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: 'S

Language is an ever-changing entity. It lives and breathes. You can easily find the proof of it. Open up a novel written 100 years ago, something by Mark Twain for example, and now go open one that was published this year. You'll find extreme differences in the language used. But there are some grammar and punctuation rules that won't ever change, and never have changed...and yet somehow, people still manage to get it wrong. 

There's No Apostrophe in Yours

The rules of using 's are extremely clear. They're hard and fast. And they have not changed since the very first rules of language were invented. So why, why, do we keep getting it wrong?

It's a riddle for the ages. But I am dedicated to repeating this rule, and pointing to it, until no one is making the mistake anymore.

I'm going to make it very clear again: 's is not used to pluralize. It never makes anything plural, not ever. That's why all of the following examples are wrong: 

Did you see all these envelope's?

How many Twitter follower's do you have?

Have you watched all those episode's?

Yes, all of the above examples are wrong because all of the above examples are pluralized words. Eliminate all the apostrophes and now everything is correct. You see, 's is only used for two reasons, and neither of them have anything to do with making something plural. 

Let's look at the first example of 's: substitution. 

In the sentence above, I'm actually saying let us look at the first example. The same thing is true for the word it's. Such as it's a beautiful day. What I'm really saying is it is a beautiful day. The apostrophe in the sentence is used as a substitution for the missing letters. This is how all contractions work. 

But 's is also used in another way: to show possession.

That is Becky's envelope.

It was my follower's tweet.

That episode's final scene was crazy.

The above examples use the same subject matter as the first wrong examples we looked at, but all of these examples are correct. In the first, we are talking about something that belongs to Becky. This is why it becomes Becky's, with the 's. The tweet belongs to a follower on Twitter, so it is the follower's. The final scene in one episode is crazy, so it is the episode's

Use 's in any other way, and you're using it wrong.

Writing 101: How Do You Know You're Done Editing?

So when you mention self-publishing, at some point someone is going to bring up editing. They'll talk about the lack thereof, or they'll express amazement that an indie book is edited so well. It always comes up, and you always have to pay careful attention to it. So when you're working on a new novel, how do you know when you're done editing it? 

Words, Words, Words! 

For many, editing is the worst part about writing. It can be humbling to read through the pages of a first draft and catch all those ugly mistakes - the kind of errors that only a rookie would make. It can be daunting to find plot holes and gaps in your story, and it can be time-consuming to fix all of this mess and turn it into a smooth, polished book. 

Because first drafts usually are such a mess, you can't edit your book just once. You have to go back again and again, read it over and over, in order to catch all those mistakes. I read each one of my books at least 5 times. I read over everything I write once I'm done writing for the night. I read over it again if I get stuck anywhere. I edit the first draft from beginning to end. Then I read it at least three times, in three different ways, to catch all the tiny mistakes that are still left. But I may not stop at 5, because the book I'm checking may be too riddled with errors. 

How do I know when I'm done? How do you know when you're done? How does any author know when they're finally finished editing that book? 

The answer is simple. When you can read your entire manuscript, from title page to the last page, without finding a single error then you are done. As a matter of fact, you should still read it at least once more after this. Because no matter how many times you read it or how carefully you check it, that book will still have at least one mistake in it. That's the nature of the beast. But if you can get it down to just one mistake then you're doing amazing. 

You're done editing when you stop finding errors, and even then everything may not be completely perfect. Being an author means getting as close to perfect as you can with every book you write. Editing is the only way to do it.

Writing 101: Self-Published Authors and Paying Taxes

Most countries tax their citizens. Lots of people complain about that, but the world would stop functioning if goverments could not charge taxes. They're used to create roads and repair bridges, among many other important tasks, so we all pay them more or less willingly. And if you've been earning money as a self-published author, you may be required to pay them as well. 

Taxing Your Income

By law, you are required to give the government a certain percentage of your earnings. When you work and receive a paycheck, these taxes are automatically deducted from that paycheck. At the end of the year you may even receive a tax return from paying too many taxes throughout the year.

