Expert of the Week - George Williams

George Williams

Lab Services Associate 2 at Compass Group

What is your professional background?

 I acquired a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at McDaniel College. After graduating I took a chance on a contract that required a lot of travel in the hopes that it would lead to a more permanent position. My opportunity paid off, as after the contract finished I was hired full time as a contractor. That was 3.5 years ago.

What inspired you to choose this industry for your career?

I always loved math and science in school, so I wanted a career focused in that. Biotech was a natural choice and had the additional advantage of being able to help a lot of people who require our products to live and to live comfortably.

In layman's terms, what do you do?

I produce the buffers, solutions and media that the MedImmune Research and Development end users require to do their job. It’s far cheaper to produce these in house than to order them from an external provider.

What has been your greatest accomplishment at Compass Group?

The MedImmune company used to purchase Sheathe Solution from an outside provider. I produced a method of making large quantities of it in house, thus saving the company $25,000/month.

What are some things that you wish others better understood about the work that you do?

My lab services department is always looking for opportunities to expand into new projects, so don’t be afraid to ask for unusual jobs. In business if you’re not actively expanding, you’re contracting.

What are the most common mistakes that can occur within the lab?

Waiting until the last minute to make a request. My turn around for fulfilling requests is fast, but I do request at least a 24 hour notice ahead of time. Some days I’m just too busy to give same day service.

What do you foresee in the near future?

I am currently seeking an entry level position as a Research Associate.  

What about the long term?

Some advancement in my field would be preferable. Within my current environment my preferred title would be “Associate Scientist”. It’s a salaried position that works primarily in the labs still and is 1 step below management.

What resources do you use to stay informed?

I have been trained in GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) and must occasionally renew various courses and SOP with my employer in order to maintain that company certification.

In the classic saying, “I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger,” what are some experiences that you wish you had known about ahead of time?

Career advancement requires skill and hard work, but those are just the minimum requirements. Networking and the ability to cooperate within a group determines how well you advance.  

What advice would you give to someone looking to becoming involved with lab services?

Don’t be surprised if you must do a lot of contract work at the start. In my experience, Biotech companies only hire you if they need to own the intellectual property rights of your work. For jobs that don’t depend on owning those rights, it’s always cheaper to higher contractors.

Author of the Week - S. P. Stevens


What is your professional background?

Internet marketing and design

What sparked your interest in writing?

I have always loved writing, but put it off thinking I needed an idea first. Big mistake – turned out the writing elicited the ideas. Anyway, in 2016 I sat down one day and decided to give it a go, wrote the first line, formulated a Universe in the blink of a gnat’s eye, and have been hooked ever since.

What do you like most about being an author?

I like the community, authors are such nice people!

What have you written?

So far, I have written the first book in my Epic Fantasy Bindcrafter series, a prequel novella to that series, and some flash/ shorts.

What genres/books do you read for inspiration?

Mainly fantasy/ sci-fi, with some classics thrown in – Dickens, Austen, and friends.

What genres/books do you read for enjoyment?

Too embarrassed to say…

How do you, “get in the zone,” when you are writing?

I listen to music and think a lot, and I revise previous writing.

What character(s) in your story (or stories) do you like best?

Mist, the sassy assassin, and Yannick, my psychopathic, guilt-ridden tailor.

What else have you found to be useful for your art?

Friends and critique partners.

How are you promoting your books? What seems to be working?

Social media mainly. My dumb jokes on Twitter are apparently the most ‘engaging’.

As the classic saying goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.” What is something you wish that you knew earlier?

As far as writing is concerned, it’s better to outline something and realize it doesn’t work than to write it out in full and find out. Saves a lot of time for coming up with my dumb jokes on Twitter.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a writer?

Just write. Then get some critique partners (other writers) to tell you why it’s terrible. Then fix it. And of course, write what you love to read – if you don’t, you’re going to spend a lot of time reading stuff you hate.

What would you recommend for improving one’s writing skills?

I’m a big fan of podcasts and YouTube – I like to find information for specific facets of writing I’m interested in, as and when I need them. I would recommend listening to K. M. Weiland’s complete backlist of podcasts, that woman is a genius! You’ll also want to start critiquing other people’s work – it crystalizes your own shortcomings and make you more analytical (in a good way) for your own stuff.

What are your favorite books?

I have loads, but hold special love for anything Douglas Adams, and in fantasy, adore the Imager Portfolio by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

What are three fun facts about you?

I coach kid’s soccer. I went to school with Radiohead. I have an orange belt in Karate.


Check out S.P. Steven's' site!


Author of the Week - Maria Doane aka MGD

Maria Doane aka MGD


What is your professional background?

I have a strong background in essay writing.


What sparked your interest in writing?

I was always an avid reader and in the back of my mind, I had a spark of the writing flame. As a child, I never went a day without some story running through my mind. Then one day I wrote a story down and from there it grew.


What do you like most about being an author?

I like everything to do with the writing process, but my favorite is taking the bare bones, first draft and starting the layering. Adding the muscle and sinew of a story isn’t just enjoyable, it’s like watching a child grow.


What have you written?

My first work was a novel series, which I am still in the process of self-publishing. After that I have written several short stories and started a few novels.

My first and work is called The Death of The Miller’s Son found at Amazon.

The next in the series books 2 & 3 are also published.

I also recently won Beneath the Rainbow’s romance contest for my short story; My Jilted Valentine


What genres/books do you read for inspiration?

Currently I am reading fantasy, Arthurian Legends to be exact. But I enjoy a variety of genres and my works always cross pollinate to make a unique blend.


What genres/books do you read for enjoyment?

The classics for the most part, Dickens, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes. But I also enjoy a book with a nice twist: Gone Girl., A unique view point: The Brief History of the Dead, or realistic stories: Charms for the Easy Life.


How do you, “get in the zone,” when you are writing?

Music puts me in the writing mood. I keep a playlist of go to songs. My playlist consists of a very eclectic variety, but each song has something in it that has sparked an inspiration. Some stories I listen to the same song over and over again.


What character(s) in your story (or stories) do you like best?

It’s not hard to pick favorites, I like a character that is more than they seem. My favorite is Ascott. Because in my story he is the one character who knows everything, while everyone else only has pieces.


What else have you found to be useful for your art?

Pictures, for instance strolling through Pintrest or Unsplash and finding a photo of a person or a landscape that draws out inspiration.


How are you promoting your books? What seems to be working?

Mainly I promote through social media.


As the classic saying goes, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.” What is something you wish that you knew earlier?

I wish I’d started writing sooner, so I would have had the knowledge of the craft. Also, knowing more about marketing before my first book launch would have helped.


What advice would you give to someone looking to become a writer?

Never force edits on a first draft. That draft is for you, pour your heart into it and keep it.


What would you recommend for improving one’s writing skills?

Read and read some more, but when you write don’t try to imitate a particular author. Your works will always reflect what you were into at the time, and elements of what you are reading may show up in your writing. But direct imitation will make your work always fall short. Instead, only focus on your work reflecting you.


What are your favorite books?

I enjoy a variety of books, but my all time favorite has to be Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons


What are three fun facts about you?

I am a coffee addict.

I know just enough Latin to get myself into trouble.

A have many hobbies and have studied a variety of subjects from herbal medicine to animal nutrition. I used to make homemade soap, research genealogy, garden and bake. I still do two out of three of those.


Check out My Site




Small Business Showcase: The Immortal Jellyfish

The Immortal Jellyfish

Shadryn and Justin, owners

What inspired you to become involved with skincare products?

In a modern world finding skincare or body care products without harmful chemicals can be difficult. We have always relied on natural remedies and homemade blends to aid us in our own Skincare. The Immortal Jellyfish started with us creating bath salts for friends and family members. Eventually we started getting orders in for more and slowly began our adventure into the Body and Skincare world.


What do you make?

We make a large selection of natural glycerine soaps, sugar scrubs, bath salts and essential blends and more for everyday use.


How are your products different from others?

We still see ourselves as customers within our small business, therefore when it comes to quality we will always want the best products and will always provide the best. Our products are homemade and organic with our own unique blends and recipes that you won’t find anywhere else.


What has driven growth behind your business?

The best answer would be our friends and family who have supported us and The Immortal Jellyfish since the very beginning. Our customers are the main reason we decided to add in so many new products. We do our best to keep our products affordable in the hopes that anyone can have access to great skincare products.


What challenges do you face?

There are always obstacles in running a small business, wanting it to grow and become a success can take a lot of work. But with anything it takes time, with us however we aim high and sometimes a bit too high. At one stage we were looking into supplying the bigger companies with our products to make them easily accessible to the public. However because we are only a two man team this could not happen in terms of high supply of products. We face difficulties in sourcing the right ingredients at times, natural does not necessarily mean cheaper and with that said certain products would go over the line of what we would like the price to be.


What’s the story behind the name, The Immortal Jellyfish?

On one of our adventures to Ushaka Marine World in Durban we fell in love with Jellyfish. We’ve always been interested in the weird and wonderful things nature has to offer and came across a Jellyfish (Turritopsis dohrnil) that can age backwards. During the first stages of creating our products we were looking into having labels made up and needed a name, something that had to be different and unusual like ourselves. We had sat for hours trying to come up with something suitable when we finally decided on The Immortal Jellyfish.


