Justice (Deck of Lies, #1)

Get it everywhere online books are sold!

The Tower (Deck of Lies, #2)

Visit the Books page for free samples

Death (Deck of Lies, #3)

Get book downloads on the Free Stuff page

Judgment (Deck of Lies, #4)

Get the boxed set edition to get even more secrets!

Hope's Rebellion

Get it now!

Writing 101: Do You Know Your Main Character?

When people read your book, you want them to have a strong sense of who your main character is. So if you don't know, they're not going to get that out of your pages. And when audiences can't connect with a character, the book isn't going to do well. So today we have to ask a question: do you know your character? 

Identifying Characteristics

Think about your main character...and now interrogate yourself. What are the identifying characteristics of this character? Don't tell me what they look like -- I'm not interested in hair or tattoos right now. Is the character brave? Honest? Sneaky? Cunning? Funny? Shy? If you can't answer, you haven't done your job as a writer. Because I'm not the only one who will ask. Your readers will, too.

Writing 101: What About Your Friends?

 I've been writing, and I'm using the word loosely, since I was a young child. It's always been my passion and it's always been what I do. And it wasn't until recently that I started thinking about what it must be like to be on the other side. When I asked someone close to me if it's hard to be a friend or family member of a writer, there was no hesitation. The answer was a strong "yes!" So maybe us writers ought to keep that in mind in the future. Don't forget about what it's like for your friends and family...because honestly, you're hard to live with.


I probably mutter "I'm busy" or "I'm writing" at least once a day to someone who's trying to talk to me. I don't look at the person I'm addressing. I can't, because I'm busy staring at the screen. I've shushed people, I've dismissively waved them away, I've allowed them to talk to me for upwards of 5 minutes at a time without informing them that I am not listening. It's rude, I know, but what can I say? When I'm writing, I'm not in this world. I'm in a different one...so who are all these people who are attempting to invade it? 

Friends and family, usually. And like me, maybe you need to remember to look at things from their side, every so often. 

Writing 101: Defining Literary Terms

When you're a writer, literary terms are going to crop up all the time. There are many of them that you should know how to define. Otherwise, you may not understand your own reviews.

What's That Mean?

There are actually dozens of complicated literary terms, but some are used more often than others. Know what they are, and what they mean, so you'll know whether or not you're using them when other people say you are.

Writing 101: Commas and Using Names

I tell you, readers, it's a problem. Commas aren't being used the right way...and as an author, you can't let it happen to you. Are you sure you know how to use commas and names -- the right way? 

Comma, Comma, Come On! 

Using commas gets confusing. Use too many and you've fouled up the sentence. Use too few and there's no natural pause to your narrative. Use them the wrong way, and I'm liable to come after you. 

Writing 101: Too Much of a Good Thing

Have you ever laughed until you've cried, or cried so much that you just had to laugh? People aren't equipped to feel one emotion all the time, and that's why they can't read books that are just one thing. Whether you're writing a comedy or a tragedy, all good books have elements of both. That's what makes them good...because life is both.

Walking the Line

By a certain school of thought, all books fall into one of two categories: comedy or tragedy. But within that framework there are infinite story possibilities, numerous twists and turns. No story should ever be all comedy or all tragedy, because every reader will reach a point when they can't laugh or cry anymore. But if you learn how to jerk them back and forth between the two, they won't be able to stop reading.

Writing 101: Bullying Your Characters

Above all else, believable characters can make a book believable. The events in The Hunger Games are outrageous, but we buy into the books because Katniss is so real even on the page. That's why you can't start bullying your characters in your books. You have to move them around and make them do what you want, but you've got to find ways to keep it believable. Otherwise, you're just bullying your readers, too.


You've got to make Charac Ter go to the lake, because that's where they will run into Luv Interest. But why is Charac Ter going to the lake? No matter where you're putting your character, make sure you know why they're going there. When you as the author force them there with no good reason, you're bullying the character and you're cheating your readers.

