Monthly Archives: December 2012

Wishes and Resolutions For 2013

image via sunit kumar bajgal.png

image via sunit kumar bajgal.png

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

~ Neil Gaiman

Hugs and Chocolate celebrates not only the New Year, but our one-year anniversary as well. Thank you for being part of our tribe. This year, we’re offering more guest spots, workshops, and opportunities for our readers to receive feedback on queries, synopsis, and the first page of your work-in-progress. We’ve shared our personal “wishes” for the New Year and hope that you will join us in the comment section. And, please, let us know what we can do to help you reach your goals.

Happy New Year, H&C family.


1. Comment on more blog posts. There are so many wonderful blogs out there, and I want to read more and have a more active discussion on more posts.

2. Support and encourage other writers in any way I can.

3. Finish writing, rewriting, and editing my YA thriller.

4. Focus on getting healthier.

5. Travel to a foreign country.

6. Go home to visit my family at least three times. (I’m in Denver, they’re in Alabama.)

7. Continue improving my writing and editing craft.

8. Read more.

9. Be more confident in everything.

10. Help my husband finish his book.

11. I’m sure there are a million more, and I’m sure you all will hear about them throughout the year.


1. For at least one reader to truly connect with Pretty Dark Nothing. For them to walk away from the book and still think about it hours, days later. All it takes is one.

2.  Make more time to mentor other writers and give back more to the writing community

3.  Enjoying this new journey as a published author and wherever that takes me.

4. Meet all the H&C ladies in person.

5. To see Pretty Dark Nothing sell to a foreign market. I would love to see the cover in a different language.

6. Sign copies of Pretty Dark Nothing at Mysterious Galaxies in San Diego. I LOVE this book store!!

7. Attend BEA, Bologna Book Festival, UtopYA Con, SCBWI Summer Conference, RT Book Lovers convention, WorldCon 2013 and make new friends along the way.

8. Start creative writing classes for children and young adults.

9.  For Pretty Dark Nothing and the sequel to do well enough that a third book is optioned by my publisher.


1. Get myself an agent. I’m not going to rush it. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen. 2013 would be nice though.

2. Read more. I managed about 40 books this year(beta reads included), and I’m not completely happy with the amount. Yes, I’m a slow reader, but this year’s slow as unnecessary.

3. Comment more on blog posts. I’ve been slacking, but I have this thing. I comment, and what I write sounds stupid, so most of the time I keep my thoughts to myself.

4. Write, rewrite, revise, and edit a novel tentatively titled My Bones. I want it done by the end of the year.

5. Polish my YA Steampunk

6. Finish up my YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale from NaNo 2010.

7. Be more structured in my writing time. The last four years it’s been all over the place. Yeah, it worked for me, but I like trying new things to see if it might work even better.

8. Beta read more.

9. Be open to new things. Now matter what.


1. Finish edits on Follow You Down and send to critique partners by end of January

2. Put final polish on Follow You Down and submit to agents and/or select small publishing houses

3. Finish 1st draft of my first YA dark fantasy, The Winter Tree

4. Read 52 books in 52 weeks, including craft books on writing.

5. Learn to love the revision and editing process

6. Quit smoking.

7. Establish a schedule that will allow me to write more and stress less.

8. Meditate daily- this can include running, yoga, or Pilates.

9. Be more of a pay-it-forward writer by encouraging others, beta reading, and sharing my list of YA agents and small publishing houses.

10. Set goals monthly, weekly, and daily.

11. Dedicate more time to my personal blog and establish a schedule I’ll carry through with.


1. Pursue more interviews for the Rue Morgue Blog interviewing YA horror authors, gaining a greater presence there until I can work my way into the magazine. In other words, get more published works under my belt.
2. Will have my book finished by the end of the year (2012)
3. Have my book revised and edited by mid-February
4. Start querying agents
5. Get an agent
6. Sell my book via my brilliant agent
7. Sign a contract for book
8. Outline and start two new stories
9. Go to FanExpo in Toronto in August
10. Have a (real) vacation
11. Write better content for the Hugs and Chocolate blog and create more opportunities for interaction
1. Enter The Sandy Contest

2. Edit my Current Novel to Completion

3. Query Agents

4. Write 1st Draft of a New Novel (During National Novel Writing Month)

5. Continue Regular Blog Posts on Hugs & Chocolate and on my Personal Blog (

6. Post Regular Web Fiction on my Personal Blog and

Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Goal-Setting


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My Favorite Hugs and Chocolate Posts

Sometimes, a hug is all what we need – Jesslee Cuizon

What a good year it’s been over here! I though that the best way for me to end off things would be to share a few of the post by the wonderful ladies I share this blog with. If any of the links go to places they shouldn’t, please let me know.

