Category Archives: Guest Posts

Writing Through Crisis With Guest Author Amy Freeman

Jax and Me

 *This Friday, we begin our first ever Hugs and Chocolate workshop. Tonia Harris will begin with a look at dialogue. But for now, we’re excited to introduce you to author Amy Freeman and her inspiring writer’s journey.

“You should write a book, but no one would believe you.”

I cannot tell you how many people say this to me when hearing about my life. I can think of three right now without even trying. But what most of these people don’t realize is that the degree of challenge in my life is not that uncommon. I know many people whose lives rival my own. Some far more challenging than mine ever was. Trial is a part of life, and each hardship is relevant to the individual enduring it. But how we come through it can be unique. It was during my own living hell that I managed to write my first publishable novel.

 Picture this. I was living in Florida at the time with my husband and five children. Writing was a luxury I abandoned years before to care for a disabled son and chase two teenage daughters around in the middle of the night. Somewhere in the mayhem the idea for my book pushed its way through the chaos and I began to write. I had forgotten how much I loved it. I escaped into my newly created world, becoming part of it, loving my heroes and loving to hate my monsters.

 About a month in, three major events fractured the bliss. I received a call from Orlando informing me that my oldest daughter had just been arrested and put in jail for driving on a suspended license. She bolted for New York with a friend two months prior to avoid jail time. The panic I felt when I received that call from South Carolina is not one of my fondest memories. She had come home for Christmas. She was arrested New Year’s Day. Two and a half hours away from any family, she sat in a cell. She was terrified. So was I.

 Not long after that my younger daughter, who was pregnant and also two hours away, called in tears because her friend’s mother was using drugs in her home and her boyfriend wouldn’t ask her to leave. We made the drive and brought her home to live with us. She was about two months away from delivering.

 The final blow came when our 17-year-old disabled son made a turn for the worse. Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a rare seizure disorder stunted his mental development early in his life, allowing him to function at no more than a five-year old level. Behavioral aggression is a common element of this syndrome, but never before had it escalated to events we couldn’t handle. Out of nowhere he became more violent, harming himself and others. We found him injured in the morning on more than one occasion as he would get up in the night, wandering in an incoherent fog until a seizure would bring him down. He wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t medicate. After bringing in a nurse during the day wasn’t enough we began an excruciating, year and a half long search for a facility to care for him…end scene. Whew!

 This all occurred at the same time. I dare say life couldn’t have been more complicated and frightening, but somehow a book came through it all with me, one entirely unrelated to the chaos pulling me down. “How in the world did you stay on task?” people ask. It’s a great question. I wonder myself sometimes. But honestly, writing my novel through the mayhem is partially what kept me sane. It truly was an escape for me. I would come home from work, do what had to be done, fight some battles physically and emotionally, and then I would retreat to my make-shift office, close the door and jump into another world. For those few hours every day I was able to set aside the panic, helplessness, frustration and sadness. I was able to go somewhere else and let the characters I created entertain and sooth me. There wasn’t a lot I could do about my current situation. I had to keep going. I had to take the blows and continue picking myself back up. Writing sustained me (and probably added depth to my characters!)

 We all find ways to deal with heartache, fear and pain. Some people exercise, some meditate. Other’s drink themselves into oblivion. I suppose with a side dish of constant prayer, when I feel overwhelmed by the world, I write. It’s a productive coping device, and if you can convince yourself to set an impossible situation aside for a while, knowing you are doing all you can do, it is healing and rewarding to know you successfully created something in the middle of the storm.

Amy Freeman has spent a lifetime building stories. She grew up in Salt Lake City in a family of five siblings, a conservative father and a highly entertaining mother. She spent most of her time daydreaming against her will, in class, at home, while she slept…wherever really. She holds a degree in Criminal Justice. She loves music, ballet, and ghost stories. She has lived in Wisconsin, Nevada and Florida. Five children have blessed her life and one grandchild thrills her beyond words. She has a fantastic, supportive husband and an identical twin.

Her stories revolve around the supernatural, the elusive but possible, and the potential of the human spirit. She wrote a stellar screen play at ten, her first full length book at age thirteen, with her second and third following at nineteen. She has since written two more that she plans to publish this year.  For more info go to her site:

Contact Info:


LinkedIn: Amy Freeman

Face Book: Amy Sipherd Freeman

Twitter: AmyVedunyWriter

Google +: Amy Freeman


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Upcoming Events and a Call for Guest Bloggers

He likes to move it, move it. Image via Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

He likes to move it, move it. Image via Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

“I don’t think there’s a punch-line scheduled, is there?”

~ MontyPython

“Always look on the bright side of life.”

~ Monty Python

Dancing lemur + Monty Python quotes= Happy Saturday Morning.

Anyway, that’s the equation my caffeine-addled,editing-befuddled brain came up with.

We’ve had a brilliant year, so far- some wonderful insights and information from my fellow ladies-of-the-word, including guest Lara Shiffbauer’s post on self-publishing.