But when you earn income through self-publishing, taxes are not taken out because you do not receive a paycheck. You are not someone's employee; you are receiving royalties. Because this money is not taxed, legally it is labeled as self-employment income. And when you receive a self-employment income, your tax burden increases because now you have to claim that income and pay the necessary taxes.

Writing 101: Making the Switch from Indie to Traditional

For some authors, self-publishing is just a starting point. But making the switch from indie to traditional isn't as easy as writing a hit book, waiting to get noticed and hoping the phone calls start coming. If you do a little bit more work, you could even make this change happen yourself. 

Changing Your Spots

Indie authors enjoy a lot of freedom, but it's not something that suits all writers. It is possible to switch from self-publishing to more traditional publishing, but don't wait for it to happen on its own. See if you can make it happen for yourself by following a few essential steps.

Writing 101: Saving Time

Most writers don't make a lot of money. This is a fact you must embrace if you expect to keep being able to plug away at the keyboard. The truth is, in order for most to make any sort of decent career with writing at all you have to write  a lot. That means you have to master the art of saving time. Otherwise, you'll spend most of that time just working.

Time Machine

In most cases, indie authors don't make their sole income from self-publishing books. The majority of indies must also have a day job. And if that day job is writing, it's more like a day and night job. If you write articles and books to make money, you have to write a lot of them. This takes up a whole lot of time.

Time management helps. Staying organized, staying focused -- sure, that's all well and good. But if you want to successfully juggle all your responsibilities, you should also learn how to save time. 

Writing 101: Gonna, C'mon and Other Bastards

When two words are shoved together to make a brand-new word, it's known as making a bastardized (or corrupted) word. If the word catches on, it becomes a part of common language. But when is it okay to use these corrupted words in your books?

Why, I Oughtta

Gonna is one of the most common corrupted words. It's real meaning is used like "going to," as in "I'm gonna finish this blog post soon." This is an example of a true corrupted word, with letters just shoved together to form a whole. The new word is spelled the way it sounds, as is often the case with corrupted language.  Emcee is another example. It's a bastardization of MC, which stands for master of ceremonies.

We use corrupted words so much, in fact, that it can be hard to keep track of which words are bastardized and which are not. When you face one of these corrupted words in the pages of your manuscript, what should you do? 

Proper English

Words like gonna appear in everyday conversation all the time, along with other corrupted words like c'mon and oughtta. And when they appear within the dialogue of your books, it's okay to use them because that's how people talk. But your character should not be thinking gonna or oughtta; they should be thinking going to and ought to

Bastardized words can, and in some cases, should, be in your dialogue. But in the rest of your prose? Proper English is always called for.

Writing 101: Action vs. Dialogue

When you really think about it, all decisions really boil down to one of two choices, don't they? Every battle is decided based on those two choices. And as an author, you have to decide which you'll use to introduce your plot points: action or dialogue? 

One for the Ages

It is truly an epic battle that is waged on every page of every manuscript ever written. Should you use the spoken word to convey that piece of information, or a scene involving actions instead? Should you blend the two together into one multi-layered scene? And if so, how? Action vs. dialogue is a never-ending struggle...and I've noticed one common thread among the authors who find themselves losing that war. 

You can't ever let dialogue win. If you want to win this war, then you must embrace the fact that action must be your champion. He's your Achilles, your David, your Russell Crowe. Dialogue is a scrappy little fighter, and it's fine to let him win a few battles. But action is going to carry your book, and it's going to eventually win out. Otherwise...well, you're going to have a pretty boring book. 

Writing 101: Going with the Flow

Sometimes, writing is the hardest thing in the world. You have to think twice about every word, struggle with each line, repeat the dialogue out loud before you change it all around. But sometimes, it's not. Sometimes, you'll settle into a groove. You'll get into a zone. And that's when words just start flowing. When that happens, you've got to go with it. 

