Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December IWSG: Groundhog Day, Ultimatums and Disappointments

Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We post the first Wednesday of every month!

My blog is stuck in an Adam Brody Groundhog Day movie mode--he just keeps reappearing over and over in my posts. Humor me. He encompasses everything MG writers strive to portray in their characters: nerdy, cute, geeky, funny, vulnerable, still trying to figure out their role in this world.

I gave my work-in-progress an ultimatum.

23 Very Seth Cohen One-Liners From The OCRemember I started a YA thriller set in Chicago this past summer? I placed it on the back burner while promoting and working on my MG mystery for the Pitch Wars contest. In the back of my mind, my WIP failed to deliver. So I gave it an ultimatum. Get it together or you'll end up in the shredder. I went back to the beginning and started over. Notice I didn't give up or quit. I did discover some things about myself in the process.

1. I write MG, not YA.Who am I kidding? My silliness won't end even after they've shoved me in a nursing home.
2. I must incorporate humor into my writing or die of serious boredom. I can't keep a straight face for more than a few seconds.
3. I have two sources of endless inspiration right in front of me. My teenage boys keep me loaded with writing ammunition. I must always take advantage of their mishaps and misfortunes.

After the ultimatum was settled upon, I took the middle of my WIP and made it the "hook." Lowered the age of the protagonist. Dropped the YA and made it into my favorite age group--MG. Added way more humor. Kept it in Chicago. Changed it from a thriller to a mystery. I haven't been this excited about something since I got out of jury duty last month. 

A quick word about disappointment: 

It happens to all of us. Even small victories can be overshadowed in the light of a huge disappointment.The rejections will roll in, sometimes right on top of each other like a tsunami. You will have to pick yourself up off the bathroom floor or the ocean floor and sit your butt back in your writing chair and write. Write better, harder, smarter. You can do it. You have to do it. Because no one else is going to do it for you. IF you are going to make it in this writing world, you better learn how to overcome disappointments. OVERCOME quickly and get back to work.

"The biggest laughs are based on the biggest disappointments and the biggest fears." Kurt Vonnegut 

How have you dealt with disappointment? Have you ever re-worked a WIP? Were you happy with the changes? What are some things about yourself that you have discovered from your writing?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IWSG: Pitch Wars and 15 Minutes of Sleep

Come join me in the IWSG group created by Alex Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of each month!

This month flew by in hurricane fashion. Does anyone else feel like they just drank ten cups of coffee while running the NYC marathon? Watch this 27 second video and see for yourself my current state of mind.

With more dental appointments this past month than I've had in a lifetime, including a root canal and two rounds of antibiotics, I still can't feel my face. During my youngest teenage son's first wrestling practice of the season last night, he collided with a chin and now has three staples in the back of his head. I may need another shot of espresso.

Did I mention stressing to the max over jury duty that I didn't even get selected for? The court convened on a balmy 80 degree day while the inside of the building was a sweltering 110 degrees. The one hundred-year-old court house, complete with no air conditioning, was a picture of the past. I got stuck in the cheap seats, wooden benches so old I'm sure Mark Twain sat in one a time or two. Maybe he died on one. I'm surprised the place had running water. The plaintiff, defendant and a dozen lawyers sat in lazy boy chairs, sipping ice cold bottled water. During a short break, I wandered out into the hallway to get a lukewarm drink of water from the barely working water fountain. Seriously, I don't make this stuff up. Nine hours later, I was dismissed with spinal injuries and heat exhaustion.

On a better note, Brenda Drake's Pitch Wars contest is winding down and the agent round is this week. Writers tend to be more stressed than other people that's why we drink lots of coffee. We should probably sleep for more than fifteen minutes though, right? 

Just exchange the word "writer" for "Cohen" and you're all set.

Rooting for all my fellow Pitch Wars friends! Have you ever been completely stressed out of your mind and excited about something at the same time? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gilmore Girls, Villains and Jury Duty

To celebrate the arrival of Gilmore Girls on Netflix, I fired up the coffee maker and slapped on my sarcasm and wit. Yes, I'm binge watching. Don't judge. I must mention the only permanent cast member that cracks me up more than any other character is Kirk--human-Kirk, not cat-Kirk. I watched the show when it debuted back in 2000 and dreamed of living in Stars Hollow.

Every timeless television series features an unforgettable antagonist. After all, what would a story be without the person who opposes one of the main characters? Boring. Well, I did some pondering while watching Gilmore Girls and my little writer's eye spied Lane's mother, Mrs. Kim. She has great hopes and aspirations for Lane to have a Korean boyfriend. Mrs. Kim stands in direct opposition to Lane's eternal happiness: a boy in Lane's rock band and her love interest, Dave Rygalski, played by Adam Brody. Lane (Rory Gilmore's best friend) creatively thwarts her mother's plans to ruin her life. BTW, the "Lane and Dave" story line is the best thing that ever happened to Gilmore Girls. 

The story line in a nutshell consists of Lane getting a fake Korean boyfriend to please her mom because Lane is secretly in love with Dave. If her mother found out, she'd be grounded until she was 35. Lane and her fake boyfriend make a plan to have her fake boyfriend who also has a fake Korean girlfriend (not Lane) break up with her. Try to keep up. Her mom will then feel sorry for her and allow her to go to the prom with Dave. Things never go as planned. The fake boyfriend breaks up with his fake girlfriend and begins to fall in love with Lane.

