Friday, December 30, 2011


My mom woke me up this morning with "Amber, it's your week to post on Scribbler's Cove."

Somehow my not-awake brain turned that into "You have to pose for a book." Which didn't make any sense at all, and I tried to tell her that, but I think it came out as gibberish.

"What?" My mom asked.
"What?" I replied.
"It's your week to post on Scribbler's cove. You have to do it today or tomorrow."
Now, that made much, much more sense. So, I got out of bed, grabbed a composition notebook and started brainstorming.

Recently, my mom has been a little worried about me because the story I'm writing right now is really dark. And she is of the firm belief that the world has enough darkness already.

This is a big issue. It's true that there's plenty of darkness in the world, and it's true that the world could use a little more light.

So, the question is: Do we need darkness in our stories? And how much?

First, I wrote down some things in stories that give it darkness. I came up with six big ones.


None of these things are good. Yet just about all of us experience every single one. Part of writing is to teach people about the world in terms they can more easily understand. We show them different worlds that follow some of the same rules as ours, and people who are caricatures of real people. We can't create a very believable world without darkness.

So, you definitely need some darkness in any story. But how much darkness is too much? Some people have more darkness in their lives than others. Do those people need darker stories, or lighter ones?

Stories with a lot of darkness in them often leave the reader feeling miserable. A reader, in some ways, experiences everything the characters do. It's our decision as writers, how much darkness we want our readers to feel.

I know multiple people who would argue for putting as little darkness as possible in stories. Even a little bit of well-done darkness can give depth to a story. Stories can be wonderful without being dark. So, I thought of things that make a story light.


A much friendlier list. I've read many great stories that have a disproportionately large light side. I admire them, and people who can write them. But I do like darker stories as well and I think we'd be lacking something important if we didn't have them.

As I brainstormed, one of my questions was 'Should you try for as little darkness as possible?' It looked to me like the answer was 'yes' but I felt like I was missing something. So, I tried to think of an example of a dark book that didn't make me feel like crawling into a corner and dying.

It took me about ten seconds. The Hunger Games. I'm just talking about the first book. It introduces you to likeable characters and then tosses them into a truly horrible situation where it's kill or be killed and there's no hope of avoiding my entire list of things that make a book dark. The idea behind the Hunger Games is that the government is forcing kids to kill each other and then showing it on TV. That is incredibly dark. But so many people love that book. I love that book. Why? At the end of the story, the main characters are permanently damaged, and the world is NOT fixed. In fact, you know things are going to get even worse. So, why does that book feel satisfying at the end?

I think it doesn't have anything to do with what happened. I think it has everything to do with why.

Katniss went through so much darkness but she went through it of her own decision. Not because she wanted to, of course, but to save someone she cared about.

that makes all the difference.

Darkness for the sake of Darkness alone is wrong. There are people who want that. There are people who will buy that. But it's not good for anyone.

However, many of the most powerful stories, whether they're true or only fantasy have a whole lot of darkness in them. The characters in those stories go through things that seem impossibly hard. But they go through them. Because they're doing it for a reason. And it's worth it.

So, I guess the answer is that pointless darkness should be avoided, but darkness, if used right, makes for the very best stories.

And those are the stories we want to tell.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas yesterday. Get any good books?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Revising Gently

I love revising.

I'm one of those writers that can't leave a piece of work alone. I have to change this, fix that, try something else, until I've kneaded all the life out of my prose.

Earlier this week, I printed out all twelve versions I could find of the first two pages of my current project. I was trying to solve a mystery. When I wrote the first draft two years ago and took it to a workshop, everyone liked it. When I took my most recent draft to a workshop last weekend, it got torn to shreds. My daughter helped me read through all twelve drafts, trying to figure out where I went wrong.

"Your first draft is rough, but it's all alive and sparkly. And your most recent draft is polished, but it's dead."

Aren't teenagers wonderful?

So how do I make my words alive, sparkly, AND polished?

Maybe I need to learn to revise gently.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Post: James Hutchings on Creative Commons

First, a word from the cap'n--with the copyright wars in full swing over the PIPA bill, I thought it would be timely to invite someone to tell us how and why he offers some of his work online to be read for free.

I'm a proponent of the free content business model myself. My brother, Joseph Hoffman, has an online piano academy with free video lessons. If people want to download the sheet music and worksheets that go with each lesson, they pay a small fee, but anyone can watch the lessons any time. My little bro tells me that business is going great. Another person who has found success with free content is web comic artist Howard Tayler. You can read his web comic, Schlock Mercenary, online for free, but it has been several years since Howard quit his day job to make his living selling his graphic novels to his thousands of adoring fans (including my husband and son). This model can work for authors too. People who like a story they read for free will be willing to pay money for more of the same.

So that's enough blether from me. Here's Australian author James Hutchings' take on Creative Commons:


Many writers, whether published or just starting out, are very nervous that someone else will steal their work, whether that be another writer using their ideas in their own stories, or someone making pirated copies of their books. When I put out a collection of my writing, I specifically gave permission for anyone at all to copy my ideas, or even to cut and paste whole stories. I also contacted the Pirate Party, a worldwide network that wants to lessen copyright, and told them that I was giving anyone permission to put my ebook on file-sharing sites. In this post I hope to show why I went against common wisdom.

