Category Archives: originality

Even if You’re not Doing NaNoWriMo: A Challenge

It’s almost November, and for many writers, the beginning of a month filled with too much caffeine, frozen pizza, and questionable hygiene. That’s right–NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve never joined in the madness, you may want to look into it. But, just like everything else in life, it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay.

One thing I really love about NaNo is the sense of community and excitement. Those two things alone are so inspiring. And let’s face it, there’s something comforting about knowing there are other writers out there who are working toward the same immediate goal as you.

Some writers use the month of November to edit instead of draft. Some use it to finish a manuscript they’ve been holding on to for a long time, but have never gotten around to finishing. What I’m getting at is, even if you don’t want to participate in NaNo, I encourage you to use the 30 days to do something with your writing. Take advantage of the NaNo atmosphere and energy. Thousands of people do NaNo each year–make them your accountability partners for a month.

I have some hefty goals for the month of November. I plan on finishing my revisions on my YA horror novel and hopefully drafting another novel. We’ll see how much I get done, but I’m hopeful 🙂

What are your goals for the month of November?


We Don’t See Our Own Writing

Writer envy. Yep. I recently discovered Barbara Freethy and experienced a serious case of it. How does she write such flawless story? How does she keep consistent tone? I’m reading The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue by Barbara Samuel right now and I am in awe by how mature and experienced her writing is. Why can’t I seem to create such diverse characters with such detailed backgrounds?

During a meeting last month with my lovely writing partners, we sat around having this exact conversation.

You are so great at world building! I don’t know how you do it. I could never invent such realistic places like that.

But you have such a fun tone. Every time I try to be funny, it feels so fake.

But you are great at layering your story so that all this foreshadowing comes back around at the end. How do you do that?

No, we did not have a group hug.

As much as we do love each other’s writing, what was really happening was a little bit of writer envy all around. The funniest part is that as these compliments were flying around, the person receiving them usually responded with, “What? I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is just how I write.”

I don’t know about you, but often when I write, it feels so simple. I’ve experienced these things a million times. Nothing truly invented here, just rearranged and placed for optimum impact. Wait, didn’t I use that scenario in another story I wrote. Crap. Better take it out just in case and start over. Grab the thesaurus! I think I used “attended” five times on the same page.

What a mess.

Send it to the writing partners to see if there is anything salvageable. They’ll know how to fix it. They are so much better at writing then me. Drag my feet into the coffee shop and wait for the firing squad.

And then…

You are so great at world building! I don’t know how you do it. I could never invent such realistic places like that.

But you have such a fun tone. Every time I try to be funny, it feels so fake.

But you are great at layering your story so that all this foreshadowing comes back around at the end. How do you do that?

Laugh. Really? I thought you were going to hate it.

Because we don’t see our own writing. We don’t think what we have to say is unique. We don’t think our style or voice or story is different than the same stuff we’ve all read a million times. But it is.

All those things we’ve experienced that seem like old news to us are unbelievable to others. The voice that just comes out and sounds like everything else we’ve ever written is different than the voice of every other writer out there. The style that we don’t even think we have is born of years of cultivating until it is so natural it’s like breathing.

Just like when we look in the mirror, we’re so busy focusing on our flaws, we look right past the little points of beauty…so we do with our writing. But what seems mundane to us, is perfection to someone who doesn’t know how to do what we do.

Let’s prove it–what compliment do you receive most about your writing?

Photo by Evil Erin


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Coffee Talk: Stereotypical Characters

I’ve been expectantly waiting the newest post from Hugs and Chocolate today when it suddenly dawned on me that it’s my Wednesday to post! I must apologize for having a complete HUB (head up butt) moment. My second round of revisions came back from my editor on Friday and I’ve been laser focused on getting them turned around in my very tight deadline. I admit I’ve been consumed. Don’t feel bad, it’s not personal.  I’ve also forgotten to eat, what day it is, and the time. I’ve been late for a work meeting, so zoned out on my commute that I have no idea how I arrived home, burned the rice and overcooked the fish. I’ve been focused to the point where everything else around me disappeared. I also totally confused myself by taking the extra Wednesday slot last week. So here I sit, completely unprepared and feeling a little ‘verklempt’. That’s when inspiration strikes.

Coffee talk!

Ok, some of you are thinking. “What?”

No really, it’s like buttah!

Now you’re thinking “Heather has totally lost it.”

For those of you who are not fans of the great SNL Mike Myers skit, Coffee Talk, let me explain.Coffee Talk with Linda Richman was a Saturday Night Live skit performed by Mike Myers back in the early 90’s. If you haven’t seen it, Google it now! It’s one of my favourites.

Anyway, in the sketch, Myers plays a stereotypical Jewish middle-aged woman named Linda Richman. Linda hosts a talk show called Coffee Talk. She loves Barbara Streisand, gold jewellery, gaudy sweaters and big hair.  Meyer’s exaggerated, New York accent, fake nails, and large dark glasses spoofed his real-life mother-in-law, Linda Richman and created an unforgettable character. During the skit, Myers would become ‘verklempt’ to the point of not being able to speak. His solution to keep the show going would be to give a topic to the audience to discuss.

So, since I’m unprepared, time is running short, and I have to get back to these revisions.  I’m going to throw a topic out there for you to discuss amongst yourselves, and since Mike Myers created such a memorable but stereotypical character, I thought that would be a good place to start.

What are your thoughts on using stereotypes for fictional characters?



Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Characters, Just For Fun, originality, Writing


Training Tools – Websites for Creativity

El grito de la gaviota – Seagull Scream by Dani_vr on Flickr

I’ve wanted to use that image since I first saw it. Not sure how it applies to today’s post, but hopefully it made you smile 🙂

I’m coming off my post-Olympic high. I miss coming home and watching elite athletes fulfill their dreams. I don’t know about you, but I found it inspiring. It gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling in my core. Those people worked hard, sacrificed, trained, and look where it got them. Writers aren’t that different. We have to go through a lot of the same things (but with more wine and chocolate and less laps and pushups).

Our minds are constantly being pushed, our imaginations stretched. We’re honing our craft. If you’re like me, you’ve pretty much given up sleep. Learning, we’re always learning. And what is this “free time” you speak of? Yet we do it because we love it. We have goals and dreams, and we won’t stop until we make it.

What does all this have to do with creativity? Well, as writers, creativity is kind of important to the whole process. I have a bookmarks folder titled, “Websites for Creativity,” and I thought I’d pass along some of my favorites. Think of them as training tools. (There, I totally tied this back to the Olympics 😉 Sneaky, right?)

Critters is a part of but for horror (here’s looking at you, Brian), fantasy, and sci-fi writers. How awesome is that? It can be hard to find critique partners for genre fiction; thankfully critters helps writers connect.

Creativity Portal – If you want to read articles about creativity, and I do this sometimes to better understand the creativity process, then creativity portal is a good resource.

Easy Street Prompts – Like writing prompts? Check this one out.

Six Sentences – This website invites you to tell a story in six sentences. Kind of interesting.

Plot Scenario Generator – This is one of my new favorites. The whole website is really good.

Five Free College Level Writing & Lit Videos – Who says you have to pay to learn?

InkPageant – A collection of blog posts for writers.

80 Journal Writing Prompts – I’m a sucker for journaling and writing prompts. What more could I want?

That should be enough to keep you busy for a while. What about you? What are some of your go-to sites for creativity?


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A Dream is a Wish

“A dream is a wish your heart makes,

When you’re fast asleep,

In dreams you lose your heartaches,

Whatever you wish for, you keep.

Have faith in your dreams and someday,

Your rainbow will come smiling through,

No matter how your heart is grieving, If you keep on believing, The dream that you wish will come

true. A dream is a wish your heart makes, When you’re feeling small, Alone, In the night you

whisper, Thinking no one can hear you at all. You wake with the morning sunlight, To find fortune

that is smiling on you, Don’t let your heart be filled with sorrow, For all you know tomorrow, The

dream that you wish will come true. A dream is a wish your heart makes, A dream is a wish your

heart makes, You Wake with the morning sunlight, To find fortune that is smiling on you, Don’t let

your heart be filled with sorrow, For all you know tomorrow, The dream that you wish will come

true. No matter how your heart is grieving If you keep on believing The dream that you wish will

come true” ~ as sung by Jiminy Cricket

This month, we’re continuing our theme of getting to know each other and our readers.  For July, we’re discussing what got us interested in writing and the road we’ve taken to reach our goals. I’m doing mine in third person story format, because what’s more fun than a story?

Once upon a time there was a young girl who loved to read. Growing up, she devoured everything she could find. The library in the small town where she lived consisted of one room that was filled from floor to ceiling with books. The walls that you could see were painted white and the shiny hardwood floors squeaked when you walked on them. The librarian was a little old woman who always had a recommendation. The girl would take her stacks of books home and while her brother and sister played, she read. She always had her nose in a book. But there was a dark side, the church she grew up in believed that women were not equal to men. Women were not encouraged to pursue a career, only to marry, have children and obey their husbands. It never occurred to her that she was smart enough to write something as wonderful as a book. She didn’t question the beliefs of her church because it was what she’d always known. At least, until she became a teenager and left her beliefs behind.

She went wild as a teen and tried many different things, but the one thing she never gave up was reading. After a few years, she settled into a relationship with a young man. They had fun and she moved away from her family. There were good times and bad.

It was a few years later when life found her as a young, single mother. Her son was her world. He’d just started kindergarten and she was proud beyond words. One night, during his first spring break, she came home from her job and as she often did late at night, she stole into her son’s room where he lay sleeping peacefully. She whispered the magical words, “midnight swim,” and he laughed as he woke and the two of them went to the pool in the backyard and swam under the moonlight. They swam and talked and laughed. It was an enchanted time.

Once they were both tired and cooled off from the Texas heat, they sat side by side on the porch swing and watched the moonlight. The young mother asked if he’d like to hear a story and the son responded that he would. She told him a story and over the next six nights, she wove it into something that made him laugh, get excited and yell that he didn’t like it and in the same breath that he loved it. When the story was done the child cried, but two things were very clear: the son wanted more stories and the mother wanted to tell them.

She began writing, but was never able to capture the magic of the original story she’d told. She took classes and read books about how to write a successful story, but none of it translated into a workable idea. Time moved on and occasionally she’d pull out her notebook and try again. It was many years and several states later when the mother’s world began crumbling down around her and she remembered the magic of words and the places the stories could go. She admitted to a coworker her secret dream (to be a published author). This friend became her best friend and they shared many laughs and dreams. One day the friend came into work and told the woman about a dream she had. They sat and giggled and played the “what if” game, though their job duties came first, of course. One night, full of the what ifs, the woman began writing a continuation of her friend’s dream. It flowed and kept flowing until that’s how they spent their time, talking and writing about dreams. But neither seemed to mind and eventually both women took a giant leap and began writing their own stories. The young mother had never been happier. With the help of several muses, she never stopped writing. She met others along the way and honed her skills. She traded critiques, did beta reading, formed a platform and wrote continuously – anything she could do to make her dream come true. The journey was long and hard and along the way she found happiness and great sadness, but…

To be continued – with the happily ever after part…


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Living and Learning

I’m continuing the theme this month of discussing the things I’ve learned in my time on earth. I’ve been jotting down sentences all week in preparation for this post. The Hugs and Chocolate ladies have left me with a tough act to follow, but here goes.

Writing is a very individualized process. What works for one writer may not work for another. That’s one of the many reasons I love writing.

Age is only a number. I’ve been the youngest person at nearly every place I’ve worked. I was a marketing manager, fresh out of college, with eight people under me, when I was 22. I no longer tell people how old I am, because some people only respect others based on age. Give everyone a chance. Always. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn from someone just by being around them.

Unfortunately, people don’t often like to see others succeed. You know what, tell those people they can kiss your…you get the picture. Surround yourself with people who genuinely want the best for you. Surround yourself with friends who encourage you and bring out the best you possible.

Life is too short to fight with people you love. Whether it’s a friend or a loved one, work on the problem instead of letting it get out of hand.

Do what makes you happy. Money is nice, but happiness is lasting.

You’ll always spend as much as you make. My mom said this to me about a month ago. I’d just gotten a promotion, and a week later, my car needed costly repairs. Needless to say, I wasn’t planning on purchasing a new car, but life has a way of butting in.

It’s okay to splurge every now and then. If you work hard, play a little, or you’ll go crazy…trust me on this one.

It’s okay to want to be alone. I love my “me” time. I need it to recharge. Some people don’t understand, and that’s okay–everyone has their own way of recharging, and this is mine.

This is something I’m learning, and haven’t mastered, but I’m trying. It’s okay to take a break and not feel guilty about it. Veg. We all need down time. Watch movies, eat popcorn, go outside, but don’t even think about writing, or anything, just enjoy being alive.

Excuses are just that…excuses. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find the time, energy, and tools necessary to make it happen. If you know me, then you know I have a pretty low tolerance for excuses. We all have things in our life that get in the way. Find a way to make your dreams come true.

I’ve met some of my best friends online. I love them dearly, and they are amazing.

Never give up. Giving up is admitting defeat, and no one likes to say they’ve been defeated.

Furry things make life better. I have three animals. They are my children. That may not make any sense to you, but it does to me.

You don’t have to pay money to learn. The internet is full of free educational materials. Soak it up. Also, there’s the library. Utilize the resources you have.

This part of my list may be a little depressing. These are the specific things I’ve learned in the past two and a half years due to my chronic illnesses. Hopefully it can help someone out there going through something similar:

Don’t take your health for granted.

When you have a chronic illness (or two or possibly three. Yep. Found out I have more than one.), you learn a lot about yourself. I’ve learned I’m stronger than I ever thought. Every time I get new information about my health, it’s typically not good news. And every time, I’m able to handle it. I often think if one more thing happens, then I don’t know how I’ll make it. But make it I do.

Relearning things about myself is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I went from healthy to not being able to hardly walk in a very short period of time. I had new limits. I used to run 6.2 miles a day. Now, I’m lucky if I can do a mile.

It’s okay to have pity parties as long as you know you’re having one and set start and end times for them. If I’m having one, I acknowledge it but say, “tomorrow, I’m going to wake up and be over it.” That usually works. Sometimes it takes longer than a day, and that’s okay, too. Take the time to learn coping strategies and how to be a better you.

Okay, enough of the depressing part. Please know I am grateful for my fellow Hugs and Chocolate ladies and all of the readers. Thank you so much for checking out our site and letting us into your lives. It means a lot–truly. You are all amazing, and I can’t wait to hear more about the things you’ve learned in your life.


Dancing Through Life

Nope, stop asking. I’m not going to do it. My age is only told on a need to know basis. I officially stopped having birthdays when I turned 29. Just because I’ve stopped aging doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning. In my years I’ve learned lessons of great beauty. I’ve learned there are things which happen in life that can knock the air out of you and bring you to your knees. There is sorrow so deep where each breath you take is a battle fought and won, but there is also happiness so profound that you can’t see straight or stop smiling for days. Those are the days I aim for.

This post would be humungous if I listed even twenty nine things I’ve learned – because I’m a talker. So, instead, I’m going to give you a short list of the most important things I’ve learned.

Laugh. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with your family, friends, complete strangers – it doesn’t matter, just laugh. Laughter is a language we all understand.

Smile. You never know what hope you can give someone by the smallest smile. It’s something that’s so easy on your part, but you have no idea the impact it can have.

Hug. Hug like you mean it. I’m not talking that barely touching air hug. No, if you’re going to hug someone, hug them. Everyone needs contact and to know how important they are.

Listen. When you’re with someone, listen to them. Put your cell away and listen to them. If they’re not worth all your attention, then why are you with them?

Love. It’s something easy to give and the returns are tremendous. I try to remember to tell my friends I love them, because I do. They’re important to me, which is why they’re my friends. Don’t worry about what other people think.

Let grudges go. If someone offends you, you have two choices, let it go or let them go. Don’t hold onto grudges because they don’t get better with age. They blister and fester and are always there under the surface waiting for a chance to explode. If the person hurt you so badly that you can’t get over it, then reconsider having this person in your life.

Stand up for your beliefs, no one else will. Silence is acceptance. I grew up not understanding politics or my place in them. Seeing what’s happened in the world over the past few years has lit a fire in me. Last year I participated in my first protest march. I hope I never forget the sound of the drums beating or the feel of being in a crowd of thousands standing up for a common belief.

Learn to fix something. I’ve never considered myself a handyperson. Ever. However, my dad started buying me tools and teaching me how to use them. I’ve since learned rudimentary carpentry, drywall hanging (have to admit, I’m pretty good at hanging and finishing drywall), resurfacing walls and laying tile to name a few. I don’t recommend you do anything like electrical wiring or something dangerous. But, if you have a hole in the wall, get the materials and fix it. Learn how to fix a flat tire or tinker around with something until you fix it. It’s kind of cool to see the things you never knew you were capable of.

Take opportunities to do new things, even if they scare you. I’ll admit I’ve missed a lot of chances because I was afraid of looking stupid or that it wouldn’t be fun. A few years ago my uncle asked if I’d like to go with him and his wife to see the traveling Broadway production of Wicked. My first thought was to turn it down. It was $40.00 I didn’t really have, I didn’t really have the clothes and I’d read the book and hadn’t liked it enough to sit through a play about it. I said I needed to think about it. I almost said no… but it was a Broadway production. I went. For almost three hours I sat in the nosebleed section, absolutely enchanted. A couple of weeks later I took my son to see it. To this day, he’s not forgotten it and we know every word to every song. That’s one regret I don’t have.

Be random, be weird, be you. Creative people have a reputation to live up to. If you have a lot of writer friends on social media sites, at time it feels like a competition to see who’s the most creative, has the best imagination, is the weirdest, etc… For as much as we try to be different, we all end up looking the same. But what if you were just the best you that can be? There’s no one like you and to be truly unique and stand apart, that’s who you have to be – you!


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Are You Up For A Challenge?

This month I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. What is it? I’m so glad you asked! It’s thirty days to write a 50K novel. That doesn’t sound very hard, does it? No? I didn’t think so either – until I tried it for the first time last year. NaNoWriMo is typically held every November. Thousands of participants from around the world converge on the website to document their progress. Forums are busy discussing everything from what’s selling to how to write in a certain POV. Talk about a community of dedicated writers – that’s it.

Not everyone is looking to complete the 50K. Some are editing or doing rewrites, but it’s the sense of community that draws people. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t tried it. There’s no huge prize if you win. I “won” last year and haven’t really touched that particular ms since. I was sick of it. But. My goal for this November is to do the rewrites on that novel and get it out there.

This year, there are three scheduled NaNo contests. One in June (Hello!), one in August and the constant in November. It’s free to join, though contributions are gratefully accepted. You can check out their websites at or I’m having a ton of fun being assigned a cabin and getting to know my cabin mates. They’re from all over the world and their one main love is writing. It’s awesome.



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Your legacy

Change. It happens to the best of us. It can come in many guises. We all know that. Recently, I’ve had some changes. In the past four months, I’ve lost my grandfather and an uncle. They’re gone. Nothing I can do will bring them back. Would I, if I could? Yes. I’d bring my uncle back so his wife could have another day with him. In my head, they’d talk and he’d tell her he was okay. He would tell her she didn’t have to burst into tears when she sees another man wearing his favorite sports team’s shirt. He would tell her that even though he died on Christmas Eve, it’s okay to celebrate the holidays because he’s always with her.

My grandfather, I’d bring him back for just a little bit. You see, after my grandmother died, he remarried. The woman he married was someone he’d loved since the second grade. They didn’t have a long life together, but they had fun. He was in a nursing home and she was in the hospital with pneumonia when he died last Wednesday night. I know she understands that he’s gone to a better place, but I know she’d love to talk to him again and have him actually remember who she is. I’d love to have him know his whole family just one more time.

I guess that brings me around to the point of this blog. We get one life. One life to live, laugh, love, smile, and for those of us who are writers – one life to fill with the stories of many. I admire the people who say they have no regrets, but most people do. On that note, if you knew your last days were here – would you write? If so, what would you write? If you could write one story, one book that would define who you are as a writer – what would it be?

Is your current work something you’d be proud to leave as a testament of your talent? If not, why? What would you change? Some people take years to write a novel, while others do it in a matter of months. Some writers put their heart and soul into their work, while others write light and chase trends.

A lot of writers say they’d die if they couldn’t write. I realize that’s an exaggeration, however, I want to say to them – write the best you possibly can. Don’t make excuses and don’t worry about your writing colleagues and how much they’re producing.  Show the world your voice – something no one else has. Your voice and your stories are unique to you and only you can tell them. You and your voice are beautiful, take time to cultivate that beauty and showcase it. It’s okay to take the time. After reading the beginning of this post, that’s probably not what you were expecting me to say. Look at some of the most enduring stories of our age; Gone With the Wind, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Wuthering Heights, and Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland – just to name a few. What is special about these books that they’re still read so many years after being written?

They’re classics, to be sure, but look at Harry Potter – it’s not that old and yet it’s considered a classic already. Why? How can you write a book like that? Honestly, I don’t know, because if I did – I’d have done it already. But I will say this. In an interview J.K. Rowling did, she said her quickest book took a year to write ( However, look at the legend she’s left. People will be reading her series for generations to come.

Don’t be afraid to take time. Write what you want, don’t follow trends. Write the stories that matter to you. If you chase trends, more than likely, they’re going to be on the downhill slide by the time your book goes into publication. Life’s too short to be anything but true to you and your writing. Be original, be a trendsetter, but most importantly – be you!


Posted by on April 16, 2012 in death, Inspiration, Motivation, originality


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