Dictionary Dreams – Books & Writing

I am a novelist published by several major publishers. My novels include historical fiction, literary fiction and some darker fantastic fiction. SINFUL FOLK is a historical novel set in 14th century England, while COEUR D’ALENE WATERS is set in the 1980s. My newest novel THE EAGLE TREE was an international bestseller, translated into multiple languages and has been named a best book of the year


Join me online at these author and book sites to read more.




Recent Blog Posts about books: 

Thank you for a great year in publishing!

Posted by on Dec 21, 2014 in book reviews, publishing, writing | 0 comments

I want to thank you for a marvelous year. In 2014, SINFUL FOLK became a #1 Historical Fiction bestseller on Amazon, received a nomination for the Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Award, has been reviewed by a number of amazing top authors, is featured at great bookstores like Elliott Bay Bookstore and Powell’s Books, was on several top 10 lists, and has sold amazingly well. I did in-person readings of the book at bookstores up and down the West Coast — my favorites were readings at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane and in my hometown of Olympia, where I read accompanied by a great upright bass player at Orca Books. Primarily, I have my readers to thank for this success — thank you for all your reading, good thoughts, and lovely reviews! Your reading and encouragement has meant the world to me! A big part of that success, I feel, is due to the marvelous work of my team at Campanile and beyond! You took my book from a raw manuscript to a printed, e-book and audiobook success! I’ve been excited to see the launch of my first major book first-hand, and I have a list of wonderful professionals to thank for this success. Here’s a short list of the professionals I wish to thank (I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone!) THANK YOU to Linda Marus at Campanile Books, who shephered this book along and brought it to readers everywhere. A first-tier thank you is also due to  Nikki McClure, the amazing Northwest papercut artist, for her lovely front cover and internal illustrations. What a marvelous complement to the story her illustrations turned out to be! Here’s a link to more about Nikki McClure. Several people helped readers to FIND this book in the first place. The book was sent out by book publicist Mary Bisbee-Beek last October and November, resulting in *starred reviews* from several publications. Wow, that was exciting! In December (last year!), I received great endorsements from bestselling authors Brenda Vantrease, Karen Maitland, Ella March Chase, William Dietrich and many more. The capstone on those gifts was that the wonderful historical romance author Kathryn Le Veque read the book, and included an excerpt in her historical novel LORD OF LIGHT — which really accelerated things! Then the good people at MJ Rose’s Author Buzz Shelf Awareness promotion group helped the book along. TLC Book Tours brought my book to a number of book bloggers, as did Historical Novel Virtual Book Tours — thanks to Trish Browning of TLC and Amy Bruno of Historical VBT ! I worked with book layout and cover design specialist Sara DeHaan, who did such a great job on interior design of the text for Campanile, and consulted with me on so many details. Thank you to Sara!  (More about Sara at dehaanarts.com).   And I was privileged to work with a fantastic editor —  Elizabeth Johnson. Her clients include Sasquatch Books, Mountaineers Books, Braided River, Skipstone, Girl Friday Productions, Mouse Tales Press and Campanile. I loved working with the very detailed Elizabeth the editor!  My work has also been brought to life in a marvelous audiobook edition for Audible and iTunes with the voice of the fantastic French-Canadian actress Anne Day-Jones, whose filmography can be found here. I was incredibly blessed to have such a strong powerful voice bring Mear to life! Thank you, Campanile and Anne Day-Jones! Several years ago, I...

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On Police Power — Bringing Peace or Fear

Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in amwriting, geekdad, writing | 2 comments

Peace or Fear (I’m posting this on the day when a police officer was NOT indicted for choking Eric Garner to death without any overt provocation. Here’s the news story, and the actual video and audio tape) A few years ago, I did a ride along with the sheriffs department in Thurston County. The officer I was assigned was thoughtful, judicious, and extremely diplomatic. He defused about three situations we saw that day. Finally, we pulled up at a domestic violence situation at exactly the same time as another officer. My man turned to me and said “Well, I know this guy, and you’re about to see two different styles of policework here today. ” He was right. My guy walked in to bring the peace. The other guy walked in with the intent to beat somebody up, shoot somebody, or arrest both of them. We narrowly avoided a shooting, but one of them walked out in handcuffs. Later, my guy said none of this escalation was necessary. This is exactly what happened in this poor man’s death. Please, in the future, we need more diplomacy and peace bringing from officers. Less assertion of privilege, power, and honor.   What will your LAST WORDS be? I can understand how some of my (more conservative) relatives thought there were two sides to the story with Mike Brown, and with other recent deaths. I disagree, but I understand their perspective. But this one… yeah…. there’s no arguing there’s something wrong with murdering a non-violent, unarmed father of six for doing nothing but standing on the sidewalk talking, and then not prosecuting anyone for that homicide. Yeah, there’s some thing very wrong with America. Please like &...

