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: Finding Your Patron

I imagine that being a writer was a much more romantic occupation centuries ago. Once upon a time, wealthy nobles gave writers and other artists food, clothing, shelter and even money to help them master their craft. So it got me to wondering...is there anybody willing to do that today?

A Wealthy Patron

Storytelling bards used to travel between castles and keeps, sharing their tales for a warm meal, a nice bed and much welcome. The good ones even got to visit Kings and Queens. Pretty good stuff, right? Like, who wouldn't want to travel around just telling stories and visiting fabulous places? 

Writing 101: How Do You Know You've 'Made It'?

Success is not an easy thing to define or measure. So how can you tell when you've "made it" as an author? 

Being Successful

By conventional standards, success equals money. People who are known for wealth are considered to be very successful, even elite, and they're admired and envied for all that spare cash. Television shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and (much newer) Cribs prove that people are fascinated by wealth. 

But the truth is, the majority of authors don't make a lot of money. Being an author is often equated with being an artist, and that profession is synonymous with starving. So all the beach houses and big mansions and Bentleys are, sadly, probably well out of your reach. 

However, you can make some money with writing. And if you write a lot for lots of different companies, it's even possible to make a living as a writer. If you're living the dream of writing full-time, maybe that means you've made it...even if it feels like you can't always make ends meet financially.

If you have time to write and you're writing something that someone is reading or that someone is paying for and you like what you've written, then you've "made it." Don't measure your success in dollars and cents, because it won't ever add up no matter how much you make. Don't measure your success against someone else, or what anyone in your family says, or even by the statistics you find on blogs like mine. Measure your success by your own standards and ideals. When you dreamed of being an author, you probably weren't dreaming of being awash in riches. You were probably dreaming of being read. Achieve that, and you've achieved great success.

Writing 101: Don't Get Lost in the Writing

Punctuation. Grammar. Sentence structure. Prepositions. Proper spellings. It's overwhelming to write a book, and frankly that's far too mild a word. But don't get lost in the writing while you're writing...because you may forget about the storytelling.

Technical Difficulties

I'm the first person to point to a misplaced comma or improperly capitalized word when it comes to published books. In fact, I've been known to go on full-scale rants when it comes to the mechanics of writing. I'm very interested in putting articles in the right place and avoiding the abuse of adverbs. I've gone 20 rounds with my very own employers about the existence of the word "alot" and I'll fixate on even the smallest mistakes when I find them. But I don't allow myself to get too bogged down in all that when I'm actually writing my own books. If I did, I wouldn't ever get past the first page.

The mechanics of writing are very important...but I've seen firsthand that it's not at all the most important thing about a book. I've read a half-dozen authors -- and I'm talking about well-known folks, here -- who in my opinion really can't write. Their structure is all off, their disregard for full sentences frightening and their propensity to avoid dialogue tags is way beyond unsettling. There are a lot of famous authors who don't pay a lot of attention to the mechanics of writing...but they're amazing storytellers, so I'm just about the only person who even cares. 

When it come to storytelling vs. mechanics, it's always storytelling that wins out. So yes, edit your books. Try to use good grammar, and attempt to grasp the basics of punctuation. But don't get so bogged down in the details of the writing that the writing is all you think about. You need to keep your mind free to tell the story. In other words, you need to loosen up. Tell the story. Then go back and edit, and fix all those weird mistakes you made.

Writing 101: Creating a Likeable Character

One of the best ways to create a book that readers will like is to start with a character that readers will like. So now you've got to know how to create a likeable character. It's really not as easy as it seems. 

Manufacturing Like

What I've just asked you to do is actually insane. You're supposed to invent an entire person, out of nothing but your own imagination mind you, and now you have to figure out how to make me like that person. Only you and I have never met, and you don't really know that much about me. Oh, and it will help if I believe that your character is a real person...not just a character on a page. 

This is why so many authors turn to drink to calm their nerves. Creating a likeable character is actually a really hard thing to do, and lots of writers just can't figure out the secret formula. But never fear, because I know it. 

Lots of authors who offer tips will tell you lots of different things about character creation. But when it comes right down to it, there's just one way to create a likeable character: make them real. If I feel anything about this character, you've just created a great one. But there are some tricks you can use to bring out that emotion, and render your character likeable.

