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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Writing 101: Research, Part 2 - Plot

Now that you've established the setting for your story, you can draw from a rich well of knowledge to make every scene authentic. But if your plot doesn't follow a logical course, readers aren't going to care about the rich backgrounds you paint with your words. For the plot to feel authentic, you're going to have to do your homework. Yes, it's time for even more research. Get it done before you start putting words down on the page.

Plot Points

If it's in your plot, you should research it. This is especially important for writers in the historical and mystery genres. If, for instance, a devastating act of nature wreaks havoc with your characters try to link it to an actual event and study that event. Look at similar events and their effects, and how the problems were handled. If your plot includes a horrific fire, do some research into firefighting procedures to describe the scene in vivid detail. Medical conditions, the effects of stress on the body, what foods taste like -- you can find answers to the most mundane and complex questions on the Internet. It's a tool, so start using it to make all your writing more accurate. Accurate writing feels real to the reader, and helps to paint scenes that truly bring your work to life.

How long does it take a broken bone to heal, for stitches to come out? If your characters get injured, these answers become important. Readers will pick up on inaccuracies in even the littlest details, so take the time to do the research and make sure you know what you're talking about. You should never be writing just to be writing -- your words are always going somewhere, driving the story forward. It's important that those words be correct to make your plot more genuine. Readers identify with realities, and even in fantasy books there are always certain truths and parallels that set the great books apart from all the rest.

Writing 101: Research, Part 1 - Setting

Creativity isn't a spigot that you can turn off and on. Even the most brilliant creative minds need inspiration before the ideas can flow freely. Some need to put themselves in a specific environment or mindset, or both, before they can let go and create. Once you get into that zone where everything is flowing perfectly, the last thing you want to do is stop, look something up and then get started again.

But you should anyway. Because if you aren't taking the time to do your research, you're only doing half the work.

Details, Details, Details

So what's it matter if you put your characters in the middle of a "famous landmark" that doesn't actually exist, or talk about the beautiful oak trees found in a tropical forest? What if you've got them eating unspecified meadow mushrooms and berries from the shrubbery, if the plot is exciting and the intrigue is abundant? Who really cares about that crap anyway?

Your readers do, and if you make a mistake they're going to be very displeased indeed. Even the smallest of details can set a reader on edge, and that's why you've got to take the time to know your settings. The first order of this research business is to know exactly where you're putting your characters and your story. Nail that, and the rest is easy enough to figure out.

  • Setting 
Your characters live, love and laugh somewhere. The setting of the story should serve as another character. It's more than a backdrop, it's the stage for all of your action, adventure, romance, mystery -- whatever it is you write about. It's got to be as real to the reader as your main character, because without a place to picture that character what have your readers really got? Pick a real location for your characters. It doesn't have to be your own hometown, it doesn't even have to be a place you've been to before. But once you've picked it, start looking at websites about the area. Lots of cities and states and countries and towns have their own homepages. Find out what's unique about the place, look at it on the map, find photos of it through search engines. See it with your own eyes.

If you're writing a fantasy story about a place that doesn't actually exist in the known world, you've got your work cut out for you. Draw up a map of the world, or the country or kingdom, where your story takes place. No one expects you to be a cartographer, and no one ever has to look at that map but you -- so make it as rough or abstract as your skills require. As long as you have a real reference to look at and draw from, it'll help you flesh out your story. To make the research and the writing much easier, try to base your made-up land on reality. Maybe the weather in your main city is something like London -- gray, foggy, wet. Maybe it's like a tropical island -- sunny, bright, clear. Look at images of these places to give yourself ideas about your own world.

History buffs are among the most unforgiving of readers. If your story takes place in an historic setting, your research has to be utterly meticulous. Look at period maps, and take the time and care to give your story a very specific date to avoid confusing yourself. Once you've got a working date, you'll know just where to look to find setting information so you can place your characters precisely.

Once you've got the setting worked out, start to use it. Find out what's nearby, what (if any) regional cuisine exists, what tourists come to see and what locals love to hide. Learn about the weather, the vegetation, the main methods of travel. Are the streets packed with cars, or foot traffic? Bicycles, or taxis? With online maps, you can actually get street-level views of any current location in the world. This means you can literally walk along the same streets as your characters, see the same buildings and sights. What will that do for your writing?