What has been your favorite soap?

It is honestly difficult to choose, but it would most likely be between Cedarwood for Justin and Spearmint for Shadryn. Both do wonders on the skin and both have incredible aromas.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

The best advice anyone has ever given me is, follow your dreams and success will follow you. It is never an easy journey creating something from scratch but when you’ve moved through obstacles that somehow manage to almost detour you from your goal and overcome the fear of failing in your project, all that’s left will be success. And I can guarantee, there are many ways to make your dream a reality as long as you stick to the goal and adapt your tactics to the best of your abilities.


Check out The Immortal Jellyfish on Facebook.

Expert of the Week: Tina Piney

Tina Piney, author


What is your professional background?

I’m a college graduate with a marketing/ human resources background. B.C. (that’s before children) my area of focus was recruiting. A.C. I’ve been working retail for the flexibility to spend as much time as possible with my children.


What sparked your interest in writing?

I am a lifelong lover of the written word. I read everything I can get my hands on. In high school I wrote stories and poems but past high school I only wrote poetry. I was still always making and telling stories, just not writing them. Then I confided to my friend Dave Gammon (also a writer) that I wanted to see if I could write a story, one well received enough to get published. We found an open submission and my first story (as an adult) “Chuckles” was selected and published.


How do you, “get in the zone,” when you are writing? To start I have six-year-old twins so the zone must work with them. I try to get my writing done when they are at school or asleep and I am not at work. Then, if nothing else (like I am not feeling inspired or in the “zone”) I do an “x” amount of words (like 500) so at least I’m moving forward. If I get caught up while writing (it happens often) I do much more.


Who or what did you look to for advice on revising your manuscript?

My lovely and talented friend Tara Woodfull does my editing for me. I would be lost without her.


As a new author, describe the process of having your book published.

I personally look for open submissions and either write a short story with the theme in mind or submit something I have written previously if the theme is more open. I read the submission guidelines carefully (regarding font, spacing, word count and so on) and make sure they get what they are asking for. So far, I’ve only submitted short stories for anthologies but I’ve had rather good luck.


Which do you prefer, self-publishing or, working with a publisher? I have never self-published so definitely working with publishers.

How are you leveraging social media to promote your books? I have started an author page on Facebook to promote my amazon author page. I am on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as well but I don’t do much there, it’s mainly Facebook.


What advice would you give to someone looking to publish the first book?

Just keep trying and keep writing. Commit to it, tell people, spread the word, GO FOR IT!

Small Business Showcase: Wednesday Valestin’s Fine Art and Jewelry

Wednesday Valestin

Owner and Artist

Portrait by Ron Frary

Portrait by Ron Frary

What inspired you to become involved with fine arts jewelry?

I have always been into the arts and creative field. Starting from when I was a small child, always painting, coloring and making things with found objects; anything to utilize my imagination. When I got older and decided what to do with my life, I knew I wanted to do something with the arts.

I attended Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers for my undergrad, bachelor of fine arts in Sculpture and Ceramics. Afterward, I attended Montclair State University my Teaching. I had the pleasure of having some of the best Art Teachers in the world when I was in school and they inspired me to follow in the footsteps. I spent a few years teaching when unfortunately my path went in a different direction. I took the time to teach myself new techniques and mediums; chainmail jewelry, water colors, portrait work.

After much prodding from my friends and family, I decided to finally take the jump and put myself out there. I create works on my own or take commissions in Painting, Drawing and Jewelry. And furthermore my latest venture is my coloring book I have self published.


What do you make?

I currently make chainmail bracelets and necklaces, or chains of any length. I also create portraits and abstracts in multiple media. Many portraits involve pastels, pencils and water colors. For portrait work I use photographic materials as my influences.


What has been your favorite piece?

My favorite piece of jewelry would be a necklace I made myself of small rings, which I have hung two purchased cast raven skull replicas.

If I had to pick a favorite painting I have done that would be my portrait “Penny for your thoughts”. Painted of someone very special to me and how was a very big influence on my putting my work out there. It allowed me to be part of a large juried show in Morristown NJ.


What has driven growth behind your business?

The biggest influence or drive behind my growth is that I have a very large supportive network of friends and family.  They are there to push me forward when I am struggling to find the guts to do so. Art is very personal, a little piece of me goes into everything, whether it is a chain or a painting. Sometimes it is intimidating to put your work out there. At the same time, the arts are meant to be shared. While I am no longer teaching, art is part of my every day life, and to be able to have that as a business for myself means I get to do something I love as a branch of my career.


What challenges do you face?

The biggest hurdle in the art industry for me is myself; I often end up wondering if a work is finished. It is a little less difficult when it comes to Jewelry as a piece normally has specifications, but portraits I am always finding little things to fix. I am also a hurdle in convincing myself to apply to art shows, always wondering if it is good enough. Getting your work out there is important though, it allows for a dialogue to occur with the viewer. Art and criticism go hand in hand, and being able to accept that someone just doesn’t like the work takes a lot of practice. 


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

For someone looking to follow into the field of art as a career or personal business, I advise you to go for it. Do not let yourself get in your way. The only way you will know if you can do it is to try. There will be bumps and rejections along the way, but it’s about finding the right market/venue.

Keep your eyes open for craft and art fairs as an avenue to sell your work. Scour the internet for exhibition calls in your area and apply. You may not get into everyone, but one is always a great start. Post your work, build a website, get your work out there. There will be people who rave about it, there will be people who bash it, there will be peers in the art field who will gladly discuss and give constructive criticism. Always keep in mind that there was a reason you created it, you enjoyed the process, you enjoy the finished piece, that’s what matters first.

Most importantly: Never give up. If I had I wouldn’t have a self published coloring book, I wouldn’t have my art work in other people’s homes, I would have a room full of artwork.  


Check out Wednesday’s art collection!

Facebook: Wednesday Valestin’s Fine Art and Jewelry

Expert of the Week: Dan Livingston

Dan Livingston

Owner of


What is your professional background?

I have a degree in marine zoology, which probably explains my affinity for science fiction that occurs underwater.

After working in a marine lab, I realized I was a better fan of science than an actual scientist. I then spent a couple of decades as a web developer, occasionally wandering into graphic design. I also wrote ten computer books, which no one I know has read. I then wrote Nyx, a fantasy novel about a mildly homicidal fairy, which seems to have found an audience with teenage girls.

What sparked your interest in creating a blog about science fiction?

One of my favorite parts of the day is climbing into bed with a good book. To find more to read, I found myself looking at “best of” lists for science fiction books. Many of the lists are great, but there are also a lot of repeats. I thought I’d find new books by actually doing the research myself, and it worked! So I figured, “Why not share that information?” I also get a ton of great recommendations from readers kind enough to comment on the blog (even if they totally disagree with me).

How do you assess the quality of a book?

The whole process is totally subjective, of course. I have an emotional reaction to a book and then try to figure out why.


I like compelling, three-dimensional characters in original, imaginative situations. I love ideas that I never would have come up with on my own. If a book bores me, I have no problem putting it down permanently. It doesn’t matter how far along I am into it.


I’m also biased towards certain kinds of stories. I tend to like novels that deal with the mind and consciousness like Echopraxia by Peter Watts. I dig mysterious alien mega-structures like Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds. I’m a big fan of humor, like To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, and gentle madness, like Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem and The Maiden Voyage of the Destiny Unknown by Nicholas Ponticello.

How are you leveraging social media to promote your site?

I don’t spend much time on social media. I’d rather be creating new lists or reading books for review.

When I do release a new list or review, I’ll submit those links to StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, reddit (r/booklists), Tumblr, and Google Plus.


What advice would you give to someone looking to become a blogger?

Focus on something you actually enjoy thinking and writing about. Blogging’s a marathon. I’ve had my blog for over two years, and it took a long time to get any kind of regular traffic.


Also, keep the blog’s content tightly focused. If you have a paleo slow-cooker blog, don’t post political rants. When I visit a blog, it’s usually for a specific reason, and seeing a potpourri of different kinds of posts feels chaotic and makes me trust the blog less.


Finally, schedule your time. It’s easy to write like mad for three weeks, and then peter off into nothing. I work on my blog on weekend mornings, without fail.

Check out Dan’s site.

Expert of the Week: Laura D Zajac

Laura D Zajac

Fine Art and Live Painter

What is your professional background?

I have been drawing and painting forever.  I studied painting at Penn State.  Since then, I have been working in other fields while building up my art business on the side.


What sparked your interest in the arts?

Drawing has always come naturally to me, since I was little.  Ongoing experiences are what inspires me, such as studying abroad in Rome, which got me hooked on Renaissance art.  After that, buying a home and wanting modern pieces jump started my new abstract way of painting.


What do you like most about being a freelance artist?

Knowing that people are enjoying my art in their homes or businesses.  With the event paintings, I see the joy it brings to my clients and nothing beats that.


How do you, “get in the zone” with your works?

It’s tough sometimes, but I have to just start.  Once I begin, everything flows.  Also, listening to inspiring podcasts, audiobooks, or music helps.  


What is the most common mistake you have seen others make when it comes to artistry?