  • The obstacle: Give your character some sort of frightening obstacle to overcome. Give them an antagonist, perhaps, or some problem (such as being dirt poor) that makes it easier to root for them. Like often begins with fandom. 
  • The redeeming quality: Of course, it helps if your character has some trait that makes them admirable. A talent, a charitable heart, great courage in the face of opposition -- give them something that will make others respect them. From respect and admiration, like is easily born.
  • The awareness: Want to be tricky and create a multi-faceted character who is both good and bad? If your character does bad things or contains flaws, give them some self-awareness. If they know they are doing bad and they feel remorse, it's much easier to like this character. After all, everyone has done something bad.
  • The look: It's much easier to like a character who looks like a person. I always caution authors against creating characters who are too physically perfect. No one considers themselves to be physically perfect, so an extraordinarily beautiful character can be very off-putting.

The truth is, there's no real formula to creating a likeable character. Give them traits and thoughts and feelings that make them seem like a real person, and there will be readers who like that character. But make your character too perfect or powerful or divine, or too evil and unaffected, and it's going to be hard to summon up any affection.

Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday

The first Amazon review for my newest novel, Hope's Rebellion, unexpectedly appeared last night and I couldn't be more pleased...though some might think that reaction is strange. 

Not YA?

In a review that immediately calls the book violent, the reader said that the inclusion of "rapes, murders and beatings" make the novel seem a little less than YA. It's a fair criticism, and not unexpected (coming from someone who isn't familiar with my usual murder-soaked styled of writing), but happily he does laud the book as a "page-turner," and said he "raced through it in a couple of days." 

So apparently it's "unexpectedly bloody," but not unpalatable. In my eyes, it's totally a rave review (because the reviewer didn't say it was the worst book he's ever read). Get your own copy of the book to see if you agree with the assessment. And if you're not sure you want to buy it, get a free sample of the first three chapters -- just click my "free book stuff" link at the top.

Writing 101: You Should Be Writing Articles...for Free

As a self-published author, you're going to have to do all sorts of things to get readers to notice you. It's necessary to join Twitter, to participate in forums, to find potential fans and engage with them. Social media is great, but at the end of the day you want people to be interested in your writing. So give them stuff to be interested in

Free Articles

Okay, so the goal of publishing is to get your words read.  You're an artist, you have a voice and a viewpoint and something to share with the world. But you also live in the real world, and that costs money. So clearly, it's ideal to make money from your writing. Creating free articles seems to be at odds with this goal. 

But you're wrong for thinking that, and I'm about to tell you why: publicity is invaluable. Getting your name out there with a byline is so worthwhile, you should be paying the Internet for allowing you to do it. But you don't have to pay. In fact, there may be a way you can earn a little extra income from your "free" articles -- if you play your words right. 

  • What to write
First, you've got to figure out what sort of articles you will write. It's not enough to just write about what interests you, and throw the content out here. Ideally, you've got to find a way to link it to your brand and your books. 

For example, I write YA novels. So maybe I'll write some free articles about back to school fashion, or prom looks, or how to balance schoolwork with athletics and social activities. This content is all geared toward teens, my audience, to get them interested in me as a writer. Once I draw them in, I hit them with information about my books. See how it works? 

  • Where to write
You've got an idea of the type of content you will create. Now, you need somewhere to publish it. Luckily, the Internet is full of websites that want content -- particularly when it's free. 

  1. Blog: Blogs are among the easiest websites to create for free, and there are all sorts of ways you can customize yours. Create a free blog and put new content on it as often as possible to establish a regular base of readers. A blog also gives you a platform to promote all your books and writing endeavors. 
  2. Yahoo voices: Anyone can post content to Yahoo Voices anytime. Sign up for a free contributor account and start writing. You can even earn a little bit of revenue from articles you post here, so it's a great opportunity for self-promoting indies. 
  3. Huffington Post: The Huffington Post is one of the most-visited sites on the Internet, and that's largely thanks to the bloggers. Visit the site to learn how to become one of them, but be warned: HuffPo doesn't pay bloggers anything. 
  4. Go fish: Look for websites that fit your particular niche and expertise. Send them free articles in hopes that they'll get published, and don't forget to promote, promote, promote if you get published anywhere. 

Tying it all together

So you've found so me articles to write and some places to publish them. Now you've got to tie that content into your brand and your books. How? The About the Author box, of course. Craft a great bio that explains why you're an expert in this field, mention your books and don't forget to include the relevant links. 

