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: The Evolution of Book Length

Are books getting shorter? More and more, I'm finding that the books on my reader are pretty quick reads. When I recently looked at 10 books from the top 15 Amazon bestsellers in fiction, half of them were less than 300 pages. The other 5 contained fewer than 500 pages. Not one that I saw was a thick, epic novel, like a Little Women or Clan of the Cave Bear. Should you be aiming to write shorter books, too? 

Pages and Pages
Have you ever gotten a good look at Gone With the Wind? The printed book can practically be used as a deadly weapon -- it's that heavy. Epic-length novels are something that people once took for granted. Big, thick heavy books were very much the fashion when Jane Austen was weaving her tales. But these days, big books are becoming harder to find...not just on the bestseller lists, but all over the book market. 

Do Exclusive Deals with Amazon Ultimately Hurt Indies?

Amazon recently unveiled yet another program designed for indie authors, and if you use Amazon services you've probably already been treated to the email blast. Kindle Unlimited is a book-sharing program that gives readers a database of books to read. It all sounds great...until you learn that, like Amazon's KDP program, it requires exclusivity. 

Going Steady

Amazon wants you to be their steady significant other...for ever. Authors who participate in Kindle Unlimited must be members of KDP Select, Amazon's exclusive program for indie authors. The authors who use KDP Select cannot sell their books on any other website, such as Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. 

One could argue that Amazon sells more ebooks than all those other websites anyway. One could also argue that Amazon has provided all the platform and marketing opportunity for self-published authors, and they clearly support indies. What about CreateSpace? 

There is a good reason that Amazon sells more ebooks than anyone else: stunts like this Kindle Unlimited arrangement.

Writing 101: A Support System

Loneliness. Stress. Fatigue. Insecurity. Insomnia. I'm not describing the symptoms of a terrible disease...I'm listing adjectives that describe the life of an indie author. This isn't me trying to make things seem dark and grim. If anything, I'm making it sound good. It's hard, probably harder than I could even describe. That's why you need a support system if you're going to write. 


Writers, artists and musicians are generally chalked up to being creative types, and therefore somewhat eccentric. Some even seem to cross the line into craziness (Van Gogh, the ear, you know what I'm taking about). But I maintain that it takes at least a small dose of crazy to even want to become a writer. Even the sanest writers, however, can find themselves going a little crazy because it's such a tough task.

Indie News: Society of Authors Denounces Traditional Publishing as Unfair

UK's Society of Authors have crunched the numbers, and they've reached a conclusion: traditional publishing is "no longer fair or sustainable."

Looking at the Numbers

The Society of Authors has about 9,000 members. New figures released recently showed a marked drop in median income for professional authors. They're now earning less than $20,000 annually, wages that aren't "fair or sustainable," according to the chief executive for the Society.

The statement comes on the heels of a survey released recently, in which 2,500 writers answered questions about their earnings. Author income is down about 29 percent since 2005 -- a number that is truly frightening. Now, only 11.5 percent of professional authors in England earn their main income from writing. In 2005, that number was 40 percent.

Writing 101: Can You Over-Edit?

Authors have to be detail-oriented. They're misplaced comma hunters, grammar Nazis, word warriors. But that ongoing quest to write a perfect book is exhausting, time-consuming...and impossible.


My quest for perfection has been going on for about two weeks, ever since I finished the first draft of my newest book. Almost the minute I was done, I started re-reading and editing. I finished the first read (after I corrected about forty thousand mistakes) and immediately uploaded the book to my Kindle so I could read it in a different way.

I used this to give myself about 40 more notes, some of them perhaps added in a weird insomniatic stupor. I'm saying that because some of it doesn't make any sense. I have certain words highlighted and I seriously don't even know why.

Indie News: Self-Published Author Nabs Real Job, Sparks Controversy

Pat McCrory, the Governor of North Carolina, has named a self-published poet as the poet laureate for the state. This immediately created a firestorm of controversy...though not for all the wrong reasons, at least.

Is North Carolina's Governor More Progressive Than You?