Some artists put too much effort into creating work with “shock” value.  It doesn’t always have to be shocking or grotesque to be good.  The best work comes when you are creating what you love and not thinking about who is going to like it.  Do your best and favorite type of work, and the audience will appear.


What else have you found to be useful for your art?

Getting outside in nature, or just getting out at all. Paying attention to textures and colors in everyday surroundings. 


How are you leveraging social media to promote your art?

Social media is such a great tool, but I am not the greatest at it.  I really would rather be painting or experiencing life than having my head in the phone! I am currently on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at LDZdesign.


What books/blogs/news sites would you recommend for improving one’s skills?

When you are stuck and don’t know what next step to take, I would recommend “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher.  For financial matters, definitely Rich Dad Poor Dad or anything by Robert Kiyosaki.  For spiritual/life matters, my go-to is Wayne Dyer or Alan Watts.  I also like “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert)  for practical, physical steps you can take to improve your work ethic and your habits.  


What advice would you give to someone looking to become an artist?  

In terms of the actual artwork and creative process, I would say that the only way you can figure out your style and the type of work you are supposed to be doing is to get up and start doing it.  You may have months or years of so-so work before you create something you love that you want to make more of. It takes time to figure out your style and your message, but you just have to start.


Financially, there are many artists who are able to support themselves with their art, so don’t let anyone tell you differently.  Check out Natasha Wescoat, a very successful artist who coaches other artists.  There are so many who have found ways to prosper by thinking outside the box.  For example, painting at events or  licensing your work to larger companies for royalties.  



Check out Laura’s art




Expert of the Week: Tina Traverse

Tina Traverse, author

What is your professional background?

 I’m not a professional. I am a stay at home Mom caring for two special needs sons.

Writing is my passion.

What sparked your interest in writing?

A writing assignment in third grade. I had to write my own twist on the Good Samaritan story from the Bible. I loved doing this assignment. The creative process and letting my imagination go wild and putting it on paper, sparked the writing bug. I haven’t been able to get rid of it since!


How do you, “get in the zone,” when you are writing?

“Getting in the zone,” only happens when I am alone and have no distractions. No children, no husband and the house is quiet. Once I’m there and the words are flowing, I can spend hours writing.


What do you like most about being author?

Taking the images and dialogue that run around in my mind and putting them to paper, making them reality for others to enjoy.


What is the most common mistake you have seen others make when it comes to communicating in the written form?

Not thinking about what they are going to write and instead just writing any old thing that pops into their head. Using complicated sounding words without knowing the meaning, throws me out of the story. I enjoy descriptive prose, but in simpler terms.

What books would you recommend for improving one’s writing skills?

Stephen King’s on Writing. In my opinion, it gives through, solid advice on writing by a world- renowned author who has lived the struggles of being a writer before becoming famous and celebrated.


What else have you found to be useful for your art?

I’m a self-published author and this means that I am responsible for the editing, cover design and marketing of my work. I found that finding a good editor, cover designer and a person or people who can help you with marketing when you are not familiar with it yourself are invaluable tools. As important as your computer!

Also, the most important is support. Writing is a lonely art and having the support of those around you, keeps you going, even if you feel like giving up.

How are you leveraging social media to promote your books?

Truthfully, I have been using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out to potential readers and engaging with them on a personal level rather than just saying, "Buy My Book!" But, I am still learning how to utilize social media. I’m still inexperienced.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a writer?

Writing isn’t a guarantee path to fame and fortune. Writing is a life-long quest. It requires passion and patience. You have to love to write in order to do it. If you do not feel joy when writing, there is no point in doing it. It is the love that will get you through the hard times of self-doubt and others criticism.


Check out action packed tales on

Small Business Showcase: Songbird the Singing Rose Girl

Songbird the Singing Rose Girl


What inspired you to create this character?

I think it was less inspiration and more necessity.  When I first started selling roses at a renaissance faire, it was recommended to me that I should consider some kind of gimmick, something that could call to the market and therefore, make me special (and help my sales rise).  I was asked that season, sometime in the beginning, to do a "make her laugh and blush with embarrassment simultaneously" delivery.  Oh, that's a thing you should know: rose sellers sell to the patron masses coming through the gate, but often times we'll also sell and deliver flowers (depending on the show, it can be more than just roses) from vendor to vendor, performer to performer, or any combination from person a to person b.  So it was left up to me to determine the "make her laugh and blush with embarrassment simultaneously" bit, and I had already been playing around with singing as a way to catch a patron's eye (or in this case, their ear), so I picked a song, got noticed, and from there the Songbird personna started.


How did you decide to combining singing and selling roses at Renaissance Faires?

 Well, like I said, I wanted to think of something, and when I was younger, I had decided I didn't want an actor's life (my career is primarily based behind the scenes now, which was always my bigger passion), but I missed singing.  Singing was the one part about performing that jazzed me the most.  So I like to think serendipitous found its way back in somehow.


What songs do  you sing?

Anything, I tell people I'm a walking, talking jukebox.  Sometimes, people who want a flower delivered by me want a song but can't think of one, so I pull from a roster of things I know: previous deliveries, perfect situational go-tos, the odd duck here and there.  But there's rarely just one song I always sing.


What’s your favorite song?

Whatever happens to be stuck in my head at the time.


What has driven growth behind your business?

Numbers. Anything successful in business is always a numbers game.  I talk to everyone I see, and I mean everyone.  Mostly I aim to make them laugh, happy people are likely to spend their money.  Sometimes I'll spend all day joking with the same few people, I run into them all day, and at the end, they said yes to purchasing a flower, because the flower reminds them of the funny rose girl with the hat who made them laugh all day.  They're then more likely to take care of it too, I've had patrons come back several weeks later and say the flower I sold them is still going strong on their kitchen mantle.


What challenges do you face as a performing arts businesswoman?

I think the biggest challenge has always been dealing with those who value power over collaboration or customer service.  It always boils down to ego, which the performing arts is chalk full of.  And it's hard to tell who'll be into what at first glance sometimes.  I've found I've had to walk the line as a young minority in my career over anything else.  Over time, it's become less challenging and more annoying, but I've gotten to a point where I can pick and choose who I want to work with.  It makes it easier for sure.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

I would say get uncomfortable with your goals, real uncomfortable.  You can't find success playing safe.  And also, have the self-awareness to see what's working and not working when you're in that uncomfortable zone, it can help you reshape your uncomfortable goals and up your chances for success.


Meet Songbird, the Singing Rose Girl on Facebook.

Expert of the Week: Lisa Leonard

Lisa Leonard

Voiceover Artist/Owner,

What is your professional background? 

I am a professional voiceover artist.  I own and operate and am the main voice at Lisa Leonard Voiceworks, LLC.


What sparked your interest in voiceovers?

When I was working as a radio DJ, part of my job involved recording commercials for businesses that  bought air time.  I always enjoyed reading the scripts.  It was a part of my work day that I really looked forward to.  And clients started requesting my voice, so that boosted my confidence that I might be able to make a go of voiceover work full-time.


What can businesses use voiceovers for? 

Promoting, Educating, Inspiring, and Entertaining.  There are so many ways a company can use voiceovers! 

Most of my days are spent recording commercials, eLearning narration, telephone prompts, and announcements for corporate awards shows and meetings.


What software do you use with your work? 

Sound Forge Audio Studio


What are some of the "unspoken rules" of this profession? 

Don’t waste people’s time.  Be prepared and ready to record at the scheduled session time.  Try to avoid recording a bunch of unnecessary takes.


What is something you wish non-voiceover professionals knew in order to better understand your work? 

It’s harder than you think!  I’ve had a lot of people approach me for advice about getting started in this line of work.  They have great voices but are not necessarily good readers.   It’s a skill to read in a way that’s natural…that doesn’t sound like you’re reading.


What do you foresee in the near future for voiceovers? 

All kinds of interesting opportunities with text-to-speech, and automation technology. 


What about the long term? 

I believe we will get away from the announcer style of voiceovers.  Audiences are trending younger and like to be talked “to” not talked “at.”  In the future I don’t think we’ll hear much of that formal, authoritative announcer style that was popular for so many years.


What books/blogs/materials would you recommend to learn more about voiceovers? is a good searchable site for information about getting started, setting up a home studio, equipment, agents, etc. 


What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a voiceover artist?

Contact a working VO actor and ask them to listen to you read.  Be open to their critique.  It will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.   Before investing in recording equipment, make sure you understand what’s involved in this career in addition to recording scripts: Auditioning, marketing, maintaining client relationships, invoicing, etc.  Having a nice voice isn’t enough.  You really need to be a good reader and communicate in a way that will engage the listener.  If you’re sure you want to try VO, there are plenty of people who offer training, coaching, and demo production. 


Check out Lisa's site -

Expert of the Week: Erin Dahl

Erin Dahl

Actress and Writer

What is your professional background?

I’ve never been interested in any career other than acting, so my jobs before are an assortment to keep enough money coming in. I’ve done retail, temping, and of course, waitressing. My professional “journey” if you will, in acting, just began in 2016 when I joined SAG-AFTRA.


What sparked your interest in acting?

