Justice (Deck of Lies, #1)

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The Tower (Deck of Lies, #2)

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Death (Deck of Lies, #3)

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Judgment (Deck of Lies, #4)

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Hope's Rebellion

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Review: Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire

Lisa Shafer's Confessions of an Average Half-Vampire is a wholly wonderful story. You never quite know what you're going to get with an indie book, but I confess that I was drawn into the tale right away. Confessions is technically perfect and mistake-free, which makes it even easier to be completely mesmerized by the plot -- and I was.
Eric, the titular half-vampire, is a perfectly non-heroic hero. He's got all the problems that come with being in middle school (like trying to figure out what a girl really means with those confusing text messages and finding ways to hide stuff from his too-clever mom), but he's also got a pesky little genetic problem: he's a half-vampire. In Lisa's world, vampires don't live in creepy castles and hunt for victims by night -- they wait for cloudy evenings and matter-of-factly drink blood to stay healthy. Eric goes to school, does his homework and plays piano -- mostly ragtime and other peppy pieces.

Lisa Shafer's vampires aren't created but born. All the garlic-waving and cross-holding in the world won't protect you from Eric...not that you'd really need it, anyway. This is definitely not just another vampire story. Confessions takes readers from a little town in Utah all the way to Scotland, where even the Old World vampires are bright, colorful characters who are perfectly normal...except for the blood thing, of course.

Confessions is a quick read and entertaining throughout. Eric makes mistakes, but he's got a good heart -- and completely shatters most of the wild myths that have turned vampires into horrible Halloween fantasies. I can't wait to re-visit Lisa's unique world in the upcoming sequel!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Writing 101: The Character Sheet

Every writer has their own little tricks, and I'm going to share one of mine. Every book has a main character, and sometimes more than one, but there's a whole host of supporting cast members who appear within the pages. Whether you're mentioning a character only once or more than a dozen different times in your book, you need to include them on the character sheet. It's not talked about as often as the outline, but it's probably just as important.



What is the Character Sheet?

I can't tell you how many times I've been in the middle of writing, only to have to stop and ask myself, "wait, what color were his eyes again?" I learned to create character sheets for all my books the hard way -- I found myself repeatedly combing through pages I'd written to find a last name, a physical description, some characteristic I assigned in the past and forgot in the present. A character sheet keeps all that mess straight, so you have one simple reference point any time you need to remember a full name, an eye color, a hair shade or any other pertinent information you've assigned to one of your characters.

What Goes on the Character Sheet?

The characters in any book help to make it great -- or bad, as the case may be. Characters that are believable and identifiable are the strongest, the ones who have flaws that others can relate to. Your characters need more than a name if they're going to jump off the page. Readers want to feel like they're a part of the story, and they can't do that without getting a sense of who the characters are. Show your readers what the characters look like, maybe what their favorite music sounds like, even what they like to eat if it's relevant to the story. All these little details are difficult to remember, especially if you're focusing on a complex plot. So why try to remember when you can keep them all on your character sheet?

Writing the Character Sheet

Every writer should write their character sheet in a way that's easiest for them to use. Mine are split into sections, and each character is listed by his or her full name. For the Deck of Lies, for example, I have characters sorted into different locations and categories: School, Family, Around Town, etc. Each character has a brief physical description, and in some cases I'll include what kind of car they drive and their clothing styles, along with other important information. When I'm looking for a specific character, I can just scroll through the list to remember whatever it is I've forgotten.

A character sheet is a great personal reference tool for writers, and it provides a means to strengthen each and every character who appears in any story. Writing is definitely time-consuming, but there's no reason you can't use tricks to make it a little easier.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing 101: Editing

Editing is a hot topic of discussion among writers, and my personal religion. To put it mildly, I believe in the power of editing. No book is complete without it. But at the same time, editing your own work can be a very difficult, very painful procedure. Think of it as a necessary evil all writers must face.

Editing for Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation

Editing serves a main function for any piece of writing: it makes it readable. In today's day of visible spellcheck and auto-correct, it's easy to simply write along without worry about spelling each and every word the right way. Who has time to worry about putting i before e and doubling the l when changing the tense? It's a lot to think about, especially when you're trying to create interesting characters and weave them together in a believable, enjoyable story. It's okay to just focus on your writing, and get that done...but after that, it's time for the really hard work.

You should read through your book in entirety more than once to check all the grammar, spelling and punctuation. Readers are going to be instantly turned off by mistakes. Errors are frustrating to readers, and it won't help you sell your work. You cannot rely on spellcheck to get everything right. You have to read your work, line by line, to make sure it's perfectly written.

And once you've checked all the words and every period to make sure it's correct, you're all done, right? No...not by half.

Editing for Readability and Plot

A technically perfect story is all well and good, but no one is going to be interested if the story isn't entertaining. While you're checking all the technical stuff, check your story for readability. Make sure the plot hangs together and everything is smooth. If you don't laugh when you read it, the story isn't funny. If you don't cry, your readers won't. If you don't understand it, no one else will. While you're reading, pretend it's not your story. Tell yourself it's someone else's work, and look at it through objective eyes. You characters should be consistent and true to the characteristics you've given them, your plot should move along (and not drag, because that's boring) and the climax of the story should truly be the most exciting part of the whole book. If possible, take a break from your work for a week between edits. Then come back and edit again with fresh eyes.

