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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Does ChatGPT Spell Doom for Writers?

Look around at the world and notice not what is there…but who is missing. No longer will you see a man on stilts at twilight, meticulously lighting gas lamps up and down the street. You won't find a friendly milkman making deliveries. And the men wearing the long beaks who scooped up plague-ridden bodies were out of work in the 1400s. Innovation and technology always usher in new changes. But when something new begins, something else ends. And when it comes to ChatGPT, is this the end of human writing as we know it?

The Ultimate Ghostwriter

So what is ChatGPT? Depending on who is answering, this is a fascinating new innovation full of possibilities...or a demon invention summoned from the blackest pits of Hell. ChatGPT is actually an AI writing tool that can, for all intents and purposes, write anything. Articles, screenplays, entire novels even. You plug in some basic elements of what you want and the darn thing generates humanlike writing that can be difficult to tell from actual human-created content.

And if learning about ChatGPT gives you a strange sinking feeling and you feel the darkness of despair creeping ever closer to you, then you are probably a writer. You might even find yourself wondering if you're about to join the ranks of the now-useless, like those plague guys or the old gas lamp lighters.

Are Human Writers Obsolete?

The recent writer's strike largely involved ChatGPT and concerns about how this tech will be used moving forward, though many of the headlines focused on pay disputes and other issues surrounding the strike.

Writers on all levels have reason to be curious and cautious about this tech. For the first time in human history, a machine can write dialogue and plot and actually tell a story. So you might feel a lot like the gas lamp guy the day the light bulb was invented.

And yes, it is a little bit scary. AI writing software is sophisticated enough to understand grammar and syntax and even slang. It can churn out entire novels with extreme quickness and write words much faster than any human ever could.

But don't throw out your old plague mask yet, so to speak. Because for all their sophistication, there is something that machines and tech can never do: create ideas. 

You can teach a computer how to write like a human and play chess like a human and answer questions like a human would. You cannot teach a computer how to actually be creative. Computers can study all of literature and can even create stories that are similar to stores created before. But a computer will never truly come up with a creative idea for one very good reason.

Only humans can do that. Only humans can invent. No computer program can really be taught how to do that. And as long as that continues to be the case, human writers are still needed.

A Writer’s Tale

Though not as flashy as Shakespeare or as strange as Lewis Carroll, Geoffrey Chaucer contributed much more to the English language as a writer than both of them put together. He is called the Father of English literature and is single-handedly responsible for creating nearly 2,000 words that we use today. He was the very first person to be interred at Westminster in the famed Poet’s Corner and his stories were so good, Heath Ledger and the future Vision actor starred in an adaptation of his work about 600 years after he wrote it. What’s ironic is that the author best known for the Canterbury Tales never made a single cent off his writing.

The Merchant of London

Geoffrey Chaucer was born into the merchant class into rather fortunate circumstances. His father was a successful vintner, winemaker, and he worked for the crown for most of his career -- even when the crown changed heads a few times during the tumultuous Hundred Years’ War.

Remembered today as one of the great writers and studied in schools the world over, Chaucer  was a diplomat, a courtier, a soldier and a clerk to the King, among other things. He was, for all intents and purposes, a government employee…and he was not really a rich man. He was a merchant, not a Lord or a noble, and he almost never stopped working -- proof that he needed money to live, just like anyone else.

Somewhere in the midst of this busy life, Chaucer became one of the greatest poets the world has ever known. History does not show any record that Chaucer ever received any money for his work but he did, perhaps, receive some acclaim. During a St. George’s Day celebration in 1374, King Edward III rewarded Chaucer with a gallon of wine every day for the rest of his life. This is probably the only payment he ever received for writing some of the greatest works in the English language. And for shaping the English language.

Working Man, Amateur Writer

Chaucer did make good on the King’s promise, collecting his gallon of wine daily until the crown shifted to Richard II. It was then that Chaucer began to receive a monetary grant but by then, he was employed as a comptroller for the port of London so the salary may be tied to this position.

Geoffrey Chaucer was the first to be interred at what is now known as Poet’s Corner in Westminster. Today, he keeps company with the likes of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Lord Tennyson.

Like many modern writers, Chaucer worked every day of his life and wrote in his free time. He invented thousands of words, which is beyond remarkable, and wrote a book that people are still reading 500 years after his death.

Chaucer did not write for money, because he didn’t get any, and he didn’t write for fame, because he wasn’t known for being a writer by most people until after his death. He lived during a time of war and chaos in England and maintained employment even as Kings were being killed in battle and worse. And he wrote. He held many different positions in his life and clearly knew how to hustle and never stopped, working steadily through most of his life. But in the end, he is known as a writer and was remembered as one of the greatest to ever pick up a quill.