I’m not sure there was a moment that sparked my interest, I just kind of always knew. I think it really hit around age 9, I started doing this thing whenever I read a book, I would pick a character and pretend to be them in this made up film version in my head. It was in college when I started doing student theater at Villanova I decided I was really going to go for it. As time went on I realized it is just what I am supposed to be doing in life, and I would never be happy doing anything else. Acting was always sort of the thing that was continually there when I needed it.


What has been your favorite role thus far?

That’s a really good question. I’m not sure I know the answer, because every role you play is like a little part of you. I’ve noticed similarities to myself in almost every character that I’ve played. That being said, getting to play evil or insane characters is for me the ultimate treat.  You really have the opportunity to display the human condition honestly with all its flaws and not how society tells you it “has to be,” and you’ll notice that honesty is renewing as it starts to spill into other areas of your life.


How do you get into character?

I think the key is to not try too hard to get into character, and just know the person you are portraying is already a part of you somehow. I really believe as humans we have it in us already through some giant collective unconscious, so it just comes naturally to portray someone else’s experience. That being said, I always show up with the attitude that I’m ready to work with lines memorized, and know the character’s objectives in the scene and go from there. Costumes and setting and just being around everyone else backstage or on set also helps tremendously, especially if it’s a historical production.


What advice would you give to someone considering a career in acting?

Okay, this is going to be long but I’m brimming with positive advice. GO FOR IT.  Yes, it is super competitive, and you will likely be doing free work for years. You will be poor and won’t be able to spend on the level you will notice your peers spending. You might not ever be able to support a family. At the end of the day, you only have one life, so if considering all this, it is still really what you want to do, DO IT.

It doesn’t matter if you are shy or don’t think you have the right look, just by believing in yourself you are putting yourself in the top 10% because a lot of people don’t believe they can do it and just settle in life. However, you have to love it enough that you will be okay with whatever happens. Also, giving yourself a “timeline” like I hear people often do is bullshit. It is going to take a very long time. And even if you do make it big you could fall out of favor, and then back in again. It’s helpful to think of it as more so a lifestyle that you are committing to. 

Also, many people seem aghast at this, but expect to spend money. Which sucks, because you won’t be making much. But you will need money for headshots, classes, a reel, etc, so find a good flexible job where ideally your weekdays are open to audition.

Build a supportive network of people you meet on your epic journey.  Know who you encountered on your journey who is inspiring to you and remember these people and what they taught you when it gets tough. Stalk other actor’s websites for tips. Have faith that one thing will always lead to another. Make a goal list and stay positive, and don’t focus on what others are up to but rather the cool stuff you booked this year, and the goals you checked off, and still have ahead of you!


About your blog, CasualWorld, what do you typically write about?

It honestly started off as a joke, “Casual” was this movement that all my friends and I were obsessed with in college to try and convince mainly guys that we were cool. So I started it with the intent of jovially sharing secrets of the Casual lifestyle. It was my early twenties, however, when I was out in the real world and living on my own for the first time and I was just sort of observing stuff and how the world is. Over time, it evolved into really impassioned commentary on societal things I noticed that annoyed me. A lot of it is very feminist observations. I would say the main points of the blog now, are just be cool, be real. Don’t put on a front. And don’t validate your existence through societal constructs like marriage.


What advice would give to those looking to start their own blogs?

Again, just DO IT! It’s a great way to express yourself. Just remember, though, that it’s online. It’s not quite the same thing as a diary. People are super nice and will comment if they like what they see. See if you can use your blog to advance your other goals. Does it fit your brand? And most of all, have fun with it!

IMDB - Erin Dahl

Tumblr Blog – CasualWorld

Facebook – Erin Dahl Actor

Instagram - erindahlxx

Twitter - @erin_dahlxx

Expert of the Week: Lauren Curtis

Lauren Curtis

Fine Art Painter, Freelance Illustrator, Photographer, and Graphic Designer



What is your professional background? 

I'm a full time freelance visual artist specializing in illustration, painting, graphic design and photographic art.  I was graduated with a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts (Rutgers) in 1988 with a focus on drawing and painting,  and went on to work in art galleries, then sales, marketing and fundraising. I finally made a reality of my dream of being a full time artist about 10 years ago.  My sales & marketing background really helped me organize and promote my own business and balance the skills needed to pursue a creative career in the arts.  Since college I have been regularly participating in art exhibitions and events across the US and I have sold work, both fine art to collectors and commercial art to businesses and publishers, to people throughout the US & abroad.  It's exciting to have the flexibility of being my own boss as well as the opportunity to work with a wide variety of clients globally!


What sparked your interest in the arts?

As a child I always loved to draw and create, and my father, who was a talented nature artist, was my first teacher.  My parents often took me to art and history museums which further sparked my interest in the arts and I was also lucky enough to have some amazing and supportive art teachers both in junior high and high school, as well as lessons I took outside of school, both private lessons and at an art academy.


What do you like most about being a freelance artist?

As I mentioned above, the freedom of being my own boss and making my own schedule is worth the difficult nature of "making it" as a full time freelancer.  And, with the internet, being able to work with so many types of people across the world is really amazing and inspiring and opens up so many more doors to new clients and collectors than ever before.  I also LOVE doing what I love for a living!  This does not feel like "work" because I enjoy it and am getting the opportunity to create every day, even when it's not work for myself but for a client, I am still able to create art and get paid to do it.  I have also made some great friends and connections with my clients as well, so it's been rewarding on both a personal and professional level.


How do you, “get in the zone” with your works? What is the most common mistake you have seen others make when it comes to artistry?

For me, I sketch out ideas for paintings first and then just wait for the inspiration to "hit me" and I know it's time to's like the light bulb comes on in my brain and I can envision the painting.  Sometimes I do several different sketches at a time for various ideas and let them percolate until the idea comes clear to me as to how I want them to look as paintings.  It's different for photographic work as it's much more immediate.  I am inspired when I am out somewhere, often in nature or traveling, and I see an image or location that I need to capture through photography.  Sometimes I print the photo as a straight up photographic image and other times I am inspired to utilize collage and/or Photoshop to turn it into something else.

When it comes to my commissioned work, that's different as I have to portray the ideas of my clients and work with their reference materials, ideas and timelines.  My goal there is to create work they will be happy with and that properly promotes their business or represents and portrays their project or story.

I think one of the biggest hurtles many artists face is dealing with the business end of their art....not marketing or promoting it properly, being disorganized and not having all your materials prepared and ready to go.  My marketing and sales background helped me enormously with this but I can relate to those without this training as these tasks can be daunting and time consuming but they must be done if you want to make a career from your creativity.


If anyone wants to view my work or contact me about it, here are my main websites:  (Fine art, photography, updates)  (my Blog)                       (Facebook Art Page) (commercial & fine art)   (illustration & fine art)
(Graphic design & fine art)
(Follow me on Twitter) 

Expert of the Week: Terese Hayes

Terese Hayes

Staff Accountant at U.S. Vision,


What is your professional background?

I have been in the accounting industry for four years now. I have an associates in business administration and bachelors of science in accounting. 


What inspired you to choose accounting for your career?

I've always been intrigued by business and the process of administering an organization. Accounting is the basic function of how a business is performing, so I had to study the subject and fulfill my interest.


Beyond simple adding and subtracting numbers, what is it that people should better understand about accounting?

Accounting is really basic math and principles. It's not a difficult subject to learn. I think that it is a bit misunderstood because the majority of people think that it's complex math and very tedious information to interpret. I'd say that accounting is 40% principles, 35% analytical thinking, and 25% math. It's a craft that can be learned like anything else with diligence and practice.


What’s your average day like?

Everyday is different! On average, I'd say that it's pretty steady. After a while a rhythm is set and I am able to prioritize my tasks (cash reports, deposits, account reconciliations). All good things.


What has been your greatest accomplishment at U.S. Vision?

I had a really great review recently and I was presented the opportunity to work at a higher level and take on a bit more of responsibility. This gave me great confidence in my work ethic. I felt a sense of accomplishment and reward to be acknowledged by my supervisors in this manner.


What are the most common mistakes that can occur?

I find it very common to make mistakes in all of my assigned duties, but I pay very close attention as I work through my tasks. Therefore, I keep mistakes at a minimum. It's very important to have great attention to detail in this industry.


If you use software programs, what have you found to be effective?

The process to create a Balance Sheet and/or Profit and Loss statement is much shorter than what I remember as a student! For example, Oracle can generate these financial statements with a couple of clicks and of course a set of procedures to follow for the individual running the reports. I believe that as technology continues to progress, more accounting functions will be processed more efficiently and in a much shorter time span.


What opportunities are now becoming available for businesses to take advantage of?

Businesses are now setting up operational efficiencies, which is simply an outline to minimize costs and influence a culture that focuses on communication and the company's bottom line. All companies are in business to gain and sustain growth. A company without a healthy operations system and profits would be like a ship without a sail. The business will decline before it starts. 


What do you foresee in the near future?

I'd like to join professional associations such as the Young CPA Network. It's vital to network with those of like minds. Networking is essential to social and professional relationships. I'd also like to get involved with business associations at Rutgers-Camden School of Business, my alma mater. 


What about the long term?

I would love to be a mentor to aspiring accounting professionals. Pursuing a degree in accounting could be quite a challenging task, as it would be to get a degree in general. I want young professionals to know that it will be tough, but very achievable. 