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The Monument – for Veteran’s Day

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in books, writing | 0 comments

New story from Nick Hallum today — “The Monument” — a strange little interlude excerpted from the forthcoming novel “Wilderness of Mirrors.” After 9-11, the NSA sends Peter Fisher to the Iraqi desert with a Stryker brigade to investigate a strange phenomenon that may turn the tide of the battle to free Iraq. In the horrific aftermath of his secret mission, Peter recalls his youthful collaboration with powers he barely understands and that influence his life for decades to come. Read THE MONUMENT here >>  Please like &...

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October fun – a chilling story

Posted by on Oct 6, 2014 in books, publishing, writing | 0 comments

For the month of October, my alter-ego Nicholas Hallum (who writes horror and strange horror-inflected SF) created a chilling  tale designed to keep you up at night. This is also my first experiment with Kindle PRE-ORDER. The NEW 20-page story “SANCTUARY” will appear on October 25. But if you put in a Pre-Order today, the story will jump to the top of the horror list on that release day. Think you can help make that happen? Pre-Order this eerie little gem of a story, and let’s do this together! Here’s the cover to get you excited. ((Ok, you’ll pardon me, I need to go finish revisions on this story…. hope something creepy doesn’t get me before the story hits deadline!)  Please like &...

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The Forest for the Trees — Writers and Authors United

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in amwriting, books, reading, writing | 0 comments

I have a publisher. I like my publisher, although they are smaller than the Big 5 publishers. We get along pretty well, and I’ve appreciated their work on my novel Sinful Folk, which has received great publicity from my publisher’s marketing department. I’ve also self-published other material under the name Nicholas Hallum, and I’ve enjoyed that experience of working on material that I entirely control. However, in this era of increasing chaos and change in publishing, it’s interesting to see some people — like publishing veterans Mike Shatzkin and Aaron Shepherd — fundamentally misunderstand the mind-set of the many authors (both traditionally published and indie-published) who signed the largest petition ever signed by a single group of authors (8,000 and still counting). Fundamentally, I think most authors see themselves as a group united in their obectives of A) Making a living at writing, B) Telling a story to interested readers. The world that currently exists in publishing — mostly comprised of the Big 5 — is enormously unfair to authors and is antithetical to both of the stated goals above. Authors who some see as “attacking” publishers are asking for the rights of all authors — as a profession — to accomplish their goals. Authors as a group — a profession — are finally feeling their power and are trending toward a unity against contracts and policies that will hinder their shared goals as a profession. If you are a plumber, you tend to like things good for plumbers as a profession. The same is true for writers. If you are a writer, you’ll tend to like the self-publishing clarity of monthly payments, control over rights, etc. — those writers who don’t like those things will be perceived as “scabs.” That’s exactly the position Authors United is putting itself in right now. Marc Cabot recently posted a precisely appropriate quote about the recent uproar: “There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.” — Robert A. Heinlein, Life-Line (1939) A literary update from NedNote.com Readers can find my books at these bookstores: To read more of my writing, you can visit NedNote.com. Get literary updates by subscribing to my quarterly newsletter:  Please like &...

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Amazon finally hits back

Posted by on Aug 9, 2014 in books, Identity, publishing, reading | 0 comments

Dear KDP Author, Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year. With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion. Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive. Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers. The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books. Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive. Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would...