Valerie Macon has been appointed the poet laureate of the state of North Carolina, and the state's Governor is in hot water over it. 

Usually, this type of appointment involves a ton of red tape. There are submissions and an application process, letters of recommendation. And of course, a full review by the North Carolina Arts Council. Gov. McCrory decided to bypass all of that, however, and appointed Macon on his own.

Writing 101: Time Tables, Schedules and Losing Sleep

In researching this post (that's a euphemism for checking to see if I've already written a topic), I learned that I've written a lot about time. I'm qualified to write about time, because I've gone to war with it so very often. But here's the end of the story: I always lose. As an indie author, you're going to face your own troubles when it comes to time tables, schedules...and losing sleep. Battle if you will...but like me, you'll lose.

Up All Night

I come across a lot of writing tips where authors say don't do this and don't do that. If you're independently wealthy, it's all well and good to say write when you're inspired and comfortable and well-rested. But if you're like me, that isn't going to happen often.

Indie News: Money Talks in Self-Publishing

Public opinion isn't wholly on your side yet if you're an indie author, but the tide is slowly turning in our favor...because money talks. More and more indie authors are making 6- and 7-figure paydays from their self-published efforts. That makes it much harder for others to scoff at the idea of indie authors.

The Upper Hand

Numbers don't lie, and some of them show what's really happening in the book industry. Some self-published authors are now earning more than authors who have taken a more traditional publishing route. 

Self-Publising, Why Sex Sells, and Do You Fit In?

Instead of the traditional news update this Sunday, I've decided to rant. A lot has been happening in the world of ebooks lately, and it's raising a lot of questions. Is erotica the genre of choice for all indies...and will these books eventually overrun all the rest?

That's Sexy

Amanda Hocking is yesterday's news, and the big name in indie books lately is E. L. James. The little erotica book that could has become a pop culture question until probably the end of time, and erotica has become the driving force behind the ebook craze.

Forget DRM, and Give Yourself a Better Chance

Self-published books are beginning to rise to dominance in ebook sales. Authors published through the Big 5 companies make up only 16 percent of the titles on Amazon's bestseller list. Self-published books have a 25 percent chunk of the list.

How DRM Hurts

eBooks that are self-published on Amazon get 31 percent of daily sales across all book genres. Indie authors as a group have the biggest market share. But the authors that are making the biggest bucks aren't using DRM.

Writing 101: Turn Yourself into a Brand

If I say the name J.K. Rowling to you, what do you think of? I'll bet you don't think of a British mum who lives in the country, though that's who she is as a person. You probably think of Harry Potter right away. J.K. Rowling is a brand name to us readers; she's only a person to her family members. And if you want to make it in the literary game, you've got to learn how to turn yourself into a brand, too. 

The Professional Mask

That's right. I'm about to tell you to stop being a person, and start being a commodity. You can be a person when you're with your friends and family members. You're a person when you're sitting on your couch. But when you're on social media and when you're self-publishing books, you're a brand. From now on, the pen name you use is your brand name. And you'd better start building it.


Being a full-time writer and a self-published author is a balancing act, and today I feel a little like I'm walking on a tightrope. 

Walk the Line

Freelance writers already have a lot of tasks to juggle, because it's common for them to work several gigs at a time. That means that multiple projects have to be completed in a single day; multiple editors and overseers must be appeased. And, if those writers are anything like me, multiple email accounts must be checked.

I check four different email accounts every single day for three different names. And here's the rub: they're all my inboxes. The only way I can manage it all is to compartmentalize. But when you're juggling all sorts of daily writing tasks and you're an indie author, too, things can get a little hectic in spite of your best efforts.

Self-Published Books: Getter Bigger Than the Big 5?

Data from AuthorEarnings.com shows that self-published book titles make up 31 percent of Amazon Kindle's book sales, and that's a lot. In fact, it suggests that indie authors are growing as powerful as the Big 5. This is the moniker given to the country's 5 biggest publishing companies, the old guard who for so long dictated popular literature in the United States. Those days might be over. 