Writing 101: The Book Marketing Budget

The copyright. The cover. The Facebook ads. The paid reviews. The trailer, the proof print copies. All those marketing materials. When you self-publish, expenses add up quickly. Have you got a marketing budget yet? 

Being Businesslike 
You're creative, and if you're like me then you're also shite with numbers. When you become an indie author, you're no longer just a writer. Now you're a promoter, and an accountant. Don't become your own worst enemy as well. Establish a book budget...before you start writing the book.

Writing 101: The Details That Matter

Some authors spend a ton of time describing the leaves of trees and the way the grass blows in the wind. That's all well and good, but don't ever forget to include the details that matter.


When I was a little girl, I found the plot of Star Wars to be incredibly confusing. This is because I thought they were saying that Luke's father had gone to the dark side of the forest. I was always like "well, maybe he got lost." It took me a long time to really understand the plot of those movies, and it's not even my fault. The storyteller should have made it more clear. 

It's your job to make sure no one is thinking that about your books. Sometimes when I'm writing, I get into a zone where the words are just pouring out. I don't even have to think about them, half the time. And I might slip into all sorts of slang and colloquialisms. Then I go back and read what I've written and I realize that I'm the only person who knows what the hell I'm talking about. So then I have to add the details that matter. 

Flowers in the Attic: Movie Review

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that last night marked the world premiere of Flowers in  the Attic on Lifetime. Fans have been waiting 30 years for a decent adaptation of  this powerful book. Is the wait over? 


FITA became a bestselling book in the 1980s, so naturally a movie adaptation followed. Despite a strong performance from Louise Fletcher, the film was disliked by critics, fans and  anyone else who read the book. It became infamous for being bad. 

Fans were thrilled when Lifetime announced their intentions to do their own adaptation, and I was chief among them. So how  does this new film stack up against the old one? More importantly, how does it compare to the book?

In the Attic

The movie began with the prologue from FITA, much to my delight. This introduction was changed a little. We found Cathy on film at age 12, not 7, and got thrown into the ill-fated birthday party pretty quickly. 

The grief scenes were shortened, though the key dialogue was left intact. Soon enough, we were arriving at Foxworth Hall. This scene was copied almost perfectly for the film, giving viewers an introduction to evil grandmother Olivia Foxworth.

Inspirational Authors: V. C. Andrews

V. C. Andrews was one of the first authors I read when I discovered books, and I adored hers. I re-read her early series books more times than I'm willing to admit. Her works inspired me to become an author (or something like one, anyway), and for that I owe her a debt...or maybe I should dislike her? Either way, I was greatly influenced by her work...and I think something rubbed off on me.

You Are What You Read

If you read a lot of a certain author, and love that author, it's only natural that you'll be influenced by that author. It's sort of like musicians. They always get asked "who influenced you" and they'll rattle off a list of names. Sometimes when they say a name you go "yeah, I can tell." Well, I was influenced by V. C. Andrews...and some of my readers can tell.

Fiction Fasion Icon: Cathy (Reprise)

 originally published Friday, October 12, 2012
It is the job of all authors to bring their characters to life. Most well-loved characters have a distinct look, noticeable characteristics, great flaws and strengths. Some authors even take things one step further, and create a distinct style for their leading ladies. To honor some of the great fiction fashion icons that I've read over the years, I'm introducing a new feature with one of my most favorite characters: Cathy Dollanganger.

Fashionable Femme Fatale 

Cathy Dollanganger is the main protagonist of the Dollanganger series, which spanned five books. The series was introduced in a debut novel from V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic. It became an instant hit, though the movie didn't fare quite so well, and launched a career that has, phenomenonally, continued with new novels even beyond the author's death.  
It all began with Cathy. Through the series, she goes from age 9 to age 59 (or thereabouts), and that's a whole lot of clothes. For some special scenes, readers are treated to Cathy's outfits in exquisite detail. In fact, clothes are used to illustrate a lot of the turmoil she feels in the first book of the series. 

While Cathy is locked away in Flowers in the Attic, clothes are given to her by her mother Corrine, the woman who did the locking up. They're a compensation of sorts for the miserable life Cathy and her sister and brothers are now being forced to lead. In one memorable scene, Corrine gives Cathy beautiful ballet costumes so she can continue to live her dream of one day becoming a prima ballerina. The clothing is so beautiful, and represents so much, it fills Cathy's heart with love.