What books/blogs/materials about accounting would you recommend?

Bloomberg BNA Accounting Blog, Accounting Coach, The Rise and Fall of Enron - the biggest accounting scandal in history. The latter would be an example of what not to do as a professional. :)


What advice would you give to someone looking to becoming involved with accounting?

This is a great industry to work in. It's a rewarding occupation and there is a large window of opportunity to partake in. Whether one were to work for the state or become certified, the options for an accountant are limitless. An individual interested in this field should know that they'll always be learning as accounting evolves. This is a steadily growing industry and I encourage those that are interested in studying accounting to go for it.


Find Terese Hayes on LinkedIn.

Small Business Showcase International Edition: DarkLady Marketing

DarkLady Marketing

 Owner: Wendy K. Gloss

What is your professional background?

In my varied working career I have dabbled in an extremely diverse array of fields – you could say I never settled anywhere, having worked in almost every industry except mining, fishing and government. This wasn’t really because I couldn’t make my mind up, but had more to do with circumstances, which weren’t always ideal.


I was born in Springs (the town, not actually wearing them) and later grew somewhat taller in a tiny flyspeck on the map called “Kriel”. Kriel was a really small mining town – a one horse town as the saying goes, except the horse died – where everyone with a little savvy spent every effort on getting out of there as soon as possible in order to have some kind of future. Most of my school mates are still stuck there, and either married miners or died. The schools there seemed to attract teachers who were not interested in teaching anymore and who were on their way out of the teaching field to find jobs in others. Consequently, between growing up and being schooled in a small town with less than interested educators, I finished high school in 2004 without having gained anything I was really interested in doing. I wanted to study anthropology and behavioral psychology after school, but found myself unable to apply for any study bursaries due to this countries social policies, and couldn’t afford to pay for it myself. I then had to face the daunting prospect of finding a way out of Kriel, or ending up like the other females who grew up there – pregnant or working in a mining office. Neither of these appealed to me.


After finishing high school, I followed my heart out of Kriel and ended up in another small town across the country called Hazyview. I took various jobs in town, where I could get them. Among these varied small and unimpressive jobs, in 2009 I worked at a tourism information company where I picked up most of my marketing skills. Those skills were again expanded on later, in 2013 at a lodge/safari company I worked at. I was thrown into the deep end there and handled their website, tourism listings, social media marketing and newsletters.


After 2014, due to various circumstances, I found myself unemployed in Hazyview. The main reason for this is that while in South Africa people are protected against discrimination on the basis of their religion, in practice, that ‘protection’ isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. My employer at the lodge, who was a big wheel in Hazyview’s tourism community – and Hazyview is a tourism-driven town – discovered that I was not like her, a Christian, but a Pagan. This horrified her to an extreme, and to make a long story short, I was rail-roaded out of that job. I can honestly admit that the only good thing that came out of this job was the amount of marketing skill and practice I picked up there.  Unfortunately, this issue became very personal, and she waged a misinformation campaign in the town which ensured that I could not find work anywhere else in town for over nine months.


At this point I set out to create my own income through affiliate marketing, and so DarkLady Marketing was born. Unfortunately, my first attempt failed partly due to my lack of knowledge and mostly due to lack of support, also partly due to the abovementioned events. Luckily for me, after nine months, I found a job at a camping goods store where I did everything from sales, management advertising and marketing. I had a lot of free time on my hands at this new job and took it upon myself to study one of my passions, psychology. I applied to and finished every single free online course I could find on the subject. This is relevant because I now apply psychology to the marketing I do and in so doing understand how to reach the target audiences needed for each client.


Very suddenly in January 2016, I found myself faced with a divorce. My wife who I have been with for 10 years (married for 3) decided to divorce me. Naturally, my life was turned upside down and I had to leave Hazyview where I had lived and worked for 10 years. At that point, when my life seemed about the most hopeless it had ever been, Christina Engela was kind enough to offer me a place to stay until I could find my own two feet again. The only problem was, that she lived in a city at the coast which was on the other end of the country – and so my very difficult trek to Port Elizabeth began!


Christina and I had been friends on Facebook for about 4 years before this, so I decided it was perhaps a very good idea to make such a drastic mad move away from all I knew and loved to start afresh. By complete surprise, about a month later, we fell in love and my fresh start began to take on a completely different hue! After several months in the city, I still hadn’t found a job, even though I was looking everywhere, and went tofew interviews.  After a few months had passed uneventfully on the job hunting front, I kind of gave up looking. There just is no hope for a thirty year old white female with only matric in South Africa’s job market today.


Semi-resigned to being unemployed, I decided that if I couldn’t financially contribute to this household in some way, the least I could do was market Christina’s writing. So began the second chapter in my battle to make DarkLady Marketing work! This time it did!


After a few months of marketing Christina as an author, during which her audience grew and her sales increased, she advised me to offer my services to others for a fee. I finally had the knowledge I felt I needed to make this work, so I restarted DarkLady Marketing in full force in July 2016. Word of mouth brought referrals and my client base has grown steadily over the past six months. I have been very fortunate to have a fantastic bunch of loyal clients from a variety of professions and fields. I hope to expand in the future and to specialize in marketing authors and professional bloggers, but for now I love what I do!


What’s the story behind the name?

There is not a very odd story behind it. I was playing The Sims pet story when I was still in high school and went off to adopt a cat. When it prompted me to name said cat, the name ‘DarkLady’ came to mind. I really have no idea why this name has stuck by me since then, I have used it as an online handle as well as for my online Tarot reading business (Est 2009, I have given it to another tarot reader to run). I know it sounds silly but that is the story behind it J


What made you decide to enter the marketing field?

Marketing is a passion of mine because I get to employ my other passion – psychology in marketing. When I did it initially, in 2014, it was born out of a need for an income to support myself. However due to lack of knowledge, support and passion it inevitably failed. When I started doing social media marketing in April 2016, it was in order to help Christina to get her name and writing out into the world. She was growing more frustrated at the amount of time she had to spend on promoting herself and the very little time she was getting to write due to that. So I decided I would use the skills and knowledge I acquired to do her marketing for her so that she can concentrate on doing what she loves the most, writing.


After she saw the results of my marketing, she encouraged me to re-open my business and to offer these services to others for a fee. And so the second chapter of my marketing career began. I now have the right knowledge, passion and skills to be able to do social media marketing with very visible results.


What types of marketing do you work with?

It all depends on what the client is offering. For an author, I post quotes from the books written by them on their Facebook pages, Goodreads etc in order to keep possible readers interested or to attract the interest of potential new readers, I will then also invite people from my personal profile on Facebook to said pages. I also share all of their posts on their groups/pages/blogs on my personal Facebook page as well as my DarkLady marketing Facebook page. If they have a Wordpress blog, Ireblog all of their new blog posts on my DarkLady site as well as on Pintrest, Tumblr, Facebook, LinkdIn, Twitter and various other social media profiles I have for Darklady Marketing.


I will also and add quotes from their various books as well as rate the book (if I have read it) or put it on my to read shelf (if I have not read it yet) on bookshelf sites like Goodreads. Should they not have a profile on the relevant bookshelf sites, I will get the author to register a profile and then I will load their book details onto these sites where they can claim them as their own writing. I review their books for them (if I have read them) and also recommend their books to others who may be interested in them. This has an effect of other users adding the author’s books to their ‘want to read’ lists, and also drives traffic to the author’s website and book searches, sales pages etc.


When a blogger or a small business signs up for the first time, I place a permanent add on my Darklady Marketing site with full details and links to all of their various social media profiles/ pages/ groups and of course a direct link to their main blog site if they have one.  I also share their blog posts on my various social media profiles. I offer each client one working day per week to be marketed on. On their day, I share all of their previous week’s posts on my personal Facebook profile as well as on my DarkLady marketing page and then all the other various profiles on other social media platforms. It’s a very time consuming laborious process, but it’s also relaxing for me. I also invite possible interested parties to ‘like’ their page on Facebook (should they have one).


If a client creates an event on Facebook or shares an event to their business/ blog/ author Facebook page, I will list that event on my DarkLady Marketing Facebook page too, so that it gets more coverage.


I learn something new every day, and so expand my services to my clients constantly, while keeping the price of my services the same. The reason for this is simple: I keep my prices low so that I can target small businesses, individuals (such as struggling authors in particular!). They usually can’t afford most of the marketing packages being offered by other larger marketing companies, and are the ones that need the most help! My passion in life is to help these people to achieve their goals. Clients all have different needs to suit their particular brand, product or service.


I tell my clients that I cannot guarantee sales, I can guarantee exposure, and that their names will get out there – it is up to them to turn those numbers into sales.


I also offer my clients free advice on marketing their pages or products as well as advising them on how to make what they are offering look more interesting to possible readers, fans, clients or customers.


What has been your favorite piece?

I really can’t pick favorites I love all of my clients and what they have to offer.


What has driven growth behind your business?

I would say the support I have gotten from my partner Christina Engela, and then there is also the fact that my skills and services are continually evolving. Every time I learn of a new social media site or a new technique to reach people, I implement it and adapt in order to give my clients the best service I can.


As of August 2016 I’ve also begun to be involved with a publishing company called LightBearer Publishing, in which Christina is a partner, to market the company and all its new releases.