Mr. Big Stuff

The "Big 5" publishing companies can lay claim to just 38 percent of Kindle book sales. Not only are self-published books taking up a piece of the market that's almost as big, self-published authors get bigger royalties than their traditionally-published counterparts. According to AuthorEarnings, self-published authors earn almost 40 percent of all ebook royalties paid out by Amazon.

Writing 101: Using Incorrect Grammar on Purpose

All books should be perfectly polished, well-edited, presentable in every way. But there are times when authors might be using incorrect grammar...on purpose. When is it not only okay to break the rules of language, but necessary? 

When Bad Writing is Good

Sometimes, bad writing is needed in order to bring the setting to life. Ever read Gone With the Wind? Mammy's voice is clear and strong throughout the novel, and Margaret Mitchell does it with a lot of misspellings and incorrect grammar. 

Writing 101: And Then...

There are a whole lot of rules in the English language, and we know this to be true because I write about these rules all the time. And as an author, it's part of my job to follow those rules -- strictly. I must cling to them so passionately, in fact, that I actively and aggressively try to get other people to follow those rules. So it may come as a surprise to some blog readers that there's one rule I break...no matter how many times the automatic grammar checker tells me to fix it. Because when it comes to the phrase "and then," I just don't use it. Nope...not at all. 

Born to Be Bad

Microsoft is totally against the way I write. My word processor completely believes that the word "then" cannot be used unless its buddy "and" is also involved. I'll give you some examples of sentences that are sure to be flagged:

She reached across the table, then grabbed my hand in a show of support.

He lifted his hand as if to touch me, then let it fall back down to his side.

Writing 101: Guilds, Groups and Other People

As an author, you need support. You need honest feedback. You may even need help figuring out certain writing techniques and double-checking your ideas. It's attractive to start joining guilds and groups, and plenty of writers advocate that. But when you mix with other people, you're always going to wind up with a mixed bag. Joining groups and getting involved has a good side...but plenty of writers will tell you about that. I'm going to flip the coin, and talk about the dark side of sharing your writing with other people before you've finished with it.

Team Players

I have often mentioned my childhood fantasy of being a writer. I would be sitting in a quiet room -- maybe in an attic, somewhere, or some book-lined room -- all alone just typing away. That, to me, is truly living the dream. Why? Because writing is solitary. You do it alone. To me, the idea of joining up with other writers has always seemed...damned counter-productive, to put it mildly.

But even I can see the merits in it. Writer groups can be helpful if you've got questions or want to test your ideas. Joining a group can help you find beta readers and review buddies and, I guess, lifelong friends. 

Writing 101: First Draft Questions

Finishing a first draft is an amazing feeling, and I want you to enjoy it...for a little while. But once that moment of joy is good and done, it's time to get down to the real work. Because up until now, you've been having fun. Now you have to edit your work, and that means you have to ask yourself the dreaded first draft questions. 

Don't have first draft questions? It's time to get some. Otherwise, how will you make sure your story is air-tight? 

That's My Interrogative 

First drafts are meant to be a bit frenzied. You've got a outline but you're not always following it, because the story ends up going somewhere you didn't quite expect. You're not sure if pineapples grow in Hawaii but you think so and you're going to check it later so that's fine. You haven't finished that one scene with the green plate because you can't quite figure it out, but you're getting back to that later so who cares. 

It's okay to do that in a first draft. You've got to just get the story on the page, and the little details will get filled in later if they're missing.

Well, hello -- and welcome to later. Because while it's good to play the part of the free-spirited artist while you're writing the first draft, you've got to get serious and become the boss as soon as you begin editing the very first page. No more playing it by ear or skipping over it for now. You've got to double-check facts, tighten up that sentence structure and become the drill sergeant of the book. Make Chapter 11 do those push-ups, or else. 