He worked government jobs, serving at the King’s pleasure as a clerk and any other position to which he was appointed, but when he could have his own time he wrote things.

And though he lived and died so many centuries ago that his version of English is only just recognizable to modern readers…he was a lot like many writers out there today. Most writers are fairly regular people who aren’t born rich, who have to work for a living and sometimes at jobs they might not love, who write what they can in their free moments. And some writers, like Chaucer, might not make a penny from all their writing efforts.

But it didn’t keep him from inspiring generations and generations of writers in the future and it didn’t keep him from becoming immortal as one of the greatest writers who ever lived. So remember this: the end of your own story hasn’t been written yet.

Do You Know the Words Writers Are Never Supposed to Use Anymore?

You may have noticed that people are being a bit more careful about what they say, these days. Look back at movies from the 1990s and you’ll find yourself gritting your teeth and groaning over extremely casual racism, bigotry and misogyny that is peppered all over scripts. The world has changed and the way we use words has changed, too. You can probably think of several words that you know are bad, words you wouldn’t put in your book unless there was an extremely strong reason to do so, words that are still controversial and can still get books banned in many places around the world. Mark Twain’s books are still being fought over for just this reason.

But there are many words writers aren’t supposed to use anymore beyond the obvious ugly slurs. Do you know what they are, and have you modified your writing? Because 20 years from now, you don’t want people gritting their teeth and groaning over something you have written.

The Power of Words

Words have power, as every single writer knows. Many of them have multiple meanings. Say a certain word and it can create a certain feeling. You know the words you could say to a man to make him feel angry, or small. You know what to say to a woman to insult her. You know these are bad, ugly words. But many words cause feelings and carry certain meanings that you might not intend. Many words are falling out of use and in some publications, they can’t be used at all. It’s up to you whether or not to use these words in your writing, but give yourself the option by finding out which words writers really aren’t supposed to use any more.

: While it seems innocuous enough, the word “family” has come to carry a lot of weight. Politicians and talking heads use this word a lot and for many, it has become a bit of a painful word. Not everyone has a nuclear family with parents and siblings, grandparents and uncles and all the rest.

And while the word can be used to describe any group of friends or individuals who become a family, the word still conjures up images of that nuclear group consisting of mother, father and babies. And for many different reasons, the image and the word can be hurtful, or provoke other unpleasant feelings.

Master: Until you start really paying attention to how often this word is used, you don’t really realize how often this word is used. It’s always been common in real estate. Master bedroom, master bath. Whether it’s a master room of some kind or a person who is a master of a game or a skill, the word appears enough that everyone knows just what it means. A master is the biggest or the best or the leader. And the word also has a very long and ugly history not just in the U.S., but all over the world. Because during the days when slavery was legal, the master was the person holding the whip. Real estate companies are now trying to avoid using this word, even when it’s being applied to something as innocent as a bedroom.

Though it fell into common use for over 100 years after slavery was abolished in the U.S. and in other superpowers around the globe, the word has incredibly ugly origins and many people are finally acknowledging that by refusing to use it.

Slave: Speaking of this ever-sensitive topic, writers for many publications are being told not to use this word. In fact, it’s best to avoid the term slavery when possible, as well. Rather than saying that someone was a former slave or referring to a person as a slave, the more appropriate phrasing is to say that a person was enslaved.

For example:

Akhat the Egyptian was a slave in the 19th century B.C.E.

Akhat the Egyptian was enslaved in the 19th century B.C.E.

The meaning is the same but the wording is just very slightly tweaked. Why this change? Because slave is not an occupation or a life goal. One does not become a slave the way a person becomes a baker. Slavery is put upon a person. It is forced. Having this thing forced upon a person does not make them that thing. You can force a dog to dress like a cow. You can put him in a little cow outfit, but the dog is not a cow. The dog is in a cow costume. A human being does not become a slave. They become enslaved. It is forced on them. This is just a little difference, but it does make a difference.

This small change in language draws a verbal line between choosing to be a slave, which no one in four billion years of Earth history has ever done and never ever will, and having it forced upon them. Writing enslaved instead makes it clear that this was a forced condition, not a way of life.

Learning How to Write Better

Lots of writers have questions about what to write, how to write it, formatting it and turning it into a real novel. These are all answers you can get in my newest book.

How to Write a Book, the first installment in my Write Better Right Now series, is coming out this month!