What challenges do you face?

Well to be honest the inability to market myself. Yes I know I do social media marketing and should be able to market myself, but the thing is I am so busy marketing my clients and their products and various ventures, that I very rarely get time to market my own business in order to try and expand my client base!


At the moment I have a few repeat clients keeping DarkLady afloat, however my main challenge is getting new potential clients to sign up. Trust is an issue because there are so very many scam artists in the market place that people tend to not trust something that looks too good to be true.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t ever give up! Even if you fail the first time, try to learn more, expand your knowledge, ask a stranger for advice (actually listen to that advice), and then try again. Rinse, repeat.


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Learn more about Wendy K. Gloss

Expert of the Week International Edition: Christina Engela

Christina Engela, author

What is your professional background?

I have worked in a military environment since January 1992, shortly after finishing high school – first as a soldier, and since 2009 as a civilian employee. I qualified and worked as a computer technician in 1999 and worked in an IT department as a LAN administrator between 2000 and 2004, while also running a private IT business on the side. I also gained national qualifications in IT security in the meantime. From 2004 I’ve been training people in acquiring basic computer skills, a job requiring a lot of patience! I’ve lectured at Damelin College.


In activism, between 2009 and 2011 I was Director of the Eastern Cape Gay & Lesbian Association (ECGLA) and, simultaneously, of the SA Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SAGLAAD) of which I am still a member. Currently I’m a Board Member of OUTology! and on the executive committee of the SA Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA). I lectured on sexual orientation and gender identity at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University between 2009 and 2014.


I’ve published 12 books of my own and one so far as an editor, with several more in various stages of completion. I’m a partner in LightBearer Publishing, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

What sparked your interest in writing?

I’ve been eager to write stories since I was old enough to grasp a fat wax crayon! I could say it was growing up around my dad Theo Engela, who was a writer – always writing in a note book or typing his stories on an old portable typewriter, and that inspired me at an early age! My mother Yvonne was also extremely gifted in languages, and although her home language was Afrikaans, her English was extremely good. She wrote poetry in both languages to an equal standard.

What do you like most about being an author?

Being able to create worlds… and to sometimes destroy them. Seriously. It’s nice to be able to tell stories that can change people, and through them, the world they live in. Terry Pratchett – one of my writing heroes – said “Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself!” and this is very true!

How do you, “get in the zone,” when you are writing?

The old saying ‘writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration’ is exactly right! The important thing is to be excited about the material I’m working on, and then it just starts to flow through me. Sometimes my stories pretty much write themselves and I feel like a kind of conduit channeling my characters and the events they live into the document! Often something funny will come out, and I will be in stitches at my PC! The more fun I have writing, the more I want to write.

What is the most common mistake you have seen others make when it comes to communicating in the written form?

Assuming and taking for granted that they are as talented as others think they are. Then they are writing for an imaginary preconceived audience and not for themselves, and that’s when things start to go wrong. If it sounds right to the writer, and makes the writer happy or even laugh out loud, then that’s the way to go because there’s less pressure – less performance anxiety as it were. A writer should have good grammar and spelling for sure – but they should also be more concerned with telling their story, and leave the grammar and spelling for the editor to sort out! That’s what I tell writers who send me material for editing, which I occasionally do on the side as well.

What books would you recommend for improving one’s writing skills?

A dictionary is always useful, and there’s a book called ‘The Student’s Companion’ which I’ve been using since high school – full of antonyms, synonyms, idioms etc.


What else have you found to be useful for your art?

I’ve found that everyday life experiences enrich my general knowledge as a writer, giving me more material to draw on. Humor is also a great boon, since it can liven up what would otherwise be either too plain or boring – and I fear I have something of a warped sense of humor!


How are you leveraging social media to promote your books?

For the most part things went very slowly. Between 2007 and 2014 I hardly had any sales and not understanding social media marketing myself, I basically gave up on trying to market my books. At that time I was also rather distracted from my writing by social issues, activism etc. Living in South Africa, the currency exchange rate has always been an obstacle to me in terms of paying for foreign services – right now for example, the ZAR-USD is at something like R13 to $1! Even if some company in the States were to charge something like $500 for a marketing campaign, it would still cost me around thirteen times that in local currency! This obviously will not do!


Between 2014 and 2016 I was with a traditional publisher, but I was very surprised that they did very little if any actual marketing for their authors. In fact, I was told to ‘do it yourself’ and ‘that’s how the industry works these days’!


In May of last year, I went back to indie publishing, and took matters into my own hands. My girlfriend and P.A. Wendy K. Gloss runs DarkLady Marketing – a small local social media marketing company. They share all my posts on my author website on Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Goodreads and other social sites, and to various media bodies and so forth. I’ve had several media interviews as a result, and my public visibility has increased dramatically in just the past year - and my sales have started to creep up too!

What advice would you give to someone looking to become a writer?

It’s very difficult to be a writer in South Africa. You need to be tough, determined and thick skinned. The whole publishing industry here appears to be set against writers.


It’s nigh on impossible to find a publisher willing to accept let alone read your manuscript firstly, and secondly, finding an agent is even harder – they must be so busy they don’t even have time to reply to emails from authors looking for an agent. The market here (they say) is small, and so they limit the number of new books being produced locally – and a significant portion of that is religious material – and the less I say about that, perhaps the better.


I’ve been trying to get published by a South African publisher since I was in my last year of high school – which is now almost 30 years ago! If you bear this inordinate amount of time in mind, it’s quite rewarding that in 2016 I finally got a short story accepted by a local publisher in one of their anthologies, and got paid for it! That said, you can’t sit still and wait for a local publisher to answer your emails, or to fly you to New York on a private jet to make you their new featured author. These days, you have to be capable of doing it all on your own.


The only route then, is for a writer to go the independent – or ‘indie’ route – and in South Africa all the big houses (such as Penguin) have what they call ‘vanity presses’ on the side where they charge aspiring writers varying amounts to publish their first novel. I remember back in 2005, one of them wanted to hit me R97,000.00 just for ONE of my books – and at the time, I had five waiting to be published! Business must be hard, because last year, one company offered to publish one of my titles for something around R20,000.00 – with 1000 hard copies sent to me in boxes that I would be left to market by myself! NO THANK YOU!


My books are currently available internationally via distribution channels such as Amazon, Nook, Barnes & Nobel, iTunes, Lybrary, Lulu, Kobo – and even a few I don’t even know about – and yes, even in South Africa, you can find and order them online – but you still can’t walk into a CNA or an Exclusive Books to flip through the pages of a copy on a shelf.


This dynamic also makes it harder for a writer to get reviews from a reviewer. Perhaps I should have said ‘impossible’. Magazines and newspapers that do book reviews expect an author to send them a paperback copy of each book they review – to keep! This can work out quite expensive, if you consider the Rand-USD exchange rate! Otherwise, don’t expect them to read and review an ebook copy – even one sent to them for free!


So then, to sum up – the writer must also be a publisher, a graphic designer, an editor, a layout operator and formatter, and on top of all that, a shrewd marketer and promoter as well! Talent and computer skills are a big plus, if you have them.


Lastly, writers tend to say they write for the love of it – for the art – and that’s true, but one publishes for an extra income – perhaps to a degree for the fame as well – or to reach people and to change the world – and what is the point of writing 200 books if nobody reads them, or talks about them – because nobody knows they exist, or if they just read them for free?


Write for the LOVE of it. PUBLISH for the rest.


Learn more about South Africa’s best science fiction writer at The Crow Bar!

Check outThe GALAXii Series Book 1 - Blachart


Meet Christina's girlfriend, Wendy Keran Gloss!

Expert of the Week: Dean Chalmers

Dean Chalmers


What is your professional background?

I actually have a degree in creative writing, believe it or not. (Somewhat embarrassed to admit it…) It’s an undergraduate degree. I wouldn’t recommend it to others though unless you really want to write literary fiction. The best thing I got out of college was through literature courses and exposures to various writers. Other than that, I have worked various day jobs to pay the bills.

What sparked your interest in writing?

I always wanted to tell stories. I had an incredibly active imagination as a child, and I guess I figured I was meant to share the characters and worlds I came up with. I’ve quit writing before—sometimes for years at a time—but I never stopped wanting to tell stories. Sometimes I feel like it’s a disease I’ll never be rid of… All of my life people would ask, “Are you still doing that?” in an exasperated way.  It’d be nice to become super-successful someday to prove to my extended family that it’s not just some odd obsession of mine. But they wouldn’t be impressed until I had a TV show or movie based on my work, I think.  

How do you, “get in the zone,” when you are writing?

I dictate my first drafts on a digital recorder. Ideally, I try to get some privacy for this. This is hard with a 3 ½ year old offspring at home who likes to follow daddy around. Sometimes she likes to repeat my dictation because she knows I’m in serious writing mode, and she thinks it’s funny! When all else fails, I sometimes go for a drive and hide in my car in a shopping center parking lot somewhere, dictating.

What do you like most about being a full-time author?

