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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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hope's Rebellion: Now Available!

Hope's Rebellion is now available! 



Their friendship will test the fabric of tradition, duty and destiny...
There are only two seasons in Godenor: summer and winter. Weather brings the only surprises to a society where everything is planned, and everyone's status is determined at birth...by the color of their hair.

Rinna has the right hair, Drexi the wrong, and Prelly is almost too ordinary -- in every way but one. Small mistakes bring them together, creating ripples in a pond that knows nothing but serenity. If they reach their goals, they can't help but shatter the world they know.

Love of any kind, even the bond of friendship, isn't allowed in their world...but then, the heart can't always follow orders.

Writing 101: Writing Responsibly

The end of the year is an excuse to celebrate, to let go a little, to start all over again tomorrow. New Year's Eve is the biggest party of the year for many people, but it's not the only party. And if your characters are going to be mixing with dangerous activities (like heavy drinking) in your stories, you have to make sure you're writing responsibly. ...Don't you?


What's Your Poison?

As a YA writer, I've often pondered the responsibilities of authors. Shouldn't a YA writer avoid writing about characters who have unprotected sex, for example? Shouldn't a children's book author shy away from themes like murder and torture? A character who goes about breaking rules and acting wild and yet faces no consequences could be seductive, in a way. 

I'll use Breakfast at Tiffany's as an example. I saw the movie when I was still fairly young, and to me it was all about Audrey Hepburn's glamor and the majesty of New York City (and eating Danish in front of the Tiffany & Co. window). To me, at that time, it seemed that Holly Golightly had an amazing life. So what did I want to do with my life? I wanted to be a professional dater, like Holly. It was a few years later that I learned Breakfast at Tiffany's is based on a book, and Holly is actually a hooker (high-class, but still). So there you have it. Had I followed Holly's steps, I could be living in a barren New York walk up with a nameless cat right this minute.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Writing 101: Was It 'Inspired By,' or Was It Ripped Off?

The topic of plagiarism came up the other day while I was writing a Books on Film post, and I got to thinking about it again while I was watching an old movie the other night. As an author, you are an observer of life. But where is the line between writing what you've observed...and stealing someone else's story? 



 Legalities

I've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a Wikipedia buff (or maniac). I get caught up asking myself random questions (like whatever happened to the little girl from Uncle Buck?) and I learn things. Most things I learn aren't of any use, and sometimes all I get out of is more questions. That's the case with the anecdote I'm about to present, and the problem of ethics it's created for me.

I was thinking about plagiarism anyway because I'd just written about Doc Hollywood, a 1990s movie that many critics have accused of being the inspiration for Disney's Cars. The plots are startlingly similar, but I've noticed similar mirror plots in other films (check out The Cutting Edge and Blades of Glory, for example). When someone writes something and publishes it and someone else writes something very close and publishes that, it's plagiarism -- and it's a hard-and-fast rule. But ripping off a story that isn't written down...this is a little harder to define.

I started thinking about it while I was watching Goodbye, Mr. Chips. It's a lovely little story and a surprise Oscar winner from 1939 (competing with the likes of Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz), and one of my favorites. It tells the story of an inspirational teacher, and back then it was still a fairly new story to tell, and after one of my crazy Wikipedia benders I found that it was largely based on a real person. It was a teacher that the author had when he was a boy.

And at first blush, that sounds nice. A teacher inspired a student not just to write, but to write about himself. And one step more, the movie became a beloved production that's still watched by the likes of me today. But it begs the question: what the heck did that inspirational teacher get out of the deal, other than a tiny comment in the middle of a big Wikipedia entry? And why is it okay, and totally accepted, that in this scenario the teacher doesn't get a thing?

The real question is this: when does inspiration cross the line and become theft? It's hard to answer, and that's why it's hard to prove in court. Many authors have faced lawsuits based on this issue. So perhaps the line is crossed when the person who inspires the story says it has. To play it safe, talk to your inspiration before you publish -- and avoid messy legal issues later.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Indie News: The Format Wars

So you want to self-publish for the New Year. After you write the manuscript and edit the story, after you pick the cover and start the promotions, before you publish you've got to format. And since there are so many different ebook formats, you're going to be doing that for a while. The format wars are on, indie authors...and ereaders are going to make DVD vs. Blu-Ray look like child's play.