Writing 101: Stop Worrying About the Word Count

A lot of authors will tell you to write a certain number of words a day, to plot a book to have a specific amount of words by the time it's done. But I guess I'm not like a lot of authors, because I'm going to advise you to do the exact opposite. If you try to write within some sort of weird word count box, you're not really writing. So stop worrying about the word count. I'll tell you why. 


No, I'm not contradicting myself. All my feelings about overly-long books still stand. Overall length is still an important consideration, but not so important that you should be thinking about it every time you put your fingers on the keyboard. Because when you try to write to a certain word count, you're really stifling yourself. And for a writer, that's no good at all. 

Writing 101: Run-on Paragraphs

Like many authors, I like to read. And sure, sometimes I like to sink my teeth into a big, meaty paragraph that takes up half the page. Sometimes I like to really get into a big scene, just slide into it, and lose myself in walls of text. Note that I said sometimes. Run-on paragraphs can be an effective tool...but I also see it get overused -- a lot. Figure out how to tighten your paragraphs up, because short really is sweet.

A Real Cut Up

Long paragraphs are great, but only every once in a while. Visually, those thick paragraphs can be off-putting and scary. Reading one run-on paragraph after another begins to feel boring pretty quickly, and it will make a book feel like it's dragging. 

Imagining Hope's

"Can you imagine a world where people are judged based on their hair color?...This unimaginable place becomes very realistic while reading Hope’s Rebellion."

"These three girls all have completely different pasts, but end up coming together in a battle that will change the world."

Hope's Rebellion has been reviewed at ReadWriteLove28. Visit the blog to read the whole thing. Find Hope's Rebellion at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and everywhere online books are sold.

Writing 101: What Do You Do for a Living?

When someone asks what you do for a living, what's your answer? If you say anything other than "writer" or "author," it's wrong. You're probably also an employee. Maybe a waitress, or a police officer, a teacher or a stay-at-home mom. But your first answer should always be "writer" or "author." You can add the other thing, too, if you want. As an indie author, you should always be promoting. Start by marketing yourself as the writer you are, right away at the first introduction.

Writer, Author, Indian Chief

According to the cold, hard numbers, indie authors are successful -- in some ways, more so than traditionally-published authors. So you have no reason to shy away from telling people that you're an author, and an indie author to boot. People know about Amanda Hocking and John Locke and Fifty Shades of Grey. So be proud of who you are and what you do. If you present yourself like a professional who has pride in themselves, that's exactly how others will see you.

So what do you do for a living? You're an indie author. Be a smart one, and be prepared to offer information when people ask for more. Give them an easy link or easy names to remember. Give them a bookmark or something physical to hold. Let them see a book cover. You never know who you're going to meet, or what they might like to read. So always present yourself as an author, along with all that other stuff you already are.

Writing 101: Readers Are Your Friends

If you read Charles Dickens or Jane Austen, the words are pretty flowery and formal, and I think that's confusing to writers who live in the now. Because you have to remember one important thing when you're writing: readers are your friends. 

Did We Just Become Best Friends?

Books are not the place for you to be formal. You can do that on Twitter, if you want. I've long believed that we could use a bit more formality on social media, but books are intimate. You're putting your soul on the page, and somewhere out there some individual is reading those pages that represent your tears and sweat and missed sleep. So I don't want to see formality in your books. That's where you want to be casual, and treat the reader like they're actually your close friend...because now, they are.

Writing 101: Overworked

This is a post where I'm going to tell you about what I'm doing, and then caution you to do the exact opposite of what I'm doing. Seriously, do not be like me. I'm overworked. A lot of indies are. 

So, this is a post where I'm going to tell you how to fix it...and probably never follow the advice. 

Midnight Oil

When you're an indie author, you're basically signing up to perform two full-time jobs at once. There's the full-time job you've probably already got, unless you're independently wealthy or otherwise live outside the mundane daily world of commerce.  Then, there's your new job as an indie author. 

Between the research and the writing and editing and picking a cover and making a trailer and browsing forums and tweeting and all the other stuff you have to do to be good at being an indie author, it gets exhausting. It gets to the point where you're overworked. And that gets to be bad for you...pretty quickly. 

Guest Post: Writing Inspiration

 Today, Jade's blog is pleased to welcome author U.L. Harper!