This book covers all the fundamentals of writing a book but it also takes a deeper dive into those burning questions all authors face. How should you handle sensitive subjects, like race? Should you use common plot devices, like love triangles?

The questions you've asked and the answers to the process of writing books are all covered in How to Write a Book.

Add it to your wishlist so you have it as the reference tool you really need to write better right now.

Get My Newest Book!

My new book is coming out next week! If you've ready my writing 101 tips, you will love my newest book. 

How to Write a Book

How to Write a Book is the first volume in my Write Better Write Now series. This book has all the tips and info writers need to know to write a book. The chapters cover crafting characters, writing believable settings, performing research and making all the decisions that indie authors have to make, not to mention all the controversial topics that are difficult to write about like race, profanity, sex and more.

The Striking Writers Have Asked for Support from All Creators

“We are asking our colleagues -- especially those who work as editors on TV, film, and general entertainment verticals - - to join us in adding a short editorial statement to the top of reviews and other critical coverage written and published during the strikes.”

This is the message released by the striking writers and actors represented by the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) and the SAG (Screen Actors’ Guild). The writers, actors and other creative professionals represented by these unions have asked for help and support.

Should indie authors and other non-union creators give it to them? 

Writers on Strike

The writers’ strike has been ongoing since May as the writers, actors and other creative professionals (this includes stunt people, voice actors, etc.) continue to butt heads with studio executives and media owners, such as Netflix and Paramount…and Disney, and NBC Universal and all of them.

Unions have the power to go on strike at any time, though it typically happens when the union and the company that employs the union (in this case, Hollywood producers and distributors) cannot come to terms on new contracts. This is the case with the WGA. Contract negotiations between the two sides broke down, and this launched the strike.

But this strike is not simply about how much money screenwriters earn. They also have significant concerns about AI software and how it will be applied to their writing, going forward. Actors have a similar concern regarding their likenesses and AI software’s ability to take those likenesses and create entirely new content using them.

The way AI writing software is used, and how human writers are going to be compensated for their writing, is a huge issue that affects all writers of all kinds in every single industry. AI software can now write books. As if things weren’t already difficult enough for indie authors.

A Show of Support

Because this issue is so huge and because negotiations have hardly gotten anywhere by the end of August, more than three months after the strike first began, the WGA has asked for a show of support from all creators of all types of content.

How can you help? First, you can post the script provided by the WGA on any and all content you create, so long as you are at liberty to do so according to your publisher. But beyond that, you can also refuse to accept any jobs or gigs or projects that would normally be completed by a union writer or actor.

The WGA and SAG have also asked creators to refrain from creating content based on content previously created by them that is being released during the strike. Discussing the latest movie or TV show on YouTube or in a blog post, for example, is something like a digital version of crossing the picket line, according to those on strike. If they are not being properly compensated for their work and cannot receive proper compensation for their work going forward, they ask that no one attempt to make money off of their work. After all, that’s exactly what the studios are attempting to do -- make money off the backs of writers and actors without meeting their demands as far as AI writing and video software is concerned.

The WGA has gone on record saying that content creators who virtually or physically cross picket lines and continue to create content they have been asked not to create will never, at any point in the future, be invited to join the WGA.

As of the writing of this piece, only WGA writers are allowed to produce scripts for movies and TV shows made in the U.S., no matter which part of the country they are made in.

What the Writer Strike is All About and What it Means to Indie Authors

As of the start of the month of August, the Writer's Guild of America has been on strike for 100-plus days. But why should indie authors care?
What's the Fight About?

The WGA is a labor union. This gives members of the union the right to collective bargaining. As union employees, the members of the WGA are under contract. When the business entity or entities that a union works for offers a contract that most members of the union do not like and do not want, they can then choose to use their collective bargaining power to force that company or companies to meet the demands of the union by going on strike.

To put it plainly, a majority of the members of the WGA do not like the contract they were offered. Writer's strikes are not uncommon and in the past, the WGA has used their right to strike in order to get more money for their work.

But this strike is very different. This strike is about money, sure, but it's also about a much deeper issue that affects all writers everywhere, union and indie alike: AI writing software.

How the WGA is Standing Up to ChatGPT and AI Writing

AI has been creeping into storytelling for several years. When Netflix recommends new movies and shows to you, that's AI at work. When Harrison Ford gets to be younger than he is in a film that's AI, too. Now, programs like ChatGPT are capable of writing movie scripts, TV show episodes. Blog posts, articles, novels. And that's why this issue touches all writers. Soon, directors won't need scriptwriters because they can simply type some prompts into a software program. Soon, writing a novel could be as simple as coming up with the root of an idea. And this is why the WGA is taking a stand now, and trying to establish some rules and receive compensation when AI is used in place of flesh-and-blood writers.