How Do I Read Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...

Simply going through the list of available ebook formats is completely exhausting. Among your main formats, you've got two that stand out: ePub and Mobi. These are the formats used by the Nook and the Kindle, respectively. Some evidence suggests that ePub is the most widely-used format across all types of ereaders, but all the numbers show that Amazon sells more ebooks than anyone.

And as an indie author, you want to appeal to the widest possible audience. So you format your books for both file types. But if you really want to spread the love, you're going to have to change your novel for a lot of other formats as well. 


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Books on Film: Doc Hollywood

I've seen Doc Hollywood about 15 times, because I've seen every Michael J. Fox movie at least that many times, but this is one of his best. And if you're a fan of Disney movies, then you're probably already familiar with the plot. They've been widely accused of totally ripping it off. 


The Book

Doc Hollywood became a movie in 1991, but before that it was a book called What? Dead Again? about Dr. Benjamin Stone (Fox). He's going from Miami to LA to complete his residency. But before he can make it across the country, Dr. Stone breaks down in a rural area of Alabama. 


That's when things get interesting. The town really needs a doctor, and Stone is compelled to help. What unfolds is a funny and touching story that pokes fun at small town life while still paying homage to it. Shulman is well-qualified to write the story because he is an actual doctor. What? Dead Again? was his second novel, and he's still writing today. But this is his only story (so far) that became a Michael J. Fox movie, and that's why it makes my list.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Writing 101: Exchanging Favors

The indie author community is getting bigger all the time, and it's important that you get some sort of edge or advantage in order to stand out (and keep selling books). So it becomes necessary to work with other indies and book bloggers who are part of the community. But be wary of exchanging favors. When you trade gifts, you may not get something of equal value in return. 


Swapping Stuff

You know how it works: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. What's in it for me? What do I get out of this deal? Nothing comes for free. There are a thousand cliches all about how you have to give in order to get, and that's kind of how it works when it comes to exchanges within the indie author community.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Writing 101: Presentation

For hundreds of years, clever salesmen made a great living by selling water in bottles and telling people to rub dirt on their wounds. Scoff if you will, but this is the absolute truth. You see, it usually isn't about what you're selling. It's about the presentation...and that goes for self-published books, too.


Snake Oil and Novels

We've all heard the jokes and seen the satires of the old-fashioned hawkers and hucksters who used to sell people magical potions and miracle medical remedies, when really the bottles are filled with things like cow dung and cat urine. You've probably heard of the expression "snake oil" and "snake oil salesman." Well, that used to be a real thing.



People will buy snake oil if the presentation is right, so they should certainly be willing to buy your books. It's all about how you present those books to the rest of the world. Once you get past the obvious factors, it comes down to salesmanship. How good is yours? 

  • Cover.  A great cover is a given in self-publishing. You want to catch the eye and you want to stand out, but you also want a book that looks like a readable book. Remember to check the cover on several device sizes to make sure it's easy to read across platforms.
  • Price. Set the right price, or all the salesmanship in the world won't help. You've got to price your books according to their competition, not necessarily according to their worth.
  • Trailers. If you want to present your book in an exciting way, create a trailer. Visual imagery works better than text, and this medium allows you to combine them. Tell the story in the trailer, just enough to make people want more.
  • Tweets. Tweet about your books every day, at least once. But don't tweet "go buy this book" because that won't work. Give readers a reason to click that link. Ask them a question, give them a compelling quote, write something shocking -- compel them to buy, and they will.
  • Extras. Give your book even more depth by offering extras. Start giving out free samples, create images and maps to show off, write blog posts about it and present

The way you present is important, but remember it only matters if you're actually doing it. Promote, and keep promoting, and you'll get better and better at it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Writing 101: Do You Believe?

