Justice (Deck of Lies, #1)

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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: Tweeting About Your Books

As an indie author, you might spend more time tweeting about your books than actually writing them. Social media is your best avenue for marketing, and Twitter is an incredibly popular social media site. But tweeting about your books isn't easy...because you've got to figure out what to tweet about.

This Space for Rent

You can't tweet "buy this book" all day long, because who's going to click on that? You tweet something like that all the time, and you'll just get a bunch of people who unfollow you all the time. If you really want people to buy your books, you've got to use your tweets to make a case for yourself.

And you need to a spanking good job, too...because you've got a very limited amount of space.

Writing 101: Selling In-Between Books

The self-publishing game moves pretty quickly. Bowker statistics show that around 391,000 self-published titles were published in 2012 alone. Since 2007, self-publishing as an industry has increased by a mind-boggling 422 percent. So if you want to stay in the game, you have to publish frequently. There's just one problem: it takes a long time to write a book. But you can still stay in the game. Start selling in-between books.

On Again, Off Again

Indies have to play the perfectionist game. You'll spend more time editing than you spent writing the darn book, and lots of editing is second-guessing and fact-checking and plot-managing (and, if you're like me, frustration). Factor into this the fact that you have a day job, and time starts to get pretty short. Let's not forget that you are also human, and must spend time eating, sleeping and not working (because if you don't relax a little you're no good as as a writer). 

When all these factors come together, it's really not easy to publish new titles frequently. Books take time, and lots of indie authors don't have a lot of time. So you end up defeating yourself before you can even really get in the game. You have to publish often to keep selling often, but you haven't got the time to write often. Don't give up just yet. There are ways to start selling, even when you're in-between books.

Writing 101: Asking for Reviews

Indie authors have to promote their books all the time. They spend time on social media, they browse forums, they blog. But as an indie author, you should also be asking for reviews -- every chance you get.


Indies have to court the book bloggers, and it's a great way to get reviews. Keep sending your requests out every week. Keep using forums to find potential reviewers and swap opportunities,  if you do swapping. But don't stop there. If you want to get reviews, start asking for them:

Writing 101: There Is vs. There Are

Figuring out the correct use of the word there gets confusing enough, but when you start adding verbs it can become a grammatical nightmare. Do you know how to use there is and there are the correct way? Don't answer too fast. I thought I knew how to use them, too, until I caught myself making the same mistake over and over again. 

To Be or Not to Be

Why is it so hard to know the difference between there is and there are? For starters, is and are are both forms of the same irregular verb, and nothing's worse than irregular verbs. They're both forms of the verb to be. For example, I might say that Sheila is pretty, or that We are polite. Both sentences use a form of be (Sheila be pretty; We be polite). 

Confused yet? If you weren't confused about there is and there are before this post, you probably are now so my job is half done already. But I'm also going to get it all cleared up.

Writing 101: Heroes and Anti-Heroes

Many stories are basic at the core: hero vs. villain, good vs. evil. But life isn't always so black and white...so books can't be, either. Not all main characters are heroic. Some, in fact, are just the opposite.

Bette Davis Eyes

In literature, heroes are good guys. They are honest, or noble, unselfish maybe, and caring of others. They're designed to be lovable.

Not so with the anti-hero. This character is barely likable. They make bad decisions and wrong choices. They lack admirable qualities and maybe even do really dumb things. 

Indie News: Is Amazon Being a Bully?

Is it still cyberbullying when it's perpetrated by a mega-million-dollar corporation? Maybe. Lots of self-published authors are weighing in on the debate between Amazon and traditional publishing, represented in this particular dispute by Hachette. So let's examine the issue and ask the hard question: is Amazon being a bully?

Goliath and Goliath

Believe me, I get it. Defending Amazon, and anything they do, has become a bit of a knee-jerk reaction for indie authors. Amazon gave them a platform, a voice and for a few, millions of bucks. So it's easy to jump to Amazon's defense, particularly when one hears that they're in a good old-fashioned standoff with publishing giant Hachette. Put in that context, I almost want to grab a pitchfork myself. 

But that's just one facet of this complicated mess that's being carried out right now, this very moment. Amazon and Hachette did not see eye-to-eye on the price of ebooks. The two companies could not agree on how to split the profits. Amazon wanted to give more money to the authors, and Hachette said no let's give them even more than that. 

Books on Film: Pollyanna

Pollyanna is a hundred-year-old book, but it's a classic story that left a mark you can still find in pop culture today. As you may know, Pollyanna has become synonymous with any overly-optimistic person who sees only sunshine no matter how much rain there is, a sheer goody-goody who always has something nice to say. But before it was a term to tease your friends with, it was one of the most memorable literary characters ever to grace a page.