Words Before Agony

I'm a big advocate of doing the research and getting it right, and I don't care what you're writing about. If you're going to describe a tree, I think you should get out your reference materials (like Google) and learn about that damn tree. But I also believe that when the words are flowing, you need to go ahead and flow with them. Because when the well is dry, you'll have plenty of time to do your research.

Writing 101: Being Ridiculous

By nature, writers spend a lot of time in their own heads. I'm one of those writers who takes this to a dark place. I'm overly analytical, highly critical, and I've learned that I'm getting in my own way when it comes to creating stories. My newest project is a perfect example of how I spend so much of my time being afraid to just be ridiculous.


As I've mentioned, I've been struggling with my current manuscript. It's one of those stories where I have to bleed over every line and I'm soaked in sweat before even one more paragraph is completed. Every time I try to think about it, I change my mind about 10 times and end up right back where I started.

I found myself taking another look at different projects instead, anything to distract me from this nightmare of a story. And I found myself drawn to the same project again and again, something I started working on before the Deck of Lies. I realized that I have a full outline and character sheet for the book, not to mention 5 completed chapters. Why did I ever stop working on this in the first place?

Affected by Hope's Rebellion

"This book is so jammed packed with emotion that you can’t put this book down without feeling unaffected." 

"This book gets under your skin in ways you didn’t think of and draw a lot of emotions out of you."

Hope's Rebellion has been reviewed at the Reading Cafe. Visit the blog to see the review, and you'll find a post from me about deadline stress (and how to deal with it)!

Indie News: A Time for Segregation?

If the self-pubishing craze continues to grow as it has done, next year 50% of ebooks will be self-published or indie titles. And now, some bloggers are saying they should be separated from the traditionally published books. In fact, one says it's time to start segregating them. 

Talk About Shopworn...

If history counts for anything, segregation of anything doesn't really work. When it comes to people, forced separation leads to resentment. When it comes to products, the market usually ends up choosing for itself.

But to play Devil's advocate, there are reasonable points to the argument. The blogger calling for the change points out that many books with very adult themes can appear online inside inappropriate categories, and self-published titles may be listed right along with more traditional books. The blogger says plainly that ebookstores must separate the "good" authors from the "bad." According to him, "good" authors earn a living solely through writing books and "bad" ones do not.

Judging Jade

"I read this amazing book in one day. I read it until my eyes were twitching and watery because it was such a page-turner (like the rest of the books in the series)."
"Just go read this series because it’s one of the best out there! GO, NOW!"

The fourth and final book in the Deck of Lies, Judgment, was reviewed recently at Little Book Star. Read the whole review to find out why the reader loved the book!

Writing 101: It's Not Always Emotional, It's Physical

Start looking online, and you'll find hundreds of articles and blog posts that detail the emotional toll of being a writer. You're going to get rejected. You're going to get bad reviews. You are going to get your feelings hurt, and it's going to be really hard. But even if you think you're handling these dark emotions well, there may be something you've overlooked: stress can cause physical complications, too. Even if your mind can handle the trauma of being a writer...can your body, too? 

A Gut Feeling

I began to experience extreme pain in my abdomen last summer. It became chronic, an everyday affair, so I began seeing doctors. I'm a woman, and being a woman always muddies the waters no matter what the hell you're attempting to do. And when you're a woman experiencing pain and there is no immediately obvious cause, everything is more complex because now all your female parts have to be studied under a microscope, along with all the usual pain-causing suspects in the anatomical lineup. 

Writing 101: Listening to Your Inner Voice

Normally, stopping a project before it's finished is considered a bad thing. But when you're a writer, you have to learn how to listen to your inner voice -- and how to respond to it. 


I've been working on a new project lately, as writers are wont to do, and I've been struggling with it. The words don't want to come, so I've been trying to force them onto the page. 

But while struggling through every paragraph of this manuscript, I kept finding myself continuously drawn to a different project -- one I'd discarded long ago. I kept reading it, and looking at the outline, and thinking about it. And then I kept on going back to that other manuscript, and just staring at the screen.