To this day I get asked about my inspiration. Where do I get my ideas from? I think I’m inspired by what everybody is inspired by.

Being Inspired

For the longest time I thought I was inspired by Kurt Vonnegut. Damned proud of it too. Cat’s Cradle is a classic in my book, and Slaughterhouse Five opened my eyes to the world, even if I never read the first four (just kidding). It impressed me and still does.

After reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, I was sure that it was the prototype for every first-person present-tense novel. Violent, honest, sardonic, moving, and funny with a twist, not to mention short and at a third grade level. I figured I was influenced by Chuck, and proud of it.

And then there was Clive Barker and his Weaveworld, Imajica, Great and Secret Show novels. Works to live by. I’m not even going to bring up Hellraiser because that’s opening a box I don’t have time to explore right now. When I was reading him, I figured Barker was an influence too. His language, his special kind of action violence… Yep. Clive was my guy, and proud of it.

They were just a few of my influences, until I started actually writing novels.

Once I started writing, I didn’t see Kurt Vonnegut’s wit or timing or poignant yet lighthearted storylines coming out of me. I had none of Barker’s eloquence, and I had no idea how to present a horror or fantasy idea. Not at all, well, until recently.

This is what I found: I’m influenced by the people around me. I’m influenced by the life surrounding me. I liked Fight Club for its coverage of social issues for young men. A book for dudes my age at the time. I was twenty something when it came out. Don’t do the math. I’m not afraid to say I’m twenty-one again in December. It’s the same reason I loved Cat’s Cradle so much, as well as Slaughterhouse Five. They weren’t influencing me; they were what I needed at the time. Yes, a map. A guide, but my writing has almost nothing related. They’re part of me but not necessarily as a writer.

Let me put it a different way. It’s imperative for everyone out there to know that ideas aren’t made in a vacuum. Authors don’t sit in a room writing down ideas not knowing where these ideas come from. The ideas, the inspiration is close to us. Or, at least they’re close to me. I’ll just speak for myself, I guess.

Here’s an example of a story idea. Took my whole life to come up with:

When I was a kid, in return for a house, my parents took on the responsibility of taking care of my great grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. The experience rocked me. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why she was urinating in the closet and flinging it out into the kitchen. It felt odd to have her eating dinner after we ate. I just couldn’t quite handle the idea, but it stuck with me. My mom later told me that my great grandmother believed she was a young child in Kansas and that she basically had no idea who we were.

Now hold that idea. Jump forward about eighteen years when I get a phone call right before work telling me that my grandfather had died. You know, in my first novel, I mixed my grandfather, in his post-stroke wheelchair and pot belly with my Alzheimer stricken grandmother and there you had my influence for my main character in The Flesh Statue. Not the protagonist, for those keeping track, but the main character.

Years later, having the environment on my mind a little bit I came up with another bright idea.

For my novels In Blackness and its sequel In Blackness: The Reinvention of Man, for influence, I found myself looking out at the world and asking the question that everyone asks at some point: Why are we not food? I’m going to tell you right now that that’s how horror novels start. No vampires, no werewolves, no demons, but still, why are we not food? Then I found the answer.

The point is, the world around me has always been a huge influence. Why do people react to certain things? What’s the history on why they reacted to it? What’s their background? The authors I love so much? Well, I still dig them, and they have a place, but that place is for entertainment value. What gets me going is the same thing that gets people up for work every morning. I get my ideas from the same place kids do when they say uncontrollable wacky things. I’m inspired by the same thing that inspires probably every artist.

I’m inspired by the world around me. Yes, the whole thing.

Keep reading for an excerpt of In Blackness: The Reinvention of Man by U. L. Harper

Lenny sipped from a cup of coffee at his booth. The Best Little Road House, a diner in Salem, Oregon, was warm, dry and safe. Most of the tables were filled, with only a few waitresses helping serve everyone.

All these people eating and ordering food as if nothing was wrong. Like The Visit never happened. He couldn’t begin to forget, couldn’t shake the moment when dozens of people were beheaded and skinned right in front of him. Sometimes when he closed his eyes he’d helplessly replay the event in his head.