I'm not one of these people who puts a whole lot of stock in faith, even during the holiday season, but I do know this: you've got to have it to be a writer. So today I've got to ask you: do you believe? 


Gotta Have Faith

In the past, I've said that you have to be a little bit foolish in order to be an author -- and that's still true. But beyond foolishness, you need faith. Once you learn more about the business, and foolishness fades, all you have to rely upon is your faith. Some days, belief is all you will have. That, and a bunch of rejection letters and negative reviews. 

And once all that negativity piles up, it's going to be darned difficult to continue believing in yourself, your writing and your stories. You're going to have days when you're totally convinced you are actually a hack and a failure, that it's all been nothing but a waste of time. Believing in yourself is going to be hard, nigh impossible. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Writing 101: You Don't Have to Be Gifted

There are those who say that writing is a talent. I say that it's a job. And to be an author, you don't have to be gifted or talented or even lucky. But you do have to be a hard worker, even if you've got all the other stuff already.


Talent Might Be a Myth

I'm not sure I believe in talent (perhaps because I haven't got any). Some of the most divine natural actors may never step off the community theater stage, and amazing singers are wilting away behind cash registers all over the country. It's fine to have talent, to be gifted, but at the end of the day it's a gift that gives you very little. 

The highly gifted fail every single day at all sorts of things. The talented fall down and make missteps and struggle, and some of them flounder and never succeed at their dreams. But those who do achieve success usually have the same thing in common: they work hard.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Indie News: Mac App Aims to Serve Indies

Self-publishing a book? There's an app for that...now. Mac owners can make use of Vellum. If the functionality is as good as the name, writers are sure to be delighted with it. There's just one question: what the heck does a self-publishing app do


iPublishing
 
Because if an app can do all that tedious promotion and editing, count me in. But that's not exactly what Vellum does. Two former Pixar designers came together to create the app, which is designed to make it easier for writers to format and distribute their work. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Books on Film: The Polar Express

Electric train are a modern symbol of Christmas, so what could be more seasonal than a story about a train that takes kids to the North Pole on Christmas Eve? I'm talking about The Polar Express, of course, and if you've got a TV in December you've probably seen it. But have you read the book? 


The Book

Chris Van Allsberg wrote and illustrated The Polar Express, which was published in 1985. It's won several awards and it's a highly popular holiday book among kids and parents. If you've seen the movie, you already have a idea of what the illustrations look like. 


The story in the book introduces us to a young boy who does not believe in Santa Claus. This begins to change when the Polar Express arrives on his front lawn, all set to take him to the North Pole.

The Film

The Polar Express finally became a film in 2004. The project had big names attached to it early (Tom Hanks, Robert Zemeckis), so it was pretty much a guaranteed hit. Live action capture was used to make the animated characters look and move more realistically. The realism of The Polar Express sets it apart from many other animated holiday films.

The film centers on a young boy who is just on the crux of no longer believing in Santa Claus. As he goes to bed on Christmas Eve, he questions whether or not Santa actually exists. Before he drifts off to sleep, the peaceful night is interrupted...by the sound of a train.

It's the Polar Express, a train that takes children to the North Pole. Our hero waffles, but eventually he does jump onto the train. There is a lot of adventure, and he meets several other children, before the journey is complete. And when he does get to the North Pole, does he meet Santa Claus? You'll have to watch the film to find out.

What Got Adapted?

The Polar Express is a short children's book and frankly there isn't enough material for a feature-length film. So lots of stuff got added to the film that builds upon the original story. The know-it-all kid (voiced by Corey Feldman), the hobo ghost, the little girl and several other characters are added out of whole cloth. 

Entire scenes were added to the film to create more story. The roller coaster moment, the rebellious journey through the North Pole, and all the ticket-punching business was fabricated for the sake of the movie.

The original book is beautifully illustrated and the short story will delight kids of all ages. The film has beautiful animation and Tom Hanks voices no less than 6 roles, so you want to see that for sure. Enjoy them both, and happy holidays! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Writing 101: Authors and Substance Abuse

"Write drunk, edit sober."

