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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Something's Missing...

Regular readers will notice there is no Writing 101 post today, and you'll see that it won't be here tomorrow, either. You may not find me on Twitter, and you can't expect me to post the tip later today. Because I'm not here. 

I'm on vacation! To find out why, re-cap on one of my recent blog posts. Feel free to use these vacation days to catch up on all my Writing 101 tips, and don't get too complacent! I'll be back later this week to share more horror stories, give more advice and tell you what I've learned from my many, many writing mistakes.

Writing 101: Grin and Bear It

You have to be "out there" as an indie author, easy to find and easy to access. You've got to be on social media and build up your author page, join in on forums and respond to fans who have something to say to you. But there will be lots of times when you don't like what they say. Not everyone's going to be a fan. When those non-fans approach you, and they will, you have to learn how to master a necessary skill: grin and bear it.

Let's Get Critical 

The entire world is full of critics, and the Internet allows everyone to get critical about anything that they see. Many, many people choose to exercise this right. Some of them are going to do it with you. Can you handle that? 

The Internet allows for a type of communication never before seen. It allows for spacial barriers to fall away, so that two people can have real time conversations even from opposite sides of the globe. It allows for exploration that was never possible before. And it allows for people to act a lot like jerks. 

Writing 101: Write Other Stuff, Too

Indie books appear on the market every single day. The only way for self-published authors to keep up is to keep publishing more and more books, right? It's nice in theory, but it's not all that practical for authors who maintain full-time schedules and want to write really high-quality books. It's okay. You can just write other stuff, too. 

The Next Best Thing
Can't write four new novels and get them published this year? You're only human, so don't be discouraged if you're not writing and publishing your books as fast as you'd hoped. However, it is important for you to stay in the game and keep your name out there. There's only one thing you can do: write other stuff.

Writing 101: Are You Shy?

As an indie author, you've got to be a bit of a braggart. You've got to shove yourself in other people's faces constantly. If you're shy by nature, that's a big problem. It's one you're going to have to learn how to overcome. 

What Worked for Emily Dickinson...
It's not enough for you to write amazing stuff and then keep it all to yourself. Emily Dickinson did it, and it didn't really make her happy. If it had, she wouldn't have written so many poems about death and dying. If you're naturally shy, you have to learn how to pretend not to be. As an indie author, you have to find ways to be extroverted. So you have to find a way to flip your personality. 

Writing 101: Spooky, Stormy and Other Meaningless Adjectives

It's happening more and more. Authors are relying upon adjectives to tell their stories for them. When you're truly painting a picture with words, certain descriptors like gloomy just aren't good enough. After all, your gloomy might look different from mine. So are you really painting that scene, or just using meaningless adjectives? 

Blah, Blah, Blah

It was a stormy night, and the horses were spooked in the barn. She could hear them making creepy noises when she got close to the grimy windows.

Notice how I didn't really tell you much of anything in the passage above? What do "creepy noises" sound like? What's so grimy about the windows? And by stormy, what does the narrator mean? Is is snowing? Is it raining? Is there wind? How do I know? The above passage is stuffed with meaningless adjectives. Now let's figure out how to get them out of there. 

Big World, Few Words

"I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed Varden’s world  building skills and the rich characters she presented."

"With a world that is so big you want to keep exploring and a few surprises at the end that you won’t see coming, 'Hope’s Rebellion' is definitely a book worth checking out."

Christina Escamilla has reviewed Hope's Rebellion. Go read her comments before you buy the book!

Writing 101: Is It 'Worth It?'

Is it really worth it to be a writer? The romantic answer is a resounding yes. And if you're the type of person who likes insecurity, criticism, instability and exhaustion, then it's definitely something you ought to pursue. But if you enjoy getting holidays off and want to have some sort of extra time on the weekends, you've got some hard thinking to do.

Being a writer means paying a ton of money in taxes -- much more than you would if you had a "real job" -- and it means working much longer hours than the 9-to-5 guys who get the luxury of being on the clock just 40 hours a week. It also means being disregarded by everyone you know, because they'll assume it's easy for you to be flexible when it comes to your work. After all, to some of them what you do isn't even going to be real work. So before you pursue the goal of working as a full-time writer, make sure it's really worth it to you...because I promise, you're going to have to give up a lot to make it work.