Writing 101: Roman a Clef, or How to Beat the System

I'm personally fascinated by history, but it's difficult for me to use this passionate love affair in my writing because I'm interested in real history and real historical figures. And if you write about real people in your books, even those who are long dead, you may experience backlash in all sorts of different forms. But other authors have learned how to beat the system, and they've done it so well there's an entire literary technique named for this sort of savvy trickery. It's called roman a clef, and you don't even have to be French to use it to avoid lawsuits and other author troubles. 

At Their Own Game

Want to write about something real, but fear reprisal? Don't shrink from the story you want to tell. Pull a fast one on them, and use roman a clef

This French term is used to describe a novel that is about real life -- real events and real people. This type of novel, however, is very thinly disguised as fiction. The trick is that the names are changed, and a key is added to the back of the book showing which "characters" represent which real people.

It's just that easy to beat the system. And it's been done time and time again by countless authors for all sorts of reasons. 

Writing 101: How to Run Your Email

Indie authors have to spend a lot time promoting their books. They use forums, they tweet, they blog -- they're out there. And when you're building an online personality and reaching out a lot on the Internet, you're going to get a lot of email. If you don't run it the right way, it will end up running all over you.

I didn't notice how many emails I was really getting, or how often I was actually checking my inbox, until I changed the notification sound on my phone. It's a loud sound, and it's a good one -- until you have to hear it 30 times a day. But it's not the notification's fault; it's mine. And if you don't know how to run your email, you're going to end up like me: with a phone on silent mode, and missing all your calls. 

Writing 101: What's Your Hook?

Like the best hit songs, good books need to have a great hook. There are all sorts of different ways to hook readers right at the beginning of a story. Do you know how to use all of them? 

Baiting the Hook

How  a story begins is really the most important thing about it, because there are readers out there who will look at this and nothing else. If you don't catch those readers who nibble on those first few lines, and get them reeled in, you'll lose them for ever. There are many different literary devices which can be used to hook readers. Get to know them, learn how to use them and then figure out how to make them your own. 

Getting Mature in YA

Today's topic is mature themes in YA fiction. Just when do books cross the line from young adult into too-adult fare for teens? And when they do, does it really matter?

Get the answers today, plus lots more, in the guest post I did for Paulette's Papers. In the post, I'm talking about my newest book, plus a classic example of YA lit.

Writing 101: Who Are You to Dole Out Poetic Justic?

If you're going to torture a character, I want to enjoy it. I'm not a sadist, I'm referring to poetic justice. It's a pretty common literary technique, but it's also very tricky. Few authors get it right. The thing about poetic justice is this: a little goes a long way. 

The House That Martin Built

You'll see poetic justice a lot in storytelling. It's always satisfying when the villainous character meets his just desserts. We always root for the Road Runner to get away, and snicker when the coyote has the anvil dropped on his head. But if you drop too many literary anvils in your books, you're not longer a storyteller. You're a person who likes to dole out suffering. And of course, I've got an example. 

Writing 101: When it's Pointless

For many, reading is an escape. It's the chance to fall in love, have an adventure, defeat the forces of evil. But what happens when a book does none of those things? When characters don't grow, when resolution is not found, when there are no significant changes? When is your story...pointless?

Wish You Weren't Here

Many books contain action. Walking across the room is action. But what happens when the character gets to the other side? In books, it's not always the walking that makes the difference. It's what happens at the end. 

And in some books, nothing happens. The character goes across the room and sits down. Unless something falls out of the sky, why bother taking me on that walk?

Writing 101: The Unreliable Narrator

In books, we often trust the narrator of the story and accept the secrets they reveal. But not all narrators are trustworthy. Have you ever considered using an unreliable narrator to spin lies for the readers of your books? 

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Some narrators are unreliable. It's a rarely-used but quite effective literary technique. When it's done well, it will lead to a shocking twist ending that takes readers by surprise. One of the best examples of this technique is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie.

Indie News: Indies in the SFWA? Let the Debate Begin

Are the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America close to allowing indies to join their ranks? They're looking for ways to possibly include self-published authors in their group, so get your arguments ready.