Creative Commons

I used a free service called Creative Commons. Creative Commons is useful for people who want to give the general public permission to use their work, but with restrictions. In my case I didn't mind people using my work for non-profit purposes, such as posting on a blog, but I didn't want to allow anyone to make money off it. Similarly I wanted anyone who used it to give me credit. I could have just listed these things myself. However I'm not a lawyer, and perhaps I would have worded it wrong so that someone could twist what I said to do more than I meant. Also I could have been unclear about what I was allowing and what I wasn't allowing. Sure, someone could email me and ask, but the whole purpose of having a written statement is so that people don't have to ask.

Creative Commons has a series of different licenses, which give permission to do different things. They're all legally 'tight', and they're all summarized in plain language. So all you have to do is go to their site and answer a series of questions, to get to the license that does what you want. In my case I used the Attribution Non-Commercial License.


That's what I did. But why? Common sense would suggest that I'm giving something away for free that I could be selling. However I believe that, in the long run, I'll be better off. The main reason is that I've seen how many people are, like me, trying to get their writing out there. Go to Smashwords and have a look at the latest ebooks. Then refresh the page ten minutes later, and you'll probably see a whole new lot. The problem that new writers face isn't that people want to steal your work; it's getting anyone to show an interest in your work at all. If someone passes on a pirated copy of my work, it might get to someone who's prepared to buy it - and that someone would probably have never heard of me otherwise. Even if they don't want to pay for what they read, I might come out with something else in the future, and perhaps paying 99c for it will be easier than hunting it down on a file-sharing site.

Science fiction writer Andrew Burt tells the story of someone who disliked his book, and to get back at him decided to put a copy on a file-sharing site. The effect was that he got a small 'spike' in sales immediately afterwards.

I also have some less selfish motives. Many people would assume that the purpose of copyright is to protect authors and creators. Leaving aside the fact that someone else often ends up with the rights (how many Disney shareholders created any of the Disney characters? How many shareholders in Microsoft have ever written a line of code?), that doesn't seem to have been the intention in the past. The US Constitution says that Congress has the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." Note that protecting 'intellectual property' isn't mentioned. The authors of the Constitution seemed to see the point as getting ideas out there where people can use them: almost the exact opposite of keeping them 'safe' and 'protected'.

The original idea of copyright seems to have been a sort of deal: you have an idea, and we want you to get it out into the world where it will do some good. To encourage you to do that, we'll give you a monopoly on its use for a limited time. After that, anybody can use it (it will enter the 'public domain').

A lot of people don't know that copyright used to give a lot less protection than it does now, especially in the United States. In the US, it used to be that works were copyrighted for a maximum of 56 years. Today copyright in the US can last for over 100 years. In fact Congress keeps extending the time. In practice, they're acting as if they never want ideas to go into the public domain.

This is great for the owners of 'intellectual property'. But it's hard to see how this "promotes the Progress of Science and useful Arts," or how forever is a "limited time." In a sense it's a theft from the public. Anyone who publishes work has accepted the deal that the law offers, of a limited monopoly in return for making their idea known. Congress has been giving them more and more extensions on that monopoly, but doesn't require them to do anything to earn it.

It probably doesn't matter that much that Disney still owns Mickey Mouse, or that Lord of the Rings is still under copyright. But remember that these laws don't just apply to the arts. They apply to science as well. So an invention that might save lives could be going unused, because its owner wants too much money for it, or because it's tied up in court while two companies fight about who owns it.


I'm far from an expert on either the law or the publishing industry. However I hope that I've given you, especially those of you who might be thinking about publishing some writing, a different take on the whole issue of whether authors should worry about their ideas being stolen. At least I hope I've shown you that there's a different way of thinking about it, and that that way doesn't require you to just give up on making money; in fact that it might be more profitable as well as better for society.


James Hutchings lives in Melbourne, Australia. He specializes in short fantasy fiction. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, fiction365 and Enchanted Conversation among other markets. His ebook collection The New Death and others, is now available from Amazon and Smashwords.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Free Books and Swag!

Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I've gathered** an armful of rockin' debut authors who want to spread some book cheer for Christmas!

We will start December 12 and party all the way to the 30th! Okay, I know I said for Christmas, but who wants the spirit to end on the 25th?

All you have to do is visit each of the author's sites, leave comment lovin', and PLEASE spread the word by shouting out on all your social networks our FUN tour! Shouting out is one point per network per day per author (-or- depending on individual author's rules), just let us know your deeds and you'll have that much more of a chance at winning!

We are giving away rockin' prizes--makes for wonderful gifts!
All contests end the 31st, winners announced January 2nd.

Here is the schedule of Debut Authors and their fantastical books for grabs!

December 12  Elizabeth Mueller 

December 13 Regan Guerra

December 14 Melissa Pearl 

December 15 Claudia Lefeve

December 16 Joseph Beekman 

December 17 Pendragon Innmen  

December 19 Alex J. Cavanaugh 

December 20 Gillian Schafer

Decmember 21 FiaunaLund 

December 22 Anastasia V. Pergakis

December 23 H. Linn Murphy  

December 26 Tanya Contois 

December 27 Patti Larsen 

Decmember 28 Red Tash 

December 29 Annetta Ribken 

December 30 Cindy Hogan 

Good luck and don't forget to have FUN!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest Post: David Farland on the Future of Reading

We'd like to welcome author David Farland back to the Scribblers Cove as he celebrates the release of his new book, Nightingale. Many of us here at the Cove have taken workshops with Dave, and we know him to be a wily old pirate with a heart of gold. We wish him all the best as he ventures out into the uncharted seas of enhanced e-book publishing.

