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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O: Opening Lines

On her blog post titled, "The top 10 Best Opening Lines of Novels," Meredith Borders said, "A novel is made up of many thousands of sentences, but none as deeply important as the opening line. (Except, probably, the closing line—but that’s another post.) The first line should tell the reader what to expect in terms of language, plot and character. It should be mysterious and compelling, either poetic or shockingly abrupt. If a bookstore browser flips to the first page and reads the opening line, he or she should want to immediately sit down in the middle of the aisle and keep reading." 

So, this thirteen-year-old kid (not my own son:) came up to me the other day and said, "Mrs. Hawes, the opening line in your new book is awesome." Wow. I wasn't expecting that compliment. Maybe more along the lines of, "I loved the action and adventure and and almost near death experiences in your novel, or the perils the protagonist is pitted against kept me on the edge of my seat." This kid noticed my opening line and loved it. :)) It threw me for a second. I thanked him and honestly said, "No one has ever told me that before."

How many countless hours do you put into crafting the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter? (Too many to count!) I must have reworked my opening line for my debut at least 50 times! For my WIP, I have gone back and forth with the first two sentences, still undecided as to which one needs to be in first place. Are you stuck on the first line? Or maybe you are finished with your novel but are still stuck on perfecting the first line?

In the opening scene of Free Runner, you will meet fourteen-year-old Cam, surfing on the tail-end of a storm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. His world (and his surfboard) is about to flip upside down. Nothing can prepare him for the deception and danger to follow, except for free running.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on the extreme sport of parkour/free running!

#atozchallenge #amwriting #openinglines 
(Photo: free images)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M: Moriarty x 2

Andrew Scott - Moriarty
Yes, I have one more Sherlock post, but it can't be helped. I refuse to write about villains on "V" day, because everyone will be expecting it. Villains fascinate me. The typical creepy, no-good, bank robber, serial killer, masked-man kind of a bad buy, you ask? No. Simply put, they are too obvious, too overworked and too overdone. This post is more than just writing on villains. It's a post worthy of discussing Sherlock's and Elementary's Moriartys. If you are part of the Sherlock fandom, then Moriarty played by Andrew Scott is no secret. Moriarty is introduced in the show as an insignificant character, a mere innocent bystander. This scene came across as a fleeting moment that I mistook for a filler scene. Never underestimate the bad guy. The pool scene, Moriarty's defining moment, shows us the malice that lurks behind those eyes. To watch Moriarty at work playing the villain is a truly terrifying experience that I found not boring at all;-) 

(Elementary Spoiler! If you haven't seen the first season, don't read:)
In Elementary, once again, I was well pleased with such a stunning plot twist. Creating Sherlock's love interest, Irene Adler, and his greatest enemy, Moriarty, as one and the same was pure genius! What better way to pit the protagonist against the antagonist by making their lives intertwined in an eternal love/hate relationship. The inner battle torments Sherlock as he now must end his greatest addiction--M--the love of his life, played by Natalie Dormer.

In my new found writing career, I have spent dozens of hours crafting the perfect protagonist. One day I woke up and realized I needed to put the same amount of effort into the antagonist. So, the next time you are tempted to write a typical villain, think of these two Moriartys and think outside the basic bad guy image. 

Do you have a favorite villain you created or one from a t.v. series or a movie? My favorite villain from my upper MG mystery (WIP) is a 13 year old green-eyed girl nicknamed Snake Eyes.

#atozchallenge #amwriting #Sherlock #Elementary #Moriarty
Natalie Dormer - Moriarty
(Photos: courtesy of free images)

Monday, April 14, 2014

L: the Lie

Continuing with this month's A to Z Challenge, I have chosen K.M. Weiland's post "The Lie Your Character Believes" for the letter "L." This is one of my favorite posts on writing, so I feel I must share her genius. For the full article, read here:
"The lie your character believes is the foundation for his character arc. This is what's wrong in his world. Once you know what's wrong, you then get to set about figuring out how to make it right."  

I have a few lies to share. This first lie is found in my debut novel, Free Runner, (Saguaro Books 2014). 14 yr old free runner/surfer Cam believes life was better back home and wants nothing more than to return to Southern California. He is convinced their move to London is part of his father's selfish agenda.