Later, clothes fill her heart with anger. After an extended trip away from her children, Corrine returns with tons of gifts...and more pretty fashions for Cathy. But as she tries them on, Cathy realizes that her mother is still buying clothing for a little girl -- a little girl she no longer is. The clothes represent all the neglect, and the blind eye Corrine is using to view the situation she's trapped her children inside. Cathy hates those clothes! She rips them off, tears them up and cries bitterly.

Fashion...it's such a fantastic plot device. Clothing continues to be important in Cathy's life. She goes on a shopping spree in the next book of the series, Petals on the Wind, and the new items represent a freedom of choice she has never before enjoyed as a young woman.

When Cathy is an adult, later in the book, fashion becomes her greatest weapon. By now, many years separate Cathy from her attic days of captivity, but the bitterness and anger has taken root in her and blossomed into full-blown revenge. It's not enough that she's free. It's not enough that she's achieved her dreams. It's not enough until her mother Corrine suffers. Isn't fashion a great way to make that happen? 

When Cathy decides to take her mother's husband, she invites him to dinner and dons a sexy red dress. The details of Cathy's seduction outfit are carefully revealed, and it's fair to say that she doesn't get the reaction from Bart that she wanted. He gets the wrong message from the red dress, and the entire plan pretty much falls apart.

For the most climactic scene of Petals on the Wind, the huge confrontation for which readers waded through hundreds of pages to get to, Cathy plans her outfit much, much more carefully. For the ending scenes of the book, Cathy dons an outfit so important and so well-described, it cements her as one of my favorite fiction fashion icons.

The green dress Cathy wears the night Foxworth Hall burns down was first seen years and years before, in Flowers in the Attic. The Christmas Party represents one of the only times during their attic imprisonment that Cathy gets to leave the little room in the big mansion, and the green dress is a fundamental part of the imagery of the party. It's worth by the ever-beautiful Corrine, Cathy's mother, as she dances and flirts with her soon-to-be-husband Bart. The green dress is a combination of velvet and chiffon, and it represents everything Cathy hopes to be when she grows up.

Years later, the green dress becomes her symbol of revenge. She has it re-made in exquisite detail and copies the hairstyle her mother originally donned when it was worn so many years before in Cathy's childhood. She even sneaks into the mansion to steal the same emerald jewelry that Corrine paired with the dress the first time. In this grand fashion, Cathy makes her re-entrance into her mother's life.

Revenge fashion is delicious when it's described by V.C. Andrews. The dress continues to be present through all the final scenes of Petals on the Wind, which ends in stunning fashion, and it left a huge impression on me the first time I read it. Every time I see green velvet paired with green chiffon, I think of Cathy Dollanganger, revenge, and blazing fire. It's a lot of powerful images, and it's all held together by some of the best fiction fashion you'll find in any book. 

Flowers and Fashion

Lifetime's adaptation of Flowers in the Attic will have its world premiere tonight, and that gives viewers the chance to see Cathy, her mother and the rest of the cast in all their best-dressed splendor. Will the green dress make its debut during the movie? Live Tweet with me while it airs, and we'll find out together!  

Books on Film: Flowers in the Attice (Reprise)

post originally published Saturday, August 11, 2012

When a book is very popular among a large group of readers, filmmakers generally like to take special care with the film adaptation. They consult the author of the work, they read the book themselves, they pay homage to the original material. This isn't what happened when Flowers in the Attic was transformed from a YA horror book that struck a strong note with teen girls...into 93 minutes of on-screen swill that you can't ever get back. Cringe if you like, but that description really isn't harsh enough for one of the worst book-to-film adaptations in the known world.

The Book
Full disclosure: I'm a little biased. Flowers in the Attic is actually a very special book to me, as it inspired me to become a writer (the jury's still out on whether or not I am). It was written before I was born and published in 1979 by V. C. Andrews, known to friends and family as Virginia. The book was her first and it was an almost immediate success, spawning three sequels, one prequel and a wildly successful novel-writing career that continues decades after V. C. Andrews's death. It's sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

Welcome to Flowers in the Attic Weekend!

Lifetime's remake of Flowers in the Attic airs this weekend -- so we're going to celebrate here at the blog until it hurts. 