 – Ernest Hemingway


I giggled when I first saw that quote from Hemingway. I stopped smiling when I remembered that alcoholism eventually destroyed him...and lots of other great authors. When it comes to authors and substance abuse, this profession seems to have more than its fair share of drunks. And no matter how amazing these addicted authors are or were, no one should attempt to follow their soggy footsteps. 

Losing the Battle

Start looking for authors who spent too much time looking at the bottom of a bottle, and you're going to find them. Hemingway battled alcoholism (and lost) for much of his life. He eventually took his own life despite his success and fame. Edgar Allen Poe, often regarded as the master of modern horror, had a serious alcohol problem. He died mysteriously, and the substance abuse definitely didn't help to prevent his untimely demise.
 
Hunter S. Thompson was famously an addict. You can see something of what his life was like in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There was probably no drug he did not try, and one day he shot himself in the head with a gun. Is the substance abuse linked to the suicide? Fans can only speculate, but going though the highs and lows of drug use surely did not help him with any emotional problems he may or may not have been experiencing.

Playwright Tennessee Williams, famous for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and a whole host of other stories, also had issues with alcohol. Even Stephen King indulged, and things got so bad his friends and family staged an intervention to bring him back from the brink of substance abuse.

Authors and substance abuse have been linked a lot throughout history, and it's not a pattern that should be repeated. All due respect to Hemingway, but writing drunk or otherwise compromised is never a good idea. You're likely to spit out a bunch of words and plot that make no sense, and wading through that nonsense later will be a huge headache. Always write clear-headed. It's fine to indulge in a little alcohol with friends during a special event, but if you feel that you need to drink on a daily basis then you have a problem. Please get help for it. There is lots of help available.

Many of the authors who suffered from substance abuse died with very little money or happiness, often all alone, in very undignified ways. You don't want to leave that sort of legacy behind, to be a sad footnote in someone's blog post, to spend your talent swimming around inside of a whiskey bottle. Authors may turn to substances in order to combat the loneliness and the strong emotions that come with the job, but there are better ways to cope. Substance abuse will destroy you in the end, just as it destroyed so many other talented writers.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Justice, by Moonlight

"Varden sure does know how to tell a story and keep you intrigued."


"If you like a book that will surprise you and keep you in suspense, pick up Justice by Jade Varden."

Moonlight Reader has reviewed Justice (Deck of Lies, #1). Read the full review to see the final rating!

Writing 101: Should You Be Using Matchbook?

Amazon has blazed a trail for today's indie authors. Their KDP program made it possible for millions of books to be published and sold. Amazon's newest invention for indies is the Matchbook program, and it could help the mega-site sell even more books. Should you be using it to sell more of yours? 


Amazon's Matchbook

If you haven't heard about Amazon's new program, it's no big deal. It's still pretty new. But you'll probably start hearing more about it soon. The Matchbook programs sells itself. Customers who buy a print copy of a book receive a free or highly discounted Kindle copy of the same. It's a great deal for the consumers, who may want their book in both print and electronic form to easily read between locations.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Writing 101: How a Manuscript Becomes a Book

You can write and write and write, and until you take certain steps you still haven't created a book. Until a manuscript becomes a book, it's just a bunch of words. And in the main, there are only two different routes you can take in order to turn a manuscript into a book. 


The Beaten Path: Traditional Publishing

There's a common misconception among authors that traditional publishing is less work than self-publishing. It's not true. When you traditionally publish, unless you're already well-established as an author, you have to complete lots and lots of steps.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing 101: Book Banning Still in Fashion

Since mankind first figured out a form of writing, there have been stories and books. And for as long as there have been stories and books, there have been banned books. 


Burning Down the Books

You might think Mark Twain when you hear about book bans and book burning (his stuff has been known to be controversial), but history shows us that the Romans were banning certain source material back before Jesus Christ walked the Earth. That means human beings have been trying to control the reading material of other human beings for at least 2,500 years.