David Farland’s Vision: Reading in the Future

You put on your “reading glasses.”  The dark glasses are fitted with lasers and high-quality stereo earbuds.  As you put them on, your entire field of vision is captured.  A laser inside the glasses flashes a novel title on the interior surface of your eye—on a field of view so wide, it’s like watching a movie in high definition. 
Of course, the book you see is Dave Farland’s book (why not, it's his fantasy). The letters start small, in the distance and they quickly wash right over you.  Just when it seems they're all around you, they explode in a burst of light, “Nightingale, by David Farland.” 
You can hardly imagine what life was like before 3D.  As soon as you read the last word, a laser with a computer link that tracks your eye movement cues the background music, and images begin to flash in your eye—a holographic video-clip of the character of Bron, as an infant, being abandoned outside the door of a cheap hotel in the Utah desert.  The camera pans up to the face of his mother, Sommer, bitter and broken, with tears in her eyes.  We flash to the prologue, where Sommer runs through a forest at night, her breathing deep, while dogs snarl and bark as they give pursuit.  Fireflies swarm up around her.
Words to the story appear as background music continues, and you read.  As Sommer twists her foot, lasers pace your reading and insert a sound-effect—the thud of a body falling, the hiss of breath knocked from Sommer.  The dogs bay more excitedly.  A man’s heavy footsteps can be heard tromping through the brush behind the reader, and a startled mewling cry escapes Sommer’s throat. . . .
And all of this—text, images, and sound can be fitted to conform to your own individual tastes.
Welcome to the future of reading, where text, images, sounds and music forge a collage.  That’s the vision that led Dave to become a co-founder of East India Press.
“We don’t want to replace reading,” Dave says.  “Novels have a unique ability to let us achieve deep penetration into the minds and emotions of a character, much more so than with a film.”  With his most recent novel, Dave—an award-winning, New York Times Bestselling author, is taking a first step toward creating a more-engaging medium for the novel.  “This is the first big advance in reading technology in 500 years,” he says.
Nightingale tells the story of a young man, abandoned at birth, rejected from foster home after foster home for being too “strange.”  He’s the ultimate loner until he meets Olivia, a marvelously gifted teacher, who recognizes that Bron is something special, something that her people call a “Nightingale,” a creature not quite human.  Suddenly, epic forces combine to claim Bron, and he’s forced to risk everything he loves—home, family, and the only girl he’s ever cared about to find the answer to the questions, “What am I?  Where did I come from?”
“I was excited to see how it would be received,” Dave says.  “I was even more excited when the first reviewer said, ‘I devoured the novel.  It was absolutely incredible! . . . I struggled to explain just how much I enjoyed it in my review. . . . After reading Nightingale, I don't think I will even be able to go back to reading regular e-books again. .  . . . enhanced e-books are actually a real deal.’”
The future of books is beginning now.  Nightingale is available in several forms—as an e-book, audiobook, hardcover and enhanced book.
Best of all, East India Press has created a new web simulation technology that mimics how the book appears on the iPad, and invites you to enjoy it for yourself for free at

Friday, December 9, 2011

Someone Else's Fairytale is out, and free on Smashwords!

Hi all! My third book is out in electronic format - both it and Paint Me True will go into print next year, but for the holidays I'm giving Someone Else's Fairytale away for free through Smashwords (and ideally Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well, but they have yet to discount it accordingly.)

This book is about the absurdity of some of the "blessings" we receive. Jason Vanderholt, the hottest actor in Hollywood falls for Chloe Winters, a college student who hasn't gotten around to seeing most of his movies. It's any woman's fairytale, except for Chloe's. Though she thought she'd slain the dragons of her past, the bright lights of the media summon them back once more.

I promise you a happy ending with this one, and a fun ride. I very much enjoyed these characters and hope you do too.

To claim your free copy, go here:

Nook version on B&N

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paint Me True out for Nook

Hey everyone,

I finally got Paint Me True out in Nook format! It's up for the promotional price of $.99 until Thursday, when my next novel, Someone Else's Fairytale, comes out. Thanks, everyone, who's shown support and bought my book so far.

Once I finish all this formatting craziness, I can get back to reading. I've got Open Minds and Darkspell cued up on my Kindle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Thanks to everyone who entered our Hurricane Season Triple Book Launch Give-Away! Last night when the contest ended I put all your entries into an excel spreadsheet, then at 7:00 am local time in Hawaii I ran the official random number routine to select our winners.

And here are the contestants who will receive this season's pirate treasures:

A free e-copy of Elizabeth Mueller's Darkspell goes to:

Melissa Sugar

A free e-copy of Sue Quinn's Open Minds goes to:


The "Perfect Storm" poster goes to:

J.C. Martin

Jonene Ficklin's "Macaw in Flight" print goes to:

Heidi L. Murphy

Rachel Bayless' "Seahorse" print goes to:

Cindy M. Hogan

And a signed copy of E.M. Tippetts Time and Eternity goes to:

Jody FL

Congratulations to all our winners! Please make sure we have your e-mail addresses so we can get your prizes to you. Thanks for helping us celebrate our triple book launch, and we look forward to swapping tales of our writing adventures with all o' ye in the many days ahead.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for the Internet

I love the internet! I use it to connect with friends and family, to find recipes, to do research for my books, to swap critiques with all my writing buddies, and to hunt for a literary agent. Without it, I'd be totally isolated on this little rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

But now, my dear friends, the internet is in trouble.