Writing 101: The Ampersand, Percent Sign and Other Stuff You Can't Use

As an author, you're free to use words any way you want to paint pictures, evoke emotions and tell your story. But you're not free to use any symbols you want. It's time to find out about the ampersand, the percent sign and the other stuff you can't use.

Symbols vs. Punctuation

The ampersand, the percent sign and the slash actually are not punctuation. That's the first thing you've got to know and that's what you'll need to remember. These parts of the keyboard are actually symbols, not punctuation. And that's why you can't use them.

Writing 101: Wikipedia is Not a Source

If you want to be an author and you want to write amazing books, there's one thing you have to know and keep in mind at all times: Wikipedia is not a source. Really, that's all you need to know. But there are some people out there who are going to want to know why they can't use Wikipedia to research their stories. For those people, I'm writing this post.

Public Opinion

Wikipedia passes itself off as an encyclopedia, and it's incredibly attractive. You can type in almost any name, any book, any movie and learn more about it. I know this better than most, because I can go to Wikipedia and suddenly spend an entire hour checking up on sitcom stars from the 1950s (don't ask). It's full of links and there's a lot you can find out, and that's all amazing. But there's a fly in the ointment. Wikipedia is not all that it appears to be. And there's one strong reason that no writer can use Wikipedia as a source at any time: it's not accurate.

Writing 101: Why Do So Many Authors Commit Suicide?

Suicide. It's certainly a dark topic, but to ignore it completely would be an injustice to literature. Many authors have written poignantly about suicide from a variety of different angles. And many more authors have actually killed themselves. In fact, the number of authors who have is rather startling. So today I have to ask, why do so many authors commit suicide...and are we more at risk than people with non-writing careers? 

Gone, Not Forgotten

Some of the most brilliant authors committed suicide. The list includes Virginia Woolf, who filled her pockets with rocks before she walked into the river at age 59. Edgar Allen Poe clearly thought about death a great deal, as evidenced by his work, and tried to kill himself at least once before he died under mysterious circumstances in 1849 at age 40.

Novelist Cesare Pavese was disillusioned by politics and overdosed on pills in his hotel room. In a bizarre twist, the suicide mirrored a scene depicted in his book Among Women Only. He was 41. Paul Celan, who wrote poetry, was 49 when he threw himself into the Seine.

One of the most notable author suicides is that of Sylvia Plath. It's notable because she wrote about suicide in The Bell Jar, a book that continues to be studied and shared all over the world. The dark tale details a young woman's thoughts about suicide. The work is largely autobiographical, though Plath changed all the names. She did commit suicide shortly after the book was written and died at age 30. 

Are you a danger to yourself if you're an author? 

Writing 101: When to Change Your Story

You've just started your new book, and you're excited. Everything is great...until you go to the movies, and you see a trailer for a plot that looks exactly the same as your new book. Being an author means you have to know when to change your story.

Simpsons Did It

I had to face a similar circumstance recently. I went back to an old project to complete it, and found that one of my characters has the same name as a character in another book series.  A much more popular book series.  And it's also a TV show. And even if I were to take a magic potion, my book isn't going to become as popular as that other book. Doesn't that mean that I have to change my story?

Writing 101: Fear of Failure

For every single indie author who takes the plunge and self-publishes a book, there are probably 5 or 6 authors who write books they don't ever publish. But it doesn't matter how many books you publish. You can always wind up struggling with a fear of failure. The real question is: can you defeat it?

Are You Afraid of the Words?

Anyone can fail at something, no matter how good they are at it ordinarily. Professional athletes, great actors and career politicians prove this to us all the time. Failure is a part of life, and we all do it. But when you're an indie author, failure feels especially frightening. What if you spend all this time working on your book, pouring your love and your sweat into it? What if you fall in love with it and you truly know how great it is? What if no one buys it? Even worse, what if everyone hates it? 

Doesn't that make you a failure? 

Writing 101: Can You Be Too Disciplined?