Because of the experience during the invasion four weeks ago, Lenny had been fueled by fear. The aliens that slaughtered so many had subsequently given him the mission of bringing people who had been given implants like him back to San Pedro.

His stomach muscles tightened. This happened for one specific reason—his implant affected him physically when another person with one was near. The other person didn’t necessarily know they had an implant. It took him his entire life to find out that he had one. He had followed the signal into the diner. Hopefully whomever he followed, they would become obvious.

 At the beginning of his journey he wondered how long his trip to find subjects for the aliens would be. How far would he have to go? Realistically, his small amount of money would dictate the length of his travels. All of his savings from his pizza delivery job was spent on meals, motel rooms and gasoline.

A girl about eighteen, his age, exited the restroom. She had on hiking boots and an oversized backpack. Her partial dreadlocks fell over her shoulders. Heading his direction down the aisle, she stopped next to him and made eye contact before taking a seat at the booth next to his. Leaning forward, she wriggled her arms out of the backpack straps. The look she gave him made him self-conscious. Did he look as dirty as he felt? He didn’t normally grow a lot of facial hair but when he did let it grow, like he did now, it grew in patches of peach fuzz.

“Are you okay?” he said to her.

She showed him a weak smile. “Just need to sit. Looking for a ride.”
“To San Pedro?”

Her eyes lit up. “That’s a hell of a guess. How would you guess something like that?”

She was definitely the one. “Crazy you come sit right next to me. Go figure.”

“Yeah, go do that. You’re heading to San Pedro too?”

“About to split town.”

“Then I’m Celeste. I can get a lift, yeah? I travel light.”

“You just have that?” He nodded to her backpack.

She picked up the bag with one hand and then let it drop. "Jesus, a ride would be nice. Where are you from?"

“Washington, actually.”

“Where in Washington? I’m from there.” The pitch of her voice became high when she mentioned Washington. Her bad grooming led him to believe she had been traveling for a while.

Celeste moved across the aisle to his booth, leaving her backpack in the aisle. “You seem all right."

"I pass the murderer test?"

"I mean you seem all right." She leaned forward and whispered, “I haven’t eaten all day. Can I drink some of your water?”

“Have at it.”

She drank down half the glass. “So what part of Washington are you from?”

“Lowery, originally. Small little place, right…”

“I know Lowery. My dad was born there.”

“Lowery doesn’t have a hospital,” he said. “Nobody’s actually born there.”

“Delivered in the kitchen, I shit you not.” Although she seemed embarrassed by the fact, she chuckled.

“Well damn. I was there up until I was nine or something. Maybe ten.”

She finished off his glass of water. “I need to get there.”

“Need to? To San Pedro?”

“I guess need is a bit heavy but, yeah, whatever. I need to.”

“Did you hear what happened there during the invasion? You wouldn’t want to go there if you knew about it.”

“It didn’t only happen in San Pedro. Plenty of people suffered.”

“Did you lose anybody?” he said.


“A lot of people lost everybody.”

“I’m one of them,” she said. “You lose everybody too or is this your idea of small talk?”

“I’m just saying why San Pedro? I didn’t mean to be insensitive. Still, San Pedro?” She didn’t know she was going there to have a meet and greet with the aliens and probably be killed. He’d help her get there, nonetheless. It didn’t feel right but he had to do it.

“Why are you going?” she said.


She gazed at the ceiling and then looked around, avoiding eye contact. “Just a feeling I have. I can picture myself there. You know?”

He leaned back in his seat. If she knew him better she’d know that guilt had taken him by surprise.

“Let’s get you something to eat,” he said. “A sandwich?”

“You’re offering?”

“Only this time.”

“Ham and turkey. I’m vegetarian but fuck that I’m hungry.”

“I’m Lenny. Good to meet you, Celeste.”

“Thank God I met you, Lenny. Thank goodness for rides. Lucky.”

“I wouldn’t use that word luck too loosely.”

She unzipped the big pocket on her backpack, looked inside it and then zipped it back. Then she unzipped a smaller pocket, looked inside and closed it, too.