Congress is right now considering the PIPA bill, which will give the GOVERNMENT the power to SHUT DOWN YOUR ENTIRE SITE if they think you OR ANYONE YOU LINK TO infringes on someone's copyright. This will not stop piracy as the bill's advocates claim. Pirates are smart. They will find a way. The people in trouble are people like us, who value the free exchange of ideas. People who enjoy youtube and facebook. People who don't want internet censorship like they have in China and Iran.

Here are some of the people against the bill: the Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and Public Knowledge.

Who is for it? The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Microsoft, the Copyright Alliance, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Who's side are you on?

Click here to join the fight! Let congress know you're thankful for the internet.

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CONTEST PART 2: Hurricane Season TRIPLE Book Launch Give-Away!

Guess what! We have a THIRD Scribblers Cove contributor bringing out a book this season. Announcing Paint Me True by E.M. Tippetts (known aboard ship as Emily Mah), now available at!

We're going to sweeten the prize line up by adding a signed copy of E. M. Tippetts's first novel, Time and Eternity, to the booty.

And don't forget all our other great prizes! Free e-book copy of Sue Quinn's Open Minds, free e-book copy of Elizabeth Mueller's Darkspell, art prints by Rachel Bayless and Jonene Ficklin, and the Perfect Storm movie poster.

To enter, leave a comment on either this post or the previous Hurricane Season Book Launch Give-Away post. You can earn extra entries too:

Join this blog if not already a follower (+1 entry).

Mention our Hurricane Season Double Book Launch Give-Away on your favorite social media networks (facebook, twitter, google+) and include a link to this blog post (+1 entry per each).

Blog or post about one of our book launches and include a link to the websites:

E.M. Tippets Paint Me True Website:

Sue Quinn's Mindjack Trilogy Website:

Elizabeth Mueller's Darkspell Website:

(+1 entry per each)

Contest officially closes at midnight EST on November 30th. Winners will be announced on Dec 1 (after I get up in the morning. Give me some time, the sun rises late out here in the middle of the Pacific).

Monday, October 24, 2011

CONTEST! Hurricane Season Double Book Launch Give-Away!

We here at the Scribblers Cove are thrilled that two of our jolly crew will celebrate book launches NEXT WEEK! Elizabeth Mueller will bring out her paranormal romance Darkspell on October 31st, and Sue Quinn reveals her paranormal sci-fi Open Minds on November 1st.

In honor of these big events, we're having a Hurricane Season Double Book Launch Give-Away! Between now and the end of November, enter to win the following fun prizes:

- A free e-book copy of Darkspell by Elizabeth Mueller

-A free e-book copy of Open Minds by Sue Quinn

-An official full-sized movie poster from the film "The Perfect Storm"

-A 5x7 print of "Macaw in Flight" by our very own Jonene Ficklin
-An 8x8 print of "Seahorse" by our very own Rachel Bayless

There are lots of easy ways to enter!

1. Leave a comment on this post. In your comment, be sure and let us know what additional entries you claim (+1 entry).

2. Join this blog if not already a follower (+1 entry).

3. Mention our Hurricane Season Double Book Launch Give-Away on your favorite social media networks (facebook, twitter, google+) and include a link to this blog post (+1 entry per each).

4. Blog or post about Sue's or Elizabeth's book launch and include a link to their websites:

Sue Quinn's Mindjack Trilogy Website:

Elizabeth Mueller's Darkspell Website:

(+1 entry per each)

Contest officially closes at midnight EST on November 30th. Winners will be announced on Dec 1 (after I get up in the morning. Give me some time, the sun rises late out here in the middle of the Pacific).

THANKS FOR HELPING US SPREAD THE WORD! Best wishes to our two daring pirate ladies as they launch for high adventure this hurricane season. We're mightily proud o' ye both!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Launching Darkspell with a SMASH!

I am throwing an online party over at my blog, October 31st! Join in the festivities to win a signed poster Illustrated by moi, a $10 Amazon gift certificate or a copy of Darkspell!

After signing up, all  you have to do is post on October 31st--Darkspell's release date--saying what you'd do if you had all the magic in the world. I will provide a cut-and-paste blurb of Darkspell with its cover. Viola!

Are you with me?

PS--please don't miss my stunning Illustration countdown--happening now!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Turning Point

Had any of these thoughts?

What if I'm not good enough?

What if I never make it?

What if I'm wasting my time doing this?

When I started out to become a writer, I never imagined what it would cost. Writing takes time, it takes dedication, it takes passion. It's a serious emotional risk. When the words don't turn out the way I want, it hurts. And like a skater who slips while trying for that triple-toe, I have to pick my bruised self up and try again.

But sometimes I really want to sit there on the ice and cry.