The Book

Eleanor H. Porter wrote Pollyanna way back in 1913. It became so popular it launched an entire series of "Glad Books," and if you know the character you understand the title.

Writing 101: Finish it First

Often, authors feel insecurity. You'll doubt, and second-guess, and wonder...and you'll worry. And I know it's tempting to share ideas,  plot points, even whole chapters with close confidants. But you shouldn't. If you're writing a manuscript,  wait to share it. Finish it first.

Other People's Opinions

Even authors are only human, and you're going to be influenced by other people. In fact, as an author you should be. Reviews are most beneficial not to readers but to authors. They provide honest feedback, and that's what every author needs.

That's why it seems like such a good idea to solicit advice from those closest to you. But if you start getting that advice before the book is done, it's could change the course of your story. You could be influenced by others, and then it's not wholly your story anymore.

Writing 101: Desire

What do you want? Chances are, you've got at least one answer to that question. Everyone wants something. That means your characters should, too.


Everyone has desires. It's a fact of the human condition that no matter what you've got, you want something else, or maybe something more. In order to make your characters real, they ought to long for something, many things even.

Writing 101: Going Backwards Isn't Always Bad

In order to finish a manuscript so that it may become a book, writers have to push forward. Write, write, write until you get to the end and then you'll edit later. But it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes, you have to go back before you can go forward. And that's not always a bad thing to do for your books.

To the Drawing Board

There are times when authors have to push. You have to force the words to come. But there are times when the words should flow well, when it comes easily. And if you're not getting to that point, you're going to have to go back. You have to find out what's keeping you from moving forward.

Writing 101: Writing About the Weather

In a recent post, I wrote about the importance of setting in books. It wasn't until later that I realized I'd failed to touch on one important aspect of creating a great setting: weather. But I'm glad I did, because weather is an important enough aspect of writing to merit its own post.

And this is it.

A Dark and Stormy Night

If you go looking for writing advice, you'll find lots of authors who say you should never open a book with the weather. I don't agree, and furthermore I find it to be bad advice. Great novels and movies have started with weather.

And even if you don't start with weather, it should always be included when it's appropriate to your setting. Weather is a part of everyone's life, so why not your character's?

The blazing, merciless heat of the sun. The terrible, stinging cold of the rain. Mosquitoes and flies and buzzards screaming overhead. Weather helps make the world what it is, and it will make your books feel much more real.

We've all been hot, or cold, or caught in the rain. We've all walked through snow or sweated it out under the sun. When you add this to your books, it becomes easier for readers to put themselves in your world. Your world feels more like their world.  It feels much more real.

So write the weather, whenever and however you like. It will help your books come to life. Just remember to be careful when you're using the weather to orchestrate certain plot points. When it comes to weather, a light touch here and there is usually enough to set the scene.

Indie News: Win a Self-Publishing Award

Think your new book is one of the best of the year? Now's your chance to prove it. Shelf Unbound is holding its third annual self-publishing awards, and you can probably join in the fun.

Getting Recognition

The Shelf Unbound competition is open to all authors and publishers who create fewer than 5 titles per year. A large majority of indie authors fall into this criteria. Books in any genre can be submitted for reward recognition.

Even books that were entered last year are eligible for the contest, so the rules are pretty open. You can enter an unlimited number of books, but each one must be a separate entry. Authors from around the world are allowed to join the contest, but all books must be written in English. Books of any length can be entered.

Winners and runners-up will be picked by the Shelf Unbound editors, and will be featured in the December 2015 issue of the magazine.

Writing 101: The Setting is the Story

During Sex and the City, cast members and writers called New York "the fifth lady." The city was such an integral part of the story, it was even in the title. Here's what some authors don't get: the setting is the story, no matter where you're at. You should always be putting your setting to work...a lot.

Where You At?

The setting is the backbone of your story, and much more. It's the place where your characters live and interact. It's filled with the locations they visit and the stuff they see. In the best books, the setting truly comes alive. The reader ought to feel as though they're in the setting with your characters.

There's only one way for you as the author to do that: write the setting well. Make it such a strong part of the story that it becomes the story. Setting is everything, because it's the world around your characters. 

Writing 101: How to Pluralize

To me, pluralizing is one of the easiest tasks you will ever perform with the English language. This is one of the simplest word problems you are ever going to face. The rules could not be any less complex. And yet somehow, people get it wrong every single day. If you follow me on Twitter, you're likely to see me go wild about it on occasion. But that's all going to change, because today I'm going to blog about how to pluralize. Let's put the matter to rest once and for all. 

Rules are Rules

There are few rules in life, but if you learn to master them you will keep yourself out of all sorts of trouble. Don't kill anyone. Always relieve yourself within the boundaries of an appropriate toilet facility. And pluralize words by adding s to them. 