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BookList Review

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in amwriting, book reviews, books, reading, sinfulfolk, writing | 0 comments

Good news on the book front… novel SINFUL FOLK reviewed in 100-year-old BOOKLIST — the magazine the New York Times calls “an acquisitions bible for public and school librarians nationwide.” From Booklist   *Starred Review*   “In December of 1377, five children are burned in a suspicious house fire. Awash in paranoia and prejudice, the fathers suspect it is the work of Jews and set out to seek justice from the king, loading the charred bodies of their boys onto a cart. Unbeknownst to them, among them is a woman, Mear, who has been hiding out in the town for the past 10 years posing as a mute man. It is a treacherous journey, for their rations are spare and the weather is brutal. And always, they are haunted by the question, Why were their boys in Benedict the weaver’s house, and who would do this to them? Mear, ever resourceful, not only watches for clues to unravel the mystery but also provides invaluable aid in finding their way, for she has traveled this way before and is the only literate one among them. The reason for her false identity is slowly revealed as the villagers are chased by bandits and must overcome numerous obstacles, hunger and fear among them. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed, Hayes’ novel is woven through with a deep knowledge of medieval history, all conveyed in mesmerizing prose. At the center of the novel is Mear, a brave and heartbreaking character whose story of triumph over adversity is a joy to read.”   — BookList Reviewer Joanne Wilkinson Please like &...

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Telling a Story

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in amwriting, reading, writing | 0 comments

Written as a participant in the Rainier Writing Workshop, 2014  What does it mean to tell a story? When I think of “telling a story,” I am thinking specifically of the act of verbal storytelling – perhaps around a fire with an audience of people who can leave at any moment. In this situation of verbal storytelling, it’s important to keep your listeners in anticipation of what might come next. It is also helpful to inform them about the world of your story. And to tell them about the kind of story you are telling, and to fulfill that kind of explanation. Digressions that explain the storyteller’s apprehension of what is to come are most welcome, as such pieces of the “story” build towards satisfying narrative and powerful insights into the characters. On the other hand, self-indulgent words or metaphorical flourishes that detract from the flow of the narrative lose the audience that is collected in the light of the storyteller’s firelit circle. If you are sitting with a bunch of 11 year old girls by a bonfire, and you begin by saying “I’m going to tell you a scary story,” you darn well better fulfill that expectation. Also, it’s possible to stop your story part way through, and provide some narrative explanation for what is happening to your character (first person or third person). For example, one might pause the forward momentum to observe that “he was really scared now, scared in a way that cuts right down to your bones. You ever felt that way? I know I have, and my blood turns to ice.” Furthermore, you can even digress entirely from the story, as long as you provide an explanation or connection back to the story at hand – for example, I might pause my plot in verbal storytelling, and describe the street of the “scary story” at some length, until I am sure that it is fixed in the reader’s mind. I’m thinking about this act of verbal storytelling, and how natural it is to “control” our reader’s expectations and inform them about what is happening in your story because I have been reading Donna Tartt’s lovely and rapidly moving literature-as-suspense-novel book The Secret History, in which she describes an insular world of private college upper-classmen who end up committing dastardly deeds (murder of a local farmer, followed by a cover-up murder of one of their own). I began to think about digressions, and how often she undertakes a digression from the “main story plot” in order to tell the reader something else. I started re-reading Tartt because I grew very bored with two recent novels I’ve read. One was a winner of several literary prizes – Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue – and the other was Tana French’s Broken Harbor, a police procedural that died on the vine. I started thinking then about why I was immediately captured by Tartt, and why I was disappointed in these two novels. I thought of Tartt for two reasons. First, of course, was the fact that her new novel The Goldfinch recently won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The other is that I have had this quote from Donna Tartt above my writing desk for many years now: “The first duty of the novelist is to entertain. It...

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The Writing Process

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in amwriting, writing | 0 comments

I was invited by Steven Hendricks (author of Little Is Left to Tell) to participate in a “writing process blog tour.” Thanks, Steve! Each person on the tour tags three others to answer questions about creative work and their writing process. My process comments are below. I’ve tagged the following writers: author of paranormal fiction Mark Henry (Random House), historical novelist Jan Moran (St. Martin), and perennial historical romance best-selling author Kathryn Le Veque. My WRITING PROCESS.  1. What am I working on? I am currently working on three different fictional works, in various stages of the process for each. First, and top of mind for me right now is a new book in a new genre for me — a work of fantastic/weird fiction that is essentially a John Le Carre spy novel about the War on Terror (but with sorcery) called Wilderness of Mirrors.  I’ve been working on the structure and the story, and the characters for this book for nearly two years now, off and on. However, I’m furthest along on the process for this novel, as I have over 100,000 words on paper for this work, and I’m in second draft stage on several portions of the novel. It’s a complicated novel though, that moves in and out of time, and breaks the “straight” chronology, and I’ve also complicated it by working on the book in fits and starts, rather than straight through. I’m also part way through a wonderful short novel called Eagle Tree. Yep, I can call it “wonderful” because I’ve never completed a first draft — yet — of this novel, so it’s this beautiful conception in my brain that is not written down, and thus perfect in my own mind. Eagle Tree focuses on the inner life of a 14 year old boy with Asperberger’s and his perceptions of trees. I abandoned the current draft earlier this year to focus on Wilderness of Mirrors, but I hope to get back to it next year. Finally, I’ve promised my faithful readers a sequel to the novel Sinful Folk, my first historical novel that appeared to some acclaim earlier this year. The novel has sold very well, and yet that’s not the only reason to do a sequel. I continue to be fascinated by the medieval period, and the character of Mear is endlessly fascinating to me, and I know precisely where her trajectory takes her — smack dab into the middle of the Peasant Revolt of 1381. So I have a solid outline for the book Garden of Earthly Delight, and I’m personally intrigued to see what happens. I’m further back in the process on this novel, although I can regularly hear Mear asking me to tell her next story… so this one has to come out of me, sometime soon! 2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? I write in multiple genres, but let’s focus on just the stuff I’ve published to date. I’d like to think that my first novel Coeur d’Alene Waters brought a more literary perspective to a pretty standard mystery/noir story. After writers like Scott Turow (only in Presumed Innocent, not so much in his subsequent books) Pete Dexter (in Brotherly Love and Pete Dexter) and Dennis Lehane (in Mystic River) showed us the way towards that kind of...

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Writing “realistic” magic — a post on Tim Powers & John Bellairs

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in books, reading, writing | 0 comments

LAST CALL and HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN ITS WALLS Tim Powers and John Bellairs In my spies+sorcery novel Wilderness of Mirrors, I’m trying to write a grounded fantasy that builds on known facts about the Cold War, the War on Terror, 9/11 and the WTC. I am attempting to construct a fantasy that feels as intricate and realistic as the spy novels of John Le Carré. I think I can write a pretty good spy plot, with gun battles, secrets passed in the dark, cryptographic codes to be broken, etc.  The tricky part of the novel for me is writing the “fantasy” part, as to this point in my writerly life, I’ve written “straight” contemporary or historical fiction. I also have no desire to craft a world utterly divorced from our reality – a la J.K. Rowling, Tolkien or George R.R. Martin. Instead, I’d like to take the curtain that lies over some 9/11 related events, and simply lift it a little bit, to reveal the edge of “sorcery” behind the scenes. I want any “fantastic” elements to feel as if they are genuine to our reality, and could exist if only someone looked closely enough. So I am looking for models of how to do this effectively. One model can be found in Tim Powers’s Last Call, a book I re-read and marked up in detail this month, specifically because I was in search of his technique of how he did magic+history in a believable way. Powers is the winner of the World Fantasy Award, and one reason that his books stand out from the general glut of fantastic fiction is that he does deep research into history, language and historical style. He also occasionally includes actual historical figures in his fantasy, but carefully written in such a way that they appear quite realistic and grounded in the period. For example, one of his historical fantasy masterworks is The Stress of Her Regard, in which Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and other poetic notables of the period are primary characters. The novel Last Call is only peripherally about the history of the gangster Bugsy Siegel and the founding of Las Vegas. Instead, it is mostly about a seemingly vagabond poker player who finds his lost step-father and has to undertake a bizarre quest back to Las Vegas, where he was abandoned as a child. En route to Las Vegas, Scott (the vagabond), a friend, and Ozzie (the step-father) are pursued by persons unknown. They find a way to evade them, and this is where the magic enters in for the first time in the book. This is the scene I was interested in, because I found the scene very believable, but it violates every natural law I know about. I didn’t have any suspension of disbelief, because my disbelief was accounted for in the scene. Here’s the scene in a nutshell: Ozzie without much notice stops the car and asks Scott and his friend glue plastic deer whistles all over their vehicle, and put playing cards on every other surface, including the wheels. Then they have to prick their fingers and put blood spots on flags and stick the spotted flags out the window. Ozzie doesn’t even tell them what it is for, or why they are doing...

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