’s a controversial move amongst indies. Several of my more established author friends have also tried it, and it backfired horribly.
I, on the other hand, was making no sales via Smashwords, and Kindle Unlimited specifically has gained me readers who would never have taken a chance on me otherwise. I think if you already have an established fan base, Amazon exclusivity does you no favors. When you’re just starting out, however, if offers some extremely useful perks.
10. If you could turn back in time and do things differently, would you? What would you change?
If I could go back, I think I would put money aside for actual marketing. I tried to do it all myself, and I just didn’t have enough of a reach to be effective.
11. What’s one characteristic of an author who self-publishes, one word that would describe them?
Stubbornness. Talent is great, enthusiasm is fine, but if you’re going to make it in this game, you have to keep going. Even—especially—when the going seems futile.
1. If you were stranded on an isolated island, what’s the one book you’d absolutely wish to have with you?
Redwall, by Brian Jacques. It was my first love as a child, and I can never be without a copy.
2. Coffee or tea?
Coffee. That said, a steaming cup of Lapsang Suchong on a cold afternoon is a thing of beauty.
3. Were you a boyscout/girlscout?
Neither. I wanted to be a boy scout because they got pocket knives, but it didn’t work out.
4. Do you collect things like stamps, or key chains, or shoes?
Teacups. Specifically antique china teacups. I don’t know why. I guess because they’re pretty, and I like having pretty things.
5. Drama or comedy?
Comedy. My writing can get pretty dark. Comedy brings me back.
6. Cats or dogs?
7. What song have you listened to most recently?
“Where Is My Mind,” by the Pixies. No joke. It’s like a metaphor for my life.
1. Your top secret, uber guilty pleasure is…
Hendrick’s Gin. But it’s not much of a secret.
2. If everyone would receive a prize for being best at something, you’d be no. 1 at…
Research. Hands down. I am a research goddess. The Queen of Research. Certified Nerd: Model 0.0.0. Seriously, though. I really love research. I even have a running booklist (okay, shrine) on Goodreads for all my research for the Shades Below series.
3. The one thing you’d do anything to avoid/get out of is…
Babysit. When you have a kid, there’s this prevailing assumption you can be trusted with other people’s kids. No. Seriously. Leave your child with me, and they will be returned to you covered in blue paint and fluent in Elvish. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
4. If a character from any book could become real and you could spend a day with them, it would be… from the book…
Jericho Barrons, from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. He would scare the bejeezus out of me, but it would be WORTH IT.
5. You’d immediately fall for someone who…
…Had an entire conversation with me about ghosts, wormholes, and string theory, then didn’t run away screaming (BTW, I totally found that guy. And married him).
6. The one thing that always brightens your day is…
When I wake up in the morning and my toddler is standing next to my side of the bed dressed like Batman. You heard it here, folks. I get woken up by Batman.
7. The awesomest thing in your life is…
I’m doing what I love, surrounded by people I love. It doesn’t get much awesomer than that!
About the Author & Links:
L.J.K Oliva is the devil-may-care alter-ego of noir romance novelist Laura Oliva. She likes her whiskey strong, her chocolate dark, and her steak bloody. L.J.K. likes monsters… and knows the darkest ones don’t live in closets.
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