Flowers, Not in the Attic

Flowers in the Attic was the first book written by V.C. Andrews, and it was published in 1979. It immediately became a hit. The book struck a chord with readers. With it, Andrews forged a career that continues after her death and pioneered a genre. Her writing is marked by its unusual mix of gothic horror, youth-oriented narratives and the recurring theme that sometimes blood is not thicker than water. Flowers was mainstream fiction, yet it explored extremely taboo subjects like rape and incest. 

And it inspired yours truly. I became aware of this book at age 9, Thanksgiving Day. I found it on a nightstand and started to read, purely out of boredom (what was I gonna do, watch football?). By the end of Chapter 1, Flowers in the Attic had changed my life. I decided, then and there, that I would write stories for a living. Almost every single decision I've made since that moment has been based on that goal. So it's very fair to say this book shaped my life, and made me who I am. 

I don't think it's completely out-of-line to honor it with a weekend, all things considered. So check back on Saturday to learn more about this remarkable story, and what it's meant to me. On Sunday, you'll find a full review of the Lifetime remake. Spoiler alert! I'm not likely to be forgiving about any deviation from the novel. Join me this weekend to let me know what you think of the books, the remakes and anything else Flowers-related.

Visit Lifetime to read an excerpt of the book, and feel free to live Tweet with me during the broadcast -- you'll get a sneak peek of my Sunday review if you do!

Writing 101: The Love-Hate Relationship

Sam and Diane. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. And my personal favorite, Scarlett and Rhett. The love-hate relationship is a strong literary device...and incredibly difficult for writers to pull off. 

Opposites Attract

Some say that hate is the other side of love, and the two are closely linked. Many married people will tell you that's the truth. If you haven't really hated someone, maybe you haven't really loved them. So it's only natural to depict love-hate relationships in fiction. When it's done well, it can be very engaging and moving. Done badly, and it's just unbelievably annoying. 

Writing 101: Action Scenes

Can you effectively write a thrilling sword fight? Show me a round of fisticuffs with full blow-by-blow? Make me gasp my way through a frightening chase? Action sequences can appear in any book, and they should. Otherwise, you've just got a bunch of sit-down dialogue.

Show Me the Blood

When a character walks across the room to pull a book of the shelf, it's action. But this is probably easier to write than an entire jousting scene replete with horses and squires and the whole show. In either case, at some point in every book it becomes necessary to make characters move around. It's your job to do that convincingly.

Writing 101: Do You Really Want Writing to Be Your Job?

Various studies and focus groups and research (and by research, I mean Twitter) show that many authors and would-be authors hope to one day write books full-time to earn 100 percent of their income. And maybe that's a flawed plan...because most novels don't make that much money. 

Dead...and Hating It

I don't want to get too gothic, or anything, but there's a long list of authors you've heard of who died penniless. Poe, Oscar Wilde,  Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick)...I could go on. Writing novels isn't likely to net you a lot of money, unless you write a lot of them or you write at least a few of them that hit really, really, really big. 

If you sell 1 million copies of anything, you're a huge success. But you're probably not ready for retirement. In order to be a best-selling, full-time novelist, you're going to have to sell in the neighborhood of 100 million copies...of more than one book. That's the reality, because you don't make much money per book whether you self-publish or walk the traditional publishing path. In fact, in traditional publishing you're likely to make much less so you must sell much more. 

Nor will writing gain you love. Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Jonathon Swift and John Keats wrote with romantic, poetic language that touched the soul. All died single. 

Give yourself a quick reality check before you think about writing as a full-time job. Go look at how many books are on Amazon. Now make a list of all the rich and famous authors you know. The ratio is going to be something close to 100,000,000 to 1, and I'm being really generous.

Making a full-time living from writing novels is very difficult. It takes a great deal of hard work and lots of luck. You have to write and market and write and market, and if you have a whole lot of support and people working with you then it's possible...for a rare few. 

But making a full-time living from writing...now, this is much more possible. 

The Everyday Writer

Traditional mediums like newspaper and print magazines are difficult to break into, and they're becoming a dying breed so it's harder than ever. But the Internet offers lots of wide-open opportunities for writers. There are many jobs out there for creative writers, bloggers, freelancers, copywriters and technical writers. You have to work a lot to make money. You have to establish good contacts. And you have to look for new jobs all the time. But writing full-time is possible, and while you're at it you can supplement your income and build your fan base with novels you scratch out on the side. 