It’s been such a pleasure getting to know all of you this year. I’m giving all of you big virtual bear hugs. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring us.

It’s been an honor, ladies and gentlemen.

Jamie Raintree

My Romance With Writing

Who Cares About Writers?

Instruction Manual for a Full-Time Writer

Why Character Archetypes Aren’t Just About Commercialism

Why I Heart Scrivener for Outlining

How to NaNoWriMo During Thanksgiving

Tonia Marie Houston

Bring Your Shovel

St. Patrick and the Writer’s Trinity

Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

33 And It Feels Divine

Give Your Characters Quirk

Synopsis Fundamentals

Heather L Reid

Learn to Love Writing Queries

Dream Big and Never Give Up: How I Landed a 2 Book Publishing Deal

The Third Perspective: Why I Love Third Person Narrative

The First Editorial Letter: Let the Revisions Begin… Again

Riding the Revision Coaster: Completing My 30 Day Deadline

Rebecca Fields

What If…

Luck of the Irish?

The Magic of Fairy Tales

A World of Ideas

Pardon Me, Social Media

Read A (Banned) Book

Courtney Koschel

Filtering Filter Words in Your Writing

Questions to ask When Hiring an Editor

I Suck Syndrome: Recognize it and Beat it

Giving and Getting the Most Out of Critiques

Common Comma Issues

Manuscript Formatting

Jani Grey

Support from the obvious places

Need a little motivation or inspiration? I have some of that for you

Personal Perspective: Why I write 1st person POV

Let me tell you why you’re a winner

The Small Things

Why the subject of your blog post is so very important

Guest Posts

Visualize Your Way to Success: Guest Post by Vaughn Roycroft

DIY Editing and Proofreading Part 1 with Karen S. Elliot

Editing, Proofreading, and a Contest with Karen S. Elliot

Pants on Fire: Guest Post by Laura Long

Guest Post by Brian Taylor: Take a Walk… On a Tightrope: One Writer’s Journey

I’ll see you next year. Have a happy and safe new year!


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Is There a Publishing Contract Under the Tree?

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate! I hope you’re able to share it with your family and those you love most. Since today is the day before Christmas, I’m sure most of you are busy finishing up your last minute wrapping so I’ll keep it short.

As I’m sure you know by now, no one knows what to get writers for holidays. Books are a pretty sure thing but how can we expect our family members to know where to get NaNoWriMo gear or which James Scott Bell book we don’t already have? In reality, all we really want is a great agent, a publishing contract and a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list, right? Would that fit under the tree?

This year, I’m taking the guess work out of it for my poor husband and printing out the information for the Savvy Authors online workshop I want to attend. He can wrap his credit card for me. 😉

So let’s pretend I’m Mrs. Claus and you can tell me what writing-related gift you’d love under the tree this year. I’ll do my best to get the message to the big guy.

(But remember, of course, that hitting your goals and reaching for your dreams will always be up to you. 😉 )

I hope you get everything you’re wishing for!

Photo by asenat29


Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Just For Fun


The One Question You Should Ask Yourself(And A Personal Writing Challenge)

Corinth in Romeimage via Urban at fr.wikipedia

Corinth in Rome
image via Urban at fr.wikipedia

““If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
―    Henry David Thoreau,    Walden

My daughter made the point that my husband and I still have a honeymoon to plan. My husband and I talked about what our dream honeymoon would consist of and where it would take place. We daydreamed about Mediterranean- touring ancient architecture, chasing mythology, and tasting the warm sea air…

In doing so, we discovered some mutual interests and passions. Did we call our local travel agent? No, but we made it clear what we want, and though our aim is high, it’s something we can strive for together. We created a goal- a dream.

Which, in my usual round-a-bout way, leads me to the one question I believe everyone should ask themselves:

What is your Perfect Day?

Most of us are planning our resolutions for 2013. Some people build strategies, others, like myself, tend to write them down on scrap paper, lose them, and hope for the best. I believe goal-setting has its value. But I also believe that for those goals and dreams to become a living, breathing reality, we need to visualize those goals and what the rewards mean to each aspect of our life- including our day-to-day writing lives.

When we invest the time in visualizing our Perfect Day, we access our desires, what we expect from ourselves, and the emotions that drive us. We realize what we want, almost to the letter, and then we can recognize what kind of commitment it’s going to require. Commitment is the key word. Read Steven Pressfield’s posts on commitment, How Pro Are You and Depth of Commitment, Part Two.