That makes it a pretty big deal. The Writers Guild of America and now the Screens Actors Guild of America are united on one side of the bargaining table. That is, roughly, all the Hollywood scriptwriters and all the Hollywood actors and actresses. They stand against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. It's the talent versus the bosses, in short.

The writers and creatives say that under the new contracts, producers are seeking permission to use AI to generate new dialogue and create new scenes, extensively changing existing scripts, without the writers' knowledge or consent. As for the actors, they allege that producers are seeking the right to use their digital images and likenesses to create new performances using AI technology.

You can see why the creatives might not like that. And perhaps you can also see how this is a watershed moment for all writers everywhere. What happens in these negotiations could very well set the tone for how writers are compensated regarding AI software going forward, not just in Hollywood but in all industries. What about articles you write online that are significantly altered by AI? Should your name still be on them? Should you receive less compensation because AI was used? 


There are lots of questions to ask, lots of angles to consider and this is why the strike continues to drag on and on and on. It's brand-new territory and it's playing out right now, in real time. Precedents are being written in the moment. Decisions made today could affect a generation of writers or more.

It's pretty thrilling stuff. Anything brand-new is scary. Once upon a time, seeing the wheel for the first time terrified somebody. Simply using metal to cut a piece of meat was a gigantic innovation. AI writing software could be a civilization-changing innovation…or it could be a flash in the pan, a fad that quickly fades like others have done before. There is no way of knowing what will happen with AI software in the future, which is exactly the point of the strike. Writers and actors are seeking some protections now, some rules and a foundation laid in place now, because AI tools are only going to expand going forward from here.

What's the solution? What's the answer to the problem? Where do you fall in this debate? Plugging the questions into an AI program won't help.

For now, some solutions still take human minds and human words. Eventually, that will be enough to resolve the contract disputes and end the strike. Because for now, humans are still the ones leading the discussion. In a few years, depending on how these talks go today, that might not be the case. 

What Readers Are Saying About Justice

When you build an entire life on a foundation of lies, it only takes one truth for the whole thing to come crashing down. I never invited the truth in. I never went searching for it. I never had any reason to suspect that the two people I loved most were dishonest with me every second of every day. I made one bad decision, and in a single day my entire world changed.

Recommended to all YA book lovers!

I seriously couldn't put it down once I started reading it. All the characters were nice and the story as a whole was amazing!

I'm so, so glad I got a chance to read such a wonderful story! There were many surprise elements neatly tucked into the story and just the right amount of romance in it.

I could easily just relax and lose myself in the story without any problem. I really, really liked Ms. Varden's writing style. It was simply superb!

- Josheka, Amazon


 Oh wow! I LOVED this book!

Justice was well written, had a good pace, and had so many twists to the plot it was really hard to work out what might happen next….You definitely should go and download a copy after reading this review, I don't think you'll regret it.

 - Kelly,  havebookwillread


Gripping…the book kept a good pace throughout and included lots of twists to keep me engrossed and in suspense of what was going to happen in Rain's life.

- Sienna @ Lost to Books


I was keen to find out how the story develops from the beginning - such is the quality of the writing - but soon the reading became compulsive…the plot thickens quickly and the protagonists faces several dilemmas that challenge her sense of belonging, loyalty and class.

- diebus, Amazon


This book is a rollercoaster of emotion, full of so many twists and turns that it's hard to remember what's real. Everyone has secrets but these secrets are unlike anything Rain has ever come across.

 A book that's shrouded in mystery, tainted with sadness and full of intrigue. Varden does not disappoint. I can't wait to read the next in the series.

- SMoakes, Amazon


I LOVED every minute of it!! Nearly every passage had some sort of twists and turns and it kept wanting me to read page after page (seriously I sometimes stayed up until 5 in the morning just so I could finish the book). Let's just say it left me thirsty to read the second book and try to find (if that can be possible) all the delicious secrets that has been plunged into poor old Rain's new and highly complex life.

 - Nourin, Amazon


I bought this for my 14 year old daughter and have read it myself. My daughter thought that it was 'awesome' hence the title of this review. This is a very well written novel. The characters are good and the story is well thought out, told well and flows nicely. Also, the grammar and format is of a high standard…I would recommend this to any teenager but will be reading the second instalment myself as I enjoyed it so much.

- jfholmes, Amazon



What happens when everything you know is a lie? When your life is turned upside down? How can a single choice change EVERYTHING?