Book burnings have been going on for just about as long, sometimes on a massive scale. Many ancient works that were controversial in their day have been irrevocably lost. And many people believe that today, thanks to things like the First Amendment, book banning no longer happens. Those people are wrong. 

It's a tradition that's still being carried out all around the world, even in the United States. Cesar Chavez wrote a book in 2002 that was widely banned. Go back to the 1970s and you'll find plenty of books that were being banned in America. And some indie authors believe they're being banned, or at least blacklisted, even today. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Indie News: Self-Pubished Authors are BROKE!

Forbes is the authority on money, and according to their findings indie authors aren't getting rich with the self-publishing boom. In fact, some of them aren't making any money at all. If you're in the indie game for the bucks, you've got some re-evaluating to do.


Money Matters

After examining data from Digital Book World and Writer's Digest, Forbes found that self-published authors are pretty cash poor. Their median income is under $5,000 per year. Almost 20 percent of self-published authors get no money from their writing.

Authors who use the traditional publishing route aren't faring that much better. Their median income ranges from $5000 to $9999. The hybrid authors are the ones making the most money, as a matter of fact. Their median income range is $15,000 to $19,999...which, for the number-crunchers out there, is still very close to the national poverty line.

But not every author out there is eating salad. According to the report, almost 2 percent of self-published authors made over $100,000. Almost 9 percent of traditionally published authors reached this level, while over 13 percent of hybrid authors made a 6-figure income.

The study was compiled through October and November 2013. Almost 9000 authors participated in the study.



Saturday, December 14, 2013

Books on Film: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is one of my favorite Christmas stories. I've read the book many, many times. But I balked at featuring this story as a Book on Film...because every adaptation I've seen has been worse than the one before. 


The Book

Barbara Robinson wrote a completely iconic holiday tale when she penned The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It has all the right themes, a compelling cast of characters and so much humor it's impossible not to laugh the whole way through. 


The story is told through the eyes of someone who isn't exactly a featured player, which is one of the things I find most compelling. You see, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is actually about the Herdman kids, but we're hearing about this from someone else who is only observing them. That makes me feel more like I'm there, watching it all unfold. It's just the first thing I love about this book. 

The Herdman kids, by the way, are the worst kids in the world. Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy and Ollie are all terrible. Buy little Gladys, the youngest? She's the absolute worst. They're a pack of thieves, and liars, and bullies and just all-around wretched people. Even their cat is evil, a mangy creature so terrible it terrorizes the mailman.

One day the narrator's little brother makes the mistake of telling the Herdman kids that the church offers snacks, so of course they show up and end up being present for the meeting about the Christmas pageant. The church puts it on every year, and every year children from the congregation play every part. 

One church member, usually one of the mothers, is in charge of the production. This year, it's our narrator's mother. Producing the Christmas pageant is a huge responsibility. And for those of you who don't know, a Christmas pageant basically tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible. Traditionally, this means you'll see shepherds keeping watch in their fields and noticing a star. You'll see weary Mary and Joseph being turned away at the inn and banished into the stables. You'll see the three wise men arrive with their gifts, and you'll be listening to a choir sing the whole time (the heavenly host). So you can see how important all of this would be, seeing as how the Christmas pageant occurs in front of a group of church-going folk on Christmas Eve. 

That's why it's a huge problem when the Herdmans bully their way into the production, and get all the main roles. Right away it becomes obvious that this is going to be the worst Christmas pageant ever. The Herdmans have never before heard the story of Jesus's birth, and they become fascinated. The religious aspect of this book is not at all oft-putting. In fact, the Herdmans ask some pretty intelligent questions about the Biblical story -- stuff that's funny but also thought-provoking. 


The Herdmans do change the Christmas pageant, invariably, but instead of making it the worst the production actually becomes the very best. It's a sweet story, and really funny, and it's perfect for the holidays. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a short read, so you really don't have an excuse not to dive in.

Unless you're afraid you'll want to watch the adaptation afterwards. 