Personal Writing Challenge

I challenge you to write down your Perfect Day. Go into detail and description. Think about the first thing you’ll do in the morning, what you’ll eat, wear, where you’ll go. When is your ideal time and place to write? What will the conditions be? Who are the players in your Perfect Day- family, friends, other writers? Use your imagination and don’t hold back due to any current budget or other restrictions.

Take the time for yourself to journal or log the details. Use your ideal to find the things that are within your grasp- maybe you can start your morning with that run or yoga, or writing before anyone else wakes up. Use that ideal for motivation to break the bad habits that get in the way- social networks, smoking, procrastination, Doctor Who memes…

Next week, we plan to share our goals and predictions for 2013, and we want to hear from you. Ask yourself, before then, what is your Perfect Day and meditate on the minutiae. Or use it as a prompt to spur your ingenuity.

Let us know if you decide to participate in the writing challenge.

What are your thoughts on today’s challenge? Do you think taking the time to write down your Perfect Day will inspire you to finesse your goals and find out what drives you? Or do you have a few details you would like to share?

Happy Holidays!


Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Goal-Setting, Inspiration, Just For Fun


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Fight Your Way Through – Wise Words from Storyteller Ira Glass

I ran across this video yesterday by Ira Glass in which he talks about the gap between the desire to create something great, and falling short of achieving your vision. If you’ve ever felt like what your writing doesn’t live up to your expectations, that somehow, it’s not quite there yet, you should watch this. You’re not alone.

So what did you think? Do you agree with him? I agree to a degree, but I’m not sure the gap ever gets closed completely. There are still times when I feel like my creative ambition isn’t quite up to the task, that what I’m putting on paper doesn’t quite measure up. It’s not from lack of work. I’ve spent over half my life writing poetry, plays, short stories, picture books, novels, and articles. I’ve created the body of work as he describes, I’ve gained the skills needed to create something I’m proud of, but as my skills have increased, so has my taste. I want to continue to push the boundaries of my capability. In fact, I don’t want the gap to ever close completely because it means I would have nothing left to learn, I would stop growing, stop striving to be better and better. As my ideas, my confidence grows so should my creative ambition.

What do you think? Have you come close to closing that gap? Do you think, as writers, we should?


Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


Reading as a Writer

medium_302558059I read a book not too long ago. It wasn’t a good one. I don’t say that often, but I had to make myself finish this one. When I was done, I closed it and sat and thought about the what had made it almost unreadable. The plot was confusing. After the first chapter, I thought it was about a girl who was looking for her dream guy, but then the main character stated how happy she was being by herself. Her relatives thought she needed to meet someone. Okay, that could be fun, except we never met the family. The reader was told about a phone call.

I kept reading, thinking I missed something and the plot would be clear later on. I was wrong. The ideas were there, but it wasn’t pulled together. I tried to relate to the character, hoping that would keep me interested in the story. However, it’s hard to relate to a woman who’s drop dead, supermodel gorgeous and only wears designer clothes. The name dropping through the book got annoying. She was wealthy and drove a luxury SUV that one of her many admirers bought for her. She had several stunningly handsome boyfriends that she rotated between. Yes, the main character and I had a major disconnect.

The ending was anti-climactic. The main character finally succumbed to alleged familial pressure and went out on a date with the man her family had chosen. She fell madly in love and married him that weekend. There was no drama, other than when the main character had to tell her other boyfriends that she’d met someone else. There was no danger, no risk and by the time I got to the end, I wanted to throw the book across the room. So why am I telling you all this? Because the germ of a good idea was there. When I read the synopsis, I was picturing a My Big Fat Greek Wedding type story, but the author didn’t follow through. What could have been done differently?

Plot. I know plotting can be difficult. I don’t read a lot of romances and it’s usually a struggle to get through a story that doesn’t have a chase scene or unsolved murder in it, or, better yet, strange creatures wreaking havoc. Anyway. This story had none of those, but I was looking for something to read that didn’t require any thought and would just let me escape for a few hours. This story required more thought because I was constantly trying to fill in the blanks about what happened. The plot could have been as simple as: girl is looking for Mr. Right and after a series of humorous mishaps, finds him. Instead, it was: girl has perfect life and is perfectly content, but out of implied pressure, finds Mr. Perfect with no problem. Give your reader some drama. Life isn’t this easy. No, we don’t want all the gory details, but let us relate to what the character is going through.