So the other night, I was back to that unfinished project again -- and I just started typing. Before I knew it, I'd finished a whole new chapter. Now that's the project I'm working on, because that's the project I'm currently compelled to write. The words are coming easily now, and the ideas are flowing. 

My inner voice started telling me to switch projects, and I listened, and now I can say I definitely don't have writer's block. I'm excited about the project, and I'm writing with ease again. I don't know that it's going to stay this way, and I can't guarantee that this is going to be the next project I finish. Because I don't know what I'm going to be compelled to write next. All I know is, right now I'm listening. And that's working. 

Sometimes, that's just what you have to do.

Writing 101: The Art of Brevity

Mark Twain famously said that writers should replace the word "very" in their manuscripts with the word "damn" instead. Then, editors would remove the word and all would be as it should. It gets really easy to stick extra words into manuscripts, and it doesn't stop at "very." Have you learned the art of brevity yet?

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Extra words are just one problem that keeps you from mastering brevity. I don't have a big issue with very, but I do have a problem with just. My characters are always just going to do this and just thinking about that, until the word has completely lost all meaning. Once you know you use certain extra words, it's easier to spot them and rout them out of your manuscripts.

Writing 101: Let's Go to the Movies

Many authors write books about authors, because that's what they know. And I've learned that watching another writer struggle can be very beneficial to actual authors who may also be having trouble finding the right words. At least, it's helpful to me. So today I'm going to share my favorite movies about authors with all the other indie authors out there.

Stories Within the Story

It happens in Stephen King adaptations all the time. The main character or the main narrator of the film, or both, is an author. Or a writer. Maybe a poet. Even a screenwriter. They've all been the subject of film, books and anecdotes the world over. But some have the power to make you feel a lot better about your own writing. At least, that's what happens for me when I watch them.

Books on Film: Camille

I only recently learned that one of my all-time favorite movies was actually based on a book. It's not my fault for not knowing this; the book is French, and it was written in 1848. But the story itself is timeless.

The Book

Alexandre Dumas, more famously known for The Three Musketeers, wrote The Lady of the Camellias in 1848, before the United States ever waged its Civil War. The story is so popular, it became a stage adaptation almost immediately. Many film adaptions would follow. The book also inspired the opera La Traviata and a popular Broadway play. According to legend, the main character in the book was based on the real-life lover of Dumas, Marie Duplessis.

That character is Marguerite Gautier, a courtesan. In other words, she lives off the kindness of stranger like so many great heroines (think Holly Golightly, in a far different time and place). She is known as the lady of the camellias because she wears white camellias when she is available to her lovers. When the red camellia is donned instead, she cannot entertain.

By chance one night, she meets Armand Duval. They fall in love, and all is well until Armand's father intervenes. It all leads up to a heart-wrenching ending that you have to experience for yourself. The character of Marguerite Gautier has become one of the most coveted roles of all time. On stage, Sarah Bernhardt played her in London, Paris and on Broadway.

The Film

There are almost too many adaptations of this story to count. Across multiple countries, at least 20 different films have been made. But among them, I have one particular favorite: Camille

It was made in 1936, and it stars Greta Garbo in the title role. She's sensational as the flirty woman of the evening, who entertains friends lavishly and does exactly as she pleases. She plays with heartstrings until she finally meets a man who can touch hers. Camille is truly one of the most romantic movies ever made.

This particular version was directed by George Cukor, so you know it's good. Robert Taylor stars as Armand and Lionel Barrymore does a strong turn as his father. If you've seen Annie, you know Camille. It's the movie they watch together in the empty theater. It's every bit as good as it looks and too amazing to spoil, so go watch it for yourself already!

Writing 101: Elements of a Story

If you want to write a book, it's helpful if you understand the basic mechanics of creating a story. It's sort of like learning do-re-mi. Once you've got the fundamentals down, you're ready to start working on true wordcraft. 

Dissecting a Story

It's true that every story should be unique, but all the good ones are built around the same basic structure. Use this foundation to construct your books. As long as the basic story elements are in place, you can write whatever you like around them. 