Meanwhile, Dave gets a little jealous of Lane's fake boyfriend and a little tired of keeping their attraction for each other a secret. One night, all goes awry when Lane confesses everything to her mom. The unexpected happens. Lane's mom shows no reaction. Her quiet, somber mood freaks Lane out. My favorite episode is when Dave shows up at Lane's door, confesses his "crush" and asks if he can take Lane to the prom. He faces the antagonist, ready to make a deal with the devil, but is shocked at Mrs. Kim's response.

Watch Dave's famous monologue if you are a fan of Gilmore Girls, Adam Brody or a fan of humor. Villains fight for what they believe in just as much as the protagonist. In this case, Mrs. Kim just wants to shield her daughter from the world (and boys). Did I mention boys? It's a worthy goal for a mother. And remember, folks, Dave flosses.

The final countdown to the Pitch Wars contest agent round has begun. I'm experiencing a root canal on Thursday and Jury Duty next Monday. Just watch the video and you will see a reflection of my disheveled self. "I can't feel my right elbow anymore." (Just watch the video:)

How's your week going? Worse than mine? Have you spotted some well-played villains lately? Have you written antagonists that aren't pure evil and have a heart?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG: Get Your Game Face On: Publishers vs Agents

Come join me in the IWSG group created by Alex Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of each month!

Name: Jennifer L. Hawes and I write upper middle-grade fiction.
Website: or on my Blog
Title: Publishers vs Agents
I give the Insecure Writer's Support Group permission to use all or part of this blog post.

When signing with a small to medium sized publisher (or self-publishing), you will most likely design your own book marks, plan book signings and school appearances. Be prepared to do a lot of work. You must make contacts with other writers, libraries, book clubs, bloggers and organizations to promote your book. There were many things I enjoyed about having a small publisher for my debut novel, but many things I'd do differently. Publishers represent your book (to some degree) while agents represent you, your book and your future books.

For my current, finished novel, I am seeking a literary agent. My experiences have left me feeling like I just won the lottery to losing the State Championship game in sudden death overtime. Let me warn you. You will be forced to play the WAITING game. This game is NOT fun. It freaks you out every second of every minute that you WAIT for them to read your requested full. (And the dozen or so other ones they've requested from other writers.)

Don't settle and don't quit. Put your best work out there. Follow agents and Writer's Digest on Twitter. Don't forget to be professional with agents. Always address them by name. Always include some of the qualities that match your book to their #MSWL (Twitter hashtag for "manuscript wish list") or go to their website. And for the love of all that is holy, follow submission guidelines. If they are closed to submissions, DO NOT QUERY THEM.

BE PATIENT. This is not for the faint of heart. You must be strong--warrior strong, line-backer strong. Paint your game face on and race to the line of scrimmage and WAIT for the big game to start. You CAN do this!
(I tell myself this every morning.)

Tell me about your experience with publishers vs. agents. What do you like/dislike about both? Do you enjoy self promotion? How do you handle the "waiting game"? 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

IWSG September 2014: "Wait for It."

Come join me in the IWSG group created by Alex Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of each month!

As we all know, the writing process is forever a waiting game. Shawn Spencer said it best, "Wait for iiiiiit." Yes, if you want to perfect your craft, publish your work, promote your writing and enter contests, it all takes TIME.

I entered Brenda Drake's #PitchWars contest in August. We found out the winners last night. That was the longest three weeks of my life. Waiting and hoping and praying I'd make it into this contest, was a true challenge of faith and stamina. And for the record, I did make it into the contest as an alternate. I am indeed honored! There were 75 mentors and thousands of contestants, but they could only pick one mentee and one alternate.

Everyday on Twitter, since the contest opened, the mentors reminded us to wait patiently. They mentioned the endless waiting game in the writing industry. If we are to succeed in this business, we must WAIT FOR IT.

What you have waited for in the past or are you waiting for something right now? Did you ever give up on something that you wish you had been more patient with?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG: "Get Back to Work, or You're Fired!"

Come join me in the IWSG group created by Alex Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of each month!

Benson's familiar words to Mordecai and Rigby from Regular Show ring in my ears, "Get back to work, or you're fired!" My words to myself, "Get back to writing; vacation's over." I'm back to my old writing self, somewhat. The kids start school in a few weeks. Feel free to join me in singing these words, "It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

Don't get me wrong. I do love my kids, just not in my face the entire summer, eating all of the food in the house like rabid racoons. I admit, the more I hang with my homies (my teenage sons) the more I write the funny, the unexpected, the real-life stuff that makes MG my fave genre.

As you know I'm on the path to securing an agent for my upper middle grade mystery. It's funny how you can feel worthless after a few rejections. Even when they say, "It's not you, it's me." I know this field is so subjective, but it still stings. I  try to remember all great authors have been rejected. Then things can quickly change. It feels like I won the lottery when I got one partial and two full requests! In the meantime, I'm going to enter Brenda Drake's #PitchWars. You should check it out if you are interested in getting an agent. It's for finished adult, YA and MG manuscripts. The 75 mentors choose one person to mentor their ms over a two month period.