I wish I was a full-time author! I am mot certainly part-time at the moment. Right now my writing at least brings in a supplementary income; but like most writers, I have a day job. It’s a challenge juggling work and commuting and family and writing. For me the hardest part isn’t finding time, so much as finding the energy. Fortunately, I now have an earlier work schedule where I can sometimes I can take a nap for an hour when I get home before dinner, and then have energy to write in the evening. I’d love to do this full-time, but first I have to get more books out faster to build my audience and income, and then there are worries about the stability of the income, about how I’d get health insurance for my family… I guess, like everyone else, I still dream of having a massive bestseller and becoming self-sufficient overnight!


What is the most common mistake you have seen others make when it comes to communicating in the written form?

I’m an indie author, and when it comes to indies sometimes it seems the old rules get thrown out the window. So I’m wary of telling people not to do anything. For example, telling a story mainly through dialogue, especially in fantasy or SF… I never thought that would work, but there’s a couple people doing it who are mega-successful now. The one thing I would warn against is typos. Proofreading your own work is hard, and getting someone else to do it is expensive; but not doing a good job will upset readers. If you have a family member or friend who is a good proofreader and will do it for free, you have an amazing resource and you need to treat them very well.

What books would you recommend for improving one’s writing skills?

This may sound strange, but the books that have helped me aren’t writing books so much as books that analyze storytelling in TV shows or movies. I find that kind of criticism to be really instructive. Anything that goes “behind the scenes” from a writer’s perspective is wonderful. It gets me thinking about some of my favorite stories, and why they work (and also why some of the bad ones don’t). Some of my favorites are the “These Are The Voyages” books by Marc Cushman (On Star Trek: TOS), “The Fifty-Year Mission” books by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman (covering all of Star Trek), and the “TARDIS Eruditorum” books by Philips Sandifer (on Doctor Who).


What else have you found to be useful for your art?

Gel pens in various colors and graph papers notebooks, vital for brainstorming… Just because I like how they look and feel. I’ve started to collect some old tabletop role-playing supplements to spark my imagination. Reminds me of my nerdy youth in the 80’s and the ideas that sparked my writing in the first place. I also listen to symphonic epic metal music, in moderation.


How are you leveraging social media to promote your books?

I use paid Facebook ads a lot, and I have a mailing list. I post on Facebook and my blog, but not much. I’m not someone who’s naturally entertaining on social media, nor am I famous enough for people to care about what I’m doing every day. I don’t know that social media can help a struggling fiction writer much, unless you already have some audience or platform independent of your novels. There’s just so much noise out there nowadays, people endlessly spamming ads for their books. I think paid ads can help if you fine-tune your audience, but just shouting “buy my book!” on your regular Facebook or Twitter feed is pretty useless for most people.


What advice would you give to someone looking to become a writer?

There’s been trillions of words written on this, so anything I could say in this small space would be just opening one can of worms or another. You have the internet, go do searches, research… Listen to old pros, but remember that the writing world has changed dramatically in the last ten years, so read about indie successes as well and what they did. And remember that the most important thing is to have a story people want to read. Most of the gatekeepers are gone, if you have a great story you CAN get it to the readers yourself with a little work and preparation.


Check out action packed tales on

Space Cruiser Musashi series available here:

Executive Special Edition: Expert of the Week: Susan "Siri" Bennett

Susan Bennett

The Original Voice of Siri

What is your professional background?

 I started off as a singer, first at Brown, then in different duos and bands in Atlanta. I also sang jingles for radio and TV commercials.


What sparked your interest in voiceovers?

I got into voiceovers by accident. One day, after I finished singing a jingle in a group with other singers, the voice actor didn’t show up to read the copy for the spot. The studio owner asked me to do it, since I didn't have an accent. I found that I could do it pretty easily, so I got a voice coach, then an agent, and I've been working in voiceovers ever since.


How did you become the original voice of Siri?

I don't really know! I did some recordings for a text-to-speech company called ScanSoft (which became Nuance) in 2005, which I thought were recordings for phone systems. I guess, technically, Siri could be considered phones system, but I have no idea who chose my voice or when.


What can businesses use voiceovers for?

Basically anything....commercials, promos, narrations for instructional videos. A professional voice just makes everything sound more professional and more pleasing to whoever is listening.


What software do you use with your work?



What are some of the “unspoken rules” of this profession?

Well, the same rules that apply to any professional work. There are no specific rules, but there are skills required to do it right.


What is something you wish more non-voiceover professionals knew in order to better understand your work?

That VO is more than having a pleasing or interesting voice. It’s basically acting with the voice, and requires skills, such as being able to read well within a specific amount of time, and knowing how to use a microphone.


What do you foresee in the near future for voiceovers?

That's hard to say with Artificial intelligence looming on the horizon. Right now most of the work is being done through internet companies, who are mostly non-union, and who work with the talent directly.


What about the long term?

I have no idea! I guess once corporations perfect the technology, I suppose we could see machines doing VO, although I’m not sure they’ll ever be able to get the real ebb and flow of the human voice.


What books/blogs/materials would you recommend to learn more about voiceovers and vocals? Also just Google voice actors and voice coaches.

Several of them have written books, or have websites with advice for prospective voice actors.


What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming involved with voiceovers and vocals?

Contact me through my website,, and l'll email you a doc I put together that has some suggestions on how to get started.  


Please put “VO Advice” in the subject of your email.


Follow Susan on Twitter, @SiriouslySusan.

Expert of the Week: Nicole (Pinto) Stephenson

Nicole (Pinto) Stephenson

Programs Director, Society of Professional Women at The Main Line Chamber of Commerce


What is your professional background?

My background is in Communications and Marketing.

What inspired you to transition from KYW Newsradio 1060 to the Society of Professional Women at The Main Line Chamber of Commerce for your career?

The Society of Professional Women program itself inspired me to transition my career. Each event that I attended as a Sponsor would leave me wanting to do more in my personal and professional life. The energy in the room was contagious, and the speakers were incredible. I wanted to be a part of a program that inspired others to better themselves and seize the day. When I was approached about the position, it was a no brainer.

In layman's terms, how does programming within the Chamber of Commerce work?

The programming is planned based on the needs of our members and the members of the community. We have many resources to help us; via multiple committees for each individual program, surveys to membership and sponsors, and a Board of Directors. We also listen to the marketplace and trends.

What’s your average day like?

The average day is mostly preparing for our events. There is a lot of planning that goes into each event. We have to prepare the marketing materials, and set a schedule to communicate our event to the public and our membership through e-mail, social media and ground roots marketing. We have to organize the attendees and seating charts for some events. A timeline and script must be prepared prior and shared with those participating in the program. The venue has to be made aware of all that is going on. There is constant communication with the speakers of each program to determine the topic and presentation details. There is also constant communication with sponsors of the program to be sure they are receiving their benefits.

What has been your greatest accomplishment with the Society of Professional Women?

My greatest accomplishment has been working through the transition of the departure of the SPW Founder in the summer of 2016. Our team worked very hard to ensure a smooth transition. We were able to produce a fantastic 2017 programming lineup and share it in a new very impressive Supplement. I believe that we maintained and even strengthened many of our relationships with the Sponsors of the program, and even added a few new along the way.  

What are the most common mistakes that can occur with programming?

Mistakes are typically things that are out of your control. Attendance is the toughest thing to control as there is always a flux of people who say they will come and do not, and those who don’t let you know they are coming and do. You have to be able to give yourself enough flexibility to accommodate that so that you aren’t wasting food but you aren’t under serving. Timing can be another common mistake. Even when you do have a strict timeline and hand signals you will have people who ignore it.

Do you use specialized software in your role? If so, what have you found to be effective?

There are many software programs for Chambers of Commerce to use along with regular events programs. We are currently using a program called SBA, but are considering switching to a program called Chamber Master. I’ll have to get back to you on which is more effective. We are still trying to find that perfect software for us.

What opportunities are now becoming available for businesses to take advantage of?

Joining a Chamber of Commerce is a huge opportunity for a business and even an individual to take advantage of. The benefits are limitless depending on how you decide to use it. The Main Line Chamber provides a wide array of business programs and networking opportunities where members can meet other area business people and potential customers. Members can gain direct exposure to businesses and community leaders in their areas. The newest opportunity at our Chamber is our Talent and Education Network (TEN). We won a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to develop strategies to help younger workers more effectively meet the talent needs of employers last year. TEN is designed to help our region's employers forge stronger and more collaborative relationships with our member institutions of higher education. Employers have a vested interest in retaining educated talent in our region. 

What do you foresee in the near future?

I’m always hopeful that in the near future we will see a more equal playing field for women and minorities in business. I believe that most companies can no longer ignore having more diverse people in leadership positions. It’s not acceptable if you don’t.

What about the long term?

I think that the equal playing field is within the near future when it comes to obtaining high-level positions, but equal pay is still a long term issue. This is something that cannot be ignored and will need to be continually fought for to make it happen. I also think in the long term, flexibility in the work place will become more acceptable and necessary. With the new generation of workers and advanced technology, working from home and tele-commuting is going to be more common. There are many theories that support the flexibility in a work-place resulting in better performance, loyalty and personal wellness of employees.

What books/blogs/materials about campaign analysis would you recommend?

I would absolutely recommend reading anything from Adam Grant or Sheryl Sandberg. Those two are a power team with a wealth of knowledge! I read a lot of books from many talented individuals who help with campaign analysis. Visit or follow our social media channels to view our calendar of events. Our topics/speakers are incredible and sample an array of vast topics and categories.