I got that way last week, while stuck for two whole days on a single piece of dialog. No way was it working no how, and I suspected it was because I'd taken a horrible wrong turn somewhere in the story, and that meant I'd need to back up and start over. It was like the ice broke and I fell through into that dark, freezing current that constantly drags beneath my false sense of the solid.

Submerged in cold gloom, I went through the motions of the day, questioning all my writing goals and dreams. What proof do I have that any of this effort will ever pay off? None! Wouldn't I be happier without driving myself to distraction over nothing more than several thousand words strung together by my overactive imagination?

And then one fierce, hot spark sprang up inside me. I don't care how "good" I am. I don't care if I "make it" or not. I chose to do this, and I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it because I love it!

The moment I thought that, all the bad feeling melted away.

Writing is never a waste of time, so long as I'm always reaching higher, pushing myself, learning new things. What wastes time is worrying about what will come of it. With all the changes in publishing in the past year, I can't begin to guess the future lives of my stories. All I can do is make them the very best I can, then see what happens.

That's exactly what I'm going to do.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The importance of punctuation

I saw a bumper sticker the other day, it read:

Love people. Cook them. Tasty food.

I laughed, then looked again. It actually read:

Love people. Cook them tasty food.

What a difference a dot makes. (Now go comb your manuscript for such faux pas as this!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Forward Motion

Hello, this is your amazing cabin girl, and unlike some of you might have thought, I am not dead.

In fact, I've written a second novel-length manuscript. It's much better than my first one. It's also about ten-thousand words longer, but we're trying not to obsess about word count, right?

I brought my new manuscript to school to show all my writing friends in my writing club.

You didn't know about that either? I really haven't posted for a long time.

Anyway, I gave it to a friend before school. She read several pages, occasionally chuckling or gleefully repeating a phrase. She gave it back to me, telling me it was really good, and I went away feeling happy.

At lunch, another friend asked me if they could read it. I gave it to them. The friend who'd read the first ten pages that morning, who was sitting right there, didn't even seem to notice.

In fact, neither person asked me for it a second time, though both of them said it was good. And at least one of them is the type who would tell me if it wasn't. But there had to be something wrong with it if they didn't have a desperate need to keep reading.

Fellow writers, I have just had a major breakthrough.

A few days later I was at my voice lesson, singing "Simple Gifts" which is an amazing song. My voice teacher stopped me at the end of it and said it was good, but it felt like I was sitting on it. I needed it to be light and alive.

That made me think. I've always known that my artwork is very still. There's no life in it. I'm accurate, but the page doesn't come to life and start growing like it should. It's the same way when I sing, and it's the same way when I write, and it's all because I think about the moment and don't look at what's coming. There's no forward motion.

I've found that if I think about the note at the end of the phrase when I'm singing, I sing more in tune and it suddenly comes alive. I wrote the prologue for a story in a notebook. Then, later, as I typed it out, I thought about where the scene was headed. When I read it over, there was life in it.

Now that I know what I'm doing wrong, I can find a way to fix it.

Forward motion is very important in a story. If the reader doesn't feel the need to know what happens next, will they pick up the book again? No!

It's not blind curiosity that makes us keep reading, it's the hints about the future. Things we recognize about stories we've read before and our guesses that want to be proved or disproved. I'm a discovery writer, which means I have no idea what my characters are going to be doing at the end of the scene, much less at the end of the story. So, I need to go back and revise my stories after I've finished them, making sure I give hints about other things that will happen in the future.

Forward motion is what keeps the reader going. Without it, books may be readable. But with it, they're un-put-down-able.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Strength of Character

Last week I had the immense pleasure of being part of our annual elementary school play-in-a-week. The PTCO takes over the cafeteria during fall intercession and puts on a show. We had over 100 children in the cast, and that's not counting the teenagers from the junior high and high school who were our stage crew, our assistant directors, our writers, and our choreographers, PLUS all the moms who made costumes, painted sets, blocked scenes, and herded groups all week. It was one big long creativity party.

Having been a costume seamstress for our production of "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" last year, I watched this marvelous process in action and decided that this year I wanted to get in on the ground floor. I volunteered to help with the new script, an original one created mostly by our teen writing team. The premise: long ago there was a tablet that kept the world at peace, but it was broken and the pieces were scattered to the seven wonders of the ancient world. In each scene, two or three kids would go to a site, then fight crocodiles, duel Greek gods, or dance with skeletons to earn their piece. In the end, all the pieces would come together and peace would be restored to the world!

A week before rehearsals were to start the script was nearly done. The show was cute, it was working well, but it still needed something.

And then one of the moms took the script home and gave the characters personality.

Where most of them had been generic kids spouting lines, they became surfer kid, gangsta kid, cheerleader kid, detective kid, boy scout, girl scout, polite kid, cocky kid, stressed kid, sleepy kid, etcetera. Suddenly the whole show sprang to life. Each child actor or actress had a distinctive role to get into.

The characters made all the difference. When each one had a unique voice, the show went from pretty good to absolutely amazing. So writers everywhere, learn from this. If your story seems to sag a bit, give it some punch by strengthening your characters.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

You Live in a New World

 Watch this absolutely inspiring video about the Social Media Revolution:

The internet is the new town square, and the whole world goes there to find out what's happening. What does this mean for writers? I can't say for sure, but I think in the future it will be less about how much money your publishing company pours into your book's ad campaign, and more about how much your readers love your story--love it enough to facebook, blog, and tweet about it.