So, I tried finishing my YA thriller set in Chicago (I will finish it!), but then the idea for my next mystery, the second in this series, hit me in the gut like a football tackle. I'm loving where this story is headed. If you see me stalking my sons, it's for research purposes. I seriously can't make this stuff up. 

I hope you have enjoyed your summer. Do you have a fear of rejection? Are you back to work--writing? What are you waiting for? Oh, yeah, the leave the house. Gotcha!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vacation Inspiration

Well, I survived a week of family visiting us at our house, followed by a week of vacation in the Wisconsin Dells with the same (and more) family, followed by yet another week of more family members at our house this past week.

I thought I'd feature some highlights from our trip. Because a writer's brain never stops and inspiration always lurks behind the next photograph.

Storms. They blasted their way through the state. Thankfully, we just missed the big one that blew through Iowa and Illinois with straight line winds up to 100 mph. Tornado Alley runs through Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, so we're programmed to dive for cover at a moment's notice. I kept my eye on all of the "Emergency Exit Only" doors throughout the week. Here's a shot of the theme park Mount Olympus before another storm. Mt. Olympus is the world's largest outdoor/indoor water park, featuring roller coasters, gigantic wave pools, water slides and other rides.

The Dells originally was a destination for non-mega theme parks. Boat tours on the Wisconsin River along with hiking tours were the main attraction led by the man who made the Dells famous, H. H. Bennett, Father of the Dells. He was the first person to ever take a photograph of something in motion. His photography studio/museum still stands on Broadway Street.

Baraboo is the town located right next to the Dells and is home to the Circus World Museum where five of the Ringling Brothers started a circus in 1884. Two more brothers joined the Ringling Brothers Circus and eventually bought out Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907 and created The Greatest Show on Earth.

The diverse shops located downtown will make you stay and play or read and relax. Because every used book store should have pianos and puppies...

Baraboo is also home to Devil's Lake and the bluffs. My sons visited two weeks prior to our vacation with their youth group. This is why I chose not to tag alone, and I always close my eyes when they show me pics like these...(And you can now see why my son was the inspiration for Free Runner.)

And for all you Percy Jackson fans, I found Zeus, Medusa and Hades all in one place at the Mount Olympus theme park:

I hope you are having a wonderful, memory-filled summer! Now, back to working on my books and cleaning my house. What have you been doing this summer?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG: Staying Positive

Come join me in the IWSG group created by Alex Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of each month!

First, I have some really good news:
 FREE RUNNER was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2014 Purple Dragonfly 
Children's Book Awards!!!

I should've named my post "Staying Alive." My agenda this summer includes surviving a family vacation with my teenage sons, tearing apart my house and cleaning it from limb to limb, and submitting my middle-grade mystery to agents.

"Clean it up and make it interesting. This involves rewriting until you feel like you need a bone marrow transplant." -Brian Beker

If you are in need of a sharp editing tool, I encourage you to try Noah Lukeman's book, The First Five Pages. If you are in need of someone to clean your house, please don't call me. With ten people in my house this past week, I'm trying to stay positive. I may need to call Servpro--"like it never happened."

I'm on vacation this week with my hubby, two teenage sons and one little princess. Yes, there will be stories to share.
Are you in the process of editing? Are you taking a break and enjoying a vacation this summer? What's your favorite book on writing? Do you agree with the quote by Beker?!

Monday, June 16, 2014

#TFIOS, Chris O'Donnell, and a Selfie

I watched the movie trailer for #TFIOS (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green) and bawled my eyes out. I'm only on chapter seven, but I know how it's going to end. No, I didn't read any spoilers. I just know. It's one of those books that sucks you in from page one with witty dialogue and intriguing, intelligent characters and won't let you go. How can I go to the movies and watch this without a dozen boxes of Kleenex? It leaves all the YA chic lit books, with hot guys on the covers, in a pile of dust.

The story resonates with me because I have teenagers. To have one of your children endure cancer and suffer their loss would be pure agony. One person said the heartbreak was more felt and seen through the eyes of the parents. John Green, you know how to make us laugh out loud, weep and experience blood shot eyes for weeks.

So, on a different note, some of you from the A to Z blogging challenge this past April might
remember my admiration for actor Chris O'donnell. (Notice I didn't say "obsession." Although, that might be a more accurate description but not in a creepy, stalker kind of way.) Growing up, I idolized this star, because that's what you do when you're a teenager. I guess I retweeted a pic of him during NCIS:LA's #ShowNShare week. CBS sent me a prize: an autographed photo of CHRIS O'DONNELL! Was not expecting this. Will encase it in bullet proof glass.

Yep, that's me. I don't always take selfies, but when I do it's because I'm one of the biggest NCIS:LA fans this side of the Mississippi. And, yes, that's the Mississippi River behind me. I'm also really into the series, Burn Notice, right now. What's up with me and all these spy guys?!

What are you reading this summer? I still have loads of books to read: The Murder Complex, Nerve, Hacker are just a few on my list. By my book choices, can you guess I'm still in the middle of writing my teen spy thriller set in Chicago?What are your thoughts on #TFIOS ? Have you read the book or seen the movie yet? 

Monday, June 9, 2014

It's a "Cruel Summer."