But you have to ask yourself if you really want writing to be your job. No matter which road you try to take, you have to work hard. You will probably have to work 7 days a week, holidays as well. You must spend lots of time on non-writing tasks, like social media, and sometimes that can feel like a pain. You will be building a persona and putting yourself out there, and when you put yourself out there you open yourself up to all the criticism the Internet has to offer (and it's an infinite wellspring). 

It's lonely to write, and it can be hurtful. It requires a lot of hard work and you're going to take a lot of ribbing from friends and family who think you have it easy, somehow. You're going to get fired from jobs. You're going to have to fight to get your money, sometimes. You're going to read comments that hurt and you're going to suffer disappointments. But you're also going to be writing full-time, and for some that totally balances the scales. Now you have to figure out if that's enough balance for you.

Writing 101: Let's Talk About Title Case

I've Noticed a Disturbing Trend Among Authors, and I Can Stay Silent No More. Title case, which I just demonstrated in my last sentence, is being used way too much...and incorrectly, at that. 

It's Not a Title!

Writing perfectly in your novels isn't enough. If I get one more title case quote recommendation on Goodreads, my wrath will no know bounds. I've pointed out many, many times that you must always conduct yourself like an author. And if you're using title case incorrectly -- anywhere -- I'm going to see it. And I'm putting you on my Do Not Read list.

Indie News: Indies Prefer Tradition

A new survey shows that the majority of authors, even indies, still prefer traditionally publishing to taking the indie route. 

The Road More Traveled

Digital Book World and Writer's Digest partnered for the Author Survey, which shows exactly where writers stand when it comes to choosing their path.

Among traditionally-published authors, only 7.5 percent said they wanted to self-publish. Among authors still aspiring to be published, 10.1 percent said they would take self-publishing over being more traditionally published. Only 35.1 percent of self-published authors said they preferred taking the indie route, and only 29.8 percent of hybrid authors preferred to self-publish alone.

More than 9,000 writers participated in the 2014 Author's Survey, with the majority of participants stating they had not yet published any work. The vast majority of authors who took the survey are fiction writers (to the tune of over 80 percent).

Books on Film: The Princess Bride

Unless you've come here from the planet Twilar, you've at least heard of The Princess Bride. And if you're like most people, you've seen the movie at least 10 times. After all, doesn't it come on cable like every day? But before it was a movie that everyone can quote, it was a book...though its origins still remain a mystery to many.

The Book

William Goldman wrote The Princess Bride in 1973, and the world was for ever changed. Now, the origins of the book are shrouded in mystery because Goldman is quite the jokester. At the top of the book he explains that it's an abridgment of The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern, which does not exist. Morgenstern did not exist, either, until Goldman himself wrote a novel under this pseudonym (presumably to further his joke).

Writing 101: The Great Cheap Book Debate

Depending on who you ask, cheap ebooks are either a scourge upon society and the potential death of all literature...or an amazing way to affordably spread the written word. I got pulled into the great cheap book debate rather unexpectedly recently. Much of the argument has since taken place between me...and me. 

Why Cheap Books Are Bad

I search for myself quite regularly on Google -- not because I'm vain (though for the record, I am) but because I advise all indie authors to do this. I stumbled across some of my own blog posts being plagiarized one day, and I've since appointed myself as my own watchdog. So imagine my surprise when I found my name appearing in a debate about cheap books...and how evil they are.

I was introduced into the topic in the comments section, after I'd already read through an impassioned blog post and a very persuasive argument that nearly inspired me to run right to my Amazon page and lift the price on all my novels.

Writing 101: Write As Who You Are

Are you funny? Do your friends laugh a lot when you share little anecdotes? If you're funny by nature, you might really struggle to write a tragedy or dramatic novel. If you're not a touchy-feely affectionate person, maybe romance isn't your genre. You should write in a way that's true to your own nature...because this is how you'll do your best writing.

The Voice

You've probably heard about authors who need to find their voice, or the ones who already have. Your voice is really just your natural personality, and the way it appears on the page. Certain writers have their own distinct style, a way of writing that evokes certain feelings. 

Writing 101: Co-Authoring

All authors have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing a story. So what if you find an author who's strong where you're weak? When is co-authoring an option, and can it work for you?

Writing with Others

Finding another author to shore up your own work may sound like a good idea on the surface. But there are so many things to consider, even planning for it can be an overwhelming experience. And even the best-laid plans can go awry. Writing with others is difficult, and it doesn't always work out well.