Do these three things, and you're not going to run afoul of me anyway. In all seriousness, grammar errors are not quite as essential as the rule that you absolutely should not commit homicide. However, myself and many other readers do place a good deal of importance on them. 

Writing 101: How Much Does Word Count Matter?

I've always known exactly how long my books are. I know how long they are while I'm writing them and frankly, I'm always far too concerned about it. Once upon a time, books were supposed to fit into certain industry boxes. But now everyone's reading electronically, everyone else is self-publishing and books as we known them are metamorphosing into something that no industry can hope to corral. So how much does word count matter to you, the indie author? And...does it matter at all?

Counting the Words

In the world of books, length has traditionally played a role. For example, if your story is less than 20,000 words it's not a novel -- it's a novella. And if your story is less than 80,000 words it's a little too thin to be labeled an adult book. Could it be YA, perhaps? They're shorter by about 20,000 words.

It's a lot of numbers, and lots of authors (like me) aren't good with numbers. But if you were trying to go the traditional publishing route with your books, I would advise you to pay attention to those numbers. Maybe not as much attention as I pay to it, because that's not good for you, but some attention surely. 

Writing 101: How Should I End Dialogue?

To comma or not to comma. If you're writing a book, you're going to face this question maybe 100 times...if not more. With each line of dialogue you write comes an important question: am I supposed to end it with a comma or a period? 

The End of the Sentence

Punctuating dialogue is one of the most confusing tasks you'll face as an author. You're already introducing quotation marks into the mix, which is extra punctuation, and you can't ignore all the normal rules of the game, either. So every time you write a new line, it's a new challenge. 

Writing 101: Finding Inspiration

You know you want to be an author...but you don't know what to write about. Coming up with a good idea is one of the hardest parts about being a writer. Don't rack your brain and beat your head against the keyboard. Go hunting, and start finding inspiration.

That's Interesting...

Knowing who you are and what you like is the best way to find writing inspiration. Are you drawn toward romantic movies more than others? Do you choose funny comedies more when you watch TV, or dramatic reality shows? Pay attention to your own interests, and you'll know what sort of stories you ought to be writing. 

Writing 101: Realistic Reactions

So what's the secret of creating a great character? It helps if they're a little flawed, it makes me like them if they have problems to overcome. But the real secret isn't in how the character acts. It's how they react to the world around them. And frankly, some writers can't seem to write realistic reactions.

What Would J.K. Rowling Do?

Suppose that you were confronted by a vampire, just suppose. Pretend that you've just been given terrible news. Imagine exactly what you'd do if you were arrested.

Don't just write things down. This is not a viable way to craft a story. See yourself in this world. Envision how you would behave if all the plot twists were happening to you. Always take the time to do that. Just stop, think and imagine.

Because if you don't,  your book isn't going to be very good. I can't cite any specific examples, because that would be mean, but I've read lots of books with unrealistic reactions. So I can point out some general examples of what that looks like:

Writing 101: What's Wrong With Indie Authors

Notice there is no question mark in the title of this post. I'm not going to attempt to investigate a problem, and point out several generalities that could affect independently published books. I'm going to tell you, plainly, what's wrong with indie authors...and why there are some readers they won't ever get.

Being Indie

For the record, I'm an indie author. Technically I became an indie author when my first self-published book hit the market on Christmas Day, 2012. But I made the decision to become an indie the summer before. So in my way of thinking, I've been an indie author for a while now. I have immersed myself in the community by joining and reading forums, taking part in social media, blogging, and connecting with other bloggers and self-published authors. I have done a lot of research and a lot of blog-reading, and I have reviewed around 15 indie books. These are my qualifications, such as they are.

There's this real piece of work over at Good eReader, who absolutely doesn't pull his punches when he's beating up on indie authors. The way this guy shuns self-publishing, you'd think we were all heroin addicts. But as acerbic as I may find his blog posts, by some measure he's kind in his opinion of indies. Stick around the self-publishing game long enough, and you're bound to hear far worse.

So what's wrong with indie authors? Why does this guy, and so many like him, absolutely hate us? The answer is an ironic one: what's good about indie authors is also what's wrong with them.

Writing 101: Use Your Experience

I have never been to ancient Greece, because I am not capable of time travel...but I've written about ancient Greece. With enough research, authors have the ability to write about pretty much anything -- any environment, any setting, any action. But if you want your book to feel real and resonate with readers, use your experience. Personal experience can be translated to any character in any setting...if you know how.

In My Shoes

A strong literary character is only strong because of what happens to them in the book. Suffering loss, getting married, being heartbroken, going hungry -- these things make a book interesting and can shape a character throughout its pages. If you haven't experienced these things, you can still write about them. But if you choose to write about things that have happened to you instead, your book is going to be much richer.