I think I'll go sign up for twitter now.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Will You Join My Party?

I've announced the upcoming release (11-1-11!) of my paranormal/SF novel Open Minds, over on my blog. I would love for any of the pirates of Scribblers Cove who are so inclined to join in my Virtual Launch Party on November 1st!

Thanks for letting me share and sorry I haven't been posting over here as often as I should!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Power of Print

This placard greeted me as I stepped into the campus copy center yesterday afternoon:








Long live the printing office! And long live the internet. After I read the placard I ran home, fed Google a few key words, and discovered that this passionate tribute to typeset was created by Beatrice Warde in 1932 as an advertisement for Monotype. She was a typographer who was an expert on the history of the Garamond style of type, which Harry Potter fans will recognize as the charming, old-fashioned font that transported them to Hogwarts.

Warde's words have been immortalized in bronze and stand not only in the BYU-Hawaii Campus Copy Center, but at the entrance to the United States Government Printing Office in Washington D.C.

It got me thinking. A hundred years from now, this blog may be about as easy to read as the journal entries my friend used to keep on his Commodore 64. Possible, maybe, but worth the effort? Electronic words... how long will they last? Only until the formats change, the data corrupts, the CD's get scratched. 

I've got a cookbook that was printed in 1855. It's fragile--I keep it in a ziplock bag. But I can still read every page, plus all the recipes its first owner cut from the newspaper and glued onto the end paper. A hundred and fifty years from now, no matter where civilization goes from here, I bet my great-great-grandchildren will be able to read the hardback, library bound copy of Gail Carson Levine's "Dave at Night" that I bought last week from my local library's discontinued book sale for fifty cents.

Electronic books are nifty. But I somehow doubt I'll be able to pass a Kindle on to my great-grandchildren when I die. First of all, unless I die in a car accident soon, I'm going to seriously outlive any piece of electronics I own. Second, even if the Kindle somehow does survive me, whatever they're putting out then will be impossible for it to read, poor primitive thing.

Books, on the other hand, from my hand-penned journals to my children's fiction collection, will still be there for my posterity.

Long live the printed word.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


My chicken is delusional.

She hides all day in her nest box, cozy under her perch. She won't come out in the yard to scratch and peck unless we drag her. What's she doing down there?

She THINKS she's sitting on eggs. But she's not. All her eggs are in my refrigerator, waiting to be made into breakfast. Even if we let her keep the eggs, she hasn't spent time with any roosters. She could sit there the rest of her life and no chicks would hatch.

But the worst part is, she's entirely stopped laying.

There was a stage of my writing career when I was like my chicken. I brooded over my first manuscript for ten years, picking at it, making little changes, polishing the prose to perfection. At the time I was sure it would hatch into a bestseller, but now it's obvious to me that I was delusional.

The worst part was, I wasn't coming up with any new stories. I poured all my writing energy into that one manuscript. Sure, I'd get story ideas, but I wouldn't take the time to develop them and write them. I was content to sit on one project.

That was until I went to my first writer's workshop. Day one, first thing the teacher said was, "How many of you have been writing the same book for seven years?"

It was ten years in my case, but I raised my hand with the others.

"I want you to go home and put that manuscript in a drawer. You need to work on something new."

How could he say that? He hadn't even read my story! How did he know it wasn't going to hatch?

It was the best writing advice I'd had in my entire life. I put that old manuscript away and wrote something new, and I couldn't believe how much better it was when I gave myself a fresh start.

So now, three years and three full manuscripts later, I'm feeling more productive. But I still have to fight my brooding tendencies. Here's my plan:

1. Get out of the nest box. Go to conferences and workshops. Participate in my local SCBWI. Read lots of books, fiction and non-fiction. Go to lectures. Keep up on publishing industry news. Don't let myself constantly say, "I haven't got time for that, I need to be writing."

2. More eggs. It's been way too long since I submitted a short story to a magazine, and the only contests I've participated in were associated with writing workshops I've attended. I need to do better. I should make myself write a short story between every draft of the novel I'm working on. Maybe I'll even do NaNoWriMo this year.

I know that some people have the opposite problem - they have a hard time focusing on a single project long enough to get it ready for submission. But as for me, I get TOO focused. I hide in my writer cave and let everything else slide, and then I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes time to reimmerse myself in the quest for publication.

So if you're a brooder, what do you do to stay in the writing game?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Shifting by Bethany Wiggins

After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred  to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she's eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she's determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O'Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it's not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target.

Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.

About the Author:
Bethany Wiggins has always been an avid reader, but not an avid writer. Seriously!!! She failed ninth grade English because she read novels instead of doing her homework. In high school, she sat alone at lunch and read massive hardback fantasy novels (Tad Williams and Robert Jordan anyone?). It wasn't until the end of her senior year that the other students realized she was reading fiction--not the Bible

Several years ago Bethany's sister dared her to start writing an hour a day until she completed a novel.  Bethany wrote a seven-hundred page fantasy novel that she wisely let no one read--but it taught her how to write.  The fifth novel she write, SHIFTING, is being published by Walker Books September 27, 2011.

Book Power

What was your favorite place at your elementary school? Was it the playground? The cafeteria? The music room?

How about the library?