Characters. The main character was so one dimensional it was hard to like her, much less, read an entire story about her. She had everything – unlimited money, successful business, the clothes, the shoes, the designer sunglasses, cars, apartments, vacation house, men begging for her attention, friends who adored her every move. It was unrealistic. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, but if you want your reader to pull for your character, give her something to lose and something to work toward. Put obstacles in her way and let the reader see who she is by how she deals with these situations. Everyone has a weakness or two, characters should also. Dig deep into your character and find out who they are. All the stuff I described above was just the surface. I still don’t know who the character was and what drove her. Perhaps she wasn’t as happy with her life as she let on, but even though it was first person pov, there was nothing to indicate she wanted anything to change. Imagine going out to lunch with your character. What would you talk about? Would you want to be friends with them? What about them interests you? Show as many layers to your character as you possibly can.

Setting. The setting from this story ranged from an office, to a luxurious apartment, a glamorous party, a vacation home and then a honeymoon suite. I know that because that’s what I was told. I never got lost in the setting or pictured it in my head. Take your reader on a journey and make them feel like they’re watching from the same room or wherever they may be.

Writing sounds like the easiest job in the world. You sit down at your computer or pick up a pen and paper and write. Except it’s not that easy. All things you see and hear in your head have to come out and sometimes that’s harder than you can imagine. A reader can’t get inside your head, you have to show and tell us. Outline a clear plot and then write it. You don’t have to follow the outline exactly, but know where your story is going. Give your characters depth. Even if the reader isn’t supposed to like the character, show us why. If you find yourself with flat characters, reconsider their importance to the story. Take the reader somewhere they’ve never been before, even if it’s just a strange living room. Make them feel like they’re there.

photo credit: <a href=””>Sister72</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;


Posted by on December 17, 2012 in Books, Characters, Plot, Setting, Uncategorized


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Manuscript Formatting – The Basics

Formatting can age you by ten years, create gray hair, and you may end up in therapy after trying to get your manuscript to behave, but it’s a necessary part of every writer’s life. I’m going to touch on some basic formatting rules using Microsoft Word, and I’ll also touch on some other basic formatting rules for you to apply to your manuscript.

When submitting to agents, be sure to follow their instructions for formatting. Some may be different than others. If you’re submitting to publishers, be sure to adhere to their style requirements. Every publishing house will have a house style, but the publishing industry as a whole follows the Chicago Manual of Style.

I’ve included screen shots of my Microsoft (which is for Mac, but the things I’ve included should look the same across Mac an PC platforms) for your enjoyment.

The Basics

  • One inch margins all around.
  • This is under the “Layout” tab in your ribbon. Set all margins to 1.

Screen Shot_Margins

  • Times New Roman font
  • 12 point font
  • This is under the “Home” tab in your ribbon. Change the font type and size here.

Screen Shot_Font:Size

  • Double space your document
  • Indent the first line by 0.5”
  • This is under the “Paragraph” setting. Your screen should look just like this.
    • Set the left indention to 0″
    • Special: to First line
    • By: to 0.5.
    • Set your line spacing to Double with 0 pt Spacing before and after.

Screen Shot_Tabs:Spacing

  • Only one space after a period
  • Use the serial comma.
  • This is the only part that may be a little different on the PC version of Word. You’ll want to find your Grammar Settings and go in and set them to your preference. There are so many things Microsoft Word actually does for you if you have it set up correctly. On Word for Mac, I went into Tools > Auto Correct > Show All > Spelling and Grammar > Settings and then modified my grammar settings.

Screen Shot_Grammar Settings

  • Only one space after a colon. I haven’t found a setting that automatically sets this for you, but if I do, I’ll post it.
  • Punctuation goes inside a quotation mark in the US, but can go outside of the quotation mark in the UK.
  • There are many ways to use ellipses () but the most common use I see is trailing off.
    • Example: She stood with her hands on her hips. “What do you mean you can’t go to … Oh.” The look on his face said it all.
  • There are also many uses for the em dash (). It can be used to interrupt dialogue.

    • Example: “I said go clean your room.” “But Mom–” “Now!”
  • An em dash can also be used in place of commas.
    • Example: Because we haven’t packed–or even done laundry–we are unprepared for our trip!

Those are the formatting basics. There are so many other formatting tips and tricks. My biggest piece of advice is to get the Chicago Manual of Style and reference it; it’s a publisher’s go to guide.

Do you have any other questions about formatting? I’m happy to answer in the comments.


Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized