Books for all ages

I think of myself as an ageless reader. I love classical children’s books, as well as some of the books written strictly for adults. In fact, in these brackets, age labels always throw me off. I would not consciously pick up a book that is marked “young adult”, and I don’t browse in those sections of the bookstores, yet whenever I accidentally get my hands on one of such books, I usually like them.

Through all these experiences I’ve grown to dislike the age labels. I am perfectly capable of picking up a book and deciding for myself if it is written for my age level or not. I also am the reader who has devoured Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy at the age of fourteen and enjoyed Harry Potter books at the age of thirty. Age boundaries are very personal, and for me they are not necessary at all.

So, why do publishers always market books in an age-specific way? I understand the need to categorize, directing the readers to the appropriate shelves (I guess I should just face it and go to the young adult section more often). I also understand the fact that some books, while suitable for a range of ages in terms of the story and the writing style, may have too much gore and sex to fit onto the young adult shelf. However, I tend to feel that such books rarely become the all-time classics, even if they do sometimes enjoy a period of commercial success. I do read those books from time to time, but I cannot help wondering if it would be better to have a separate shelf for those gory books (just like those shelves reserved for sexy books), and put the rest of the books into the same section marked as “books for all ages”? By the way, even the level of gore and sex appropriate for each age is a very personal decision, and I have seen ranges in those books as well, which makes such placement even more difficult.

For my own books, I feel that I am walking a fine boundary in terms of age-appropriate contents. I sometimes see reviewers comment on my books as young adult that have misleadingly sneaked into the adult marketing scheme. Obviously, these are isolated opinions, given the fact that by now three different publishers have chosen to publish and market my books as adult. But these comments keep me thinking: what makes us create this distinction? Is it the writing style? The level of emotional problems? Or perhaps the detail in which the author is willing to venture into the sex and gory themes?

I still don’t have the best answer, this is why my post contains so many question marks. Yes, there are emotional problems, and the complexity of politics, that probably would not be interesting to a young reader. However, in my observation, this level of complexity loses many adult readers too. And yes, there is a level of gore–and sex that I would not want a child in the early teens to read day to day. But, to me, none of these things seem defining enough. Many adults enjoy “Harry Potter”, and many young teenagers secretly devour “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Among these smeared boundaries, I cannot stop thinking that targeting books to age groups is a relic that was created for the convenience of advertising, and is bound to disappear sooner or later in our digital age.

So, in my virtual bookstore, books would be divided by themes rather than age levels. And everyone would be able to come in and make their own call.

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Speaking in passive aggressive: 5 innocent phrases that can turn a conversation into an argument

We tend to put a lot of significance into words spoken to us by others. At the same time, we often underestimate the importance of what comes out of our own mouths. Some very common responses can instantly alienate people you are talking to, while sounding perfectly harmless. Often these things lead to major recurring domestic fights, broken engagements, and soured friendships. Most of these things are triggered subconsciously, and evoke a subconscious response, turning the conversation the wrong way even before we realize it.

Here is my list of top 5 things never to say in a conversation, unless you want it to turn into an argument:

1. “What?”

Your friend just said a long sentence to you and you did not hear the last word clearly. An immediate–and quite natural–response is to say “What?”, so that the person would repeat the missing piece. However, this type of response is not only abrupt and jarring, it is inconsiderate. Your friend could not possibly know which exact word you missed, so you have just forced her to repeat the entire phrase, or more. Don’t be surprised if she sounds irritated the second time around, and if her next response triggers some irritation on your side. Things can quickly go downhill from here, without being intentional.

Instead, say something like this: “Sorry, I didn’t hear the last word. What was it?”

2. “You don’t understand.”

Chances are, if you feel compelled to say this, the person you are talking to is already aware of the misunderstanding. By saying this, you are reinforcing the fact that this person has failed considerably in this conversation. If you are talking to an insecure person, you will likely make him feel stupid and inadequate. Whatever the reaction, it will likely go far deeper than the topic of your conversation, and probably not in the direction you want it to.

Instead, consider skipping this phrase altogether, and just repeating the explanation–better yet, with some modifications so that the person might understand it this time around.

3. “Let me explain.”

Like the example above, but more subtle, this phrase is telling someone they must change their attitude and pay extra attention. It also suggests there is a long conversation coming, even if in your mind the ensuing explanation might take only one phrase. When used on the offensive, you are effectively telling this person: “She thinks I am stupid and need extra pointers to pay attention” or “Oh, no, she is going to be pushy and force me not just to listen but also to demonstrate full attention”. When used on the defensive, it means: “She is going to talk too long and I will have to drop everything and let it drag on.” Something like this is likely to make a person not want to listen, even if they felt compelled to just a moment ago.

I suggest never to use this phrase, unless you are 100% sure you want a person to drop everything they are doing and pay extra attention. If you do, say something like this instead: “This is very important to me. Please listen.” By doing this, you are acknowledging that this may be more important to you than to the person you are talking to, and you are asking this person to bear with you and do something for your sake. Most people would feel good doing that–unless, of course, you are already arguing.

4. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

If you are speaking the same language, chances are you do understand what this person is talking about, even if you may not have understood everything they just said. Sadly, this phrase has been far over-used in some action movies of the 1970s and 1980s, so for many people it readily pops to the tongue without even triggering a brain response. To the person you are talking to, this means: “I not only missed everything you just said, I also have no idea what is the topic of our conversation”, translated as: “we are not in the same plain of thought, so whatever you say about this is going to go right by me and I will make no effort to talk to you at all”; closely followed by: “go away, the conversation is over and I am not interested in anything you have to say.” You may not mean these things when you say it, but chances are it will subconsciously come through this way, quickly turning your partner’s attitude from friendly to hostile.