Memories of my childhood summers play flashbacks of the movie, The Karate Kid, along with Bananarama's song, "Cruel Summer." My oldest son (the kid with the brand-spanking-new driver's license in his pocket) loves to turn up the radio when "retro lunch hour" starts playing my songs. I humor him and sing along to Bryan Adams or Tears for Fears. After he picks himself up off the floorboard of the car and stops laughing, he heads off to football weight training or wrestling open mat.

My summers in the 80's were spent without a single planned activity and with a sense of freedom. I don't remember ever seeing a parent at the park two blocks from my house. Did I mention the mandatory "no helmet law" back then? Bike helmets hadn't been invented yet. We cruised down the big hill on a bike with two occupants on the banana seat, one on the handle bars and another one attached to the back with a rope and a skateboard. If we sustained an injury, we slapped on a band aid and hobbled along to the next event. It's a wonder we survived our road trip to Florida in my family's blue station wagon. In the very back of our Plymouth was a  rear-facing seat to the world. Seat belts had been invented, but our parents thought it cruel to restrict our movements in a moving missile.

In an earlier post I mentioned my sister and I hiking in the back woods of Illinois, along the railroad tracks and through an insane asylum just to get to the municipal swimming pool. No X-box, cell phones or internet (the Dark Ages, for sure) back then. Atari arrived in the 70's and became popular in the 80's. My uncle, four hours away, owned one. I would never trade my childhood summers for today's scheduled three months off in a million years. I still swoon when I hear the music to the movie The Karate Kid, the first movie I ever watched on a VCR.
Happy "Cruel Summer" !

How will you spend your summer? What's the craziest, most daring thing you ever did during your childhood summer vacation?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IWSG: Overwhelmed & Excited

 My kids have invaded my house for summer vacation & I am feeling overwhelmed. I'm praying for no house fires, broken bones or car accidents (oldest son is now driving.) Writing with kids in the house can be difficult. But I will continue to write and edit, waking up early to accomplish my goals. And why bother cleaning my house this summer? It's just going to stay messy until August.

The birthday girl!
Today, I am also feeling excited because we are celebrating my baby girl's fifth birthday. The feeling of excitement also stems from my upcoming family vacation (moms & writers need a break!) and book signing. During the "Twain on Main" festival over Memorial Day weekend, I met someone special walking the streets of Hannibal. The local news even snagged an interview with the legendary Mark Twain. I feel privileged to live in such a literary town!
Join me at The Mark Twain Museum on July 19th for a book signing!

Do you have a house full of kids this summer? How do you deal with all the stress? Do you have any vacations planned this summer? What are your writing goals for the summer months?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Numbers: A Writer's Phobia

I admit I have a general math phobia. My finished WIP features a protagonist who struggles with math. And to top it off, his arch nemesis loves math, lives for math, excels in math. But I want to be more specific in my phobia. I'm saying I have a weird phobia--of even numbers. For some odd reason, I only pick odd numbers. In my debut, I used the number 3 several times. Three was my volleyball number and the number of the cute quarterback I had a crush on in junior high. In my finished WIP, 13 was my special number. But for good reasons. A thirteen- year-old boy is trying to solve a thirteen-year-old crime. In my current WIP, I started using only odd numbers again. But I'm trying to conquer my phobia. I've slapped my hand so many times as I try to change my ways. Two security guards (three sounds more believable). Four squad cars (back up should be at least five). Six minutes on the clock (why not seven?)

On the other hand, I love to photograph numbers. As I was searching for number 13's around town, I found the high school football stadium had spray painted numbers on their parking spots. I jumped out of my Jeep to take a photo but noticed I had parked in the even spaces. Numerophobia or arithmophobia is the fear of numbers. Is there a phobia for avoiding even numbers? Give me three minutes and I can find the answer. I have a long road to recovery.

Do you have any phobias as a writer? Do you enjoy math? What always creeps back into your novels? A certain number or word or phrase?


If you happen to be cruising down the river on a river boat, barge or raft on Saturday, July 19th, hop off at the Hannibal port and swing by The Mark Twain Museum and join me for a book signing. I'd love to meet you!
Time TBA

Photo Credits: All photos are mine and found on my Instagram.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

IWSG: Nervous Wreck

What am I insecure about today? After last Thursday's A to Z challenge post indicating that my entry made into Michelle Hauck's Pitch Salm contest, I've been a nervous wreck. We had to submit an entry consisting of a one line pitch (35 words) and the first 250 words (or less) of the opening scene. After everyone received feedback, we made edits and resubmitted. My entry made the final cut and was placed on one of four teams. The "battle of the bands" had begun. When the comments (hits by agents) were released the next day, I discovered two agents and one pub house asking for samples of my upper MG mystery/humor novel.

This past week of biting my nails in anticipation (first waiting to see if I made it into the contest, waiting for requests from agents, sending my ms off to said agents) has me sleepless in Missouri. Not really. I've been sleeping--just waking up extra early. Every morning I go for a run. Running helps me deal with stress. Kids create stress. The writing world gives me stress. My messy house because I'm submitting to agents heaps loads of stress on me.

In less than a week, I went from pure excitement to a full nervous break down:) I've sent my work out in the past. My debut was just published this January. Why am I so nervous, you ask? I've always wanted to secure an agent. Putting my work out there ALWAYS makes me insecure. I start to doubt my abilities as a writer. I think to myself, either my writing is pure genius or complete garbage. As I send my work to agents and wait to hear back from them this week, I am a total NERVOUS wreck!!!!!
Thanks for stopping by! I'm going for a run.