When you are a self-published author, you've got to be your own boss. That meas being hard on yourself, sometimes. You've got to tell yourself to get to work when that great movie is on cable, say "thanks but no thanks" to certain social outings in order to get more done, sit at the computer screen to write when you'd rather be on Twitter. But it is possible to be too hard on yourself. Can you be too disciplined?


The indie author game moves quickly. New books are published every single day, and new authors are appearing on Twitter like an ever-recycling magic trick. You've got to keep tweeting, keep blogging, keep publishing and keep staying active if you want to stay in the game. And when you also have to work a full-time job, maintain a social life, keep up some degree of a family life and still take care of yourself, you've got to be driven. You've got to stay motivated. You've got to keep working. 

Because you've got to do all this, you can start driving yourself a little too hard to get it all done. And I ought to know. You can be too disciplined. I know, because I am.

Writing 101: Just, Very and Other Empty Words

When you're in school and the teacher says you've got to write a thousand words on a topic, I'm not going to hold it against you if you fill up those two pages with empty words. But if I buy your book and you do the same thing, I'm going to get upset. And in this particular example, I'm every reader. None of us like empty words...but all writers, even me, end up using them. 

Very Merry Unwriting to You

Empty words are those words that mean nothing by themselves. Very, for example, cannot stand alone. Just, really, way and suddenly are all pretty empty, and they're all pretty over-used. When used in this context, pretty is also empty. They're empty because they don't lend anything to the story. The argument can be made that they help add emphasis, but let's not kid ourselves. There are other ways to emphasize without adding extra words. Too many of those empty words will make your book feel...well, empty.

Writing 101: Love at First Sight

Love at first sight is one of those things that's very rarely, if ever, found in life but it's found in books all the time. There's a good reason why authors make characters fall in love instantly: it takes a whole lot less time and energy to write. But love at first sight can be done well...if you're willing to take the time to do it.

The Day I Met You

Love at first sight is a common love stereotype you'll find in novels all the time. It's much easier to make characters love instantly than it is to fill up pages and pages of a relationship. Actually falling in love takes so much time and trouble, there are entire books just about falling in love. So when you have to fold a love plot into a story that's already packed with other stuff, love at first sight is an easy and attractive option.

But it can also be a lazy option. That's why you've got to put in the work to make sure it's done well. 

Writing 101: Use Current Events to Promote Your Books

How long ago did you start talking more about "Divergent" than "Twilight?" The world moves fast and things fade away quickly. Don't let it happen to your book. Use current events to your advantage by using them to promote your book. 

What's Goin' On?

Books don't have a shelf life. We know it's true because schools still assign "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and that story is dated. But you can keep your book feeling a bit fresher if you find ways to link it to current events. Do it well, and you can keep regular sales coming in for your work.

Writing 101: Why Isn't Your Book on TV, Already?

"Game of Thrones" did it. So did "Pretty Little Liars." Don't forget about "Gossip Girl," "Perry Mason" and, yes, "Lassie" -- to name a few. There have been many successful TV series that were based on books...so how come your phone isn't ringing yet? Why isn't your book on TV? 

A Million Screens

Even back when there were just three channels on the TV, network execs couldn't figure out enough ways to fill the hours. Many television stations went off the air to show absolutely nothing during the late-night hours. Some stations still do this, but now they just show commercials. Today there are more TV channels than ever, so there's more opportunity than ever for a writer to create a story that can be turned into a TV show. Your phone should start ringing any day, now. 

Writing 101: A Day of Rest

It's Labor Day, and traditionally it's supposed to be a day of rest. Are you writing today? Do you write every day? What should you know about writing...and rest? 

No Labor Day

The first Labor Day event was a New York City parade in 1882. Union leaders wanted a "monster" labor festival on September 5, which was a Tuesday. By the end of the day, around 10,000 people had marched in the parade. The media called it a day "of the people." That's the origin of the very first Labor Day. Since then, it's become a widely-celebrated holiday in the U.S. and around the world.

So how are you celebrating it? Because there are days when you shouldn't write, despite what some others will tell you. Today may be one of those days.