Our very own Heather Reid will be taking a short leave-of-absence while she and her Scottish husband prepare to move stateside and Heather prepares for the release of her debut novel, Pretty Dark Nothing, in April. We would like to extend a huge congratulations and send her our best wishes as she undertakes what I’m sure will be a fantasic adventure.

I am delighted to announce that D.D. Falvo and Vaughn Roycroft have accepted our invitation to stand in for Heather. Shoes of lead couldn’t keep D.D.’s feet on the ground as a child and as an adult, D.D. is known for her passion to connect(and often mentor, as in my case) with other writers. Vaughn Roycroft, a Writer Unboxed contributor and world-builder extraordinaire wrote this post for us last year. D.D. and Vaughn, thank you and we look forward to your posts.

We also welcome these guest contributors over the coming year:

January 29th- Amy Sipard Freeman

March 29th- Sevigne, a strong, and thoughtful presence over at the Writer Unboxed community page on     Facebook

April 29th- Connie Cockrell

May 30th and September 30th- Lara Shiffbauer will presents parts 2&3 of her Self-Publishing series.

While we plan for workshops and online critiques for the coming year, we extend an open invitation to bloggers. We look for pieces that motivate, inspire, and inform writers. Posts can be anywhere between 300 and 1500 words long and should include an author biography and high-resolution picture. If you’re interested, please leave a message in the comments section or email me @

Available Dates for 2013:

August 30th

October 30th

November 29nth

Have a swell Saturday and here’s a cheeky Monty Python clip for your viewing pleasure:


Posted by on January 19, 2013 in Guest Posts, Just For Fun


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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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Editing, Proofreading, And A Contest With Karen S. Elliott

Happy Hump Day, Tribe. We’re happy to host Karen S. Elliott once again. This post bookends DIY Editing and Proofreading Part I. Karen shares tips for finding the right editor/proofreader and offers an amazing treat for one lucky commentator. Following the post, you’ll find the rules and prize choices for a H&C winner. (Of course, in our book, you’re all winners.)  Many thanks to Karen for her insight and willingness to share a few lessons to ease our revision pains.

Hiring an editor or proofreader – don’t get stung! 

Planning – Start looking for an editor or proofreader the minute you start your book or soon thereafter. Don’t decide you need a proofreader on Monday and hire one on Tuesday. Shop around. Ask other successful writers for recommendations. Ask the editor/proofreader for a sample.

Ask for specifics – Ask the proofreader to outline exactly what they consider “editing” and “proofreading.” These standards differ significantly throughout the industry.

Put away the hatchet, please – When I edit and proofread for a client, I suggest changes; I do not make edits for the writer. What will your editor/proofreader do?

Research online – Look at the proofreader’s website, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, and blog. Are they positive? Do they share tips and links? Are their online pages clean?

Stylebooks, references – Ask them what style book(s) and references they use. If they hem and haw or say, “Oh, I don’t use those things,” run away.

Testimonials – Get testimonials or references and then look at the publications of the testimonials. Contact the people who have provided these testimonials.

Turn-around – Look at the proofreader’s turn-around time. If a proofreader says she’ll have your 100,000-word work of art back to you in two days, that’s just not gonna happen. Have realistic expectations.

Contract – Sign a contract. I would caution that if the proofreader doesn’t use contracts, again, run away. Be sure you can accept the contract payment terms, turn-around time, cancellation terms, additional cost for phone consultations, etc.

NDA – Ask the proofreader to sign an NDA – non-disclosure agreement. You don’t want your hard work to end up in the proofreader’s e-book!

Can’t afford a proofreader? Jump in with all eight legs! 

Even with more-than-reasonable proofreading rates, I’ve had several writers say they just can’t afford it. I can dig it!

There are other options available for getting your manuscript proofread and edited.

Writer’s group – If you feel you can’t afford a proofreader, join a critique group in your area. A good group is invaluable. If you can’t find one, start one!

Exchange services – With other professionals – I’ll read yours if you read mine. Or trade one service for another. I proofread a monthly newsletter for Anne Hillerman and her Wordharvest workshops and in turn got a free ad in her newsletter. This exchange was a benefit to us both.

Join Linked In – This is a great way to find other professionals in the publishing industry. There are hundreds of groups for writers broken down by genre, e-book vs. print, and just about everything in-between.

Online exchange – Join an online exchange group or forum like Fictionaut, Dropbox,, or Yahoo groups for writers.

Join Facebook groups – On Facebook, there are pages and groups galore!

Proofreading sites and blogs – Search for sites and blogs that share proofreading and editing tips.

Dictionary Plus – It’s not enough to have a dictionary (or to use an online dictionary). You should have a couple other desk references for grammar and punctuation like The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus, Diane Hacker’s Rules for Writers, or the ever-popular Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

Subscribe – Pick one or two magazines that are geared toward writers like Writer’s Digest, Writers’ Journal, or The Writer. If you don’t want to fork over the subscription price, ask for them at your local library.

Start saving – Perhaps you could afford a proofreader if you did a little belt-tightening. Do you really need a five-dollar peppermint mocha every morning?