Writing 101: Copyright

So, you've finished a book. You carefully wrote an outline, craftily developed your characters, sweated out the formatting to make every page perfect. If you don't get yourself a copyright through proper and legal channels, you don't want to self-publish that story. If you do, I can download it, put my name on it and sell it as my own -- legally. If you think slapping a copyright symbol and writing a disclaimer is enough to protect your rights, you might be wrong. Getting a copyright is pretty easy...but it's not that easy.

What is a Copyright? 

You can't have one unless you know what it is. When you own the copyright to a work -- usually a piece of music, a book, artwork or a film -- you and you alone are allowed to sell, distribute and duplicate that work. This means that if someone else wants to sell and/or distribute your work, they've got to go through you first. Copyrighting your book legally marks you as the owner, and it's something you've got to do before you make that book available to the public in any form or fashion.

...If you live in the United States, that is.

Obtaining a Copyright

Obtaining a copyright is a legal process, and there may be certain channels you've got to go through in order to get it. If you live in the US, you've definitely got some work to do before you start happily self-publishing. Elsewhere...well, it's quite a bit easier.

  • In the UK
If you create and produce your book in the UK, it's automatically copyrighted. The UK copyright goes into effect the moment an idea leaves its creator's mind and becomes an object (rather than a concept). The moment you type your first word, you've got a copyright on your work. You do not have to be a citizen of the UK for this copyright law to protect you; as long as you create and produce your work within the UK, you're covered. The UK Intellectual Property Office offers more specific details.

  • In Canada
Canada's copyright laws are similar to UK laws. Once you create and produce your work in country, you're protected under Canadian copyright law. However, you should take the time to legally register your work through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, a process which does include some monetary fees.

  • In the United States
If you live in the US, simply creating and producing your work absolutely isn't enough. As an author, the responsibility falls to you and you alone to officially copyright your work and register it with the Library of Congress. It's a relatively simple process that includes filling out a form and sending a copy of your work (for inclusion in the Library, of course). Use the online Electronic Copyright Office for ebooks and digital works. Filing the copyright does cost money, but it's a necessity if you want to be legally recognized as the owner of your work.

Justice Trailer Now Live

Better late than never! The trailer for Justice is finally finished -- just in time for me to need a second trailer for The Tower. Begin exploring the Deck of Lies now!

Writing 101: Length

When does a manuscript cross the line between short story and novel? How long are most books in your genre? When is it a good idea to step outside the box and break the rules? Length is a huge issue in writing books -- make sure you give it the proper respect.

Measuring Length

One hundred pages, eighty thousand words, two thousand lines of text -- the first step in measuring length is using the right yardstick. Lots of writers know exactly how many pages they've written in how many chapters; some can even tell you the amount of days that pass in their story, or maybe how long (to the minute) the book took to write. It's all well and good to know your page count, average chapter length and all those other fun statistics, but when it comes to determining book length there's only one measurement: word count.

Thanks to modern-day computers, a great many writers can simply choose an option and find out exactly how many words are in their manuscript (it's under Tools). But it's not a bad idea to know how to figure out how to determine word count without modern technology -- just in case.

On pages designed one with standard one-inch margins and written in a double-spaced, 12-point non-proportional font, you'll have an average of 250 words on each page. Count the pages, do the math, and you've got your word count.

But let's not forget, we live in a word with modern technology...and the Internet. If you've got to have an accurate word count and your software won't play nice, look for an online word count tool to get the job done. 

How Long is Too Long...Or Too Short?

Do you have a short story, a novella, a full-length novel? Does your word count match your genre? There are no hard-and-fast rules in self-publishing, but it's not a bad idea to know what the competition is going to be putting out. Knowing the industry standards for word length gives you an edge, because you'll know how the traditionally-published are playing the game.

Traditionally, short stories fall between 2,000 and 7,000 words, while novellas begin at 7,000 and start to become too big at 17,000 words.Young adult novels generally fall between 50,000 and 60,000 words, while full-length novels for adults are generally around 80,000 to 100,000. Novels over 100,000 words in length are usually considered to be epic novels, and they can spring up in any genre.

You don't always have to play by the rules. Remember that your story should be only as long as it needs to be to tell the whole story. Good books are allowed to break the rules, and great books usually end up making them. Respect and know your word count, but above all respect the story you've got to tell -- because that's what really matters to readers. Mainly, you need to know your word count so you know exactly how to classify and market your book. Don't advertise a novella when you've written a 200,000-word monster. 

