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.