When's the Work Over?

So, you've edited for all the technicalities. You've edited for the readers. When the heck are you done editing? There's no hard and fast rules when it comes to editing, because every writer operates differently, but a good rule of thumb for editing is that you're ready to stop when you read your work and can't find a single mistake. Maybe it'll take two reads, maybe it'll take twenty-two reads, but if you're still finding mistake then you still aren't done editing. It's a real drag to edit and edit (and then edit some more), meaning it's extremely tedious, but the end result is worth it. A well-edited book looks professional and makes a good impression.

Would you rather have your work remembered as a sloppy mess, or a neat and concise work that reads well?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writing 101: The Outline

I've been spending time on the Goodreads forums lately, and one topic really struck me as I was reading along: the book outline. It's a hot topic on the forums, and every writer seems to have their own style of using (or not using) an outline to keep their plots straight and their books organized. So today's Writing 101 lesson will be the outline -- how to use it, when not to use it and what to do when your writing doesn't match it at all.
Outline Basis

Everyone arranges their outlines differently, and it's not always the method of organization that matters (but I do know that pets and Post-Its aren't a good mix). Some writers organize outlines by chapters, some by events. I write mine by days and dates; maybe you've noticed I'm always very clear about which day of the week it is in the DOL series. Again, it doesn't matter how the outline is organized, only that it is organized. An outline isn't a huge chunk of text, it's a map of where your story is going to go. Create spaces and design an easy-to-follow layout if you want to follow this map.

Your outline is going to change. If you absolutely have to hard it on hard copy, don't simply write out an outline using pen and paper; you want your outline to be mobile so it has room to evolve. Instead, write out each plot point, chapter or day (or whatever) on an index card. Don't number them; they can be kept in a certain order, paper clipped or color-coded to help you keep track. I always write my outlines in a blank Word document so I can change them at will.

Writing the Outline

You've made a firm decision on the layout of your outline and you know just how you're going to write it. So...what are you going to put in it? Writing the outline should take considerably less time than writing the book itself. You don't need to get extremely detailed, or even spell out every single plot point.

Remember, the outline is nothing more than a set of notes you're writing to yourself; it's just a way to keep yourself organized so your writing turns out exactly as you want. You know what your book is about, so you may record your outline in nothing but certain keywords. I write short sentences that don't seem to make much sense: "Rain school. Owen reaction. Fallon attitude?" That might be four pages' worth of story right there, because I know what each item means: write a scene with Rain at school, be sure to include Owen's reaction to the news, what is Fallon's attitude like these days?

Following the Outline

Once you write your outline, it's there to serve as your guide -- but you are not a slave to it! You purposefully designed your outline to be changed, so don't be afraid to change it. I know that I've started writing many times, and found my story going in a new direction I never expected. If you start writing and you get onto something, don't force yourself away just because it doesn't exactly follow your outline. Only change it if it's bad, if it makes no sense or if it's completely out of place in your story. If it's good, work with it and include it in the outline. Always stay open when you're writing, because many exciting things can happen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: The Book of Quotations for People Who Hate Quotations

I discovered The Book of Quotations for People Who Hate Quotations at Amazon's Kindle store, where it was free to download. But after reading it, I would happily pay money for the joy of owning it. I definitely qualify as a quotation-hater, and this book did not disappoint. I was all ready to be angered by it -- sometimes, irony is wasted on me -- but by the end of page one I was laughing with hysteria.
Usually I'm a tell-me-a-story type of gal. I'm not into those books that are nothing but anecdotes -- even a short story collection won't usually turn me on. But I got into a mood where I just wanted some light reading and light humor, and this book fit the bill perfectly. It pairs famous and shopworn quotes from all the usual suspects -- Maya Angelou, Confucius, Henry David Thoreau, old wives of note -- with snarky comebacks that point to the failing in each well-accepted expression and piece of trite advice.
The book is divided into topic sections (Love, Kindness, Success, etc.) filled with quotes and quips proving that even the world's greatest thinkers only pretend to have all the answers. You won't find any answers in this book (because there are none?), but you will find the comedy in all the misery. In the end, this hateful Quotations book is exactly what it promises not to be: inspirational. And I do mean that in a good way.
All I can say at the end of the book is, when life hands you quotations...make lemonade. Then go out, sell the lemonade and show life who gets the last laugh.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Tower Update

I'm hard at work on The Tower and elbow-deep in murder plots. Release date for Book 2 coming soon!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fashion in Silverwood: Rain

Rain prefers to dress in bold colors and tends toward slim silhouettes -- it's why she loves Calvin Klein dresses, like the two in the collage. She usually chooses shoes with a solid-looking heel like these red Steve Maddens. And when it comes to carrying stuff, she's got a lot; it's why she favors big purses, like this Barbara Milano.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Interview with Jade

I was so happy to participate in Musikdiv India Online Magazine's Authors Festival! Check out the magazine's official site to read the full text of my interview. I hope I answered all your questions, but if you've got any more feel free to interrogate me in the comments section. Be sure to check the end of the interview to find out what's coming up next in the Deck of Lies series!