If you're not a member of the ISWG, check it out here!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z: Zipline--A Little Lesson from Tom Cruise

As a teenager, I visited Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. I think the Blue Angels were performing at the airshow later in the day. My friends and I visited an assortment of airplanes on display. I jumped in a F14 Tomcat and sat behind the wheel, chilling like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. After the show, I headed over to a zipline set up by the airmen. After I climbed to the top of the platform, I stood looking out over the vast air force base. I peeked over the edge. Big mistake. I'm not normally afraid of heights. I was actually leaning to fly a plane at the time. My uncle had spent all summer giving me lessons. I never got my pilot's license due to the fact you had to fly solo. I was way too afraid I'd pass out, hit a flock of birds, or get shot out of the sky by a group of Russian MIGs.

The airman helped me into the gear and attached the hook to the zipline. He said, "Count to three and jump." Hahaha!" I laughed and said, "That's not going to happen. You're going to have to push me off this thing." He counted out loud, "One," and pushed.

Sometimes we just need someone to push us over the edge and out of our comfort zone, out of the rejection blues and back into writing. Don't let a little rejection or bad review get you down. Let it be a learning experience and move on. Stuck in a rut or a safe zone? Get out and get flying, I mean get writing!

It's been loads of fun getting to know all of my fellow a to z'ers! I'm looking forward to staying in touch with all of you. WE MADE IT!!!

#atozchallenge #amwriting #topgun 
(Photo credits: free images)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y: Yikes!

I'm cutting it close today. Yikes stands for "Yikes, I didn't think I was going to make it in the #PitchSlam contest hosted by Michelle Hauck." But I did!! There are 4 teams each with 12 entries. Six lit agents will be perusing the pickings today. (!!!) So, here's the link if you want to view my pitch and see my first 250 words. This upper MG humorous mystery features my second son as the secondary character/sidekick, Tommy. ;-)

Have a great Tuesday! See you tomorrow for the finale.
#atozchallenge #picthslam #amwriting

Monday, April 28, 2014

X: Proceed with Caution

Three letters left in this challenge. I really struggled with what to post today. Last week I started writing a new teen novel. Think spy thriller set in Chicago. I love using K.M. Weiland's Structuring Your Novel. It takes about five minutes to outline your basic story structure. You can always go back later and fill in more details. Are you wondering where I'm headed with this "X" post?

Proceed with caution if you are a character in my new book. Do you enjoy this part as a writer--X-ing characters or killing them off? Maybe your writing doesn't include these acts of God. I feel kind of bad (kind of:) already deciding which lives will be spared and which ones will be X-ed. Sometimes I stop over a character's name ready to eliminate them, but then decide to give them a fighting chance. (Only to change my mind and realize they must go, later at the end of the novel after they've served their purpose.) My other two novels I've written aren't exactly like this. They're geared toward a younger audience.

I'd like to leave you with a pic of my son's X-ray of his badly broken arm. You can see the two metal plates and thirteen screws. :)

How many characters do you usually eliminate per book? Have you ever kept a character and later decided it was best to keep him alive or decided to get rid of him at the last minute?Do you decide ahead of time how many injuries your MC will incur throughout your novel?

#atozchallenge #amwriting #characters #outlining 
Photos: Chicago photo courtesy of free images. X-ray found on my Instagram

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W: Why?

I often get asked why I write for teens or why I wrote my debut novel from a male, first person point- of-view. You know I have two teen boys and with all the years spent in the classroom teaching boys, it seems they have become the main target audience for my writing. I love watching the teen protagonist discover the problems that are threatening his very life or world. I equip him with the right tools and watch him resolve the conflict and do battle with the antagonist--all on his own. Well, he might have a few friends or mentors along the way to help him. So, if you want to see your character change (because that's our goal as writers) make the MC a teen, throw him in a shark tank and teach him to swim (and to kill a shark!).

Boys, for the most part, are straightforward, uncomplicated and adventurous risk takers. (Not that girls can't be like this;) Here is one thing I've notice about my boys over the years. When I ask them how their day went at school, I get answers like fine, good, awesome, fine. Never do I get a two hour-long drama infested rehashing of the day's events. Other things I notice about my boys:

Boys don't hold grudges.
Boys can be extremely loyal.
Boys have best friends and keep their friends for a long time.
Boys don't gossip. Instead, they just tell it like it is.
Boys punch, hit and tackle each other, not because they are upset, but because they are boys.
Boys rarely get embarrassed.
Boys don't smell. (Bear with me. My boys own every variety of Axe spray and Old Spice available!)
Boys don't usually discover girls until way later than girls discover boys. (This is why I personally enjoy reading--and writing--novels with a male protagonist.)
Boys don't require driving lessons. They ride enough four wheelers, go-carts & mopeds that when they get behind the wheel, they just drive. (OK, maybe a Driver's Ed isn't a bad idea;-)
Aston Martin-Vantage 

I eavesdrop. (Remember, I'm good at that:) A few years ago when I picked up my oldest son from school, he passed a group of girls. They squealed, "Hi, Austin!" My clueless son said, "Uh, hey." Then he turned to his best bud and asked two questions, "Dude, did you get the new Call of Duty game?" and "Man, did you see that killer catch I made in the football game last night." Oblivious.