Make a comment on this blog post by Friday, October 5, and be entered 
in a random drawing to win one of the following (your choice) from 
Karen: 1) Free six-page edit/proofread, any project, double-spaced 
text, 2) Free website review and critique, or 3) Free FB Fan Page 
review and critique.

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine,, and Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Photos from this Proofreading Two-Pack are courtesy of Gwen Dubeau. Please stop by and see some of her fabulous work at Gwen Dubeau.


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DIY Editing and Proofreading Part I with Karen S. Elliott

The indomitable Karen S. Elliott, known to many as the Word Shark, offers some tips and tricks to H&C readers. We know many of you story-tellers and alchemists of words and worlds need a little expert advice as you revise, edit, and drink too much caffeine. We will feature Part II October 3rd. For further information regarding Karen’s professional editing service, follow the links at the end of the post. Thank you, Karen, for throwing us a life line.  ~Tonia

DIY Editing and Proofreading Part I

With self-publishing comes great responsibility. Whether you self-publish or go the way of an agent/publisher, you want to be sure your manuscript makes it to readers as cleanly as possible and makes sense from Chapter One through to The End. This is the challenge of editing and proofreading.

Editing – getting the bugs out  

Editing- Getting the Bugs Out

Editing can cover everything from consistency, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, to word choice or denotation; more in-depth editing might include substantive paragraph and chapter re-writes through developmental rewriting (overhaul).

Consistency – One of the biggest problems I see is lack of consistency. It’s not the story’s structure – it’s keeping that structure cohesive with consistent language, proper names, and characters’ personalities.

Character – Check for inconsistencies – where your characters live, where they work, their likes and dislikes, their phobias (don’t say your character is afraid of snakes and then have her holding a python in Chapter Ten), favorite foods/allergies (someone is allergic to shellfish and later eats a lobster), and so on.

Names, Proper Nouns – Did you call your main character’s boyfriend Allan in the first chapter and Alan in all the other chapters?

Electronic Age – The jury seems to be in a dead-lock over new language and emerging language terms that describe the electronic age and new gadgets. Whether you agree with the AP Stylebook or not, if you are going to use words like e-mail or email, web-site or website, on-line or online – each of these words needs to be consistent throughout your manuscript.

Who’s talking? – If your English-teacher character is talking prim and proper English in Chapter Three, make sure she doesn’t go all street in Chapter Twenty.

Know your props – If you have your police officer with a Glock in Chapter Four, he should still have a Glock in the final chapter.

Where are you? – I have often drawn my own maps on a large sheet of paper to maintain perspective. Or use Google maps. If you write Route 83 and Burdick Expressway intersect in Minot, ND, they’d better intersect. If the Sandia Mountains are east of downtown Albuquerque in one chapter, don’t put them west in a subsequent chapter.

Proofreading,an inch at a time

Proofreading, an inch at a time

I cannot define proofreading in finite terms – neither, it seems, can anyone else. I’ll stick my neck out and say “proofreading” is your garden variety punctuation, typos, and spelling. But it’s more than just having a dictionary handy. It’s more than what you think you know.

Adjust your mind set from “writer” to “proofreader.” Forget that you are looking at your baby, your pet, your sweat-stained manuscript. Once you are ready to proofread, it’s a whole ‘nother animal. It’s a project. You are looking for things that are wrong.

Spell check – Do not – DO NOT – depend on your computer’s spell checker.

Read out loud – Read the piece out loud. This will help you hear where there are stops and starts, what’s awkward. Take it a step further – read your MS or short story into a tape recorder, and then listen to it while looking at a printed copy.

Change the font – Seriously. If you have been looking at your MS in Times New Roman for a long time, change it to Palatino Linotype. It will look completely different.

Print it – Sounds silly, but it works. You’ve been looking at your project on the screen for a year or two – you need a new perspective – you need to see it on paper. Red pen at the ready!

Dictionary and Style Guides – Use the dictionary and style guides like The Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style, and desk references for grammar and punctuation –
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus, Diane Hacker’s Rules for Writers, or the Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

First Reader – Do ask someone to look at your MS with a critical eye. If they come back to you and say they loved it, they are not critical enough.

Mom or BFF – Don’t ask mom or the BFF to proofread – unless mom was a proofreader for Merriam-Webster (my mom was!). Your peeps will probably tell you, “It’s wonderful!” or “Fabulous!” Not that you shouldn’t trust them, but you shouldn’t trust them with proofreading your manuscript.

Sounds like – Look at words like there and their, you’re and your, and its and it’s. If you know you have trouble with a certain word(s), search for that word throughout your manuscript. Labor-intensive – yes. But it works. Also check for words like wet and whet, rain, reign, and rein.

Take a break – Put the manuscript aside for a few weeks or a month or two. Then go back to it with fresh eyes.

Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine,, and Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

*Photos from this Proofreading Two-Pack are courtesy of Gwen Dubeau. Please stop by and see some of her fabulous work at Gwen Dubeau.


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