WIP: A 13 yr old boy believes he only needs one friend in life--his sidekick, Tommy. He also believes his arch nemesis, a cute green-eyed girl he nicknamed Snake Eyes, hates his guts.
Wrong again. He will be shocked to find out the truth. :) 

In one sentence, tell me the lie, in your published novel or in your WIP, that your character believes. Or maybe you have a favorite t.v. series or a movie that has a great lie that motivates the MC. Remember, the lie will turn out to be false and he will come to grips with the reality at some point in the latter part of the novel/show. You don't have to convince me of the lie, just your character.

#atozchallenge #amwriting #K.M.Weiland  #MondayBlogs

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K: King of the Hill

When you try to throw the person standing on top of a hill, off of the hill and take his place as "King of the Hill." What happened to all the cool kid games, that we played outside, like red rover, freeze tag and ghost in the graveyard? And what happened to all the merry-go-rounds? My son a few years back, flew off one and skinned off half his knee. Okay, those circular wheels of death needed to become extinct, but there seems to be fewer and fewer competitions in schools and in sports groups these days. Every one's a winner. No first place. Everyone gets a trophy or a medal or a certificate. Which, in some cases, I think can be a good thing. But not all the time. I've heard of some schools not even having a grading system. WHAT? How do you think I became a drug-free, happy, self-motivated adult? A little bit of conflict and a whole lotta competition.
And along those lines, let's discuss the two main things your novel needs: conflict and competition. Are you too easy on your characters? Are you turning up the heat? Or do you have an "every one's a winner" attitude? Are you playing it safe, like a mother hen protecting her little fluffies? One of the major overhauls I did to my WIP was to turn up the conflict. I had sufficient problems but my story lagged. I cranked up the heat by adding more competition for my MC. So, don't be afraid to heap problems and penalties on your MC along with a few more adrenaline laced scenes. He'll thank you later at the end of the book when he crosses the finish line in first place.

#atozchallenge #amwriting #kids

Don't I look all sweet and innocent? (I can't even keep a straight face as I type this!)

Friday, April 11, 2014

J: John vs Joan Watson

Lucy Liu as "Joan"
Martin Freeman as "John"
In yesterday's post, "I am Sherlocked," I mentioned the BBC's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary. You can't have a Sherlock without a Watson. Dr. John Watson is played by Martin Freeman in Sherlock. For a twist, Elementary portrays a female version, Dr. Joan Watson, played by the lovely Lucy Liu. Both characters add depth, humor and spunk to their important roles.

If you find the sidekick in your writing a bit boring or you feel they just don't fit, rework them until they do. Don't settle. As Nike boasts, Just Do It. Get that red pen out and start editing or start over. I am a former teacher; I still have red pens in abundance. I left my work-in-progress alone for an entire year while I was finishing Free Runner and seeking publication. I wrote both stories one right after the other, but something was off with my second novel. A month after my debut's release it hit me. My secondary character needed fixing in my WIP. The sidekick, a thirteen-year-old boy, needed to be over the top on the funny, the silly & the outrageous. After all, he is in the prime of his middle school years. I grabbed my notebook and took notes on my thirteen-year-old son for the next few months. Countless times I said out loud, "Yep, that's going in my novel." The Main Character and the antagonist needed a complete overhaul as well. But we'll save the villain talk for another post. Muhahaha. (Wrings hands in anticipation.)

Are you satisfied with your secondary characters? Do they work well with the protagonist? Is it easy or hard for you to make changes in your writing? Do you have a favorite secondary character in a book, t.v. series or movie?

#atozchallenge #amwriting #Sherlock #Elementary 
Photo credits: free images

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I: I am Sherlocked

Yes, I caught the fever, the fandom, the freaking out because Benedict Cumberbatch jumped off a building. Who doesn't appreciate Sir Author Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes? Which one do you like best, you ask? Between the movies with Robert Downey Jr., the BBC's Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch or CBS's Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller, I choose all of them. I'm somewhat of a mystery/crime/whodunit enthusiast. Each is so unique and different and played by brilliant actors.
My debut is not only an action/adventure novel but a mystery thriller
as well. The new novel I'm editing is an upper middle-grade mystery
Jonny Lee Miller CBS's Elementary (Photo:
based on my abilities as a child to always make a mystery out of everything. I mean everything. I pretended to be Nancy Drew, Remington Steele or one of the Hardy Boy characters, trying to solve crimes at school, home or in my neighborhood. I suggested the neighbor was guilty of stealing our tomatoes. My dad ran them over with the lawn mower. I pinned the missing bike on my sister. I left it at a friend's house. I accused the town crazy person of eating his dogs. He gave me the evil eye afterwards. Hey, my theory has never been disproved.
What are your favorite mysteries? Books? T.V.? Movies?
Benedict & Martin (Photo:

If you've watched BBC's Sherlock, you will understand my post title:) More to come on a different post: Moriarty and why he is my favorite villain, ever. Which show, Sherlock or Elementary? BOTH. (I'm trying not give out any spoilers for one of the shows. Shh!)

#atozchallenge #amwriting #Sherlock #Elementary
 For more fandom photos, check out my Pinterest page:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H: History of Hannibal, MO

The history of Hannibal, Missouri runs deep--two fathoms deep. I live in Mark Twain's boyhood town located right on the Mississippi River. Samuel Clemens' pen name "Mark Twain" was a river boat term that actually meant two fathoms deep or twelve feet. I've learned all about Mark Twain's life and then some. I've visited the Mark Twain cave, home, law office, diner, river boat, park, museum, gift shop, ice cream parlor. You get the idea.

What an inspirational place for a writer to live or to visit. I'm sure Twain developed his wild imagination, living only a few yards from the Big River. The white picket fence still stands as a reminder that boys will be boys."Tom Sawyer" was smitten with "Becky Thatcher" just as Mark Twain was smitten with Laura Hawkins who lived right across the street. It's amazing how many real life experiences writers add to their stories.

Hannibal is also the birthplace of the unsinkable Molly Brown (aka: Margaret "Maggie" Tobin Brown) survivor of the Titanic. Her childhood home is located down the road from Twain's. Molly praised Twain's writings. Norman Rockwell was fond of Twain and his novels, too. The proof is in the fourteen Rockwell paintings hanging in the Mark Twain Museum. Come for a visit and enjoy this quaint town and get to know two spunky individuals from history. You can have tea with Molly Brown at the Hannibal History Museum or you just might spot Twain skipping stones in the Mighty Mississippi or at the diner, I think I saw him waiting tables on Sunday.

My favorite Twain book is Tom Sawyer. I loved the suspense he conjured up when he penned the graveyard and the haunted house scenes and getting trapped and lost inside the cave. What's your favorite Twain book?

#amwriting #atozchallenge #MarkTwain #Mississippi #River #MollyBrown #Hannibal #Missouri
 Photos: courtesy of the writer of this blog:)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G: Gus and saying Goodbye

James Roday Psych (Photo: free images)
Psych lasted eight seasons and made me laugh and cry and want to become a psychic detective. Saying goodbye to Shawn and Gus was heart wrenching for me. Psyche boasted some great secondary characters: Gus, Jules, Lassie, Woody, Henry etc. Gus played one of the best t.v. sidekicks ever and taught us many things about a truly successful secondary character.

1. Nicknames
Wow! I can't even begin to list all the names and nicknames Shawn bestowed upon his bff.Gus took most of them in stride.

2. Phobias
Gus has fears and phobias. Fear of messing up his company car, the Blueberry. Fear of never finding true love and never having a meaningful career. Fear of dead bodies. But that never stopped him from having the adventure of a lifetime.

3. Quirks and Idiosyncrasies
Gus "thumbs" his nose every time he thinks he's cool or sees a cute girl.

4. Great Dialogue
James Roday (Photo: free images)
Don't you just appreciate the writers of Psych? The awesome banter back and forth between these two bff's never skipped a beat for eight years. They finished each others sentences. They finished each others food. They borrowed each others vehicles. Except Gus never really did return the favor because Shawn owned a motorcycle. Gus had a big heart.

5. Faithful Friend
No matter what happened over the years, Gus remained a loyal friend and sidekick, even though he wanted to kill Shawn a few (dozen) times.

What's your favorite episode of Psych? Besides any episodes with Curt Smith, my favorite is Season 7 Episode 11, "Office Space." I cry uncontrollable during the first ten minutes. How much fun are you having with secondary characters in your writing? Are they threatening to take over the main lead? What fun quirks did you give them?