What is your main target audience? Which point of view do you most often write from? Why do you write for adults, teens, tweens, children? 

(Photo: courtesy free images) And you will find the Aston Martin in the pages of my novel Free Runner. I needed a cool, expensive car to feature. My oldest suggested I check out this sweet ride.

#atozchallenge #amwriting #teenfiction 

Friday, April 25, 2014

V: Videos

Videos. My boys make them all the time. Vines. My oldest threw a rotten watermelon off our deck. it plummeted twenty feet, splattering all over the lawn. (I made him clean up the aftermath.) My youngest son, in the dead of winter clad only in shorts and a t-shirt, took a tumble down our backyard hill--on purpose--while his best bud video taped him. And, of course, not to mention the hundreds of snap chat videos they create. No, I do not snap chat. :)

My publisher would love a book trailer from me. Bahahaha. Now, switch on the tears. I can't stop crying. I should've created one before my book debuted this January. But my life is super busy. (Yeah, yeah, we know:) I envisioned one last summer until my son broke his arm. I planned to video him performing a few parkour moves.

I've watched plenty of book trailers on YouTube. Is there anything I need to know? I don't even know where to begin. My writer friend said she paid for one and it turned out to be a nightmare being over three minutes long, wordy and set to terrible music. I think with the help of my techie fam, I could create one? I've told my oldest son, Mr. Artistic, that I can picture him as a graphic designer someday. He's taken advanced drawing, animation, regular and digital photography. He told me he's going to medical school. Well, we will see who is right. ;-)

Technology is truly my arch nemesis. Just when I think Ive conquered this monster, it grows three
more ugly heads. I tread water in this field. I'm not drowning, but there always seems to be a shark nearby, circling me. I'm not as bad as my mom or dad. Good grief, they just got iPhones. "How does this thing work, dear?" Sigh.

I have a clear vision of a short book trailer. Any suggestions? I really don't want to pay for one! Have you made one? What are the things you love about book trailers and the things you hate?
Feel free to leave links to your favorite book trailers or to yours.

#atozchallenge #amwriting #booktrailers
(Photo: courtesy free images)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U: Undercover Agents

In elementary school, I narrowed down my career choices to archaeologist, surfer or secret agent. My first edition copy of Harriet the Spy still sits on my bookshelf. Since I used my "S" post for stress, I thought I'd post today about my obsession with secret agents and the world of espionage.

With all my book research, it's a wonder I don't have the NSA, FBI or the CIA knocking at (down) my door. In the sixth grade, I was given a book on Russian spies filled with stories of KGB agents living life in America during the Cold War. They smuggled information right under our noses. This triggered my curiosity about undercover ops and secret slash double agents. I am by no means an expert in this area, just a huge fan and avid researcher. Because I just finished editing my latest novel, an upper-MG mystery, I am now free to start writing a contemporary upper-MG (maybe YA?) spy thriller I've had stored up in my brain for a long time.

The main character in the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz is a fourteen-year-old teenage spy working for MI6 in London. Horowitz equips his young protagonist with memorable high-tech gadgets and with a keen knowledge of the workings of a spy. After all, he was raised by his uncle who was also an MI6 agent. The backstory runs deep and the adventures are non-stop.

Chris O'Donnell as Agent "G" Callen
I enjoy watching NCIS:LA (not to be confused with the other NCIS). Who doesn't love California, the beach and agent "G. Callen"? I'm hopeful that after five seasons we will find out what the "G" stands for.

Do you enjoy watching secret agent shows or writing about undercover ops? Does your book research tend to get you "noticed" by the government? What do you enjoy researching the most for your novels?

#atozchallenge #amwriting #secretagents #AlexRider #NCIS:LA
(Photos: courtesy of free images)


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T: 3 T's

I'm getting tired. Don't get me wrong. I'm not tired of this challenge, but I am tired of editing my WIP. As I was finishing the final edits last night, I had one plot hole left n my story to fill. My droopy eyelids and taxed brain refused to find closure. I walked away and tackled the laundry and gathered my running clothes for my morning run. Running is where I do my best editing. I'll figure it out in the morning. But the answer zapped me last night by the last load of laundry! With the plot hole patched, I'm ready to send this story off to my beta readers and critique group. (Then after that, more edits, for sure:)

Before I started my writing career, I was a fifth grade teacher. One year I had 14 boys and 4 girls in
my classroom. I couldn't turn my back for one second. As I broke up the wrestling matches and football games in the classroom, I knew I needed to keep them busy. We built bridges out of straws and paperclips, constructed the Colosseum out of sugar cubes and icing and made ancient Roman weaponry out of cardboard and tinfoil. Fun times.

The one thing I said I'd never do was join Twitter. I joined last summer. I'm still figuring it out at times. Twitter is a place to connect with writers all over the world. It's a completely different experience than Facebook and that's a good thing.  @jennifer_hawes

Switching careers took a lot of faith. Have you ever switched careers? Do you juggle two careers?Are you tired of editing? How close are you to finishing your WIP? Have you joined Twitter yet? What are you waiting for? 