Rain is one of the girls you most can feel relate to, a bit shy, a little awkward at times , true to herself, and in the search of her identity and is in the battle between who she wants to be and what other want her to be that she finds herself.

About the other characters: River, Owen and Tom, are the trio of boys we get to know in the book and I think they made the perfect team with Rain when it was needed. Each one has his moment in the story and brings something new to her life. And Carsyn is the perfect villain in the story, every good story has one, and she is plays her part perfectly.

…This is an EXCELLENT book -it doesn't matter if you label it as YA, suspense, thriller, drama, what truly is important is that these is a great book. Well written, with characters very developed, with great backgrounds and with the perfect amount of romance, action and secrets to resolve.

-Ruty, Amazon


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A Look Inside Justice, Deck of Lies Book 1



“We just need you to sit in here. Someone’s already on their way over.”

“My parents were supposed to be on the way over! Where’s my mom?” I could feel the tears bubbling in my eyes. Why wouldn’t anyone tell me what was going on? Had Carsyn denied my story? Did the store say I was shoplifting after all? Was I going to get charged with a crime? And why was my dad in handcuffs?

“Just sit in here.” We were back in the waiting room.

“Please,” a few tears spilled out of my eyes and down my cheeks. “Just tell me what’s happening.”

                He must have taken pity on me, because I saw something soften in his expression. “Your mom and dad are being held for questioning right now.”

“Questioning? But they didn’t have anything to do with the bracelet. I didn’t even call to tell them I was going shopping. I’m probably in trouble for that already. They really didn’t know about any of it!” I desperately tried to explain.

“It’s not about the bracelet.”

I frowned. “Then…what’s it about?”

Obviously he regretted getting into this conversation with me. He looked down at the toes of his boots before answering, and when he looked up he wouldn’t meet my eyes. “You were flagged in the database as a missing person.” 


“But I’m not missing. I’m right here.”

“A social worker is on her way. She’ll be here any minute to explain it to you.”

“But I don’t understand. What crime are my parents being questioned about?” I asked.

He cleared his throat before answering. “They’re being questioned about a kidnapping, Rain.”

It didn’t really sink in right away. The word kept bouncing around in my suddenly-empty head, completely devoid of all meaning. Kidnapping.

But why would the police want to question them about something like that?

I wouldn’t get an answer for thirty-five minutes, the amount of time it took for the social worker to arrive. I made about a dozen calls on my mobile phone to Aaron, my mom and dad and the house phone, but no one answered and I just listened to empty, hollow ringing as my tension mounted. Finally the social worker came bursting into the room, but I heard her coming well before the door flew open. She was wearing the clunky, square-heeled kind of shoes that made loud, clip-clopping sounds on the linoleum floor. There was a run on the left leg of her pantyhose, and I could see a bit of lace where her hem was slipping past her wrinkle-resistant polyester skirt. It was a nondescript brown color, like her hair, and a poor match for the blue blouse she wore under the matching jacket.

“Rebecca Keene, Child Protective Services,” she introduced herself immediately, thrusting a pale, cold hand out toward me. I shook it automatically. She pulled back quickly, flipping open a manila folder to glance at it before looking back up at me. “You must be Chloe.”

“Chloe? No. I’m Rain Ramey.”

“Ramey. Ramey,” she flipped open the folder again, turning pages. “Yes of course. Rain, right?”

“That’s me.” I nodded. Then, all the questions came exploding out of me. “What’s going on? Where are my parents? The policeman said something about kidnapping?”

She brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. It was just one of many tendrils that had escaped the bun at the nape of her neck. Rebecca Keene looked tired and harried, and I’d never missed my mother more than I did in that moment. “That’s right, Rain. Your parents are still being questioned in connection with an infant girl who disappeared more than fourteen years ago.”

My head tilted to one side as I stared at her. “But it’s all just a misunderstanding. My parents haven’t kidnapped anybody.”

Rebecca Keene gazed at me before her eyes lowered to the folder in front of her. “Today, the child would be sixteen years old. At birth, she had blue eyes and blonde hair. Like all babies born in the Silverwood Hospital since 1985, her fingerprints were taken shortly after she was born. The fingerprints found a match for the first time tonight,” her dark green eyes found mind before she continued. “When your ten-print card was ran through the database.”

My ears were ringing again. I felt my fingertips go numb. My eyes were cloudy; it seemed as though I was looking at Rebecca Keene through fog. “I don’t understand.”

“Rain, you are a match for that missing child. Arthur and Rhianna Ramey are not your natural parents. They abducted you from your home when you were eighteen months old.”

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