Yes, the library was my favorite. I used to sneak off and go there every chance I had. I'd hurry through my classwork and ask the teacher, "Can I go to the library?" When I got there, I'd slowly walk along the shelves, reading each title, feeling like each book was a present wrapped up between its covers, a present waiting for me to open it.

So I was thrilled to read this article on about how funding for school libraries increases standardized test scores. Many studies have shown that increased spending on schools doesn't really improve student performance, but according to this article, when the spending goes to improve the library, kids actually do better on standardized tests and on other measures of learning.

Tell your local school board! How do we improve student learning? Better school libraries!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Killing Your Darlings

I've heard many times that you have to be willing to kill your darlings. You have to be willing to take things out of your story that aren't working, even if you really, really like them.

Today I found out how much that hurts.

For six drafts of my manuscript I hung onto a certain subplot, even though I knew from the beginning it probably wasn't going to work. I finally had to let it go. It was messing up my pacing, cost over ten thousand words, and really wasn't necessary to the story.

But as I watched all that gorgeous prose lie there, cut off from the rest of the manuscript, writhing and bleeding syllables as it slowly died, I realized it had been the most beautifully written part of the book.  I cared about it more than I cared about any other part of the book, and so I had poured my love into every word.

Can I learn to love the rest of the book as much as I loved that part I had to kill?

Give me a few days to grieve, and then I'm on it.

What's the hardest story decision you've had to make?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where Ideas Come From

Ideas come from everywhere. Sparked by experience, memory, dream, they arc across the landscape of our minds in a constant storm of thought energy. It's easy to sit down and write any number of ideas for stories, for characters, for settings. Try it! If you're not worried about quality, you can fill a page in no time.

Coming up with ideas isn't hard. What's hard is coming up with good ideas. Original ideas. Ideas that can become something awesome.

So how do you know when you've got a good idea?

I don't think you can always tell right away. You  have to try it out. Work with it. Write that story, and then see what happens. I've had ideas for scenes I thought would turn out great, and then when I wrote it, it didn't work. Other times I struggled with something I thought wouldn't work at all, and when I wrote it, I was surprised by how well it turned out. So I've stopped trying to second-guess my ideas. I don't argue with my imagination any more. I put the words on the page and then I decide.

But with so many ideas coming all the time, I can't write about them all. I probably had three or four ideas for a blog post today, but this is the only one that I'm actually going to write.

So how to choose?

I think the good ideas tend to stick around. They're the ones I can't get out of my head. With a life of their own, they grow and collect more good ideas. I also think that the good ideas are the ones that fascinate me. If I care about an idea enough to turn it into a story, that means there's something good about it. I also think the good ideas are the ones that when I pitch them to other people, their eyes light up and they say, "I want to read that."

But most of all, a good idea gives me that rollercoaster rush of a feeling - like I'm so excited I could burst. Like I want to run around and shout it out to everyone. Like I can't wait to write it. Like I can't wait for people to read it!

How do you know when you've got a good idea?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Darkspell Review by YA Book Babes

Arrr, maties! This be one mighty fine voyage I's been taken on, care to join and see where it leads?

Read on . . .

Winter Sky believes she is everything ordinary . . . until she is kissed by Alex Stormhold. As seer of Stormhold Coven, Alex is sworn to be Winter’s protector against the darkness that hunts her. Violently thrust into a magical realm she always thought impossible, she stumbles upon a disturbing secret of her own.

Darkspell doesn't fit into a typical YA genre box. As a matter of fact, it's one of the most original books I've read this year. A richly woven drama unfolds as young Winter Sky meets two handsome and mysterious neighbors, both fighting for her affection. But one boy, the boy of her dreams--literally-- has already won her heart. But in short order her life is turned upside down as she enters the Stormhold world, a coven of powerful magic users (I'm hesitant to use the word witch/wizard here. This is really something very different.) where she is being hunted by the Shadoweaver. Suddenly everything is in jeopardy as she searches for her gift and fights to keep the boy she loves.

Elizabeth Mueller gives a great story, full of normal teen angst without tipping the scales to be annoying, she keeps us guessing, dropping nuggets for us throughout the story, but never tipping her hand. Combine that with the fantastic use of illustrations that give it almost a graphic novel feel as we read, and this is easily a five star read. I can't wait to pick this up in paperback and you should too! Mueller is a great addition to the YA world and I can't wait to see what comes next from this talented writer!


And I didn't even giggle, check it out:

Listen to internet radio with yabookbabes on Blog Talk Radio

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Out of the Ashes

I love living on the legendary North Shore of Oahu. My neighbors bring me home-grown bananas, I can walk to the beach, and I'm pretty sure my whole town would survive just fine in an all-out nuclear war.

One of the few downsides - the nearest bookstore used to be 23 miles away. I say "used to" because the nearest bookstore was a Borders and they've gone out of business.

Now I have to drive 25 miles to the nearest Barnes and Noble.

We heard that Borders was selling off their bookshelves, so we went down on Saturday to check it out. The place was post-apocalyptically empty. Only a few books left, scattered randomly on mostly empty shelves. I still managed to collect four titles that caught my interest - especially at 70% off. All the tall wall shelves had been bought, but some of the two-sided island shelves were still there. My husband and I picked one out and called the manager over to fill out an invoice. Since it was there, I couldn't help taking the "Writing" shelf. Maybe some of the wisdom that used to be on those shelves will leak out into my cove. You can see on the top shelf the four books I rescued from the ashes of the firesale.