Guest Post: 5 Ways to Get Noticed and Earn a Full-Time Writing Job

by Brittany Behrman

Learning the basics of writing, Writing 101, is the first step in getting published. However, once you’ve established that you have the talent and knowhow to push forward toward making it big, how do you support yourself in the meantime?

You could find a job in an unrelated field, which may distract you from your writing and delay your success, or you can work towards refining the skills it takes to finish a great manuscript and make money doing so!
The first step in starting your writing career, whether you aim to work full-time or freelance, is building your experience and developing your portfolio to attract potential employers. I’ve put together a list of the five ways that I worked towards positioning myself above some of the steep competition in the industry and starting a career in writing to escape an in-the-meantime job.

I am excited for the opportunity to share my experience here with Jade Varden’s Official Blog’s readers! I hope that by following some of my suggestions, you’ll be able to grow as a writer and find employment doing what you love!

About the author: Brittany Behrman began her writing career prior to college graduation reporting for her school’s newspaper and contributing to two sponsored blogs. Since earning her B.A. at Rutgers University in Journalism and Media Studies in 2009, she has spent the majority of her time freelancing and bouncing around the job market. In her tireless search for a writing position, she perfected these five tips and is now approaching her one year anniversary writing full-time for the Performance Marketing Agency, DMi Partners, and an education portal for online colleges, eCollegeFinder.org.

Review: Dragon Fire

I expected Pedro Alvarez's Dragon Fire to be chock-full of fantasy cliches, but the story took several turns I never saw coming. At its heart, Dragon Fire is a love story about the bonds between a kingdom and her people.

Adventure, romance, mysticism, prophecies, magic, swordplay -- it's all here. The story has healthy doses of all the elements that make for a thrilling fantasy tale, but it still manages to be completely original. The characters jump off the page (or the eReader), rich and real, each growing and changing in their own ways throughout the book.

The book is perfectly formatted and beautifully written, but that's not why it's so easy to read. The story builds and flows, and it pulled me along with it. From the dramatic beginning to the epic conclusion, Dragon Fire is a fantastic read. I look forward to reading many more books from this talented author.

Writing 101: Format

Formatting is a big deal in self-publishing, and it's the one thing many indie authors let fall by the wayside. Doesn't every reader have the right to expect the books they read to look like all the other books they've read? If you're going to write, you're going to need to start thinking about your format from the very first word. Otherwise, you're just making more work for yourself to create a story that's ready for publishing.

Standard Formats

AP, MLA, APA -- there are a lot of different formats out there when it comes to article writing, and book writing is no different. Poems always have a certain format, and so does prose. Unless it truly adds something valuable to your work, you should always conform to the standard formats for the type of work you are producing. To do otherwise may alienate and infuriate readers, which is the very last thing any writer wants. Writing prose is pretty easy, format-wise, because basically there are only two you can choose:

  • Fiction
In fiction writing, most books adhere to a standard format that features paragraph indentations. In this format, the first line of every paragraph is indented (usually one tab stop, or five spaces). There is no blank line or separation between these paragraphs unless the author has put it there purposefully to separate their scenes within a chapter.

Writers may choose to break text up into as many chapters as they like, with as much text as they like, in order to create suspense and interest. Lewis Carroll, author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, wrote a chapter in his most famous novel that took up only one line. The number of chapters isn't necessarily important, but indentations are. The blank spaces help to naturally separate the paragraphs and make the long blocks of text readable.

New speakers within dialogue must always begin their own new paragraph. Even if you are writing very short exchanges -- "How are you?" "Fine." -- you must put words from separate speakers into separate paragraphs.

  • Non-Fiction
Non-fiction writing differs from fiction writing when it comes to formatting. Reference texts are not divided by chapters but by category, commonly alphabetically. Indentations are not often used in non-fiction texts. Instead, writers create their prose in block text. Each paragraph is separated by a single, blank line to create space between the large chunks of text. Non-fiction texts may also contain footnotes, which appear in small lettering at the bottoms of pages.

Formatting Your Work

Save yourself some time by formatting your writing as you write it. Simply create your writing in your favorite word processing program, always being mindful of maintaining proper formatting for your piece. Later, you will have to do additional work in order to format your writing for various eReaders. To make things easy on yourself, manually convert your story files into .TXT or .HTML and use formatting software, like Mobi, to make your writing eReader-friendly. If you start out with strong formatting in the first place, you'll spend a lot less time carefully editing your work to make it readable for your audience.