He knocked twice on the wood table. “You have gas money?”

“I thought you were already going there.”

“It’s still gas, right?”

A waitress stopped at their table and asked to take their order.

Moments later a turkey and ham sandwich with mustard and mayonnaise oozing from the sides of it was set on the table.

With her mouth full of sandwich, Celeste looked like a rodent storing nuts in her cheeks.

She spoke a garbled, “Thank you. Starving.”

This might have been what it was like feeding the homeless on skid row.

Once she finished her sandwich they prepared to leave.

Outside, his four-door hatchback waited for them in the wet parking lot.

Celeste tossed her backpack in the back seat as he started the engine.

“Here we go,” he said.


He hid his dread of being inside the motel room from Celeste. For the time being, he had a hard time in the dark, in enclosed places. He couldn’t keep his hands from shaking, thinking of his experience during The Visit. If he could make it all the way back to San Pedro without sleeping he would. Since that wasn’t the case they had stopped for rest. No way would he let her drive his car. She seemed cool but why trust her?

She drifted to sleep, leaving him alone on the end of the bed to stare at silent news clips on television. One of the clips enticed him to turn up the volume. In the clip, the alien ship slowly fell through high puffy clouds and blocked out the sun. Daunting in scope, the ship had spanned from San Pedro to Washington. The sight of it would be talked about for generations and then some. His biggest fear was right there on the screen.

“Have you seen that before?”

He hadn’t realized she was awake. “Oh, no. Never seen that. Don’t know why. I guess in the few weeks since it happened I haven’t stopped to really… Wow.” The television showed another visual similar to the one he had looked at seconds ago. This time the amateur video caught news helicopters flying far underneath the ship, really nowhere close to it. During the time the footage was taken, he and Saline were in Lowery, Washington, being captured and shipped to San Pedro. On the news is what the general public had seen. What the living public didn’t see were the aliens. Basically everyone who had seen them had been murdered in the slaughters.

Looking at the screen she said, “Does this feel like the end of the world to you?”

“I think it’s the start of something.”

“So it’s the beginning, not the end?”

“My thought is that nothing can go back to how it was. Not completely. I don’t think so.” Then he lied down, accepting the consequences of closing his eyes.

"You don’t think the worst happened?”

“I saw people getting their heads chopped off. We were in a room with people getting skinned. Just… Crazy like you don’t want to know or see.” He shook his head. “I don’t want to picture it.”

“I’ve never heard… How’d you get out? You escaped?”

“Just thinking about it screws me up.” He held his right hand out for her to observe its shaking.

“I’m sorry.”

It was nice showing someone how much of a basket case he had become. It felt like confession. All this despite the fact that she’d be dead soon.

Someone knocked on the door.

He dragged his feet over to it and stuck his eye to the peephole. A woman in her early to mid-forties was smiling at him. She waved, and then knocked again, in her jeans and black hooded sweater.

He unlatched the lock and cracked the door open.

The woman kicked the door into him, smashing him in the forehead so hard that he saw stars. He fell to the floor grabbing his face with both hands. The intruder slipped past him.

With his face to the dusty carpet he heard two gunshots and then the thud of what he thought was Celeste hitting the floor. He looked up at a handgun aimed at his skull. With the gun at his head, cowardice took over. “They made me do it.”

“Wha...” The woman gazed at him in disgust and slightly confused.

She still had the gun pointed at his head but he figured second thoughts about harming him had entered her mind.

He turned his head and got a glimpse of Celeste’s motionless ankles and legs. Breathing heavy, he turned his attention back to the gun aimed at him.

“Who made you do what?”

“The aliens. They made me get her.” He hoped on everything he loved that she respected the notion.

After some consideration the woman lifted her weapon and smacked him over the head with it. She hit him again with a fist to the cranium, and then kicked him in the stomach. Still catching his breath, he coughed as she ran out the door.

Curled in a ball and in tears he let the initial pain run its course. Attempting to push himself to his feet, he placed both hands on the floor, groaning.

The woman rushed back into the room. “We’re pulling that implant out of you.”

“Wait! Wait!”

She shut the door behind her. “Yell again and I kill you.”