Writing 101: Writing Realistic Dialogue

Many authors excel at the flowery descriptions, the planned-out plotting, the character development. But dialogue is a whole different animal. If you want yours to be any good at all, stop writing and start listening

How People Talk

In the movie Young Adult, Charlize Theron is a ghostwriter who writes a popular YA series. She's also totally screwed up, but that's beside the point. In the film, there are a few funny scenes were she noticeably eavesdrops on teenage girls having casual conversation. Later, she uses what she's heard in her writing. Listening to people talk, in a non-creepy way, is totally acceptable. More than that, it's what every author ought to do. 

Again, I emphasize the part about not being creepy. Don't listen in on people's intimate or personal conversations. But out in public locations when people are just chatting? Pay attention to what they're saying, and get more of a feel for how people really talk. And write that way.

You should always be writing your dialogue realistically. If you're writing about teenagers, know what teenagers are saying and how they speak to each other. If there aren't any teens handy and the mall is too far away, get on Twitter. Go into a chatroom. See what the teens are saying to get a feel for their language. If you're writing about someone elderly, listen to some elderly folks speak. Go to a nursing home, or to a McDonald's early in the morning, and listen. 

As a writer, you should always be listening. This is the only way you can learn to write real dialogue. If you listen enough, you'll be able to hear your characters talking while you write the dialogue. Then, you'll know if it sounds real or not. When you're done writing, go back and read your dialogue out loud. Great dialogue takes a lot of work, but if you can learn how to do it you'll always have people willing to read what you write.

Indie News: What Did You Miss in eBooks in 2013?

Thanks to the wide availability of smartphones and tablets, things are happening quickly in the world of self-publishing...maybe too quickly. What did you miss in the market in 2013? 

Looking Back

If you weren't keeping an eye on self-publishing news in 2013, you missed a few big events. The year was packed with precedents in an industry that's still finding its way. 

One of the most notable incidents was the Apple ebook conspiracy. The company actually went to trial for being in cahoots with publishers to raise the cost of ebooks. Seriously, that happened. There were 5 companies named in the conspiracy, all of which settled before the trial. Apple didn't, and they were found guilty of violating anti-trust laws. And get this, several publishers filed motions saying that any action against Apple would actually end up hurting them

Books on Film: Girl, Interrupted

Susanna Kaysen published Girl, Interrupted in 1993. The book is based on her own life, experiences she had during the 1960s as a young woman. The best-selling book gained even more fame later in the decade when Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, among an ensemble cast, made a movie about it.

The Book

Girl, Interrupted is well-written, but it's a bit hard to follow because it doesn't follow a linear story. The book details Susanna's stay in a mental hospital after receiving a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She lived for nearly two years at McLean, and later obtained her file from the hospital. 

The book is a collection of stories about her life in the hospital and before her admittance. The theme of freedom is a running thread throughout. She was 18 in 1967, a tumultuous time for many people in the United States. She was admitted to the hospital after a suicide attempt, and a stay that was meant to be a couple of weeks extended to 18 months.

Writing 101: Self-Publishing in 2014

I realized the other day that just 100 years ago, we were still marveling at steam energy. The first cars had been invented, but they weren't popular or very affordable, and man had only just learned that he could fly. Today I walk around with a computer in my pocket, and I'm totally allowed to vote in all elections. Life has changed a lot in the last century, and it's going to keep changing in the next year. So what can you expect from the world of self-publishing? I'm going to make a few predictions.

Into the Future

Lots of things can happen in just one year. In 2013, a new Pope was elected. Eric Snowden broke the NSA scandal and promptly fled to Russia. The Chinese landed on the moon (not the whole country, just the Yutu rover). A future King was born (Prince George of Cambridge). And self-publishing boomed, with more than 100,000 new titles published.

New electronics devices and software programs have made it possible anyone to read anything at any time. The wide availability of ebooks has made it possible for more authors to publish titles than ever. So where will we go from here?

A Year in Rantings

I made it a point to write a big New Year's post last year, so I felt that I could do no less this time around. Like many people, I made a New Year's resolution. And like the majority of people, I broke it. At least I know I have something in common with others.


But I'm probably not going to write about other things I might have in common with other people. My New Year's resolution was to write more personal blog posts, in the fashion of a blogger that I admire. And honestly, I really, really tried to follow it.