The Movie

It's one of my favorite books, but The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been freely adapted on stage and I've rarely enjoyed it. I certainly didn't like the TV movie made in 1983. Loretta Swit plays Grace Bradley, who has been put in charge of the church's pageant. Some of the kids are rotated around, to look like more kids, but the story does follow the book pretty faithfully. Some of the dialogue is cut back and the narrator does not seem to be present at all, but this movie exists.

That's about all I can say for it. The adaptation really isn't a memorable one, and the story is much more often seen as a theatrical production. I'm waiting for someone to make a great adaptation of this book. If someone ever does, I'm convinced it will become a holiday classic.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Writing 101: Waiting

People ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them I'm a writer. They always think that's interesting, because these people who are asking don't actually know what it's like. What is it like to be a writer? It's like you're waiting. Every day, every second, you're always waiting for something. You're in suspense all the time, and you're worried half the time and the rest of the time...you're just exhausted. 


Patience Isn't a Virtue (It's a Chore)

You work and you work on a manuscript, until finally you manage to turn it into a book. You read it, admire it, worry about it and obsess over it. Finally, you work up your courage and you start sending out letters to agents and publishers. Or maybe you decide to go it alone, and you format your book so it can be self-published. Your heart races, and your adrenaline pumps and your fingers fly across the keys. Finally you hit that submit button. And then...you wait. 

If you write, you're going to be waiting a lot. Some agents and publishers take weeks to answer you, if they do at all, and if they actually ask you for a sample of your book then you're going to pacing the floors for up to a month or more. And waiting for reviews to come in? I still feel a little anxious every time I check my Amazon pages. Waiting is part of being a writer, and that's difficult for me because I am not a patient person. 

But through the years, I've managed to get used to playing the waiting game in all aspects of my career. Start preparing yourself now to wait after every bit of writing you do and you'll get used to it sooner. Even in the digital age, when you can trade emails with people instead of waiting for an envelope, you're going to have to wait. And unfortunately, a longer wait isn't always a better one. So start waiting now...because if you're serious about being a writer you're going to be doing it for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writing 101: Shock Value

A long time ago, people who wanted to sell papers would stand in the streets and shout the headlines. Sounds a bit crazy, sure, but just envision it for a moment. You're on your way to work, head still in a bit of a morning fog, and you hear someone cry "Killer Bees Heading This Way! Read all about it!" You're totally going to stop, right? Like, what's the point of rushing to work if you're going to potentially be fatally attacked by bees? What I'm really trying to share is this: shock value can be used to sell things. 


Boo!

It happens all the time, as a matter of fact. Remember the "your brain on drugs" commercials? How about the anti-texting commercials that make you feel terrible? The sad dog commercials where someone sings a horribly depressing song? Shock value. Certain ads are designed to shock your senses. They want to show you something so frightening, so depressing, so surprising that you react and you remember it. You can use that same technique in order to sell more books. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Writing 101: We Can All Make Money with Self-Publishing

Being an indie author usually means eating a lot of noodles and salad for dinner, putting in long hours and maintaining a "day job" to boot. But if you aren't making money selling a lot of books, you shouldn't necessarily resign yourself to a life of noble poverty. There are many different ways to earn an income with self-publishing, and you never even have to write a word. 


Money, Money, Money

Self-publishing has been going through a bit of a boom in recent years, and the authors definitely aren't making all the money. As the number of independently-published books has grown, so have the amount of services available to authors. There's a huge market out there for indies. Tap into it, and you can also make money in this newly-rediscovered industry. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writing 101: Responding to Reviews

Lots of indie authors who like to give advice will tell you not to respond to reviews when you get them, particularly the negative ones. I'm not one of those authors. Responding to reviews isn't just a good idea -- it's your duty. 


Thank You Cards

When I was little, I had to write thank you cards for everything. Birthday, Christmas, Easter baskets -- I was told to say thanks for it all. I hated it, and swore I would never deal with that nonsense again once I became adult.