About the Author

U.L. Harper is an author from Long Beach, California. A former newspaper writer and poet, he published his first novel, The Flesh Statue in 2005. His hobbies include, skateboarding, basketball and the occasional glass of bourbon. Yes, bourbon as a hobby. 
You can reach him at ulharper1@gmail.com. His latest novels are In Blackness and its sequel In Blackness: The Reinvention of Man. You can reach him on twitter @ulharper

Writing 101: What Makes Classic Books So Good

You'll notice that there's no question mark at the end of the post's title. It's because I already know why the classics are classics. And unless you know it, too, your book may not be regarded as a classic 50 years from now. 

Why I Don't Like 'Wuthering Heights'

Look, I've got nothing against any of the Bronte sisters. I, too, am touched by their tragic story. But I've made it very clear -- sometimes through my characters -- that I don't particularly care for "Wuthering Heights" as a story. I find it impossible to believe and the plot drags along. The point is, this book is a classic. And like many other classics, it has a few key elements in place that have made it so popular. Even though I didn't like it, many people do. So what elements make it so great?

Writing 101: The Boredom Test

I've talked a lot about book length, but that's because it's such a fine science. You always want to leave your readers wanting a little bit more. They should feel just a little sad, and not at all relieved, when they get to that last page. That's why all authors have to make sure their novels can pass the boredom test. There's only way to administer the test: you have to read your own book until it almost drives you out of your mind. 

Back Off, I'm Editing

Editing a book basically means reading it -- over and over and over and over again. In fact, four times isn't really enough to give your book a thorough edit. Seriously, it's not. Because even if you can somehow get rid of all your mistakes, proofread all your grammar and punctuation, check or plot holes and eliminate all the excess stuff you don't need, you still have to make sure your book can pass the boredom test.

Writing 101: Disregarding History

Through a certain series of circumstances, I got into an argument about tobacco recently. I was involved in what we're going to loosely term a writing collaboration, and the point is that someone wanted to add tobacco to a scene that was taking place in the 1300s. So naturally, I had a complete fit about it. Tobacco wasn't brought to Europe until after the famed voyage of Columbus in 1492, and you don't even have to be a history buff (like me) to know that. I got (metaphorically) bloodied in the ensuing argument that erupted, and it got me to thinking about disregarding history...and when it's okay to do that, for the sake of the story.

What Does It Matter?

I'm a big fan of historical accuracy, and I've been known to go into a rant about Disney movies that will almost shatter windows (many are inaccurate). So I'm always going to be the person who says everything should be historically accurate to the tiniest details. If tobacco didn't exist, then no your character can't smoke a pipe. You wouldn't paint over the Mona Lisa to put an iPhone in her hand, right? 

Writing 101: The Power of a Single Scene

If you can paint a strong enough picture with just one scene, and get that important point across, you can save yourself a whole lot of writing work. Harness the power of a single scene, and make it work for you.

A Quick Word

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm deep into editing mode lately, but what I haven't mentioned is that I took a break from the book. It wasn't intentional. Work piled up on me, and I've had no time for much of anything but sleeping and working. So I ended up being away from editing for about a week, and it changed everything. I learned that there's a lot of power in a single scene...and I saved myself a lot of rewriting.

Authors Unite Against a Common Foe: Amazon

A number of authors are coming together to create Authors United, a group who wants Amazon to ends its war with Hachette. Their demand? Amazon will continue giving them standard royalty payments for their Hachette titles, and Amazon will go back to stocking Hachette titles on their website. The requests seem reasonable...and yet this war has been going on for weeks. Where do you stand on the battle lines? 

To the Mattresses

Around 1,000 authors have already signed one petition against Amazon. So far, however, attempts to get Amazon to the negotiating table have failed. The letter that Authors United sent to Amazon will be published in the New York Times in a matter of days.

Signers of the letter include Stephen King, John Grisham, James Patterson and David Baldacci. Many of these well-known authors have already donated money to the group for advertising and other purposes.

However, there are authors on the other side of the war. A petition on Change.org, essentially a letter to Hachette, has more than 7,000 author signatures on it.