#atozchallenge #amwriting #Pscyh

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Editing and Edgar Allan Poe

Why else would I wake at 5am on a Saturday? Editing in peace and quiet before the zombies wake motivates my early morning efforts. Try editing (or writing) with a full house. I always thought the interruptions of taking my teens to school, practices and games was hindering my process of cleaning up my manuscript. Now, I feel those breaks actually help my editing. It gives my brain time to catch up and fill in those plot holes, fix the awkward sentences and use the precise word I was searching for. How do you edit best?
Now, I bet you are wondering why I have Edgar Allan Poe in the title of this post. It's a mystery. Yes, he is a writer of suspense and mystery, but I was referring to my new upper middle-grade novel I'm editing. The first mystery I ever penned was in seventh grade. My boring history teacher rambled on an on about something historical. I couldn't afford another detention, so I had to resemble a student paying attention. I pretended to take notes while I wrote a series of suspenseful stories. Switch to present day. The focus of my editing this morning is a contemporary novel commencing in a graveyard on a very important date in the life of the late author Edgar Allan Poe.

#atozchallenge #amwriting #amediting 

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Deadlines

D is for Deadlines

As a first time author, I experienced deadlines many times last year. Not only did I receive deadlines from my publisher, but I gave myself deadlines before I ever signed a contract. "You will finish this manuscript, send it out to agents & publishers and get a response or I quit." Those voices in my head can be demanding. I think it's crucial, we give ourselves reasonable goals. Writing (at least, for me) isn't a job where a boss or a cheerleader hovers over me, shouting, "Let's go, fight, win!" Only my inner voice talks to me and in the quietness (until my teenage boys show up after practice, digging for food in the kitchen) I slap my computer a few times, pound the desk and crawl into my mind palace (via Sherlock). Yes, that's my writing ritual when it comes to deadlines. Do you work better with deadlines?
Just like your writer's life, give those characters in your story a deadline--a goal to reach before time runs out. K.M. Weiland just posted a writing tip on twitter:"List the top 10 worst things that could happen to your main character." Here's the fun part of being a writer. Now, do everything in the sadistic power of your pen to prevent your MC from reaching his deadline.

#amwriting #atozchallenge #writetip 

Stop by K.M. Weiland's blog if you want to be a better writer.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A to Z Challenge: C is for Chicago

C is for Chicago
Yesterday we chatted about my favorite book, Chasing Vermeer. Did you know this book takes place in Chicago? I grew up in Illinois. After college I returned and lived about an hour from Chicago for almost a decade. Chitown, one of my favorite destinations on earth, is home to the Cubs (sorry, not a fan!), da Bulls, really awesome deep dish pizza and the Bean. Navy Pier's Ferris wheel overlooking Lake Michigan has always fascinated me. Chitown feels like home except when it turns into Chiberia. Brr! But I think spring has finally sprung. I draw daily inspiration from the Windy City on my Pinterest board. You can also check out debut novel's story board. What is your favorite city and why?  Ciao!

(p.s. I was born in Wisconsin. I should have included in yesterday's "B" post my favorite baseball team, the Brewers:) 
Photos: courtesy of free images 

#amwriting #atozchallenge #Chicago

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A to Z Challenge: B is for Books

B is for Books
Books are my life. I've heard the saying, "If you don't like books, we can't be friends." So, don't read my blog post if you don't like books. But you probably like reading and books or you wouldn't be reading this. So, we can be friends. I have loads of favorite books. Art, mystery and  middle-schoolers, all rolled into a best seller, makes for my favorite book--Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. The contemporary teen mystery I am currently writing just might be my new favorite book. The pages are filled with mystery, middle-schoolers and a heavy dose of Edgar Allen Poe. Did I mention maple syrup and a missing hundred grand? What's your favorite book and why?

#atozchallenge #amwriting #reading #books

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My A to Z Challenge Theme--Here's a Hint: "A is for Author"

A is for Author

My A to Z challenge theme is WRITING. What could be better than to blog a whole month about writing? I am a published author. It feels weird to say those words. Being an author is my life. You can check out my debut novel Free Runner on Amazon. My author brain never stops but continues on autopilot every day. Even if I wanted to pull the plug on my writing career, I am attached to my dream job like my son's iPhone is attached to his hand--inseparable. If you are a teenager or have a teenager or act like a teenager, check out my book. Adios!
Can you guess what I'll be discussing tomorrow? It starts with the letter 'B' !

#atozchallenge #amwriting #writetip
Amazon link to Free Runner:
Link to the A to Z blog challenge:

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