And now, I'm going to tell you to do the same thing I hated to do when I was a kid. I want you to write your reviewers, and say thank you. Because you do have to respond, even to the really ugly reviews, and the response is always the same: thank you

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Books on Film: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

 Rudolph is probably the most popular reindeer in Christmas culture. He's the only one with his own song, and it's a pretty popular one, to boot. You can't get through the holiday season without seeing Rudolph's special on TV or hearing his song. But both were actually based on a book. And here's the surprising part: Rudolph isn't even 100 years old yet.


The Book

Rudolph wasn't even a part of Christmas until 1939. The original story was written by Robert L. May, and today his little tale of a red-nose reindeer has become a part of the holiday celebrations around the globe. Pretty heady stuff, right?


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Writing 101: Is It Ever Okay to Stop Writing?

You know those websites that feature trite advice from famous authors? I invariably end up focusing on the quotes where the authors say that you have to write every day to really be a writer. I don't do that. Does that mean I'm not a real writer? When is it okay to stop writing, to take a break from creating new books? 


Writer's Block in Rebel's Clothing?

So what if you're not just not feeling your story one day? What if you're just not inspired? Or maybe you're very busy, or sick, and you don't manage to get anything done. Suddenly now you're not a real author? 

I don't think so. Sometimes I don't want to write a thing, not even a tweet, so I don't. Since I spend about 8 to 12 hours a day at my keyboard, I think I have the right to do that. But I also think there's a line to be drawn. 


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing 101: How Scary is Your Search History?

It’s possible I’ve been flagged as a serial killer.

I’m really not one of those conspiracy theorists who believes the government is secretly behind every major event, but sometimes I do worry about my search engine history. I know that Google keeps track of the stuff I’m looking up, so it feels totally within the realm of possibility that the government may also have this sort of power. The government probably doesn’t have as much money as Google, or anything, but I’m pretty sure they can make Google give them information. 


Getting Weird with Google

And if they can, it’s possible that my name is on somebody’s list somewhere…because I look up extremely strange stuff on Google.

I got to thinking about it the other day when I looked for authors who committed suicide, the same night I was searching for information about electronic toys. I've searched for information about legal proceedings, how to get blood out of leather, Christmas decorations, and Will Ferrell in the same week.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writing 101: Is It Hopeless?

You know those completely delusional singers on American Idol who are the worst of the worst, yet they think they're totally amazing? Have you ever wondered...if that's you? Sometimes questions pop into my mind, and they give me new story ideas. Sometimes they pop into my head and I wonder...is it hopeless? 


Where's Paula Abdul When You Need Her? 

Wouldn't it be great if there was an American Idol for authors? You could go in and read your blurb, maybe the first page of your novel, and Simon Cowell could tell you that you're fantastic and you're going to Hollywood. What for, I don't know. I haven't worked out all the details of the show yet (American Writer), but that's not the point. The point is this: when you're an author, everyone is Simon Cowell.

Emily Dickinson was a recluse who, literally, sat in her room and wrote about death. I'm not just writing that to be colorful. Sylvia Plath achieved a fair amount of success as a poet, wrote a popular novel, and stuck her head in the oven one day. Ernest Hemingway, well-known in his own lifetime, put a shotgun to his own head. Virginia Woolf put rocks in her pockets and walked into the River Ouse. 

Here's what I'm saying: writing is dark sometimes. You have to wallow around in the ugliest part of the human condition, in some cases, really dive into terrible thoughts and emotions. Every good story needs a villain...and it's always you. You're the one who tortures the characters, you're the one who kills them, you're the one who creates it all...and you're the one who will feel all the criticism with terrible keenness.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing 101: Reinventing Yourself

You know how they say that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget? Writing a book is like that. Once you know how, you can always write another book. That's why when you're an author, reinventing yourself is easy. Well, sort of. My point is this: you can always reinvent yourself. 


Starting Over

When you're an author, you can always start over if need be -- especially if you're going to be an indie. As an indie author, you control everything. You're in charge of your pen name, your social media accounts, all the stuff you put on the Internet and every image you share. And at any point, you can decide to start all over again if you want.

It's not easy to start from scratch, and it will take months and even years for you to build up a fan base from nothing at all. But you're an author, so you know how to build a new character better than anyone.