What advice would you give to someone looking to becoming involved with a Chamber of Commerce?

I would say when joining a Chamber, be sure to explore all they have to offer. Our Chamber of Commerce has many different programs, and not every program is right for every person. If you can find one or two things that really work for you, it will be so much more beneficial. Take as many opportunities offered to network as possible. The benefit of being a member of a Chamber is doing business with each other and helping each other.


Find Nicole on LinkedIn. Check out the Main Line Chamber of Commerce.

Expert of the Week: Chris Arter

Chris Arter

Public Relations Manager at WebiMax

What is your professional background?

I’ve worked as the Public Relations Manager for leading digital marketing agency WebiMax for two and a half years. Prior to WebiMax, I was employed by the U.S. House of Representatives fulfilling a number of roles including reaching out to the media, planning communication and other events, and social media. I also worked on political campaigns.

 What inspired you to choose public relations for your career?

Roughly 6 years ago, when I started my last job as a staffer, initially I was what was called “a body man” where I would shadow the Congressman making sure his day ran smoothly, and taking notes on everything from legislative ideas to issues relating to a constituent not getting their social security check on time. I would then translate those into casework and assign that to other staffers whether in Washington or in the Congressman’s District. In the course of doing that job I was constantly around the media and people that were making news.

 As time went on I became more involved with messaging by writing the weekly “Washington Update,” building out our social media presence and responding to press inquiries. It worked out really well due to my knowledge of certain issues simply as a matter of proximity to the source as “the body guy.” Eventually that translated into a larger role where I was not only communicating to the general public and the media, but also taking a lead in deciding what should be communicated. It was an extremely intense job, but I really loved it.

 In layman's terms, how do public relations work?

Public Relations works by shaping perceptions about a person or an organization, but it is oftentimes not an end unto itself. Most organizations and individuals count on a positive public image to achieve other more basic goals. The most efficient method of public relations, is communicating directly with the media.

 What’s your average day like?

An average day is a mix of monitoring, pitching and responding to the media.

 I’m always monitoring the media for possible opportunities for either WebiMax or our clients; generally, what I’m looking for is an intersection between a given industry and the interesting things I see that either the media or other people are talking about every day. When I find something of note, I will try to write a compelling argument for why we should be commenting with a suitable angle using  3 to 6 bullet points. I’ll also use feedback from different experts throughout WebiMax, and different clients depending on the topic. After getting all the necessary approvals, I’ll try to pitch ideas for simple comments, op-eds or interview opportunities to different publications, blogs and broadcast media.

 Sometimes I’ll receive inquiries from journalists looking for an expert opinion on a given topic, and I’ll connect them with someone suitable, or I’ll take their questions in writing and get responses back to them via email with a short credit for where those answers came from. Reporters are always looking for sources, so I also constantly check places where they are posting their queries like HARO, which is short for “Help a Reporter Out.”

 There is also an evolving list of business awards that I apply for throughout the year. Business Awards are another way to get 3rd party validation of a business’ expertise or authority in a given industry. It’s important to steadily leverage awards through press releases, social media and different web properties in order for those efforts to be valuable. 

 I also spend a significant amount of time updating different web properties including websites and social media accounts with the latest news.

 What has been your greatest accomplishment at WebiMax?

I’ve done a lot of work that I’m proud of here at WebiMax. I’m very happy that through outreach and planning we’ve been featured by hundreds of news media outlets and publications as an authoritative source on digital marketing, technology, social media, reputation management, e-commerce, web-design and more. I’m also very proud that in the short time since WebiMax and its employees have relocated to the Camden Waterfront, we’ve been able to connect with the community through charity and volunteerism.

 I was particularly pleased to work with “Feed Our Children Now” an organization that partners with the Vans Warped Tour, to bring a traveling food drive to that tour. When The Warped Tour came to Camden, we worked with the “Feed Our Children Now” organization pro bono, on a media blitz to bring the maximum amount of people out to a food drive near the concert area in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record. Through our concerted efforts we were able to get coverage in the double-digits from news outlets across television, radio, newspapers and the web in the days leading up to the drive. We didn’t break the record, but I’m proud that we were able to play some part in getting the word out and helping to collect 40,000 pounds of food for families in Camden.

 You have experience as District Representative in the Office of Congressman Robert E. Andrews. How do politics and PR overlap? 

In politics, the end goal is always votes. To that end, an effective candidate must be adept at communicating their message to an electorate. Once a candidate is in office, it’s important that an official keeps their constituency updated as to what they are doing for them, lest their position be upended in the next election cycle. Whether pro-active or reactive, PR is essentially everything that goes into deciding what the message is, how you’re going to say it and who you are going to say it to. It requires a very open availability to the media, and more public scrutiny than most things.

 What are the most common mistakes that can occur with public relations?

The most common mistake in PR is failure to stay in control and speak up when you sense something could be misrepresented. As a PR person it is your job to know all the angles by which your client’s output or actions can be perceived. When I’m thinking of a pitch or someone proposes a pitch to me, I always ask myself what the possible risks are and more precisely – “how could the proposed comment, image or general output be misconstrued?”

 If it could be construed negatively in any way I try to find a polite way to shut it down, and of course I’ll accompany that with an explanation of the negative angle. If you’ve built authority and a positive perception of your client up until this point, you risk undoing all that hard work by letting something you feel is precarious slip by. You owe your client your opinion, because protecting a client’s image is the job in a nutshell.

Simply put, no one I’ve ever worked for needs to be thought of negatively, and if something slips by you’ve now made more work for yourself.

 What monitoring software have you found to be effective?

I like Cision. It’s comprehensive, and you can easily search to find media contacts covering a certain beat. I also heavily rely on INO Reader, which is an RSS reader where I’ve been refining the OPML file subscriptions since the days of Google Reader. I also like Google Trends, and Twitter Trends and lists very much. Muckrack, Meltwater and TVEyes are some other good ones.

 What opportunities are now becoming available for businesses to take advantage of?

It all comes back to the internet and how it’s changed everything. The question is “how has the internet changed PR?” The answer is that digital tools have given PR professionals more ways to monitor opinion, influence and interact than ever before. More specifically, the ability to measure the impacts of PR efforts has made its practice a whole lot more concrete.

 This isn’t really new, but it’s important to understand SEO or Search Engine Optimization as it relates to PR today. In the past, when you were lucky enough to get a client in the news, that was your only bite at the apple. Today, if you use the right keywords in your pitch or your answers, you can get a second bite at the apple by getting your client associated with a topic as an expert in high level media outlets, every time someone does a Google search on that topic. So be careful with predictions!

 Journalists are busy people. I mentioned above using the right keywords in your pitches, which is important because many reporters won’t even get back to you, but will lift quotes right out of your pitches and put them in a story. I imagine that reporters will like you better if your client can preempt any questions they might have and answer them in the pitch.

 What do you foresee in the near future?

When you’re trying to monitor and manage public perception, it’s important to look at exactly how the public is consuming media information. An interesting trend we’ve been witnessing over the past few years has been more aggregation of different services from the major tech companies. The process has been first to corral as many internet users as possible together in one place, and then to create channels to meet more of their needs including news information. The hope for these corporations is to chart the new frontier of advertising by keeping users in their environments for longer periods of time.

 For example last year Facebook created ‘Instant Articles’ where users can read exclusive content from major news publishers like The New York Times without ever leaving Facebook. Snapchat’s discover platform features content from 23 different publishers including The Wall Street Journal and Fusion.  Reportedly, Snapchat is looking to get more TV-like content for its Discover platform.

 Media companies are becoming heavily reliant on social media, which changes everything from how they structure their revenue to considerations of what type of stories to publish. I believe that we’ve already passed a threshold of perceptions about social media, whereas we’ve begun to view its role as a place where content originates, rather than just a place to share content from outside that environment.

 Today social networks are facing a backlash as we’re all talking about how completely false “news stories” from hack publishers can get equal play with legitimate factual reporting. In the short term, I believe legitimate publishers as well as internet users have some leverage to demand more from so-called social networks including expecting them to suppress false information.

 How does this tie into PR? If the media is relying that heavily on social media platforms and is constantly considering who might read what story over which social platform, that can influence the way a story is written as well as the topics. PR professionals need to be aware of that shift. In short, what affects the media affects PR.

 What about the long term?

We’re in the middle of this media transition to digital, and I think we’ll continue to see more aggregation coming from huge social media and tech companies until that transition is complete. It’s hard to imagine what exactly the media landscape will look like, who will be at the top or even what the rules will look like at this stage, but I think there will eventually be more regulation.

What books/blogs/materials about public relations would you recommend?

Public Relations has really changed a lot in the past decade with social media becoming a prime source of information for a lot of people. 1.6 Billion people have Facebook accounts. There’s a book called “This Is How You Pitch,” which I think covers a lot of ground in our modern era.

 What advice would you give to someone looking to becoming involved with public relations?

Fully understand the underlying goals of your client whether it be to attract consumers, investors or voters. When you fully understand what your client hopes to achieve through PR, the right strategies and potential pitfalls will become more apparent.


Find Chris Arter on LinkedIn.