Instead, try saying something like this: “I am not sure I understand what you meant by <X>. Did you mean <A> or <B>?” Yes, it will be much more work for you to figure out this detailed response. But trust me, unless you really want the conversation to end right there, probably with hard feelings and longer term repercussions on both sides, it is worth it.

5. “How many times do I need to tell you this?”

Well, this one is probably obvious. Between the lines, it reads: “I already told this to you, more than once, and you are still too stupid to understand”. Saying something like this is bound to alienate a person right away.

Instead, it may be worth thinking: “if I said this so many times already and she still doesn’t do it my way, maybe she has her own reasons not to?” People have their differences, and they often don’t feel comfortable discussing them in detail. In some situations this is hard to accept, but there is nothing anyone can possibly do about it.


Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have any other common phrases in your collection that tend to inadvertently trigger a wrong response?

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THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS blog tour wrap-up


Thanks to everyone who participated in THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS blob tour by posting, commenting, and, of course, buying the books. There is still one more day left! The last post goes up tomorrow.

My special thanks go to Tasty Book Tours and the Angry Robot publicity team for organizing this. It has been a blast! And I feel that I could definitely get use to seeing my name in the media every day.

Click on the banner above of the full schedule from the Tasty Book Tours. In addition, I had some awesome posts at Chuck Wendig’s blog, AP Book Club, Mary Robinette Kowal’s “My Favorite Bit”, Angela Korra’ti’s “Boosting the Signal”,’s Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe and others. Like I said, it has been a blast, most of it recapped in my recent blog posts.

Here is the list of the most recent posts:

Excerpt and giveaway at Ink on the Shelf:

Excerpt and giveaway at Romancing the Readers:

Questions and answers with Angelia Almos:

An interview at Sarah’s Story Lines:

A guest post on the ranks of the Majat Warriors at Kinky Vanilla Romance:

A post on Racing to Read:

An excerpt on Paranormal Romance and Beyond:

A post and review coming up tomorrow at:

Don’t forget about my author’s giveaway! If anyone would like to get a copy of my book (your choice), you can visit all these blog tour stops and leave comments, then write me back as a comment on one of my blog tour posts. I will keep this open until August 20, five days after the end of the blog tour.

And yes, if you can help spread the word about my new release and the Majat Code series, or better yet, post reviews at retail web sites, Goodreads, or other venues, you would also learn my eternal gratitude :-) This will be open any time.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the books!


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THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS blog tour day 4


Today’s stops:

An interview at Two Ends of the Pen:

A feature at Books with Leti Del Mar, which also has a link to a giveaway for print copies of both installments in the series:

Both sites have also published wonderful reviews of the Guild of Assassins a few days ago:

Debra Martin at Two Ends of the Pen starts her review by saying “what a fantastic book it is.” Read the full review here:

Leti Del Mar characterizes THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS as “Hands down one of the best fantasy reads I’ve come across in many moons”. Read the full review here:

And don’t forget to stop by and leave comments at these blogs to win my print book of your choice!

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THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS blog tour day 3


Today’s stops:

Chuck Wendig’s “Five Things I Learned” feature. Stop by to find out which five main things I learned writing the MAJAT CODE series:

Clover Autrey interviewed me for “Get Lost in a Story” blog:

Manga Maniac Cafe posted another interview here, as part of the Tasty Book Tour:

Among other great points in this interview, I was personally amazed by the question “describe yourself in five words or less”. It was a fun challenge to take on!

The Goodreads giveaways have closed, with over a thousand entries for each book! I feel gratified, and hope the winners enjoy their brand new print copies.

The giveaways are still open at Get Lost in a Story and the Tasty Book Tour stops. Click on the banner or follow the links above for entries.

And don’t forget about my personal giveaway: each commenter on all blog tour stops will receive my book of your choice.

Thanks, everyone, and happy reading!


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THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS blog tour continues

My day opened with two awesome reviews, one from Reading Reality for BLADES OF THE OLD EMPIRE, and one from the BookPushers for THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS.

Reviewer Marlene Harris characterizes the BLADES as “the start of a damn fine epic fantasy series” and compares my books to Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni series, Jean Johnson’s The Guild, Amy Raby’s Assassin’s Gambit, and Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge. I am thrilled, and flattered at her wonderfully detailed review.

Another very special one is the joint review of THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS at the BookPushers, which is even more detailed and hits on all the important points that made this book so fun for me to write. This review is so wonderful in its entirety that I found it hard to pick quotes. And yes, in answer to the reviewers’ question, there definitely will be book 3 in the series.

My blog tour stops today include a guest post on Christine’s Words with some basic facts on the history of the Old Empire. This post also includes links to a giveaway. See the post here:

Another blog tour post at the AP Book Club lists my choice of top ten assassins, mostly fictional characters from my all-time favorites and the more recent books I enjoyed. See the list here, with some lovely pictures:

There is only one day left to enter a raffle for ten print copies of BLADES OF THE OLD EMPIRE and THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS at Goodreads:

And don’t forget about my own giveaway: leave comments at all my blog tour stops and send me a message through this blog or social media to receive any one of my books, your choice!

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THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS released today!

Yes, it is finally here!!!


Come and celebrate it with giveaways at Goodreads (10 copies each, BLADES OF THE OLD EMPIRE and THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS), as well as on my blog tour sites, which will post daily between yesterday and August 15.

I will be giving away a copy of any one of my books to everyone who leaves comments on all posts during the blog tour and then writes me back in the comments box on my blog. Here is the link to the tour schedule and a giveaway:

Today’s stops:

And, don’t miss this great reviews posted today:

To read an excerpt, follow THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS tab at the top of this page.


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