  • Exhibition: Introduce your main characters and your setting. You've got to set up the story. Some authors take longer with the exhibition phase of storytelling than others. This may go on for several chapters, or occur in a few brief paragraphs. The way you write it depends on how quickly you want to get to the next phase, and on how much information you need to share.
  • Action: When stuff starts to happen, the plot unfolds. It's not enough to create a world and populate it. Something needs to occur, and your characters need to move around and interact with each other. Otherwise, what the hell am I reading? 
  • Conflict: All the best stories contain conflict, so yours ought to have some as well. Introduce a villain or an obstacle, or several of each, and make your characters attempt to overcome this challenge. Every story needs a challenge. You can do this however you like. Some characters are their own biggest enemies, and they create internal conflict. Other stories contain overt villains who are clearly opposed to the main character.
  • Resolution: All good things must come to an end, and that includes your story. You need to resolve conflicts and obstacles in order to finish the tale. The only exception is the cliffhanger ending, which is really only appropriate if you plan on crafting a sequel.

Write around the basic elements of a story, and write a better one.

Writing 101: What It's Like

People want to know what it's like to be a wordsmith by trade. My answer? It's a war. And if you want to be a writer, you'd better be prepared to be a soldier. 

Behind Enemy Lines

"Oh, really? That sounds interesting!"

This is invariably the response I get when I tell people that I'm a writer. I can tell you, with no humility whatsoever, that it is not. There is nothing at all interesting about me sitting in front of a screen for up to 12 hours at a time. I am told I often make faces, and I'm completely incapable of hearing anyone who speaks to me while I'm in the middle of typing something. So basically it's me pulling faces, grunting, ignoring people. Interested yet? 

Writing 101: A Different Kind of Writer's Block

I haven't made a secret of the fact that I got stuck on my current manuscript, lodged somewhere between two chapters and a time gap. None of my normal tricks and techniques were working, and the other day I realized why. I've got a different kind of writer's block...and I think lots of other writers have it, too.

Double-Edged Sword

Being an author is both a blessing and a curse in many different ways, and in a way I'm cursed by blessings. I started working on my newest manuscript even before my latest novel (Hope's Rebellion) was published. It's been on my "idea" list for quite a while, inspired by something I saw on Jeopardy! like two years ago. The point is, I've been very excited about writing this story. So why have I been stuck on it?

Women's Lit Event

As a female writer, I'm proud to participate in the Women's Lit Event over at Lost in Books and I'll be happy to remind you all that March is Women's History Month! 

Women have been voting in the United States for 95 years, as of 2014. They've only been wearing pants with no shame for about 60 years. And they still don't make as much money per hour as men who perform the exact same job. But it can be argued that female authors have truly mastered the written word. Check out my guest post at Lost in Books -- and read all about it!

Writing 101: Why It's Okay to Use Ain't

I'll go toe-to-toe with any editor over words like "a lot" and "for ever," and I have, but there's one battle I'm never going to fight: ain't. This battle was lost long, long ago. So all writers are now obligated to wave the white flag...and use it in their novels.

A Lesson in Speaking History

The writers who hate the word ain't should turn to embrace it immediately -- because it was an author who originally popularized the word. Maybe if Charles Dickens had been a bit less successful, today's blog post would be about me baking cookies instead.

Indie News: Self-Published Authors are Getting Conned

The self-publishing boom has inspired a lot of writers to become self-published authors, but at what cost? Many companies and individuals are offering services designed to tempt indies. Unfortunately, some of those authors are getting conned.

For What It's Worth...

Almost 400,000 indie books were published in 2012, a 422 percent jump over the number of self-published titles created in 2007. There are new indie authors being born all the time...but you know the maxim states that a sucker is born every single minute.

Turning a word processing file into an ebook is not the simple process it seems to be. I happen to know this from experience, because I stumbled and bumbled my way through the entire procedure while looking up instructions for every single step on the Internet. What I discovered, what many indies discover, is that there are a lot of people out there willing to complete the process for me.