As I walked among the barren shelves at Borders I couldn't help tearing up as it hit me that this was goodbye. There's nothing like browsing a bookstore. I love to pick up a shiny new hardcover, glance at the back, scan the flaps, inhale the first page, then hold it in my hands and consider whether or not to add it to my collection. Buying e-books just won't be the same. I can't say I wasn't part of Borders' demise. I already buy most of my books on-line from Amazon. But I don't browse there. I hear buzz about a book, decide I want it, and go to Amazon to get a copy. If I want to find something entirely new, something I've never heard of, some literary discovery to call my very own, I need a bookstore.

But I'm glad to have the bookshelf.  It's the best bookshelf I've ever owned! The shelves tip back so the books stand up securely in place without a bookend, and I can even turn them cover-out to advertize their presence (Remember me? You wanted to read me!). I've put all my writing reference material, my office supplies, my manuscripts, and my composition books on one side. The other side has all our picture books so the kids can come in and read quietly to themselves while I'm working. Ha ha. We'll see how that works.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Club 4 Boys!

As a writer, I'm always interested in ways to encourage the next generation of readers, so I was thrilled to find out one of my Laie neighbors, Laura Blum, has launched a blog devoted to book club ideas for boys. Click here to take a look.

She's also giving away a free kindle for new followers - check it out!

The site includes book club ideas with treats, book club ideas with field trips, book club ideas to use with cub scout activities, and book club ideas for books with movies.

I'm signing my boys up.

Darkspell Illustrations

How self-serving is it for me to use the "share buttons" from my own blog to do a shout out?

I love them buttons!

So here's the latest Darkspell ADO!

Want to sneak a peak at Alex and Winter? Click on link below for Darkspell's first drawing!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

. . . Or is it Just Me?

I think I'm high maintenance. There are many times that I want to visit a friend's house and write quietly while the kids sleep for the night. Where we can read our passages and laugh at our characters' antics or bounce ideas off of each other or work through a tangle of writers block.

It would be awfully nice to critique with this person and even daydream about the settings we've created.

I've longed for a friend who takes writing seriously enough that she wouldn't cancel out because it's only me and her showing up to a meeting, but who would make the most with every quiet moment for writing.

How freeing would it be to find someone who shares the passion of writing just a equally as you who would need you just as much as you need her?  Imagine the far places you'd travel with this kind of support!


Is this something that every writer wants, or is it just me?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Social Media and The Writer

It's been waaay too long since I posted here, and I blame life, busyness, summer, and my writing (basically, I blame myself). But I've also been busy trying to prioritize and get a handle on the social media part of my life.

Social Media as Addiction
Hi. I'm Sue, and I'm a (recovering) Social Media Addict.

Instant gratification, the incessent pull, the warm, fuzzy connection with real, live human beings who understand your writerlyness ... all without leaving your house? Seriously, it's a wonder more people aren't hooked on the social media drug. But don't get me wrong - I LOVE social media and connecting with people and sharing with other writers. I just love it a little too much. And then there's that whole thing where writers are told You must have a platform and You need to build a network and Who is your tribe? All of which is varying shades of actual importance, but misses the most important thing.

I am a writer.

I did some soul-searching and fear-confronting and found that the most important things to me were: 1) my family and 2) writing. The time for those things needed to be sacred, and everything else had to come after.

Just like losing weight and exercising, this is a lot easier to proclaim your intention than to put into practice.

The E-Revolution
Things are changing quickly in the publishing world, and social media is going to continue to play an important role in people's lives, as well as in the publishing world. (See my Notes from the E-Revolution series for some of the latest goings on). I want to be a part of it, but even more than ever, writing is the thing that makes the difference in a successful author's career - writing quality, writing consistency, writing production. These things are only possible with a singular focus on butt-in-chair time and constantly pushing one's self forward in learning the craft.

Social Media Standard Operating Procedures
I've been reading a lot of non-fiction e-books lately about Author Branding and the Self-Publishing Revolution, but Bob Mayer's Write It Forward finally put all of it in perspective for me. Among many other things (like confronting your fears), he suggested writing a social media Standard Operating Procedure, so that you control your social media usage, rather than the other way around. Of course I didn't have a SOP for social media, so I wrote some. It didn't take too long, but definitely put things in perspective for me. My SOP say things like, Use a Timer, and No Checking During Writing Time, as well as a list of places I want to make sure I visit and participate in (like this one). They also forced me to think about what kind of interactions I was seeking on Twitter, Facebook, Kindle Boards, and all the others. If you find social media adversely impacting your writing time, I highly recommend an SOP to help you focus.

Which is not as easy as it seems.

I have 18 minutes left on my timer. I think I'll stop by Twitter and chat with some tweeps a bit, find a couple cool blog posts to RT, and then pop by Google+ to see what's new and cool there. Plus I need to tweet, facebook, and Google+ my own blog posting today, where I'm recommending a friend's awesome self-published Christmas book (Rick Daley's The Man in the Cinder Clouds).

That will probably use up all my time, after which I will shut down my browser and write. No email checking. No twitter updates. Just a solid chunk of quality time with me and my WiP.

Because I'm a writer.

Do you find your social media usage changing?