A Sense of Belonging

The SFWA has had strict requirements for membership in the past: you must publish one novel or several short stories, being paid "professional" rates by a publisher. This leaves indies out in the cold...or, it did.

The SFWA is now looking for ways to offer membership to indies and self-published authors, and they're inviting comments from the indie community so the issue can be raised at their November business meeting. Comments have already appeared on their website, and the debate is becoming a hot topic.

Indies are upset because they don't want to have to "prove" themselves financially. Traditionally-published authors demand some sort of financial guidelines.

Want to sound off on the subject? Visit the SFWA to leave your own comment on the issue!

Books on Film: The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett published The Secret Garden as a serial in 1910, and it was an unwise decision. Though this has become one of her most-adapted and popular works, in the beginning Garden was not a hit with audiences. But it's always been one of my favorite books. When it comes to film...well, somehow this story has never translated well to the screen. 

The Book

But on the page, it's divine. Mary Lennox is not a likeable heroine. She's a spoiled little brat, actually, skinny and mean-faced and even nasty, on occassion. But in truth she's a lonely little girl, and her backstory shows a lot of neglect. It's heart-wrenching to get to know Mary at the beginning of the book, a girl who is "quite contrary." 

Writing 101: Firing Chekhov's Gun

In the first Harry Potter book, Hermione uses a spell to open a door. This same spell must be used later when the famous trio is searching for the Sorcerer's Stone. This is an example of Chekhov's gun. If you add one to your book, you'd better darn well be ready to fire that gun. At least, that's what Anton says.


No, I'm not just talking gibberish. I'm talking about a quote from Anton Chekhov, considered by many literary experts to be one of the greatest short story writers in the world. Here's what he says:

"Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

Finding Hope's

"This is a story of sweet innocence, deep friendships, heart-warming romance, fearful-yet-fearless bravery, coming-of-age, belief in a better future, tear-jerking, oh-my-godding brilliance."

"She weaves her tale in such a way as to make you forget anything else that might be going on your life and you are inextricably drawn into the world she has crafted around our three friends, yes, they will become your friends too."

Read the newest review of Hope's Rebellion at Goodreads! And don't forget to visit the book's page here at the blog to find out where you can get a copy.

Writing 101: Do You Infodump?

Have you ever, in your entire lifetime, managed to overhear an incredibly important conversation between two evildoers whose words just happen to totally unravel the big mystery you've been secretly solving? No that's never happened to you? It happens in books all the time. And when it does, it usually occurs as an infodump. Lots of writers do it. Do you, too? 

Here's the Information You Need

The overheard conversation is just one example of infodumping. A much better one is the monologue, which is very frequently used for this purpose. You know how in the cheesy adventure movie the villain finally captures the hero and then the villain, instead of killing the hero, goes into a lengthy explanation of all his motives so that the hero can marvel at his cleverness? This is infodumping. It's giving the reader, or viewer as the case may be, a ton of data that explains various plot points which have occurred throughout the story.

And it is often quite tedious. Everyone likes dialogue when it's realistic, but most people don't want to read huge blocks of dialogue when it ought to be a narrative instead. Infodumping is an easy way to reveal certain facts about the plot, and some critics will say that it's too easy. In books, events should unfold naturally in order to maintain realism. When characters overhear shady conversations or have the luck of being treated to lengthy monologues, it tends to ring a little false.

Writing 101: Historical Figures

If you're writing a period piece, you have to really put your characters in their time frame. You have to know about the music, books and politics of the day. And you might be writing a story that takes place hundreds of years before anyone you know was ever born. So under those circumstances, is it all right to use historical figures in your fiction? 

Expiration Dates

Anything ever written by Jane Austen can be purchased for free by you today. Any publishing company can print out copies of Jane Austen books, and they don't have to pay anybody any royalties for what they sell. It's because Jane Austen has been dead for so long that all her copyrights have now expired. Anyone can publish and use her books for free these days. 

So what's the expiration date on a personality? If Jane Austen's copyrights are expired, does that mean that I can make her a character in my newest book?