#atozchallenge #amwriting #twitter
(Photo credit: free images)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


My life as a full-time writer, mom, wife, chef, maid and part-time art teacher equals stress. Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. I'd like to share a few things that make me stressed. Maybe you'd like to share some as well.

Sibling Rivalry
I'm referring to my own three kids. Can't we just all get along?

How do I hate thee, winter? Let me count the ways.

Summer vacation
Summer is my favorite season. Once again, I'm referring to my kids. They will be home--with me--all day long. With summer football camps and practices and other sports' camps, hopefully they'll stay busy and out of trouble.
Praying for no broken bones this summer.

Storms don't stress me one bit. In fact, I love a good thunder storm. It's the aftermath: the damage, the clean-up, the being without power for a week. Since I grew up in the Midwest, I heard the tornado sirens long before I learned to walk. I'm currently still living in the Midwest. When the blast of the eerie siren screams at me in the middle of the night, I decide if it's a viable threat based on my gut feeling. If I do feel danger lurking overhead, I grab a few essentials: contacts, car keys, and, of course, my kids and mosey on down to the basement.

True Story. Last summer sirens shrieked outside my house, again, for the tenth time that week, foreshadowing imminent doom. That was my first warning. My hubby was out of town. I thought to myself, "It's probably just a little wind." After unplugging the computer and cleaning up the living room, I shooed my children to safety. (I know, I'm a terrible mom!) I told my kids to go hide in the basement bathroom to wait out the storm. I have a high tolerance to fear. The picture window in our walk-out basement provided the perfect view of the perfect storm. I considered making some popcorn.

The amber colored sky mixed with blue lightning was my second warning. I opened the door for a peek. Not one single leaf was moving on any of the tall trees in our backyard. That was my third warning. (Three strikes you're out.) It was coming. I closed the door and checked my iPhone's weather app. Wow! I've never seen those colors before on the radar map. Instantly, the picture window went dark. Branches and debris hit the glass. I hit the deck and ran for the bathroom. My oldest son, and I thought my brightest son, said, "I must save my X-box." He ran back upstairs.

In his absence, I heard a thunderous snap just outside our picture window. I thought, If the tornado doesn't kill my son, I will. He returned to the safety of the bathroom shelter. In less than a minute, the tornado was gone. I returned to the great outdoors. The tallest tree in our backyard was snapped in two and scattered across two backyards.

The tornado stayed about one hundred feet off the ground and took out a couple thousand trees throughout town and several hundred roofs, but no one died. Not even that crazy kid who went back upstairs to save his X-box.

Last week's storm left me with a broken patio table and a million shards of glass. I've been cleaning up glass for over a week. What stresses you? Kids, work, writing, cleaning up after kids? Did I mention kids?  

#atozchallenge #amwriting #storms #stress

Monday, April 21, 2014

R: Rick Riordan and Regular Show

I'm posting today on a few recent writing inspirations I've discovered.

Never judge a book by its movie. I committed the cardinal sin and watched The Lightning Thief before I read Rick Riordan's book. Never again. Why did I wait this long to read Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series? These books overflow with memorable characters, witty dialogue, great action sequences and hysterical moments. I have searched to the ends of the earth for books for my reluctant reader of a son. Last week, I threw a copy of The Lightning Thief to my thirteen-year-old. He just turned fourteen and I still have a hard time thinking he's that old;-) I said, "Read it. You'll love it." He did--in three days. I almost passed out. As I stood there staring at my kid with my mouth hanging open, he said, "Mom, get me book two." Why am I so impressed with this writer? He writes from a male first person point-of-view and thinks like a teenager.

Over the years, I've put up with a ton of annoying cartoons watched by my thirteen-year old. But lately I've been eavesdropping (I'm a pro:) on his favorite show. I have found myself snickering and chuckling as Regular Show played in the background or on his iPod. Any fans of this show? "Get back to work or you're fired. Do me a solid. Yeah-yuh!" I usually just hear the script, because I'm too busy to sit down and watch. I love the dilemmas, mishaps and messes these two best buds, Rigby and Mordecai, get themselves into every episode. The best part is how they get out of each one.

My second son is also the inspiration behind one of the secondary characters in my WIP. His love of maple syrup, pyrotechnic outbursts, and endless pranks keeps me cracking up (and freaking out). Seriously, I can't make this stuff up. Every time he does something, I say, "Yep, that's going in my novel."

Do you have a favorite author? In what ways do they inspire your writing? Do you have a favorite t.v. series that inspires you?

#atozchallenge #amwriting #RickRiordan #PercyJackson #MondayBlogs 

On occasion I have watched a full episode of Regular Show. These two are perhaps the funniest ones ever. (Rigby and my son could pass for twins) If you get a chance, watch the rest of the meatball sub episode (at least the part of inside the limo:) and you will know what my life is like everyday living with my youngest teenage son.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Okay, it's a bit of a stretch, but stick with me. This topic "QT" translates into "cutie." My little daughter is such a "cutie." When I'm not running or writing, you will find me photographing my kids or the Big River or my kids by the Big River or horses or ice. Now you can see where this is headed. Since I used my "P" post for "parkour" yesterday, I needed an excuse to post about my other passion, "photography."
Waiting for the big football game
In my novel, Free Runner, Cam's father is a professional photographer. When researching for my novel, I had to find a realistic place to host his photography exhibit in London. In December of 2012, the first photography exhibit went on display at the National Gallery. From there, I developed (sorry about the pun:) more of the plot. My oldest son, spotlighted yesterday, is an extremely athletic kid, but he also has an artistic side. His photography and drawing skills amaze me. His artwork has been featured in one of the art
Boat on the Big River
galleries downtown, submitted by his high school art teacher. Last year I entered a few of his photos into the gallery's annual photography contest and he won! I hoard my experiences and love using them in my writing.

Ice storms-why I hate winter
In my WIP, I've also incorporated photography but on a whole other level. Think retro and instant cameras. Before I started writing fiction, I was working on a a project for the Wisconsin Historical Society, writing a full-length children's bio on H.H. Bennett, the first person to ever take a photograph of someone in motion. His incredible journey into the beginning world of photography is worthy to be shared. But the series was discontinued and my story never made it to publication. I tried not to focus on the negative side (sorry, more puns:) of this disappointment but on the positive. Never quit. I abandoned non-fiction and dove head first into writing fiction.

Do you incorporate the things you enjoy (passions, hobbies, sports, music) into your writing? How do you deal with disappointment? Has a major let down turned you around on the right path? 

This photo is the first photo taken of someone in motion. Ashley Bennett, H.H. Bennett's son, had to jump fourteen times to get the perfect picture. And, by the way, it's a great shot of parkour!
Leaping the chasm at Stand Rock-Wis. Dells

Jeremiah-why I love horses

#atozchallenge #amwriting #photography
(Photo of Leaping the Chasm is courtesy of free images. All other photos are mine and found on my Instagram.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

P: Parkour

I've been patiently waiting this entire challenge to present to you the premise for my new novel. Parkour, the fastest growing extreme sport in the world, is a mix of urban gymnastics and free running. This French word, meaning course, route or journey, has its roots in French military combat training. Free running is similar to parkour, but the traceur or tracer (pronounced "tray-sir") runs while performing these stunts. The Amazing Spider-Man movies perform pakour and is one of the reasons why I am a huge fan of the new movies. Brick Mansions, the movie staring the late Paul Walker also stars David Belle, one of the founding fathers of parkour. Stephen Amell from the hit series Arrow trained with Tempest Freerunning Academy. Chris O'Donnell of NCIS:LA has also trained with Tempest (see video below).

People ask me all the time if I am a free runner. No, I am just a plain old-fashioned runner. I've been running for almost two decades and I think my knees need to be replaced:) Let me introduce my oldest son, S. Austin Hawes, who was the inspiration behind my novel. One day the university baseball players were playing ball at the minor league stadium in town. My hubby is in charge of these games when he's in his off season of coaching. I watched in horror as my teenage ninja-son climbed the backside of the stadium, leaped in a single bound and jumped on top of the concession stand. After executing a flawless flip and regaining his position on solid ground, I asked him,
Climbing to the top of Devil's Lake WI with a broken arm.
"What on earth are you doing?"
"Parkour, Mom."
Duh, like I was supposed to know. He took out his iPhone and showed me the website for Tempest Freerunning Academy in L.A. I was hooked. That summer I witnessed my son performing flips, twists and turns and death-defying stunts. However, his parkour performing days came to an abrupt end. The first night of wrestling camp he broke his arm, badly. His extensive surgery left him fitted with enough metal to set off an airport security alarm--from our house. (Two metal plates and thirteen screws!) But with many prayers and much persistence, he returned to sports four months later to make it all the way to the Missouri State High School Wrestling tourney.

Driver's license!
Have you ever heard of parkour or free running? Have you ever tried performing parkour? (The vault is the easiest move to learn and I'm sure we've all done one before.) Do you have crazy kids that inspire your writing? I bet you can't guess what sport my hubby coaches?

(Photo credits: First one belongs to me and is copyrighted. The other two are not copyrighted and are found on my Instagram.)
#atozchallenge #amwriting #parkour #freerunning

Here is the synopsis for my novel, Free Runner:

Fourteen-year-old Cam White lives the perfect SoCal dream surrounded by endless surf and sunshine. He discovers Tempest Freerunning Academy in L.A. and trains with an elite group of free runners. When his father lands the photography dream job of a lifetime, Cam finds himself landlocked in the middle of England.
His dad dumps him on the doorstep of Oxford's Prestige Academy where he learns how to wear a tie and talk to a girl for the first time in his life. His disregard for the rules places him at the top of the headmaster's naughty list. But she's the least of his worries. A few weeks before opening night of his father's photography exhibit at the National Gallery, his dad disappears. Cam secures a small package in his West End apartment but is unaware the contents could kill him.
He and his new friends must decipher a set of clues as they race through the streets of London, dodging bullets and bad guys. Cam uncovers a web of deception and fears the package may cost him his life. The ultimate trap has been set in motion long before Cam's existence. Will he take the bait? The one person who can face the danger zone--and live to tell about it--is the Free Runner.

Chris O'Donnell NCIS:LA and Victor Lopez Tempest Freerunning

Another great video featuring
Jesse La Flair Tempest Freerunning Coach

July #IWSG: Summer Mode Activated

           Come join Alex J. Cavanaugh and the Insecure Writer's Support Group. We discuss our fears, insecurities, ups and downs of the...